Well, we very reluctantly departed Te Anau and the exquisiteness that is Milford Sound and started our drive up the West Coast towards Queenstown. The drive, was, as expected from NZ, nothing but stunning scenery. More mountains, more glistening lakes, more birds of prey the size of Lions pecking at roadkill and taking flight just before you slam your brakes on. A serious John Wayne 'Quick Draw' with the camera to capture them was necessary but neither of us were that speedy.
So, we arrived in Queenstown -the drive was only about 2 hours. Our 2nd attempt at finding a bed for the night resulted in a Motel close to the town centre. In the UK, if you mention the word Motel, images of concrete beds, furry carpet tiles, black out curtains with vomit-inducing patterns on and a receptionist who doesn't care who or what you are all come to mind
. In Australia and NZ though, our experiences of Motels has been wonderful. The Motels here come with swallowingly sumptuous beds, quilts, pretty curtains, spotlessly clean and modern bathrooms and sometimes small kitchenettes, Sky TV and fluffy cushions on your bed. Fantastic places. More importantly though, you can get all this luxury for less than £50 a night!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We were zonked!!! I know we are on honeymoon and not sitting behind a desk all day chasing paper or having tedious meetings with clients all day and our honeymoon is just one long leisurely break but nevertheless it is knackering. We are on the road every single day, packing and re-packing our suitcases, driving for often 5 hours or more at a time, wearing the same clothes for days before we can get to a Motel washing machine, queuing for ages, sight-seeing as if it were a military reconaissance, map-reading, checking in at airports, waiting for flights, trains, buses....we're having the time of our lives, really, but it is tiring. So, when we got to Queenstown, being about 4pm, we had a post-drive sleep for 20mins and woke up at 8pm!!!
The next day we were up at the crack of dawn and went into town and up the Skyline Gondola. Queenstown is a lovely, gorgeous little town set amidst soaringly rugged mountains called The Remarkables and hugging the winking sapphire Lake Waktipu with bobbing boats of all sizes
. Queenstown is THE place to go to if you want to throw yourself off of a bridge tied to an elastic band or jump out of an aeroplane with a flaming tent attached to your back or tossed down a roaring river in a blow up boat with tsunami waves smacking you in the chops. Hmmm....somehow, setting fire to my eyelashes while chewing on a wasp's nest is a more attractive option.
The Skyline Gondola is basically a cable car ride up the mountain where the resulting views of Queenstown and the surrounding land below are breath-taking. Absolutely stunning. At the top is a café, gift shop and all that rubbish but there are also Luges you can zip about in. Luges are like 3-wheeled trays with wheels! No engine, just gravity so you fly down this spiralled track on your dinner tray but as you go around the corners of the track there are no safety fences or anything so if you don't break in time, you'll be "flying without wings"! I was happy doing my little 20mph but David couldn't resist flying off like a flaming lightening bolt. (David: I was behind you all the way doing 20mph... ok, so I had another go on my own and went down the death run like a flaming lightening bolt)
We also went on a Jet boat. Close to Queenstown is the Shotover River. We got collected by mini-bus (the driver reversed into the Motel car-park wall and then hit the accelerater saying "they'll never see it!")
. After collecting a few more tourists (the spaniards), we ventured out onto the mountain track-road to the river. This mountain road was absolutely death-defyingly terrifyingly narrow. With a mountain on one side and a sheer drop down to a messy death on the other, we were all screaming with fear every time the mini-bus turned a corner (very theatrical..all part of the fun!!). (David: It was an unsealed dirt track. At one point, the driver informed us that everything would be all right: He just needed to pop the front right wheel over the edge to get round the next corner... and then he did! It was a pretty scary road, hire cars are banned.) One tourist that David and I got talking to was an English guy called Mark. He was on his own and was a really nice guy but was obsessed with comparing this narrow mountain road with others that he'd travelled along in the UK...on his motorbike. He then eagerly showed us camera photos of these dangerously narrow roads in....Scotland.....and....Wales......with commentary and he eagerly showed us road signs of the same roads in....Scotland......and...Wales.....with commentary then he eagerly showed the driver of the mini-bus....with commentary (excellent head-nodding Mr bus driver!) and had the Spaniards shown any inclination to chat to him, they would have also have got a private viewing too. Bless him. He was a good laugh actually but he kind of 'attached' himself to David and I. He was perfectly harmless, just wanted a bit of companionship. (David: I didn't have the heart to point out that his lovely pictures of wide sealed UK roads were not really comparable to a death defying mud track stuck to the side of a winding 1000 metre mountain.)
