Published: January 31st 2008January 3rd 2008
Our goal was to leave Te Anau early for our long drive to Queenstown. Easier said than done. First we had to stop off at the Sand Fly Café for some ‘breakie’ and let the kids get a little internet fix. Then we had to make a few more pictures of the scenery. The drive to Queenstown was just like all the rest - spectacular! All along the way were deep caverns with rivers running through and the occasional bridge where tourists can defy death on a bungee or canyon swing. The Roaring Meg is on the Kawarau River and is made by two hydro electric power stations. They cause the water through this 'stream' to rush through about 40 mph. You can river surf through this section on a 'sled', something like a boogie board. One rapid on the river is called Dead Cow because some kayakers found a dead cow against a rock creating a huge wake. Now they use this spot to do something called 'squirting' where your 'sled' takes you a few feet underwater and then shoots you out the other side of the rapid. They do wear helments for safety.
The sparkling water of Lake
Leaving Milford Sound
Last look at waterfalls
Wakatipu welcomed us into Queenstown. It looked like a huge sapphire under the razorback mountains, known as the Remarkables. Queenstown is known as the ‘adventure capital’ of New Zealand and you would guess by the number of storefronts touting thrills and spills. Our hotel was just up the road from the Shotover River where the Shotover Jetboat rides take place. We were able to stand on a bridge just above the canyon and watch the boats come daringly close to the cliff face. Since we had been there, done that in Makaroru, we just watched this time.
One of our great surprises that night was a great Mexican restaurant called Sombreros. We though it might be worth a shot and ended up liking it so much, we ate there twice! They served a tray of hot sauces with the meal and we all tried to see who could eat the hottest. It is a mean feat to get anything too hot and spicy for our family. They even had kiwi hot sauce - not bad. After a good night sleep and some laundry duty, we headed up to Coronet Peak for the 2008 New Zealand Mt. Bike National Championships.
Sand Fly Cafe
We just liked the name so we stopped off to eat.
The road up to the peak is steep and winding with several stops for putting on tire chains in winter. These stops are used as launching pads for hang gliders and parasailers in the summer months. Even though they were brown for summer, the mountains were still amazing. It must be an incredible sight when covered with snow. Once at the mountain base, we rode up the gondola to the start of the course. The racers came in all shapes and sizes. Most seemed to be 14 - 18, with a few little daredevils thrown in. They all were decked out in black and wore attitudes on their shoulders like armor. There was a lot of smack talk on top of that mountain, that’s for sure! We watched with amazement at kids riding these incredibly steep slopes at breakneck speeds. Some would crash and burn, stand up and take a bow to the jeering audience above. Each new racer would be bombarded by insults from their competition and ‘encouraged’ to “pedal faster, you ****”. Ben was drooling most of the time at the ‘flash’ bikes and wishing he could be on one. All that energy made us rush back to
Leaving Te Anau
The pretty yellow hedge is a nuisance plant in NZ. It was used once as armored fencing to keep the enemy out. The thorns stick into you like cactus and keep going deeper if you try to get it out. Yep, I know that for sure.
the hotel where we played a brutal game of badminton on the outdoor court. Our hotel also operated the only bowling alley in the area which we entertained ourselves (read: laughed our heads off at each other) that evening after dinner.
The next day, we headed downtown to take in the sights and look for some t-shirts, sunglasses, souvenirs, Mexican food… Not finding much to buy, we opted for some afternoon relaxation. Mark booked himself on the NZL 14 America’s Cup racing yacht. This is one of the boats that is retired from the America’s Cup fleet in Auckland. Passengers get the chance to work the grinders and helm the boat while seeing the sights of Lake Wakatipu. (Mark- This boat was designed to race in San Diego in light wind. They don't take the boat out if it blows over 20 knots because things might break. It carries a lot of sail. The mast is 100 feet tall. I was surprised about how good the condition of the boat was. The ideal America's Cup boat is designed to fall apart after its last intended race, otherwise they built it too heavy and unnecessarily strong. It was a light
wind day initially blowing 5.5 knots and the boat travelled 8.5 knots upwind. Later going downwind the boat traveled at wind speed which then was 11.5 knots without a spinnaker. That's pretty good for messing around. Just about every thing on the boat is made of carbon fiber. A wondered out loud about how much the mainsail cost. I found out, $100,000 US.) Grace and I decided to hit a spa which featured salt water ‘pods’ for floating and purification. Once there, however, we nixed the ‘pods’ as they turned out to be something like a sun bed with water in the bottom. Instead we opted for a couple’s massage and it was fantastic! Unfortunately for Grace, my painful groans interrupted her relaxation a bit but she said she soon fell asleep under the delicate hands of her masseuse. I, however, endured a deep tissue massage that left me sore but feeling much better the next day. All the driving had been taking a toll on my neck and back. The masseur commented in his foreign drawl that my neck was “crazy”, and proceeded to sell me a jar of deep penetrating rub for the rest of my journey. Ben
elected to laze out the afternoon back at the hotel with his guitar and computer. We were all in need of a little vacation from our vacation.
As I have been saying for the past 6 months, I was going to bungee jump off the oldest wooden bridge in New Zealand. Well, it happened to be just outside Queenstown. Unfortunately for me, the only openings for jumps would not fit into our schedule for the day. We had a 5 hour drive to the east coast and sadly had to pass it up. (Mark - I can't help but feel guilty about this. However, I knew that I would have to jump too, just so Sarah did not get all bragging rights. Any time I think about bobbing on a large elastic cord, my palms get sweaty. Secretly, I was afraid that Sarah would injure herself. History is the best predicter of the future. I am not ready to be a single parent until the kids can consistently fed themselves.) My thoughts were, if I don’t get to jump off the AJ Hackett bridge, I might as well wait and jump another time. Bungee is bungee. It is only
If you enlarge the pic you can see the huge windmills on the mountain top
special if you can add the risk of an old bridge. I told Mark I am coming back on my 50th birthday to do it. (Mark - That sould be enough time.) That, and the canyon swing. You must really check it out to believe it: www.canyonswing.co.nz
There are more photos below