Welcome back everyone!
My goal for tonight is to finish my tale of the South Island. We’ll see how this goes…
When I last wrote, we had just arrived in Queenstown. Queenstown is purely a tourist town. It offers nothing else to the country except millions of dollars in tourism. The town itself sits lakeside surrounded by mountains. Serious skiers and snowboarders will head to nearby Wanaka to hit the slopes, but Queenstown provides a great home base for those interested in other activities. Upon our arrival, it was lightly snowing and the town was bustling with skiers. It felt very Christmas-like, but maybe this is just how I picture Christmas to be. Kiwis usually spend Christmas on the beach with a cookout to celebrate the holiday. I can’t imagine this ever feeling like Christmas to me. It would just feel like August with presents.
The centre of Queentown’s tourism industry is its “Adventure Tourism.” And so, on Friday morning, I woke up at 7:30 to book something I have always said I would never do. Bungee jumping. I have always had a slight fear of heights and as most of you know, I hate roller coasters, mostly for the feeling that occurs in your stomach. For both of these reasons, bungee jumping seems like a terrible idea for me. Nevertheless, I booked a 9:30 jump at 43 metres off of the Kawarau Bridge, the world’s first permanent bungee location.
After a quiet 20 minute shuttle ride with 2 Australians, we arrived at the bungee site to be weighed. When asked if my weight “sounded accurate,” I had to shrug my shoulders until someone did the math. It was then I realised I had lost 10 pounds in New Zealand, which took some of my nerves away. I was randomly selected to go first and walked out to the bridge to be strapped to the bungee that would (hopefully) save my life. It wasn’t until I hobbled out to the end of the short platform and looked down that my nerves really caught up to me. What was I doing?! My bungee instructor told me to smile for a photo and then get ready to jump.
I (reluctantly) let go of the bridge and closed my eyes as the bungee instructor said “One, Two, Three, BUNGEE!” The next thing I know, I’m plummeting towards the river below me.
This was a rush that I never imagined. After I felt myself bouncing back towards the bridge, I let out a yell that echoed through the canyon on this misty morning. It was probably the most intense 6 seconds of my life. And although I’ve said I’d never ever bungee for my entire life, I can’t wait to do it again. And since I have 20% off all AJ Hackett bungees for the rest of my life, I’m already looking to where I can do it in Australia.
After returning to the hostel, we spent some time relaxing with some lunch and a great movie while the storm passed. Afterwards, we headed out of town towards some of the great vineyards of the Otago region. Otago is famous for its Pinot Noir and I was excited. Our first stop was Gibbston Valley. I ignored all other wines on their tasting sheet and chose to try the 2005, 2007 & 2008 Pinot. I could not believe that all of these wines were made from the same varietal. They all had such distinct tastes and undertones. I then had an amazing conversation with the winemaker for this vineyard about the subtle differences between these wines and what may have caused them. He insisted that I try some other vintages, and so I sampled the 2006, 2006 Reserve and 2007 Le Maitre, their handpicked range. I haven’t learned so much about wine since the wine seminar I did at Torches a few summers ago. I returned to this vineyard two days later and bought the 2005 vintage. At $55, it’s the most expensive wine I plan to buy here and definitely the best Pinot I’ve ever had.
That night, we went to Fergburger for dinner. Lauren had heard its name from people both in Wellington and Minneapolis. I got a burger made with Fjordland venison and it was incredible. After dinner, we saw some of Queenstown’s nightlife, joining a pub crawl organised by several of the hostel’s in town. We got to see several different sides of the Queenstown bar scene and got a free drink at each. It was definitely a fun night.
In the morning, we hoped to book horseback riding through some Lord of the Rings film locations, but the beautiful weather meant that the spots had been filled up. Instead, we took a walk down by the waterfront, met up with Wellington friends and took the gondola ride up to the top of the mountain for spectacular views and luging.
After we came down from this mountain, we took a drive up to a ski field where we had more fantastic views of the scenery. And Maggie’s first snowman!
Saturday night was a partial reunion of Wellington. So many people from Vic were traveling the South Island and so many were in Queenstown for this middle weekend. We had a great “family” dinner and a great night in general, catching up before separating again for one more week.
Well…I failed at finishing my trip tonight. But hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to finish it up so I can keep updating you about life here.