Queenstown and home for my brother, Nick, who only moved into his new house on Lake Hayes Estate last month! Arrived expecting the just-moved-in chaos to find the most beautiful and extremely modern pad almost ready to go. Am so impressed by it - huge sliding doors down the backbone of the 'C' shape, with a whole room to myself and with a double bed! (for one week only - parents then arrived and took it over, leaving me sharing the bunk room with the Dutch housemate, Eric). And this was to be my home for the next 3 weeks....the main purpose of coming here was to visit Nick, catch-up with parents, and catch-up with myself before moving on and hitting the backpackers again! Saying that, I seem to have packed in a lot, some of which is described below:
- Rugby: Sevens - day of arrival, Mark (Nick's housemate) met me at the airport with the hire car and introduced me to Karen, his girlfriend, and we headed off into town to see the final few matches of the weekend's Sevens tournament. Tana Umunga, who retired from the All Blacks the previous week was there as guest-of-honour and he had a Mauri farewell with 3 Mauris performing a ritual dance for him. The final was between Wellington and Auckland with a bloke dislocating his shoulder badly just infront of us! A good atmosphere and it was all free!
Fourteens - one early evening match between the local side the Highlanders (along with kilted musicians and dancers) and the Chiefs. Level-pegging at half-time this quickly changed into a massive victory by the Chiefs, much to many locals disappointment, who still had fun sitting in the sun with some beers on the grassy embankment.
- Deer Park at Kelvin Heights - this hill sits between the Remarkables and Queenstown and was where some big fight was filmed in Lord of the Rings! On Nick and Claire's day-off we drove up to the top for the fantastic, although cold, views. Along the way we stopped and fed the various animals, deer (hence the name of the park so no great surprise there), vicious goats with horns and Aberdeen Angus.
- Theatre - Thursday night = the households' end of week-end and we popped over to Arrowtown where a local theatrical company were putting on a show of take-offs from books and films, using no costumes or props. Most of them were very funny and Mark is convinced he will win the prize for identifying the most films quoted in one of the scenes!
- Parents arrived - a week later parents arrived and it was lovely to see them despite hearing all about their up-grade to Business Class! We did a long, but flat walk along the Francton Track into Queenstown and Dad promptly put me on the Kawarau Jet Boat. We whizzed along the lake and up the Kawarau River, sometimes in water as shallow as 10cm, with 370 litres of water passing through each of the 2 engines every second, narrowly missing bridge abutments, trees and gravel islands!
- Winery lunch - A lunch-time visit to a winery is very highly recommended and there are plenty to choose from around Queenstown. Mt Difficulty is where we chose and it was a great choice. Outdoor eating, on top of a hill with yet more spectacular views and delicious food and the odd glass of wine is a fab way the pass an afternoon!
- Wanaka - Spreading wings slightly further than just Queenstown, Mum, Dad and I ventured a whole hour away to Wanaka and the Diamond Lake walk. This 3-hour circuit was a steep climb through the trees to a plateau of yet more incredible views of Lake Wanaka and some snow-capped mountains. A very hot walk as we set-off right in the middle of the day, so the sandwich stop on the way down was much needed, as was the paddle and rest by the lake.
- Birthday - The day I had to wave a fond "farewell" to my 20's and move on gracefully into my 30's.... So Nick and Claire gave me a gift to do a tandem paraglide off Coronet Peak. This I did and very much enjoyed the 20 minute peaceful descent and smooth landing and then was very surprised to hear Dad's voice saying "hello"....turns out as he and Mum were watching Dad said in a blarzay fashion that he thought he could do it too, thinking he would never be challenged!! Then the last man didn't run fast enough due to a previous injury and didn't take off, scraping his legs along the ground for 200m. He then refused to try again and offered Dad the ride for free...and so we have it - my father descended the mountain hanging from a large sheet of material and extremely proud!!
- Maddog River Boarding: as most will know, this is the company my brother has been working for for the last 4 summers, so there was no way I wasn't going to see what he does and enjoy the freebee ride down the river - or would it be more accurate to say, get dragged down the river with absolutely no control?!? Maddogging is similar to the white water rafting principle except you go down using boogie boards and swimming! Kitted with wet-suits, fins and helmets there was a quick group lesson before we took on the proper of the river. Lucky in a few places that Nick was there to push me in the correct direction except for when we approached the Man-Killer rapid...Having been warned to stay in the middle of the flow, or if a little nervous go to the right, Nick dragged me by the scruff of my lifejacket right over to the left to face the wall of water with him - brotherly love is what he called it, but it was great fun and I even stayed floating!! On completion of the rapids I got the opportunity to be dragged behind Nick's jetski until I was thrown off, much like donuts, until we reached the "other activities". Being led somehow by an unknown force I climbed to the top of the rock jump, just to have a look, but to my horror everyone started to jump the 10m fall into the water!! With only 2 of us remaining and the other girl opting for the smaller one, there was no way I was going to look a wimp - so I jumped the 10m!! And the entry into the water wasn't the straightest, so it felt like the most massive bum smacking ever... The slide was wicked, coming down head first, gaining lots of speed and crossing the majority of the river width. The swing was a rope you held onto and on the end was a small ball to be placed between the legs and the aim is to let go at the furthest point and at the highest height - this I did, but lost lots of control and landed giving myself another smacking....bruises looking good!!
4WD - one of the perks about living out here is the connections you make to free activities!! So Claire was given a gift for 2 people to go on a 4WD tour of Lord of the Rings spots. Not being a massive fan, and only having seen it once and remembered close to none of the story, I was really good at nodding my head and staring straight at the scenery when different scene locations were pointed out!! Wasn't quite the off-road experience we were expecting as we remained on the road or track the whole time. Did, however, stop off at Glenorchy which is a village I was hoping to see before leaving and just hadn't had time - was extremely small and not sure what it was i was going to see. Was good fun all the same and great to see some of Mt Aspiring World Heritage site.
Circus - last night in Queenstown and the Websters' Circus were in town so trundled down to the Big Top. And they were fantastic! The gymnasts got themselves into all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes, mainly standing on one hand and towered on top of each other. There were type-rope walkers, clowns and some very unusual swinging from swings and jumping up and down on elastics. There was a "Splash" theme whereby the second half was set around a pool of water with fountains springing into life at the climax to each performance. Eventually the girl was returned to the sea and transformed back into a mermaid!