Anyway, after our hell-raising drive on a road the size of a DNA hair sample, we got to the Shotover River where our boat awaited us
. All donned in life jackets, David and I and our dopple-ganger, Mark, climbed aboard with everyone else and we were instantly propelled into a white frothy river of boulder-strewn shallow water. The jet-boating is a violently manic ride with 360 degree spins resulting in a shower of cascading waves smashing down on you. Also part of the fun is that our guide steers right into the jagged rocks that line the river but he misses smashing into the rocks by a cat's whisker. Screaming only entices him! Saturatingly great fun. There's no chance of ending up in the river, like white water-rafting, which is why I was happy to do it. (David: Why trundle down a rapids in a raft when you can zoom up it in a jet boat?) Very adrenaline-pumping. Our jet-boater and guide gave us some info along the way about the River and the famous gold-mining industry when he wasn't doing boat handbrake turns. (David: We stopped off at the Fords of Bruinen. Unfortunately, I was the only nerd that recognised the location that was used in the Lord of the Rings film. I realise that I'm only talking to a narrow audience here, but however narrow I know they'd like to know that a row of jet boats around the corner created the effect of a big wave coming - at least the initial bit before the special effects took over.)
On our last day in Queenstown, David decided to do a Canyon Swing. This is basically a bungee jump from a steel platform that is suspended over a canyon
. But unlike a bungee jump you don't bounce back up like a dolly attached to a rubber band post-jump but instead you swing like a monkey on a vine post-jump just metres above the river. Scenically stunning but, quite frankly, suicidal. We were part of a small group of about 8. Me and another guy were only along to witness our mental partners undertake such a stupid act. The canyon swing staff were a really good laugh and they tried to get me to have a go but I told them in no uncertain terms of my preference for chewing on a wasps nest instead. There was one girl, Holly, who told me she was terrified of heights and had never done this before. After eventually restraining my high-pitched hysteria at her, I then told her she was an inspiration. She loved it so much, she did another jump right afterwards. David's first jump was brilliant. He told me earlier that he would just do the jump and not scream, swear, moan loudly or anything. He's such a laidback guy I believed him. Until I wet my pants laughing when he jumped off with a "AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!" and his body swung into obscurity towards the boulder-strewn river. David then did another jump, with no sound effects this time. It was a great day. (David: I have no memory of screaming. Pure fear and terror have obliterated the memory. The canyon swing is done with normal rope, not bungey. It's about 60 metres of freefall, then a 200 metre swing. I think the maximum distance down is around 120 metres - something like that anyway. All I know is that once you're standing on that edge about to go, looking at sharp rocks and death it doesn't seem like quite as good an idea. Still, it was great fun... And if Jack Osbourne can do it, so can I.)
After this, I insisted we do another jet boat ride as I adored it. We went on a different boat which was much more violent with the 360 degree spins
. Our bottoms actually left the seats as we were spun around in the river to get a mouthful of water that had just Tsunami'd up. The ride also kangaroo jumped over small waves in the river which was great fun but bloody painful. On this boat trip though I couldn't look when our guide steered right into the jagged rocks, missing them by a flea's scrotum breadth. This jet boat was much more 'on the edge'. It was excellent fun.
After all this adrenaline-pumping trauma, we drove to nearby Arrowtown to explore it. Arrowtown is a small town just 20mins away. It used to be another gold-mining hub but nowadays has just one long street with some original old wooden and stone buildings, little pubs, boutiques, theatre, restaurants etc. More fantastic though is that right behind the high street are several trekking and walking tracks by the river, and into the dense forest. It is absolutely stunning area of natural beauty with all sorts of wild birds and horses wandering about.
The drive up to Arrowtown from Queenstown took us up a snaking mountain road with a vista of the land below looking like a toy town display. Exquisite. The views are just incredible. You can see for miles, all the valleys, lakes, rivers, farms. So utterly stunning. Who on earth really gets pleasure from living in a polluted, noisy, bustling city when you have such natural beauty in the serenity and meditative countryside.
Our next destination was to Franz Josef Glaciers. Real glaciers you could walk on and explore. This was just something out of this flaming world!
Love, us xxxxx