I could not imagine the purity of Queenstown; the whiff of fresh air; pellucid waters set against the southern alps and its enthralling beauty. Queenstown is a small city, possibly the smallest I’ve been to; It’s home to just about 28,000 people approximately; snuggled away somewhere in between the southern alps. The city has a charm of its own; it’s cobbled streets, little bars, cafes and restaurants nestled among the steep peaks and meandering fjord.
On our first night, we took the Gondola ride up the mountain to Bob’s Peak to eat at the restaurant parked in the sky. As the skyline gondola cabin ascended towards the peak of the mountain, the green trees and the surrounding mountains begin to dwindle in its shape like little toys on a perfect painting. I spent an enormous amount of time to take in the astonishing beauty of Queenstown from the balcony that felt like the extension of the sky. The view of clear water against the rugged cliffs, the lofty mountain peaks standing tall against the clouds; some mountains wrapped in vanilla clouds. The dining at Skyline restaurant was extensive; they had a massive buffet spread with a diverse variety of food choices, can’t say that I didn’t love it, especially with that view!
There are plenty of other fun activities to do at Bob’s peak; I tried my hand at steering the luge, the three-wheeled cart (sort of like a toboggan, but with three wheels) that descends downhill as you follow the track. The track encompasses the surrounding magnificence of Queenstown from the top, the lake Wakatipu and the beauty of the southern alps. Surprisingly, I tried both variants of tracks, even the one with steeper gradients and curves without swerving into the edge of the course or an object like I thought I would. One could choose to hike or bike down marked trails, or even swing down tree tops. I did not get my nerves to settle down when I pondered on the idea of bungee jumps or the canyon swings or anything majorly scary (my intent was to come out of there alive or in one piece), but I did settle for ‘Zip Lining’. Up from Bob’s Peak, we sloped down the hill through tightly secured lines; my eye caught in every scenic view as we swung down Bob’s peak. My appetite for dizzying heights was limited to being Tarzan for a day but if you’re into plummeting towards the earth in nerving speed then, by all means, try the bungee!
As I was going through pamphlets of adventures in Queenstown, I stumbled upon The Shotover Jet. My yen for getting on thrilling rides gravitated me towards this intense speed boat ride. As we hopped onto the boat, I grabbed the corner seat to soak in all the fun and girded myself with the belt. Imagine going at a speed of 85kph through meandering coves; the boat would suddenly spin; my face flushed pink as the watercraft swirled tumultuously in great speed causing the freezing water coupled with the icy wind to slice through my face. Flustered with numbness, either I could feel too much or nothing at all. The crazy captain of the boat didn’t hesitate to include deliberate jerks towards the crags by purposefully attempting to nearly miss it and then spinning ridiculously to avoid the hit. I can’t imagine the level of skill needed to perfect that. I, on the other hand, felt a wrench on my shoulders and legs as the jerk tugged my body forward, I could almost feel the boulder or, perhaps, even touch it if I had stretched out my hand since I sat at the edge. If you’re suddenly experiencing some distaste towards this ride, then, I apologise. I can’t say that I’m not into thrills but not the kinds that make me barf, i.e. bungee jumps and canyon swings; my nerves only seem to settle for something less terrifying. My dad accompanied me, and believe me when I say he’s not a roller-coaster kind of guy, but he did, however, enjoy this ride. It encapsulates the beauty across the narrow canyons, and the spray of cold waters is refreshing. If you miss this one, you’ve missed a lot of fun.
Going by the name“ This Milford Sound” resonates the peaceful sounds of the Fjord, but it’s much more than that, this untouched and unspoilt beauty is a world heritage site. To reach this crown jewel, we set up to fly the helicopter over clear waters, glaciers and insanely astounding visual cues. On our way to the Milford Sound, the helicopter landed on top of the glacier where the ice desperately clung to the mountains before being melted away by the summer months ahead. As I stepped out of the helicopter, my shoes sunk into the snow, I wobbled my way through and propelled myself further as I gasped with wonder over the view ahead of me that looked like a perfect painting. Some sat down over the snow at the edge of the mountain as they glared at the horizon. Upon arrival at Milford Sound, I marvelled at the pristine waters.
There are a lot of ways to explore ‘Milford Sound’, but I won’t regret cruising through this marvel. We set sail on the ship as I sat on the balcony deck and watched the cascading waterfalls beat against the crystalline waters as we channelled through secluded areas surrounded by breathtaking views of the temperate rainforest and mountains all around. We encountered waterfalls of varied sizes cascading from the hills around us that had trees and shrubs protruding towards the waters, feeling subdued in awe of its beauty. Perhaps, the best part of the cruise was the attempt to go scarily close to the waterfall; as we were inching closer to it, the water sprayed onto us heavily leaving us drenched.
Queenstown is surrounded by secluded beauty all around, and what better way to soak it all in than to kayak in one of these secluded mountain lakes called the ‘Dart River’. Kayaking is much harder than I thought it would be but fun nonetheless. Occasionally, I had to step out of the kayak onto the outcrops where I felt the chilly water stroke my legs, and reposition the kayak so it wouldn’t swerve the other way. We paddled through valleys and cliffs and stopped for a break at a rock before we paddled through deeper realms. The lunch on the large rock felt like a treat in the deserted forest; we weren’t allowed to use plates or any cutlery; bread with pickles and curry squirted on top as we ate with our bare hands; a true experience of lunch in the woods. They also try to use everything that’s biodegradable.
The best kayaking came at the very end, rocks protruding from the water closed on us like cave tunnels and we paddled through the chasm; as we followed through the abyss, it opened up to a sheltered waterfall. In the end, we were surrounded by rocks on all corners but open to the sky, and I enjoyed the waterfall in the midst of it; there was no other way out but the way we had come in.
On my last day, I stood in line for my Ferg burger for my generously sized portion; It was a bit too large for me but I can’t complain because it was fresh, succulent with every bite. The Ferg gelato and sorbet collections are an endless treat; the handcrafted gelato is a perfect way to end an adventure; with a right balance of sweetness and smooth texture, it made leaving Queenstown even harder. What I was going to miss even more was waking up to the best version of French toast that my hotel would generously serve me at the Spire Hotel; little swirls of mascarpone dressed on the vanilla flavoured toast like dollops of fluffy cloud; each bite felt soft and pillowy in its texture. After I had left Queenstown, for days, I felt this lingering feeling of amazement. I soon realised that I was beginning to miss it more than I had expected.