Queenstown. Basically every driver and person we had met had espoused the glory of this place, supposedly the best on earth and the greatest town ever. Given their fervour I was also pretty sure it was the scene of the birth of Christ and location of the Holy Grail.
Our journey began, somewhat more subtly than one would expect for a place of this magnitude, with a brief stop at a place called Puzzling World just outside Wanaka. This was essentially designed to confuse and annoy you and was notable for a ‘tilted room’ which confused Leanne quite a lot, the maze bringing out Katie’s competitive side, and $3 for the worst bacon sandwich I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter. One slice of bacon and two slices of the cheapest white bread available all slammed together and handed to you on a napkin does not constitute a bacon sandwich, Puzzling World. Shame on you. Shame on you.
We carried on with our bus driver Gina B (yes, she called herself that), to Mrs Jones’ fruit store, which Katie was irrationally excited about and I was most certainly not excited about. I stood outside and grumbled about healthy eating while everyone else cooed over pineapples and pears. Weirdos.
With the bus now guaranteed not to be harbouring scurvy anytime in the near future, we left the fruit store to carry on to the AJ Hackett Bungy Jump Centre. If you’re thinking that it’s taking us quite a long time to get to Queenstown, then yes, yes it bloody is. Anyway we watched some people chuck themselves of a bridge for an hour, thankfully with a rope attached, which was mildly amusing for the many varieties of screams which were resounding around us.
There’s only so many times you can watch other people do a bungee jump before it loses literally all of its appeal, and we were thankfully taken on after an hour to Queenstown, our final destination. We dropped the majority of the bus at the hostel Kiwi Experience supposedly guaranteed you a bed at, before 12 of us were unceremoniously stuffed into a Base. This was due to our own foolishness, as we had not signed up for accommodation 2 days earlier on the bus we had got on that day. Basically, we never had a chance of being with everyone else and ended up in a room above a bar which played bass heavy crap until 4am, in top bunks, with no storage space and one toilet for the 8 of us.
While Katie wrote a politely worded complaint letter to Kiwi Experience about this, which masterfully managed to tell them what buggers they were without ever actually saying it, I quickly dropped our stuff, made our beds and we got out of there.
We met up with Erik and Leanne who you may remember, and Andreas who had been caving with us all the way back in Waitomo. We then got a cable car to the top of a mountain and all fell back down it at high speeds on a little plastic cart.
I should explain.
Queenstown has this thing called Luging, which is basically Mario Karting in real life down the hill that overlooks the town and the lake it sits on. To give you a bit of context, this is the view from the top of the cable car:
As you can imagine, a pretty spectacular view to enjoy as gravity takes you down a course and one you wouldn’t want to miss. Unless, of course, you are racing against two other equally competitive blokes and you all are determined to beat the other and therefore your entire focus is on your racing line and not tipping your cart over as you fly round corners as fast as possible. Katie and Leanne pottered down slowly, while Eric, Andreas and I channelled our inner Ayrton Senna.
Somehow with 5 lots of 206 bones all still intact we all came away from luging having loved it and thinking that our 5 goes hadn’t been anywhere near enough. But we were pressed for time – we had a bar crawl to get to. Queenstown being the big melting pot of Kiwi Experience-ness that it was, they put on a bar crawl for each arriving bus with the two backpacker staples of free food and slightly-too-cheap-to-be-nice drinks.
For some reason we had big expectations of the free food, which were quickly dashed when I realised it involved cous cous. There are some things I think everyone should be allowed to irrationally dislike and for me cous cous is up there with Greg Wallace and John Torode from Masterchef (appropriately). As a result of a combination of cous cous gate and my stomach’s eternal demand for food (just ask my mum if you don’t believe me) 20 minutes later we found ourselves in a cookie shop. We had cookies. Then we went and bought some alcohol and drank it on the beach.
Not the end to the legendary Queenstown Bar crawl we were expecting and not the end you were expecting. Well, unless you know my addiction for sugary goods, in which case ending up eating a cookie is always likely.
Our next day in Queenstown was low key, as we hadn’t slept much. We’re still not sure if it was due to the alcohol, or perhaps some homesickness, or maybe the cookies were dodgy. Or, it could have been the bar directly below our room playing awful bass heavy techno until 4am. It’s a mystery. Anyway, we did a bit of souvenir shopping and met up with Erik and Leanne to say goodbye as we wouldn’t be seeing Leanne again. Sending her out into the big wide world to look after herself for the first time, it was an end to our time in Queenstown. It had been fine. It was very pretty, and the luging was bloody awesome. But for me all these claims of it being ‘the best place in the world’ were a bit much. I think Queenstown has started to believe it’s own hype, and I can’t help feel it’s a point in time with an expiration date, like San Francisco in the 60’s. I might be being a grumpy pessimist, but with expanding population and inflating prices something in me says it won’t be long before the Queen falls from grace. Not our Queen Liz you understand, sorry, that was an awful wrangled attempt to be a bit deep and tie in the blog title. Anyway, with that thought in mind, we headed to bed for a restful sleep.
Or a completely disturbed sleep punctuated by David Guetta from the bar downstairs and a piece called ‘Loud Snoring’ from the bloke in the opposite bunk. What can you do.
Interestingly, Alex Odlin once broke into Buckingham Palace with a sponge and a rusty spanner.
Sea and Lions. No sorry, Sealions. And the sea, I suppose. But no lions.