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Published: April 11th 2016
R: Wanaka was a cool town. It's on the shores of Lake Wanaka (surprisingly) and has a fun selection of shops and restaurants amid a setting of mountains and the lake. We had a decent Airbnb here with a hot tub. After an amble about and a happy hour drink or two, we headed back to cook, drink and hot tub! It's actually quite cold outside here when the sun goes in due to it being higher up than the coast, so the hot tub was very welcome.
The next day Dave went out to hire a mountain bike while the rest of us opted for a lazy morning, followed by a walk around a lake to the winery on a sharp hill just outside town. Dave met us there after chugging up the hill on the bike. It had a stunning view of the lake and glaciers in Mount Aspiring national park and the cheese and spiced fig platter was awesome!
A short drive took us to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand, and perhaps the world. Again, this is set amongst the mountains and lakes and is fairly reminiscent of the British
Lake District. The drive takes you over the Cardrona pass, which is famously used as the filming location of middle earth in Lord of the Rings. We stopped in a few places to take in the view before rolling into Arrowtown, a charming little town with mining and gold in its history, with period buildings and art galleries, cafes etc.
Queenstown itself is a bustling place and bearing in mind it is out of season (either ski or summer) it was surprisingly busy. Our first night was spent in the curry house to satisfy Dave's craving for a spicy curry (unobtainable in Perth, apparently). The next day we headed up on the gondola to the top of the hill, where there are activities abound. You could swing or jump on a bungee, bike down various tracks to the base, zip line, and luge on a little cart. We did the latter which has various tracks down of varying speeds. It was great fun but you did have to dodge the occasional person stuck with the brake on a blind bend.
Afterwards we stopped to watch the idiots jumping off the bungee station, none of
us were in anyway tempted. Next we headed to Fergburger - a Queenstown tradition and I had a delicious Pork belly burger with crackling in it! Then we separated and did different things. Dave went up to the gondola station and hired a mountain bike to do some of the downhill runs, Shannon headed to the bird life centre to meet some Kiwis, Cate went to replace some clothes, as after nearly 6 months now, most of our clothes are wearing out through overuse, and I went to Shotover Canyon to do a jet boat trip.
That was great fun. I had done one before in Sydney, but this one goes through a narrow canyon which is owned by the jet boating company. The boat passes within a couple of inches of the rock walls at speeds of up to 65mph on only 4 inches of water. It does 360 degree spins periodically which soak the passengers.
When we recombined we mounted a great burrito cook off in the hostel kitchen. Hostels in New Zealand have amazing kitchens, incidentally, with items such as rice cookers, caffitiere, juicers and even a slow cooker!! We had
a sumptuous feast, but it was a bit like Masterchef as the kitchen had several stations and several of the Asian guests were creating enormous intricate noodle feasts.
The next day was extremely soggy and we went to Milford sound which we will cover in a separate blog - mainly because we took too many photos. Then we returned two days later to Queenstown for another afternoon, and took drives out to Glenorchy and Paradise, a sleepy one house sheep farm out of Queenstown that was the setting for Isengard and Lothlorian in LOTR. The views were stunning (like everywhere in NZ) with a beautiful blue lake framed by snow capped mountains. We went a bit off road in our 4x4 only to find a little Daihatsu fording a river with the best of them, and decided it wasn't so hard after all. And then it was to the pub, as Dave and I felt like we hadn't eaten enough lamb yet this trip, so between us we ate all the shanks off a lamb.
And no one was even so much as tempted to bungee...
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