Queenstown – Where One Can Break Free

Overview

Population: 14,300

Distance Travelled: 78 km

Total Road Trip Distance: 1208 km

15th – 17th Nov

The drive down to Queenstown was one of the shortest but equally one of the most dramatic. There is a historic town called Arrowtown not too far north of Queenstown but it required us taking a different route over the mountains.

Before we got to the mountains we passed a rather curious multicoloured fence that on closer inspection appeared to be hundreds upon hundreds of bras. We didn’t add to it but there was a box for donations to a breast cancer charity that we felt we could more easily contribute to.

Once I’d fully tested our Tiida’s breaks down the other side of the mountains we arrived in Arrowtown. It was a hub during the gold mining boom in the 1800s and had a huge surge of Chinese immigrants trying to find their fortune. Arrowtown retains some of the original Chinese settlers buildings in a patch along the river.

Dudley’s Cottage
The very historic original outhouse. There was a whole original shop behind it but clearly I felt this was enough

Once more the rain came down and tried to spoil our visit so we got back in the car and saw the centre of Arrowtown by car.

It was a short hop to Queenstown and once there we stopped on the outskirts to top up our groceries and stopped once more in the centre so Kate could get her nose pierced. Because it wouldn’t be a backpacking holiday without some form of body modification.

Once Kate’s nose had a hole in it we drove to our hostel and got ourselves checked in. That evening we ate in the hostel once more and had a few drinks whilst we listened to the huge British contingent talk about buying dandelion & burdock from a sweet shop.

The following day we set off in search of the bottom of Bob’s Peak. There is a gondola that scales the 849m hill that overlooks Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu but it was way too expensive, considering there was also path you can walk up for free.

The path starts and finishes at the gondola stations with many intersecting downhill bike trails, a zipline adventure you can do down the hill that whizzed past us on occasions and some kind fellows had carved some fancy seats out of trees on the way.

The majority of the walk was shrouded in woodland but about halfway up we reached a clearing with great views out across the water.

Back into the woods we encountered some more NZ rain. We had been informed the climb was about 45-60 minutes, and after having smashed all of our estimated times in Asia we were happy it would be a short climb. About 90 minutes later we reached the top, drenched and ready for lunch.

The resort at the top is called Skyline and has undergone a few refurbishments in its short history and now houses a restaurant, a cafe, a gift shop and of course, a jelly bean shop, which contributed some very impressive works of art, including this one:

We ordered some drinks from the cafe and sneakily ate our packed lunch. We had mixed it up from the usual sandwiches and had bought garlic pittas. Boy were they garlicky. It was a good job there was an Indian food stall in the cafe or our spicy stench would have given us away.

At this point the rain stopped and the clouds went away and suddenly, Queenstown appeared below us.

We were not rich/brave enough for the majority of activities available at the top of the hill but we could just about scrape enough pennies together to afford a few goes on the Skyline luge. We paid our dollars and jumped on a chairlift to the top of their two tracks.

It is basically a plastic sled on wheels with a bar to steer and break. The break works by sitting on the wheels so you don’t go anywhere until you push your lever forward to lift yourself off the wheels. After a very thorough 30 second lesson on the controls we were off. It was fantastic! I was whizzing down the course, drifting round corners, up on two wheels. I overtook an Asian couple and as I came out of a hairpin bend the lady decided she would try going full speed straight on instead, into the banked side. Turned out she was ok.

Kate and I made it safely to the bottom and once you’ve done the novice track you can go on the faster one which was even better! We had three runs in total but I could have kept going all day.

Fun over, it was time to trudge back down the hill, but thankfully the weather stayed nice and when we got all the way back down to Queenstown we stopped in at a pub that the chap in the Antlers bar in Haast had recommended for a well earned pint.

That evening we went for dinner at a London themed American diner with clear identity issues. We walked past the harbour at a lovely time of day, just as the sun was saying goodbye for the day.

After dinner we saw an organised pub crawl of what seemed to consist of 40 or so very loud 18 year old British kids. A Kiwi chap expressed his distain for this group by shouting “Oh my god! They’re the worst!” We concurred.

On our way back to the hostel we stopped off at a bar on a boat. Run by a very happy Aussie, his bar had a couple of beer taps and a small fridge but it was a cosy little spot, and 2 and half months of no shaving meant I felt like I fitted in.

We only had a short walk back to the hostel but it was up a street we had walked up earlier that day. It may have looked like the best route on the map but our weary legs thought otherwise. At least the cars had good handbrakes.

The following morning we got ourselves breakfast and threw everything back into our car to set off once more.

The hostel

Deco Backpackers was yet another haven of long-term residents. Our previous meetings with people on working holiday visas had been varied, with perhaps the largest contingent being German. Here they were all British. And young. And as much as British people like to think they are all super polite and a credit to the world, British kids abroad are the worst, especially on organised pub crawls. It was therefore a huge relief to find out our room was in a seperate building that was being redecorated and we therefore had it to ourselves! The room was huge as well with a lovely view. Our almost ensuite bathrooms were great. The kitchen was big but with so many residents it got packed quickly and fridge space was at a premium despite there being about eight. All in all though, it suited us perfectly.

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