If you were a backpacker here, I think your routine would be quite a bit different than what you do when you come to town and your kids want to enjoy the adrenaline activities that are on offer. It is not that we did not know that coming in, but the per hour cost per person of the activities is one you would want to save for. The alternatives of course are amazing walks/treks and a great set of local parks, where we have seen plenty of people congregate during the day and the evening to just enjoy being in this magnificent place.
For us, today was about doing a couple of things we had not done (except Genevieve who had been in a helicopter) before. This morning we got up knowing we would be enjoying a helicopter ride to see Queenstown from a different view and then heading off in the afternoon to jet boat down a river. How was it? Well the sheer pleasure we derived from both would rank today as another great day.
The helicopter ride was based out of the local airport and we met the owner Paul for our weigh-in and briefing just before 10:00am. After waiting for a few jets to take off and land, we were airborne and heading out over Lake Wakatipu for a view of the area and Queenstown from about 6,500 feet.
Once onboard we put on headsets to communicate with each other and also allow our pilot to point out the various landmarks as we flew over the lake to a mid-mountain landing. No big “H” in sight — just a mountain meadow.
Whether I needed to duck or not getting out and heading away from the blades is not something I even considered – I ducked as I made my way towards the edge of the mountain. What an amazing view! We then climbed back on board and headed back to the airport along a slightly different route which took us over Paul’s family farm, the runway, a few planes and back to our landing spot. We did learn that there are now ~28,000 residents in Queenstown and some 3.2 million visitors each year. (Population has increased 4x while tourists have increased 10x over the past 20 years). As our pilot noted, “It’s too many – something has to give.”
We ate lunch at home (ramen noodles — not kidding. Food is pricey here!) before walking into town to catch our shuttle out to the Shotover River to ride in a jet boat. We arrived to find another family Claire knows from Guelph booking tickets for the same boat! We always manage to run into someone we know when travelling.
Nothing like a trip down a crystal blue river with rocks towering up on both sides, speeds of 85km/hr on a boat that can do 360-degree turns on a dime and that only needs 6” of water under it when at speed. The few rocks we skipped over apparently do nothing to the steel hull of the 700hp boat. It was a great adventure up and down the river with our driver as we skidded around corners, seemingly narrowly missing the rock walls and enjoying the rush of the ride.
While we will miss Queenstown, I am sure there are other exciting stops ahead of us. We hit the road and head north tomorrow.