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Published: March 17th 2010
Checking out the view from the top of the gondola
Queenstown is on nearly every New Zealand visitor's itinerary and for good reason: bungy jumping was invented in Queenstown and the town bills itself as the "Adventure Capital of the World".
When we visited New Zealand in 2007 we weren't interested in hurling ourselves off bridges attached to fortified rubber bands, or maiming (or just terrifying) ourselves in other ways, so Queenstown was only allotted one day in our itinerary. Before we rolled into town in 2007 we thought Queenstown would probably be an ugly town crammed with tacky souvenir shops and dive bars advertising wet T-shirt contests. How wrong we were.
Yes, Queenstown has loads of bars and plenty of shops selling sheep keychains and possum fur nipple warmers (don't ask) but it is also a positively stunning little town (population around 10,000). Queenstown is tucked into a large mountain chain called, appropriately, The Remarkables, snuggled up right on the edge of gorgeous (and very large) Lake Wakatipu. Similar to Aspen or Vail, Queenstown is a wildly popular ski destination in the winter (even the Aussies fly here) but a whole host of outdoor activities also draw crowds in the summer . . . and spring and fall.
Heading to the paragliding takeoff zone.
Also like Aspen, it has an excellent restaurant scene (for its size) and more than a few upscale hotels and shops. But there is still a strong backpacker element here too in search of thrills and cheap beer just to keep things interesting.
Queenstown was our home for three weeks on this trip and our most "international" stop in New Zealand. In addition to coming across huge tour groups (japanese, germans, french, you name it) at every turn we've noticed that most of the restaurants and stores employ kids in their early 20s from the U.S., Ireland, Germany, Japan, Thailand, etc.
OK - There is something about Queenstown that makes you want to do something a little crazy. Not pathological, just quite a bit outside your comfort zone. Maybe it's the sublime views of the Remarkables at sunset, the smell of pine trees, or perhaps the refreshing mountain air. Or maybe its just that everyone else in town seems to be signing up to jump out of an airplane or off a bridge. . . or off of a mountain.
We caught the bug in 2007 hours after arriving in Queenstown. After spending a few days in
Getting suited up at the takeoff site.
Queenstown, Nancy (Angelique's mom) decided she too wanted to live dangerously. One morning Nancy declared that she wanted to go paragliding (jumping off a ~2,000' mountain with an "instructor", a harness, and a parachute). And so she did.
We are so amazed, excited and proud of her - just take a look at the photos!!
(And, for the record, no, we didn't bungy in 2007 or 2010. We're more likely to try skydiving before we freefall 300+ feet off a rickety wooden bridge.)
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