Sunday 27 March 2016

Treading the waters of Lake Wakapitu is TSS Earnshaw a 1912 built coal fired twin-screw steam ship.  She is now the only working coal-fired ship on Lloyd’s Register.  She was initially constructed in a shipyard in Dunedin and once built she was disassembled, the pieces brought by roadto the lake edge and then reconstructed in Kingston at the south end of the lake.

There were other vessels on the Lake in earlier days but this is the only one left and it was saved in 1969 through being leased by a holiday company and transferring from providing essential services and connections around the lake to a holiday attraction – one of the oldest in Otago.  The need for regular services lessened as off road transport improved!

Now entirely owned by a holiday company she takes people (at least on the day we were there) to and from Walter Peak High Country Farm which is a prodigious operation to handle up to 389 passengers which the steamer can carry.  She has carried Royalty and has appeared in Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull masquerading as an Amazon steam boat.

Passengers can also inspect the steam engines at work.  And the stokers.  That is hot work.  The journey is of the order of 10km and takes over an hour.  As we disembark earlier travellers are waiting to board to return to Queenstown – they started very early!

Our destination is Walter Peak which is to the west of Queenstown but on the southern shore.  Once ashore we partake of a buffet lunch with the meat having barbecued.  It is well laid out and organised and indeed tasty.

After lunch we have a demonstration of some sheep herding followed by the shearing of a sheep to give us some idea of what this farm (or station) does for real revenue.  The size of the station is hard to believe but cannot be done on foot alone – the distances are too great.  So quad bikes and a helicopter can be used to move people and the inevitable dogs around to move the sheep.

Photos of the TSS Earnshaw and the sheep station are here.

Our return journey on the TSS Earnshaw is balanced by more arriving for afternoon tea.  A piano player leads a sing song on our return journey and song sheets have been distributed.  A pleasant day.

Dinner in a local restaurant.  Time to move on in the morning.