We flew from Christchurch to Queenstown. Even with Google Maps, we had a hard time finding our hotel in Queenstown. The address was clear, but the hotel, The Spire, was located in a tiny alley in the midst of a shopping section. The Spire is a beautiful, boutique hotel, small, 10 rooms, and stylish. (The shower is great – which surprisingly is not always the case – even in high end hotels.)
We dropped our bags at the hotel and headed through town to the Gondola that took us to spectacular views. From here you could bungee jump, take a luge through a winding track part way down, eat, and shop. There is also para gliding nearby, and we spent a while up there watching the gliders sail through the air.
We had drinks on the patio outside the hotel, watching the young folks and the visiting ducks, and then a great dinner at the hotel restaurant.
Tuesday, Nov. 26
Our breakfast was delivered to our room at 6:00. We drove up to Makarora for our Siberian Wilderness Adventure. We shared a helicopter with two other ladies who, when we landed, immediately took off at a run along the track. We started at 600 metres elevation, climbed up for a while to 750 – and then it was all downhill from there. In more ways than one!
I lost count of the number of small creeks we crossed. If Robin had not been there to give me a hand over the rough bits I would still be there.
We were ten minutes late for our pickup, and Hayden, the jet boat driver had started up the hill to find us. The jetboat was invented in NZ as a clever way of navigating the very shallow water they get on the South Island braided rivers. This boat needs only 4 inches of water. We have all decided that we NEED one of these at home. So much fun. Hayden did spins, went down rapids, raced from side to side in the river.
The river is unusually high, and so we are able to “beach” the jetboat. Danielle, daughter of Patsy (who is a co-owner of the company and checked us in for the trip) had lunch set up for us. Nice big picnic table set up under willow trees. Hayden donned gloves and set to grilling our lunch. Salmon, venison sausages and steaks, and, of course, white bait. Apparently, we learned later, white bait is not used as bait, and costs about $120/kilo. Danielle had salads, and for dessert, a big bag of chocolate bars, some of which were familiar, and some, like the hokey pokey bar, new to us. Linda K has a sweet tooth, and finally scooped up the rest of the bars and gave them to Hayden, to save us from ourselves.
What a wonderful day!!
None of us left the room after we returned home, we were so tired.
Wed. Nov. 27
Mick picked us up at 9:00 for a full day wine tour.
Central Otago is one of the leading wine regions of the world. Pinot noir became the variety of choice in this cool climate at 45 degrees south. We stopped at Felton Road, and joined a group tour led by “the daughter of the owner”. We did like their pinot, and their Riesling was pretty good too. We stopped at Mt. Difficulty for a great lunch, and had a quick tasting there as well. Then we hurried to our 2:00 appointment at Rippon. We got to the gate at 2:08, Mick was a bit worried. It turns out that the appointments are rigidly scheduled and the guides or guests are given a code to the gate which expires shortly after the appointed time. We did manage to get there on time.
We didn’t enjoy this wine nearly as much as at Felton Road, and the visit itself was pretty awful. There was a young family with 3 children who never shut up and disrupted the lovely young man who was giving the tasting. The parents were totally oblivious to the disruption they, and the kids, were causing. Why they would bring three little kids to such a space is beyond me.
Although the wine tastings were not what we have become used to, the day was pretty enjoyable. Mick was informative and interesting. We covered a lot of the wine area, and the scenery was really good. Mick lives in a small town outside Queenstown, and rarely goes into the “big” city, but recommended Blue Kanu for our dinner. We were not disappointed – a mix of Asian/Polynesian dishes that we all shared.
Queenstown is full of tourists – I cannot imagine what it is like in high season. Very few of the people we have met here, in the shops or restaurants, working or visiting, are from NZ. They are all young! There is a lot of building going on in the city, and it is becoming very expensive for workers to live here. Very much like Whistler.