Queenstown Stole My Heart

Queenstown stole a little piece of my heart and will have it forever. There is something magical about this little town in the middle of the South Island. It is one of those places where even though you can walk around the town center in the matter of half an hour, it has an undeniable energy.

 

We left Wanaka mid-morning and set out for the quick one hour drive to Queenstown. Up until this point, our New Zealand winter experience had been limited to one much like those we have in the Pacific Northwest: rainy and, at times, very cold. We had forked over some extra money for snow chains for the rental car but more in the hopes that having them would maybe mean we wouldn’t ever have to use them. This short little drive almost proved us wrong. We had a few moments that were a bit dicey, but the views were amazing.

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Queenstown in the distance

We arrived unscathed and checked into our hostel, the lovely Adventure Queenstown (seriously, this place was great and you should stay there if you ever find yourself in QTown). Queenstown was one of the few places where I hadn’t been able to book a female only room (because snoring, sorry boys), so we were curious to see what awaited us. We walked into the room and quickly scanned the three bunks assessing the situation. All that was left were two top bunks. The occupants of the bottom bunks were two very attractive Australian guys on a ski holiday. As soon as I set eyes on them I felt a wave of panic and fought back the urge to say, “I have to sleep above THAT?!” I then noticed that no more than a foot from my bunk was the door to our shared bathroom. The horror. Suddenly the three nights we had booked in felt like a lot longer. Luckily, they opened their mouths revealing themselves to be the bro-est of bros…and maybe it was the accent that made them sound even more so. Listening to the ridiculous things they would say ended up being a great source of entertainment, and the four of us spent a good deal of time hanging out in the room over the next few days. Sure, they were nice to look at and felt no shame in walking around in just a towel, but that was about it.

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View from our hostel balcony

Carly and I spent our first day wandering around Queenstown and getting a feel for the place. With three different ski fields nearby, it was bustling with young, mostly foreign skiers and snowboarders. Due to weather, we had to shuffle around our schedule and head to bed early that night since we were getting a very early start for the much hyped Milford Sound (more on that in another post).

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After a long day in Fiordland National Park, Carly and I treated ourselves to Ferg Burger, basically the non-chain In-N-Out of Queenstown. Carly wasn’t feeling well and was tired from the day, so she called it an early night. I decided to take advantage of the fact that it was a Saturday night in Queenstown and joined the hostel pub crawl. Let it be known that up until this point, we still had not met the other bunkmates in our room, but each bunk did have name tags. So when an Australian guy named Terry introduced himself to me at the first bar, it immediately clicked. “Oh, so you are the guy who’s been sleeping a few feet away from me that I haven’t met!” Or something along those lines came out of my mouth — I’m not the smoothest in these situations. Terry also happened to be wearing a t-shirt with Mt. Hood on it of all things and had spent quite a bit of time in Oregon. Needless to say, Terry and I bonded…and the world really is a small place. It was also an accomplishment (and maybe a Queenstown record?) that after visiting three bars and consuming a respectable amount of drinks, I had only spent $5 NZD.  So I decided to quit while I was ahead and go home. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than bungy jumping hungover.

 

We had one full day left in Queenstown and you better believe we were going to spend it doing something quintessentially New Zealand…and Queenstown for that matter. If you didn’t already know, Queenstown is the birthplace of commercial bungy jumping. And if you are going to do something like that, you might as well do it where it started, right? I was anxious the entire day leading up to it. I honestly couldn’t even tell you what we did that day before we jumped. We had chosen to do The Ledge bungy for the beautiful views above Queenstown, and it was the most convenient one to get to. We walked about 5 minutes from our hostel to the Skyline Gondola and decided there was no turning back. Fun fact: it’s the steepest cable car in the Southern Hemisphere. And waiting at the top was the ledge we were about to throw ourselves off. Despite my best attempts not to think about it, I had butterflies in my stomach and that funny feeling in my chest. We checked in, signed the waiver, got weighed twice, watched a few other people jump, and then walked out to The Ledge ourselves. They weighed us a third time (because maybe on the walk over you might have crapped your pants and lost a pound or two? But most likely due diligence) and got us all strapped into our harnesses. There was one guy working whose sole job was to be charming and get us talking about anything but the fact that we were about to willingly hurl our bodies off of a platform. He was surprisingly good at it. He had been to Spokane, knew of Gonzaga, and even complimented my socks and winked at me, so it is safe to say I had quite the crush by the time it was all over. Carly insisted she go first or she might not go at all. I let her because I figured seeing her survive it just fine would make it easier for me. That didn’t go according to plan. For one, Carly started screaming bloody murder before she even jumped. And then she continued to scream. So loud that the people riding up the cable car could hear and later commented on it to her. Secondly, when she finally did stop and get reeled back up, instead of reassuring me that I would be fine, she continuously said it was “THE scariest thing she has ever done.” Thanks for that. Now it was my turn. I knew the only way to get through it was to not think at all and just do it. So I didn’t even give myself time to think. As soon as the guy counted down to 1, I was off. The fall itself only lasts a few seconds, but it felt like so much longer. It was a definite “oh shit” moment. And it is not over once you reach the bottom. The worst of it is, but you continue to spring up and down for a bit. I would be lying though if I said I didn’t contemplate jumping a second time.

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The nerve-racking gondola ride up
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View of QTown, the gondola, and the green ledge floating out above the trees from where we jumped.

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Just nervously screwing myself into the harness…
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The “after” pic, aka the evidence that we survived
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One last shot of the platform. If you are going to throw yourself off a ledge, I can’t think of a prettier place to do it.

We hit the bar at the top for a drink to calm our nerves and soaked up the view of Queenstown from above. We were leaving for Christchurch early the next morning, and our whirlwind trip was coming to an end.

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Jelly Bean art of Frodo and the Ring at the top of the gondola

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