Journey Beyond the Screen

Lady of the Lake

Recently we took a cruise on the TSS Earnslaw, movie heroine at age 105.

Lady of the Lake

By Pennie Hunt

Launched just months before the fateful maiden voyage of the Titanic, the significantly smaller steamboat TSS Earnslaw has little in common with her fallen big sister. After all, she’s still steaming across Lake Wakatipu - from Queenstown to Walter Peak station - on a daily basis. And that at the ripe old age of 105. 

And yet… there’s something about just being on a steamboat that conjures up all those Titanic-esque movie memories. It’s the plume of smoke emitting from the chimney and the gentility of being aboard a steamer in such a pretty place. 

More than anything it’s the feeling of being on a boat from a bygone era that is so special. There's the attention to detail in the gleaming brass equipment, the feeling of solidity in the wooden railings. Even just listening to the sounds of the boat was an experience in itself - the whistle blowing as the steamer departs, the chug of the engine, the pumping of pistons. And the best thing? Being able to head into the engine room and watch the Stokers shovelling coal into the ovens (the heat of which you can feel on your backside if you sit on one of the outside benches). The Earnslaw is a beautiful old living museum piece.

The engine room.

The engine room.

We cruised across to the stunning Walter Peak station and disembarked for the ‘farm tour’. This involves a staged show where a sheep is shorn before a snap-happy audience, followed by the rounding up of said sheep by a well-trained dog, a morning tea and then a short tour to feed the animals.

Walter Peak Station.

Walter Peak Station.

Being a Kiwi girl I have certainly seen my share of sheep shearing on real, actual farms, so hand on heart, this would not normally be my thing… but, but… have you ever travelled with a five year old? Our daughter LOVED it and Stefan and I were pleasantly surprised by the experience. We were entertained by the hardy Peter, who has worked on the farm for 20 years, and his adorable people-pleasing sheep dog Belle. There’s a real feeling of authenticity about the show despite the gasping international crowd. 

Sheepdog Belle rounds up the flock.

Sheepdog Belle rounds up the flock.

After a traditional morning tea with scones and jam (and the not so traditional but delicious brownie!)...

...we were rounded up by Peter and Belle for the farm tour. I’m still laughing about our girl feeding the Highland bull. Let’s just say her hands were dripping afterwards.

Urgh...that was wet!

Urgh...that was wet!

Cruising back to Queenstown we had a chat to the Skipper who told us that the Earnslaw had featured as an Amazon river boat in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) for all of five seconds.

Skipper Barry.

Skipper Barry.

I guess that’s the real movie connection here, but for me, the Earnslaw will always be my mini-Titanic.

Our thanks to Real Locations for hosting us on the cruise and farm tour.

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