Glenorchy and Ziplining in Queenstown

Friday was our last full day in Queenstown. There’s still a few things I would like to have done (such as take a trip to Stewart Island to look for kiwi) but there are only so many hours in the day. While Glen was at the conference in the morning, I took a drive to Glenorchy, a town 40 minutes away from Queenstown.

A few people had recommended the drive there and it didn’t disappoint. I travelled along winding roads that hugged the coastline with glimpses of the lake and the mountains offered up as I zoomed along at 100 kmh. I got stuck behind a four-car convoy for part of it, all doing 80, but eventually managed to get around them and zoom along. I made good time.

I’m sure there are plenty of people who think I should have taken the drive slow but where’s the fun in that? Going around sharp corners at speed was much more enjoyable.

There’s not much in Glenorchy but I did stop and take some photos from the jetty and the bank before getting back into the car and going back into Queenstown. Forty minutes later I was back in town, content with my speed sightseeing, and sitting have a tea and poached eggs at a cafe on the shores of the lake.

I picked Glen up from the conference venue around midday and we caught the gondola up the hill for our ziplining appointment.

Ziplining Down the Mountain

There are plenty of adventure sports that you can do in Queenstown, including skydiving, bungy jumping, paragliding, mountain bike riding and a whole lot more. As we went past the bungy platform on the gondola, my stomach started feeling queasy. Definitely not giving that a go if I can’t even look at the platform without feeling ill.

Instead we booked in for a ziplining experience that took us down the mountain on six ziplines over three hours (including a 20-minute walk between the last two ziplines). there were ten of us in the group with two lots of three-person families (a dad and two daughters), us and a man and a woman (one from the US, one from Auckland) who pull together conferences for companies.

We were given our harnesses and, despite having gone to the washroom about three times before the tour began, as soon as the harnesses were on we were both busting to go (TMI I know). Still we engaged our kegels and soldiered on. We are not yet incontinent.

Unlike the ziplining I did in Newfoundland, this one doesn’t involve any braking on our behalf; it’s all handled by the guides. So really we’re just locked onto the line and off we go, stopping safely at the other end and drawn into the platform. This meant we were free to do what we wanted on the line, including going upside down.

This turned out to be my favourite thing to do on five of the lines (we didn’t learn how to do it until the second). Travelling along at speed upside down as the mountain goes whizzing by is a bizarre but fun experience. We felt fairly safe so the whole ziplining experience was pretty chill, even the last line which is advertised as the world’s steepest.

We ended up at the bottom of the mountain, took off our harnesses and went on our way. I was starving by this point so we went for an early dinner at Botswana Butchery, luckily getting a table because we’re nannas and eat early. At 6 pm it started to get busy and there were no seats available without a reservation. We ate well then went home for a bit of a rest before our stargazing experience.

Upside-down! #Queenstown #newzealand #gaytravel #ziplining

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Stargazing

Unfortunately the air conditioning at our accommodation broke down a day or two before so the shipping container house was absolutely freezing. It prepared us for the stargazing tour which was starting at 8:45 pm.

We went back to the gondola, caught it up to the top, only to be told that the tour might be cancelled because the clouds had rolled in. The day was looking so promising too with a fairly clear sky but alas, the weather had other plans.

We waited around for a little while but at 8:30 it was clear nothing would proceed. We were fortunate to get a refund (we couldn’t rebook as we were leaving the next day) and went home. Glen was not-so-secretly pleased as he didn’t fancy standing outside for a couple of hours in the cold. Instead we went home and watched Getting On on Netflix and went to bed at 11.

Queenstown and Arrowtown

We flew from Auckland to Queenstown at midday on Tuesday, taking what must be one of the most beautiful flights in the world. We passed over the fiordlands as we came down to land; instantly the place reminded me of a combination of Newfoundland and Banff. Honestly, if the flight hadn’t been so sure, I’d have thought we’d detoured to Canada.

After landing, we collected our car (a green one this time but not a mini) and drove to our AirBnB: a converted shipping container perched on top of a hill with an enviable view of the mountains and the lake. Could we just stay here forever?

We’d bought some food at the shops in town on our way through so we had lunch, chilled out a bit and then, before we really knew it, it was an acceptable time to go for dinner. We headed back into town to a fish and chip van situated near the fancy restaurants and the lake.

We bumped into a couple of radiologists from back home and then sat watching the sky get dark and warded off three very determined ducks who were after our fish and chips. They didn’t succeed. After dinner we scurried home to our box and read our books.

Arrowtown

Wednesday was the start of the conference and Glen dutifully went off to attend a workshop. Meanwhile I went exploring and decided I’d do the good thing and go for a short hike. I went to Arrowtown, an old gold mining settlement that has been turned into a quaint tourist attraction. It’s also a good spot to go for some walks.

I picked the Sawpit Gully walk, a 2–3 hour walk up hills, through forests and along rivers and a pipeline. I figured that I’d be at the shorter end of the timescale but after setting off and stopping for a rest pretty soon in, I worried I’d be pushing the three hours. Not to mention my knee (the one that fractured) was feeling tender. Nevertheless, I persevered.

I was rewarded with wild strawberries (very much at the end of the season) and wild blackberries. Glen hates it when I eat random berries growing in the wild but a) these weren’t random and b) he wasn’t there. It’s not like I ate anything else.

A couple of birds showed interested in me at one point so perhaps I was near their nest, and then one of them followed me for a little way and came quite close. They certainly didn’t seem afraid of my presence.

In addition to the berries and the birds, there were also lots of funky fungi (which I definitely did not eat), which reminded me a lot of the national park we went to in Quebec, La Mauricie, and all its fungi.

I ascended the hill and then marched across highlands and descended into valleys with little rivers. For much of the first hour of my trip I was alone except for one woman who came jogging up behind me and then disappeared. Jogging! While there I was dying! The isolation was wonderful but I could also understand how people get agoraphobic. The hills were open and expansive and I felt very exposed, but I still enjoyed myself.

It wasn’t until the descent that I started seeing people who’d taken the track counter-clockwise. I think they would have the harder route. Time marched along with me until eventually I came to the start of the track again (there were moments I was afraid I’d taken the wrong turn and would have to endure even more exercise and fresh air). I was pleased to find that despite the stops I’d taken along the way, the walk took me exactly two hours.

Once back at the beginning I walked into the Arrowtown settlement and had a look around. I didn’t find anywhere I wanted to stop for lunch so thought I’d try one of the wineries I’d passed on the way in. Unfortunately, the sat-nav took me another way and I bypassed them completely. I had to settle for chicken salad when I got home, which was probably for the best.

Onsen Hot Pools

Despite having a whole afternoon free to go explore more of what Queenstown had to offer, I was perfectly content to stare out the glass door of our accommodation for a while and then get some work done.

I sat outside on the balcony to begin with but soon my fingers froze so I retreated inside to the warmth. I managed to edit another chapter of my book and get a few other things done before it was time to pick Glen up at 5:30.

Later that evening we went to Onsen Hot Pools, a destination recommended to us by the woman at the Air New Zealand check-in at Auckland Airport. We booked a late-night lantern-lit hour-long experience, starting at 9 pm. The water was hot and the jets were of reasonable strength which was perfect for my sore legs. (I’m really not a cardio kind of guy.)

Less perfect was the argument we had about ten minutes into our time there. Still, the open air with its frosty breeze and the warm water were pleasant, if not exactly romantic. Unfortunately, it was also a cloudy night so we couldn’t see the stars or the moon. Oh well, we’re still lucky.