Although Nick had warned us that the scenery of the previous day (Franz to Wanaka) was “nothing” compared to the drive from Wanaka to Queenstown (his favourite of the scenic drives, second only to the Milford highway, apparently), I have to disagree. There were a lot of very dramatic rolling hills, all lushly carpeted with rain forest for sure, and some pretty contrasts of mountain peaks with green slopes and sudden rocky cliff faces, but without the water, it didn’t really stand up in comparison, for me anyway. Additionally, it’s possible that my memory of the drive is a little skewed because that was also the morning that The Boy decided he would jump off a bridge.
He did it, too, at Kawarau Bridge, the site of the world’s very first commercial bungy. AJ Hackett, crazy New Zealander, pioneered the bungy jump with a friend from, as far as I could make out from the “documentary”, a desire to create something like a skydive that cost less money and gave more of a rush (from seeing the ground whoosh up at you). Millions of people are happy he did, including my husband!
There is a video of the jump, possibly including squeaky narrative by a certain concerned wife (who was going to carry his enormous f-ing backpack around if he didn’t make it?!) but it is still trapped on his phone. I present instead this collage:
Nick also jumped (actually he jumped quite a few people before The Boy; they have a weird system with descending weights, so The Boy kept getting pre-empted by heavier dudes) but in a first for him he brought Ross, his doll/bus mascot/thingie.
After all the excitement (we were back on the bus by 11am), we stopped in a small town notable because of its delicious venison pie, then headed into the much-discussed Queenstown!
In my original itinerary, I had written off Queenstown as a one- or maybe two-day stop, because everything written about it was for the “eXtreme thrill” enthusiasts which, being the big chicken I am, really isn’t me. I had no desire to skydive, or bungy jump, or go “luging” (sans ice) down a mountainside. I might have been up for ziplining or para-sailing. Might. The Boy had stated that while any of the activities would probably be fun, they would definitely be expensive, and given the cost of our trip as a whole, it didn’t seem like a good place for us to stay for long.
Then we got the feedback of the guides.
Even knowing that I’m a big wimp, Rick, our north island guide, advised that Queenstown is fun even without extreme activities: it’s a party town with a nice lake, lots of great walking paths, and a big hill to hike up, should we want a view. A short bus ride away, there was also Arrowtown, a town leftover from New Zealand’s gold rush (bet you hadn’t known New Zealand had a “wild west” too, did you?) with buildings preserved from the era, including the “China town” of the Chinese settlers who’d emigrated out for the rush.
Nick, who had planned for his bussing to end in Queenstown, informed us that we could leave after a day if we liked — so long as we stayed for his party, the night of our arrival — but we’d be missing out on the best town EVAR in the south island. It was Nick who also told us about the Earnslaw, the oldest working steamship in New Zealand, and in the running for the oldest ones in the world.
We gave in, and stayed for four days.
Ironically, we spent most of those days just relaxing. The day after Nick’s memorable send-off (he was cut off at one bar by 8pm, and the remainder of the night featured a pointy blue felt hat, and jingly, pointy-toed “fairy boots”) we trekked down to Milford Sound, but after that, we just explored the town. We were around for the weekend craft market (more yarn shoppage), walked through the gardens, and generally missed out on everything people say we should do while in Queenstown.
It was a much needed (and gloriously sunny) rest break in the middle of our south island adventures.