Although we were sad to say goodbye to our campervan adventure we were equally excited to finally arrive in Queenstown! New Zealand's outdoor capital and home to an unlimited number of thrill seeking activities. We were feeling a sense of loss without our van but that was easily overcome by hot shower in our ensuite bathroom and a comfy bed with a real mattress!
Queenstown reminds us of Whistler. It is surrounded by mountains and water, filled with adventure, and has a vibrant city centre with bars, pubs, and restaurants everywhere. It's a great party town so it was only fitting that we act like we were in Whistler and indulge in the local draft beer. And with that, Queenstown also re-introduced us to late night street food and the infamous morning after hangover. Something that hadn't been experienced since Auckland. Gotta love the Kiwi nightlife!
Okay, so we're in Queestown. Now what?! We thought Rotorua was a tough place to make a decision on adventure activities, welcome to Queenstown! Rafting, sledging, river surfing, canyon swings, heli-tours, downhill luge, bungy jumping, skydiving, hand-gliding, para-sailing, jet boating, harbour cruises, heli-to-mountain biking tours, skiing, quad adventures, etc. If it's outdoor, fun and action packed, it's in Queenstown. We spent the good portion of a day just pricing out trips and deciding what to do! We could easily burn through $5k in a couple weeks just on activities alone.
Highest on the list for us was to do the Shotover Jetboating. Throughout NZ you'll find jet boating adventures basically anywhere there is a river, but the Shotover Jet is said to be the biggest and baddest. We had passed on jet boating several times throughout our travels because we were saving it for the Shotover Jet in Queenstown.
Although we went into the trip with high expectations, it did not disappoint. We zigged and zagged through narrow passages wedged between steep canyons. The Shotover Jet is also the only operation that does high speed 360 degree turns on the river, in some cases with less than 6 inches of water! (And Hugh Jackman, Alanis Morisette, Peter Jackson, and Ryan Reynolds have also done the Shotover Jet!) We've got some mini video clips on our facebook pages.
Nicole was also very keen on doing river rafting and Cameron was keen on the river surfing (or sledging). But we decided to skip the "in water" activities when we realized that we were bundled in several layers of clothing with touques and gloves on. It seemed a little forced to be river rafting in glacier water when it's so cold you can see your breath! We had several bungy options but $150 for 10 seconds of adrenaline seemed a bit steep for two unemployed backpackers. But we still wanted to do at least one more adventure before leaving NZ.
So we decided to do a heli-tour of 'The Remarkables' mountains range and actually land on the snow capped mountain. Neither of us had ever been on a helicopter before so it was exciting to be doing something together for the first time. It was an eerie felling taking off, and even more weird actually landing on the top of a mountain only feet away from cliffs that drop 1000 meters. It was absolutely amazing flying so close to the mountains and the views were fantastic.
When we left the mountain the chopper tilted forward and dropped more than 200 meters in less than 5 seconds; the rapid descent was intentional, but a thrill not soon forgotten! Nicole is not the best airplane flyer so let's just say that this adventure was driven by Cameron, and that we've satisfied the urge to fly in helicopters (for now anyways).
When we were in Wellington the week prior we had to purchase our Japan Rail passes and have them shipped to Queenstown because it takes at least 5 business days to get the passes produced (which is difficult because we're never in one place for more than a couple days!). This task that had us a little tense because if the passes did not arrive in Queenstwn on time we were in trouble, and we need these passes for our upcoming trip to Japan. Sure enough, the passes had not arrived! Luckily we left ourselves a two day buffer window, they arrived only 15 hours before our flight departure to Sydney.
On the eve of our departure we decided to hit up the only micro-brewery in town. We sampled many of the local brews, including a ginger beer that did not go down well with Nicole. We met a Kiwi couple that lived about an hour outside of Auckland and were on a ten day vacation to the south island. We swapped stories and shared several pints of microbrew before relocating to another social house to carry on the evening. It was great to finally sit down with actual Kiwi's in New Zealand and learn about their country, rather than only other foreign travellers (not that we don't like meeting other backpackers though!). We ate late night fast food from the Turkish Kebab restaurant and parted ways with a memorable night under our belt.
So after three days in Queenstown it was time to leave New Zealand. We packed up again and headed to our home away from home; the airport! Next destination: Cairns, Australia.