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After an exhausting seven days straight of snowboarding, activity week had arrived. As much as I adored the snow, I began to get itchy feet for exploration of the city itself. George Bernard Shaw was once quoted, “I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad.” – I tend to share the same mentality. With so much on offer around and within Queenstown itself, dividing and conquering seemed the most realistic option for the eight of us.
Day one: Stop and smell the flowers. For the first time since arrival, the days were free and not set to scheduled bus pick-up times – each day was individual and unique. The walk along the central lake, from our rental home to the city, revealed beautiful quirks as it took us off road and exposed many piers, rustic boat sheds and ramps, abandoned kayaks and even a tyre swing. As a Tasmanian advertisement stated, “You see a lot more travelling at 2km per hour.” – I couldn’t agree more. The path lead through to the Botanic Gardens and into the city. A 3-5km walk extended into a two hour exploration absorbing macro and micro details of our picturesque surrounds.
Day two: Sampling foods and Shotover Jet. The morning was filled with tasting treats such as “the retro deal” of fresh warm cookies and milk at Cookie Time and “Kiwi Wild foods” at the local fish and chips shack by the water. The setting could not have been more picturesque as we sat on the beach surrounded by white peaked mountains coated in sunshine, devouring our seafood and chip delights. The ducks are quite gutsy, choosing to help themselves to the meal. The Shotover Jet was exhilaratingly fun, darting through narrow canyons and when signalled, pulled a few 360degree turns. Upon arriving back in the city centre, the time had come to experience the renowned Fergburger. After the first bite, it was impossible to stop, sneaking bites in the taxi home hidden behind the seat and devastated upon arriving home as it disrupted the gluttony taking place.
Day three: Paragliding and Winery tour. Upon waking early and coming to the realisation that today may indeed be our last sunny day, as forecast, I called the paragliding company to see if I could make the 9am group. A man on the other end of the line agreed, and instructed that he’d pick me up in 10 minutes or I’d be late – and so commenced the mad dash around home before a sprint down the hill to the pick-up point. Like clockwork, he pulled up and escorted me to the group. The top of the lifts at Coronet Peak was all too familiar, but instead of turning the right and gliding down the mountain, I was instructed to climb up a small peak directly in front. My partner laid out the parachute, hooked me in and instructed me to run directly off the side of the mountain. As I did, the wind slowly filled the chute as my feet lifted away from the soil and snow below. The views were like no other and we glided and span down the mountain side. That afternoon, I re-joined the group as we were picked up by a very knowledgeable man who fed us information as readily as the wineries filled us with a variety of white’s, champagne, and red’s inclusive of the region’s specialty, Pinot Noir. Each winery had their specific history, distinct setting (one residing in a cave) and tales of intrigue
Day four: Gondola, Zip lining and Rata. Majority of the group decided to stay tucked away in front of the fire on this particularly overcast Wednesday, however, I had a date with a zip line. Jack agreed to brave the cold with me, boarding the iconic gondola up to Bob’s Peak for coffee. The higher we rose up the mountainside, the heavier the snow fell with the view becoming hazier. The transition from lush green trees to snow covered branches was divine – something like a Christmas movie. A man who worked there stated he’d never seen snow fall this large and hard in the city itself for the seven years he’d lived here. We ventured outside to find thick snow-covered tables and chairs and abundant powder beneath our feet – perfect for snowball fights. Then suddenly as the sun broke through the clouds, the haze began to clear, and we were left with fresh, vibrant views of the city below. The time came for Jack to farewell me as I ventured over to the first of six eco tree houses. Zip lining was an unforgettable opportunity to explore the natural environment hundreds of metres above Lake Wakatipu whilst learning of the environment and sustainability… at up to 80km/hr. Exhilarated, I returned home for a quick shower before six of us attended Josh Emett’s Rata – New Zealand’s only Michelin-starred chef. The room itself was intriguing, marrying simple clean lines and modern light instillation elements with a warm, natural homely feeling. The wines suggested were too perfect for our experimental, boundary pushing entree, main and dessert. One of my favourite days, in a nutshell.
Day five: Milford Sound. A roughly 300km bus journey wound its way through the country side, occasionally stopping for scenic views and snacks, before passing through the Homer Tunnel and arriving at Milford Sound. From any vantage point, the scenery was bliss boasting snow-covered peaks, rolling hills, emerging waterfalls and creeks. Milford Sound itself was surreal in beauty and serenity. The three-storey vessel glided smooth as silk over the water venturing toward the river mouth with penguin, dolphin and seal sightings.
Day six: Exhaustion absolutely set in. Exhausted, I did not plan any activities, however, I did not want to waste a day indoors, and so I moseyed around the city on my own absorbing the last details of our holiday destination. Stopping for coffee, observing people’s movements – I wanted to learn the in’s and out’s of Queenstown from a personal level, what make’s it tick. I felt very comfortable roaming the sidewalks. I was content with what I’d experienced.
Day seven: Return to the snow – Cardrona. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to spend the last days back where we’d started, at the snow. Three of us took on the hillsides of Cardrona – a location both locals and visitors alike stated was unbeaten. After six days on firm land, I’d lost my boarding feet. My technique had changed, strengths became weaknesses and vice versa. I was lost as the wind’s resistance pushed so hard, I wound up off the side of the course on different routes. After lunch, things came back together as we ventured down new runs and up different lifts over looking the talent performing on the terrain park below. The day finished with a wine and a gratified heart.
Day eight: Homeward bound. The last day saw us enjoying a last family breakfast at an old favourite in town before making our way to the airport and beyond. Eight people on a rollercoaster for two weeks of snow, activities and experiences. Eight differing recollections, stories and understandings. Each of us responded to the adventures and opportunities laid before us inversely and that, in itself is a beautiful thing.
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