Queenstown - Adult Disneyland
Trip Start Mar 23, 2009
21Trip End Jun 03, 2009
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Where I stayed
My friend Amy visited Queenstown two years ago, and described it as Adult Disneyland. It definitely is! It is a resort town known for extreme activities, beautiful scenery and a big nightlife. I arrived on Monday afternoon and checked in to the hostel. Two of the guys from Franz Josef, Steven and Nicolas, were also staying at the same place, so we had a great Italian dinner to carb load for the next days activities.
First on the list: Bungee! It was invented here in Queenstown, after all. There are several options of places to jump, hurl or otherwise propel yourself from extreme heights. I decided to go with the closest, which was also the original commercial bungee operation. It is a 43 meter (about 120 ft!) dive to the river below and was a blast. There are bungee jumps 3x's bigger, canyon swings and skydiving also in the area, but I ran out of time to get to them all - next trip!
I finished the afternoon with a Land Rover driving tour of the area. It's good to travel during the "shoulder" season (not high tourist times like summer holidays or winter ski season), because I had the tour to myself, like a private chauffeur. The truck was definitely all-terrain, and we were able to explore sights that were used for scenes in Lord of the Rings. He also drove to the top of the foothills of a mountain range called The Remarkables. The road to get there was built in the late 1880's during the gold rush, and is considered one of the 15 most dangerous roads in the world. Considering I had just jumped off of a bridge a few hours earlier, I wasn't too worried!
I wrapped up that evening with dinner, and my friend Steven and I had the same mentality - we may be staying in a hostel for US$25 per night, but we enjoy a nice steak and bottle of wine! Queenstown also has lot of clubs and bars to choose from, but I stuck to the good restaurants and was completely satisfied.
As I mentioned before, my luck with the sunny, warm weather had run out in Franz Josef, and my first two nights in Queenstown were rainy and progressively getting colder. But, the third day dawned sunny. And COLD, unfortunately. Because of all of the rain, though, it was perfect time to go whitewater rafting! One of girls from Franz Josef, Monique, was also staying in Queenstown, and it worked out that she, Steven and I would do the same rafting tour. The guides said the river was pretty high for normal conditions, and we'd be going through Class 4+ rapids. I'm happy to report that our raft was the only one out of 7 others that didn't have someone fall in or flip over!
I had one day left in Queenstown, and the last MUST DO was getting to some protected World Heritage Area National Forests and the beautiful cliffs and waterfalls of Milford Sound. To get to this area from Queenstown, however, is a four hour bus-ride through mountain passes and if you're not going to stay in the area to hike a couple days or visit, is usually done from Queenstown on a full-day bus tour. I signed up a tour to Milford Sound which included lunch, a ferry ride of the Sound and then a bus ride or optional flight back. The flight back was iffy because of winds in Queenstown, but I had a long bus ride the next day, and as much I like the scenery, I was leaving the next day and did not want to sit on a bus 2 days in a row!
The bus tour picked me up at the YHA at 7 a.m.. I had picked the "BBQ Bus" operation, because it was of the only ones that was small (20 people) and had a cook-out for the lunch option instead of a tourist cafe. We picked up the others on the tour, and it turned out that of the 20 people on the tour, only 4 of us spoke English. Our guides, Sam and Mayumi provided commentary along the way, and I felt kinda bad that Sam talked over the speakers in English and all of the Japanese tourists had to listen to Mayumi on head-sets - oops!
It was a beautiful drive and we stopped a couple times along the way to have brief walks through forests, rivers and mountain passes that make up the road to Milford Sound. The forest that borders the Sound is a World Heritage Area, and is protected from any future development. The day warmed up for us and was incredibly sunny and beautiful. We stopped for lunch along a river and Sam busted out the barbecue - it was like our own little camp, so fun!
We then headed to Milford Sound to board the afternoon ferry. The photos I've attached don't do the area justice - it is incredible to float through the beautiful waters of the Tasman Sea and see these huge mountain cliffs with flowing waterfalls. The captain did a great job to move the huge ferry close to the waterfalls, cliffs and seals.
After about an hour and half in the Sound, we headed back and everyone boarded the BBQ Bus - except me, it was a go for the flight back to Queenstown! I took the seat that I thought was the front passenger spot but was actually the pilot's seat (thanks, Eric), and after a group laugh that I was going to fly us back, we took off for an amazing flight over Milford Sound and the mountain ranges to Queenstown. I must admit, the 40 minute flight was a major improvement over the 4 hour bus ride.
That was it for me in Queenstown, unfortunately. I packed up the next morning and had to ride up to Christchurch - my time in New Zealand was coming to an end. There's still a lot that I didn't get to see - I guess I'll just have to come back!