Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Exploring Queenstown from high above

Once we check into the Rees, we all put on long sleeve shirts and grab jackets, as it is decidedly cooler here than up on the North Island. There is a definite “alpine vibe” here in Queenstown, with many similarities to the ski villages of Saas Fee and Zermatt in Switzerland. Maybe then, it’s no coincidence that this region is known as the Southern Alps, with a majestic mountain range that runs along most of the length of the South Island.

We drive into town center, only about five minutes from the hotel, and decide that the best way to get our bearings and a sense of the town is to go up, up, up. We park in a local garage and then walk a few blocks to the Skyline Gondola, which can whisk more than 1,000 visitors an hour to the top of Bobs Peak for stunning views of the valley and lake below. 


While Peter and I immediately hop into a gondola car for a ride to the top, Mark opts to take a detour and visit the Kiwi Birdlife Park at the base of the mountain. Kiwis, the national symbol of New Zealand, are big, flightless birds, which for years have been endangered, and Mark learned that kiwis lay the largest egg in proportion to their bodies of any bird in the world. The equivalent in human terms would be a woman giving birth to a three-year-old child! Mark claims he got to see several kiwis in the darkened cubbies where they live, but since he was not permitted to take photos, he has no proof. I’ll go out on a limb and believe him this time around. 





The gondola drops off in the visitor center, which includes a restaurant/bar, souvenir shop, and an outside walkway where we can take in the view. Catching our attention right away are the folks lined up in a little hut at the end of a long metal platform jutting out of the mountain. Yup, bunjee jumpers. Just as I lift up my camera to capture the action, a young fellow runs off the platform and jumps head-first into space. 




Another way visitors can enjoy this vista is to take another short gondola ride further up the mountain, and take an “easy” or “thrilling” ride back to the visitor center on a luge, a small, low cart where riders can control the speed of their descent by pulling back on the handle bars. 



4 comments:

  1. They used to have a metal track that you went down just on mats. When I was a kid, I lost my mat and with the help of gravity continued on with just my summer dress between me and the track. When I finally stopped, the back of my dress had burnt off and I was stranded halfway up the mountain! #traumatisedforlife

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  2. @Gwan, Ouch!

    @Mike, There certainly are a lot of people flinging themselves off of high structures in New Zealand!

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  3. Gwan -- ouch is right! Talk about a bad day on the slopes!

    Joseph -- it looked like fun but we opted to stay up top and enjoy the view. And oh yes, enjoy a glass of wine instead.

    May Kay -- yes it certainly seems to be the trend. And i have never been trendy!

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