From Wanaka, I made my way down to Queenstown, Tourist Central and Home of Adventure Sports such as skiing, boating, sky-diving, and a really big swing. Before I got there, I took a brief detour to Arrowtown, a small village outside of Queenstown, where a few LotR scenes were filmed (Arwen and the Ringwraiths confrontation at the river, and in the extended edition of Fellowship, the surprise attack on Isildur). Like in Wanaka, Autumn colours were rampant and absolutely stunning. I had lunch and a delightful walk-around the town and along the river.
While I’d been sleeping in Shadowfax throughout all of South Island, I’d been looking forward to a hostel in Queenstown. Well, my recent penchant for spur of the moment decisions didn’t pan out as EVERY SINGLE HOSTEL WAS BOOKED. Not to mention the hostel I’d been planning to utilize WASN’T EVEN OPEN! Yeah, they didn’t mention THAT on their website…Thankfully, there was a campsite not too far away, and if I spent an hour picking up litter around the site, my stay was free. #Baller. (The site was also a LotR film location!)
I’m glad I was able to spend the next two nights with some wonderful people I’d met back on Waiheke who’d graciously offered me a room if I ever made it down to Queenstown. I gratefully took them up on it – and it was awesome to have fun conversation and parking (QT is a bitch for parking, fyi). I used their apartment as a base to go out, for the most part, wine tasting. Central Otago is a renowned for wine, particularly Pinot Noir – and though not my favorite, I had a delightful time sampling all sorts of varieties and vintages. I fell in love with Amisfield’s Chenin Blanc – definitely one of my new favorites!
I thought I’d be into some adventure sporting (after all, I included that especially in my travel insurance coverage!), but everything in QT was incredibly expensive. Even the swing! I wasn’t about to spend $200+ for a swing. And although apparently if you went naked it was free, I wasn’t THAT keen on it.
In Queenstown, one of the more affordable and popular things to do is Fergburger – a famous burger joint. So, like any NYer turned tourist, I waited in line.
I’m telling you now, it’s not worth it. It was fine, but not mind-blowingly amazing or anything. Definitely not worth waiting 30+minutes in line for! Save yourself the time and go next door to their Bakery and get one or two of their simply scrumptious pies!
So, while I enjoyed the wine tasting, it was with a sigh of relief I pointed Shadowfax Northeast and headed up towards Mount Cook. I’d seen it from the West Coast and the Glaciers, but this time I’d be going into the National Park proper.
[But Side Note! I did a quick stop off at a quirky antique shop that has a bunch of Xena: Warrior Princess replicas! Yes, I am a huge Xena fan, and it was all filmed in NZ, and I did geek out just a little bit. This costume replica was made by the actual Xena costume designer! Ok, thanks for bearing with me.]
Back to Mt Cook! Aoraki (Maori for Mt Cook), is NZ’s tallest mountain. While I’ve realized I’m not BIG on hiking, the 2ish hour excursion along the valley floor was quite enjoyable; and even though the wind at the glacial lake was intense, the experience was worth it.
On the hike back to the car, I heard some loud cracking sounds that confused me – turns out they were mini avalanches! Glad I didn’t get snowed under! Not everyone who ventured onto Mount Cook was as fortunate; there was a memorial to all the explorers and hikers who had lost their lives on the mountain. I really am blown away by all the incredibly experiences I get to have in relative safety – largely due to the brave/brash/stupid?/hardcore people who have gone before, literally risking their lives to learn and explore.