Saturday, December 3, 2011

Adrenaline rush in Queenstown

Day 9 (Mon, 28 Nov 2011)

Wanaka to Queenstown: 71km

This morning, we had a lovely breakfast at our motel. The Japanese manager who served us yesterday donned a maitre d's suit and welcomed us to the dining room. Unlike typical UK bed and breakfasts, this one had a notch more class, with typical Japanese precision and detail.

There's the usual buffet of cereal, fruit and juices, while eggs, bacon and crisp toast are served to your liking and on pretty crockery.

From our room and the dining room, we saw 4 rainbows within one hour. This really is God's country.

Wanaka is so beautiful we couldn't bear to leave it. So before heading off to Queenstown, we made another morning stop by the lake. It's an irresistable mesh of sights and scents emanating from fresh air, glorious sunshine and a cool sea breeze. Utterly delicious.

A nucleus family out for a walk.

And then, it's goodbye to Wanaka and we're off to Queenstown, the Adventure Capital of the World. But first, we made a stop along the way at Cardrona Adventure Park for Andre to get his shot at quad bike riding!

Andre went on the smaller quad bike and Kenneth on the regular one. They did the 30-minute trail which went through rugged terrain and water. Lesley-Anne wasn't keen so I stayed behind with her while the guys played with their boy toys.

Meanwhile, back at the shed, the resident donkey took an interest in our rental car.

It was also extraordinarily interested in Lesley-Anne and followed her around.

The place is run by a very distinctly unique individual - Ian Soanes. I had a very interesting chat with him while waiting for Kenneth and Andre. A native South African, Ian has won accolades all over the world as a motor stuntman, on bikes, cars, monster trucks, even planes! The little shack which was his reception area, proudly displayed newspaper articles of his feats.

According to Ian, NZ is now going through a recession and businesses are going under everyday. Apparently, that's why we've been seeing so many shops and homes on sale. Kiwis are leaving NZ for better pastures in record numbers and since the Christchurch earthquakes, tourism is down by 60%. Wow. I thought it was such a shame. Such a beautiful country but the people are hurting.

Makes me glad we contributed to his rides that day! Speaking of which, Kenneth and Andre had a whale of a time. What is it with boys and vehicles? We had to physically drag Andre away, he was pining for another go.

The next part of the drive through Cardrona Valley was breath-taking but there was one portion where it was about 5km of hairpin curves down a mountain. I was gripping my seat the whole time. We're in no hurry to do that again!

We made a slight detour to Arrowtown, just 20 minutes before Queenstown. It's a very pretty town that looks like it has gone back in time. It felt like we were walking through Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls. It's very cute, albeit rather touristy and commercial.

We had lunch at Arrow Thai. The food was very tasty and it's a nice change from the kind of food we've been having.

Here's a craftsman shaping a piece of jade.

Finally, we arrived at Queenstown. This is the centre for adventure sports like jetboating, rafting, skiing, bungy jumping, para gliding and any other adrenaline pumping activity you can think of!

First, we checked in at Novotel, our hotel for the night. It's conveniently located on Marine Parade, the road that leads right to the main pier and a hop, skip and jump from the town centre.

And then we're off for another adrenaline shot! We had booked 3 of us on the Kawarau Jet - a jetboating experience on Shotover River. (Once again, Kenneth is staying put on terra firma due to his motion sickness).

Here we are, looking a bit like traditional Korean dancers in our spray and life jackets.

Let's just say the ride was not what I'd expected. First, it was raining quite heavily so the ride to Shotover River (via Lake Wakatipu) was choppy. It was like a roller coaster ride on its own, bouncing up and down the waves. At those speeds, the rain whipped against our faces like 1,000 stinging needles. We ended up having to use one hand to shield our faces while using the other to grip the handlebar. The Indian lady sitting next to Lesley-Anne yelled, "This is awesome but I can't see anything!"

Furthermore, I had my camera in one hand (the lady at the reception told me, "yeah, bring your camera!" which was utterly bad advice as you'll be too busy clinging on for dear life to think about photo opportunities) and had to hold on to Andre's specs halfway through as the rain was lashing against them.

Then came the actual ride along Shotover River. I'm convinced the driver was practising for the jetboating F1. Every time he did a spin, everyone in our row would be slammed violently to one side (usually squashing Andre). During one spin, the lady in the front row jumped so high in her seat that my heart nearly stopped, I thought she was going to fall out. Thankfully, the guy next to her grabbed her arm and pulled her back.

That got me terrified that Andre was going to be flung out of the boat as he was sitting precariously at the end of the row. So whenever the driver performed a spin, I would brace my feet against the floor, grip tightly on to the handlebar with my left hand and then with my right hand clinging a camera and a pair of spectacles, grab onto Andre. Talk about multi-tasking.

Looking back now, I can say it was quite hilarious. The driver would stop occasionally and give us a speech, possibly about the beauty of the river but with the rain, nobody could hear him. All I heard was, "blah blah blah blah blah blah. Everyone ok?" Then he would gun the engine again and off we'd go!

At first, when the driver asked, "Everyone ok?", us gung-ho participants would go "Awesome!" About halfway through the ride, we were all too stunned to reply. I don't know if we were a particularly chicken group of participants or the weather conditions that day were especially rough, but I think it was more adventure than we had bargained for. Oh, and did I mention the entire ride took 1 whole hour?

As I said, looking back, it's kinda funny and at the river, it really was very beautiful scenery. I'm glad we did just so we can say we tried it. But it's not something I would do again. Quad bikes are mild in comparison!

After that thrill ride, we went back to Novotel for a shower before coming out again for dinner in the heart of Queenstown. We tried this little French restaurant as the menu looked interesting. Run by Frenchies, the food here is excellent. Although restaurant fare looks more expensive than back in Singapore, I find the prices reasonable as they're nett. GST is included and there's no service charge.

Andre is totally cool with this sign in the restaurant!

After dinner, we took a stroll by the pier. We never get tired of these sensational lake views with a million photo opportunities.

No comments: