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Published: December 17th 2005
Queenstown 20 years ago is nothing like the Queenstown of today. We remembered a small village with a few streets, the lake, and the streamship Earnslaw. Now, it's a booming tourist town hawking every extreme sport option that you can imagine. As one of our guide books stated, "You can always hear a scream in the air in Queenstown". You have your choice of tandem skydiving, hang gliding, paragliding, wire jetting, 4 different types of bungy jumping, canyoning, canyon swinging, jet boating, white water rafting, white water surfing, and the list goes on and on. There are innumerable ways to spend your money (all options are very expensive) and possibly die in the process. Yesterday, we saw a video advertising downhill biking on a snowy ski slope!! Everyone on the video was falling down within a few seconds!! Not sure what the fun would be in that.
For the less adventureous, there are very nice hikes around the lake and up into the mountains . We have done several of them and have more to do. Most memorable of our hikes will be the one to the top of the Skyline Gondola station. It was a very steep climb through
The boat that made Queenstown a tourist attraction. Twenty years ago when we were here this was the ONLY main attraction!
the woods and then opened on to a dirt road. There was a trail going off to the right and we decided to try the trail instead of the road. About a quarter mile in, this BIG hawk (really an Australasian Herrier) started squawking at us. We didn't think much of it until she started diving at us. She was aiming right for our heads! She would fly over us land in another tree, screech, and come at us again. Each time she kept getting lower and lower. Ron was waving the backpack at her and I was crouching all the way down to the ground. We decided that she must have chicks and that she wanted us out of her territory. This was no time to argue with her so we turned around and proceeded to take the road up to the top. It was a first for us in all our hiking to be attacked by a very territorial mother hawk. Later, in the book store, we looked it up and found that Herriers nest on the ground. Apparently, we were much too close to her nest and she was just being a good protective mother.
are staying in a delightful "stacked stone" cottage called Anna's Cottage. Myrna, the owner, has an abundant rose garden and provides us with fresh roses every other day. Our patio was lots of sun and nice mountain views. There is also a patio in the front of Myrna's house with a wonderful lake and mountain view. And, we have a washing machine - what a luxury!!
Queenstown has a great wine tasting concept. According to the clerk at the store there are only 4 in the world: Queenstown, Tuscany, Dublin, and San Francisco. It works like this. You buy a card for whatever amount you choose. Then you insert the card into the various tasting stations and can taste a huge variety of wine. They have over 100 varieties to sample. They manage the oxidation problem by injecting a special gas and by using a super tight seal. Best of all, I was able to taste really expensive wines that are not usually available in typical tastings. For those of you that know me well, it was MOST enjoyable.
Our three day car rental was a great way to beat the high costs of all the tours and
Ron & Anna's Cottage
This is our "stacked stone" home in Queenstown.
see the surrounding area. The drive to Milford Sound would have been much nicer if it hadn't been raining. Most of the mountains and fiords were in the clouds. However, the waterfalls were spectacular. It was a very wet cruise and we missed the blue sky, snow capped mountain views that we would have seen on a sunny day. Still, the clouds and the rain gave the fiords an ethereal quality and created waterfalls that we wouldn't have seen otherwise.
Most of the drive to Milford Sound passes through moss-covered rainforest. It is simply stunning. There are also massive beds of Lupins. While this is a beautiful flower in a multitude of colors, it is killing the indigenous vegetation and is consisder a destructive plant. None the less, they are a great photo subject and there will be several shots in the special photo blog that I am putting together.
The next day was a lovely, sunny day and we took the drive to see Lake Wanaka. This took us over the Crown Range Road which is the highest paved road in New Zealand. The views of the valley below were amazing and there were some interesting spots
Pam on the Forest Queen's Throne
This wooden craved "throne" was on the trail to the Skyline Gondola. This was on the steep, peaceful part of the hike before the hawk attack.
of Kiwi humor along the route. Those will also be covered in the special photo blog.
One of our stops on this drive was at the AJ Hackett Bungy Jump Center. He is the inventor of the bungy jump and has showcased his invention at this site. It is quite a production. The jump platform is situated on an old wooden bridge over the Kawarau River. We watched several jumps, got some great photos, and had to resist the urge to go pay U.S. $ 100 to go do a jump. The bungy jump series will also be in the, soon to follow, photo blog.
On the third day we drove the scenic route to the south end or the head of the lake to visit the village of Glenorchy. This is the starting point for several multi-day hikes into the Fiordland National Park. We didn't have the time to do a multi-day hike (nor did we feel like getting wet which was bound to happen at some point during the hike) so we did a short hike to the Wakatipu Lagoon. This hike had an abundance of bird life (no attacking Herriers), passed over wetland areas, and
View from the Gondola station
Below is Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, and The Remarkables mountain range.
ended at a nice lagoon with wild black swans.
With all the extreme sport options, we had to do something! So, we decided to do the one that we enjoyed so much 20 years ago and we headed to the Shotover Jet Boat desk to "book" our trip. This is a boat that goes 50 mph through a narrow gorge on the Shotover River. The boat zips through the narrow canyon, twists around boulders, slides through curves in the river, and makes 360 degree turns while going at full speed. At times we were within 3 inches of the boulders and the canyon walls. The drivers are real hot shots and try to make the ride as exciting as possible. It is a wild, wet, and windy ride. Photography on the boat is discouraged and nearly impossible since you're busy hanging on and screaming. So the photos are of other people taking the same, half hour, roller coaster ride that we took. It is sooooooooooooooo much fun!!
We leave Queenstown in 2 days. Before we leave we have one more Christmas gift activity planned. We are going to visit a bar called "Minus 5 Degrees". Everything in the
bar is made of ICE! All the tables, chairs, the bar, the floor, the ceiling, and even the glasses that they use for the drinks are made of ice. In addition to this there are numerous ice sculptures inside. I wonder if the toilets will be ice?! You are given a big fur lined jacket and fur lined boots before you enter. I don't think we will last long but it will be a bit of COLD Christmas cheer.
When we leave on Fri, 12/16, we will drive to Mt. Cook and spend a day there before continuing on to Christchurch. I will include the Mt. Cook photos in the photo blog. On 12/20 we fly from Christchurch to Sydney, Australia.
If you have been following the news you are probably aware of the problems Sydney is having right now. We are staying in the north part of the city and will not be near the areas of the riots. We plan to read the situation and if it doesn't seem safe in the city, we will be heading north to Surfers Paradise immediately.
As the Kiwis say, "There are only 11 "sleeps" until Christmas. Have you
"ticked" off you Christmas list?" Hope you are handling the stress and enjoying the Holiday Season. Take care and we'll be in touch.
Best Wishes for the Holidays, Pam & Ron
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