Race Cars, Wild Lands and Excellent Food

It’s raining in Alex this morning.

I have to say, I’m a little disappointed. We are booked in to do a Supercar fast lap in a Ferrari 488 GTB at Highlands Motorsport Park.

I have been in a Ferrari before, a 2019 California. We pre-booked a test drive in Maranello, Italy last year and had the heaviest rain I think we have ever driven in. Daniel was driving and barely got it above 30kph due to the weather. The rain was causing surface flooding,  he had limited visibility and tree branches were lying across the road.

So disappointing!

Such a beautiful car. And that engine! I can only imagine how it would sound driven as it was designed to be!

So that experience was a little disappointing and I was really looking forward to a fast lap in a Ferrari in Cromwell.

We decide head to Cromwell to Highlands anyway; it’s a 30 minute drive and were hoping we might see a change in the weather.

No such luck.

They won’t take you out on the track when there is standing water on it, so the ride today was off.

They do have a museum so we spent about a hour looking around there and re-booked our fast dash for tomorrow. The museum is definitely worth a look, especially for race car enthusiast and creative types who appreciate beautiful design.

There are a lot of old race cars on display and I noticed just how vulnerable those race car drivers were back in the day. They had very little to protect them.

There are also some pretty flash looking modern race cars, McLaren, Ferrari, Aston Martin, but my favourite, the Lamborghini Diablo. I never used to like Lamborghinis, but what can I say, they have grown on me!

In the virtual race machine, you can select your driver and head out for a spin around Highlands track; it’s not the real thing but still cool.

And a little bit random, but I guess we are in wine country, there is a wine room where you can smell a range of wine essences and then select from a list what fragrance each wine demonstrates.

Well, let’s just say, I won’t be giving up my day job!

After Highlands we head out with Daniel’s Aunt and Uncle for some 4 wheel driving. It’s a great way to get out and explore this area. We head out to Duffers Saddle, a high mountain pass with an elevation of 1275 meters above sea level. It is one of the highest roads in the country.

The landscape is wild, remote and gorgeous. Alpine plants, grasses and tussocks cover the open, exposed land. Schist rock formations are scattered about.

Thanks Daniel for another great photo!

The air is cold and fresh.

I feel so alive!

We head into The Nevis Valley. There are beautiful misty cloud formations over the tops of the hills. I watch the wind sweep through the mass of tussock grasses giving the appearance that the hills are alive and moving. We are on the other side of the remarkable and even in summer, there is a dusting of snow on them.

Along the way we pass evidence of lifetimes lived long ago in the form of old settlement remains. I can’t help but wonder how people managed to survive in this type of climate. It is harsh, remote, and wild.

But Wow.

So powerful and just spectacular!

One thing’s for sure, those early settlers were made of pretty tough stuff!

All this sightseeing has caused us to build up a bit of an appetite. Unlike the early settlers, we don’t have to go out and catch our lunch; we head to Brannockburn Hotel for our meal. (No longer a hotel, it is now a restaurant and bar)

The perfect place to sit back, relax, warm up a bit and share an afternoon of stories and good times with a glass of wine and some beautiful food.

Brannockburn are known for their tapas. Sharing platters that allow you to try a little bit of oh so much. My favourite was the goat’s cheese croquets with honey and almonds.

Delicious.

The service here was fantastic. I hope we come here again.

On our way back home we stop off in Cromwell and take a wander down the old historic Cromwell Precinct. It’s like stepping back in time as we walk past the old shops; The Cobb & Co Store, Jolly’s Seed & Grain Store, London house stable and more.

I can imagine men in top hats, waistcoats and fob watches and women in their full length bustled dresses walking past the shops, going about their day. It’s an interesting glimpse into 19th century New Zealand.

Situated next to Lake Dunstan, it would be a lovely place for a picnic.

Central Otago is rich in history, blessed with immense beauty and I can’t wait to continue exploring tomorrow.

The Details

Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell has a range of activities to enjoy. Tickets to the museum are $30 per adult, but I pre-purchased mine off Book Me for only $5 each. Not always available, but worth checking.

Nevis Valley is a great place for 4-wheel driving, walking, tramping and mountain bike riding. There are seasonal restrictions and conditions can be harsh. Always make sure you are properly prepared for the environment you are entering. If you are interested in 4-wheel driving, there are companies that will take you out in this area.

Brannockburn Hotel, also in Cromwell serve a range of tapas and cater for vegetarians, vegans and gluten free. If sharing plates aren’t your thing, you can also order full meals, but by ordering a selection of tapas you get to try lots of delicious things.

For a free attraction, check out Cromwell Precinct. A great place for a walk, a picnic, or grab some lunch at one of the cafes.

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