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Willy Wanaka and the Queenstown

Mmmmm…. Puzzling.

View rtw on pmunson's travel map.

Let the sun shine, let the sun shine, the sun shine.

Leaving the wet coast behind us we made it over Hast Pass after a night with our new friends the sand flies. Really, the sand flies in NZ are horrible. We descended into a whole new world of sunshine, dry clothes, and lots of big grins.


NZ by sidecar? Sign us up!

Wanaka is the smaller more laid back version of the adrenaline packed Queenstown and was right up our alley. Wanaka was to Steamboat Springs as Queenstown was to Aspen or Vail. As soon as we pulled into town I knew I was going to like it here and wanted to set out on a big outside adventure. There was a hike right outside of town that I thought would stretch my legs that were suffering from campervan fever. Without much thought, food, or water I set out on what would turn out to be a climb of just under 4,000 feet straight up. Rays Peak treated me to some much needed exercise, great views of Lake Wanaka and Aspiring National park, and some extremely sore legs!

I passed this guy on the climb and he admitted to carrying his bike for more than ½ of the climb.

Some of the people we met back on the Cook Islands had recommended a trip to puzzling world which is home to a giant maze, optical illusion rooms, and all things puzzling! Laugh all you want... we are dweebs on parade. This place was a ton of fun for kids of all ages. It just so happened that we had reunited with Matt and George that morning and they, being our first and only passengers, piled in the van and joined us for a day of fun. We got queasy in the optical illusion rooms that challenged your perseption, raced each other through the giant maze, and hung out in the game room trying to solve logic puzzles for a good part of the day.
Giant Meghan and Mini me
It looks empty but I think Matt may still be lost in the Maze!

We spent three days in Wanaka before heading to Queenstown. Another steep and winding scenic road brought us up and over a pass before descending what I labeled as New Zealand’s mini Alp Duez (were is my road bike when I need it?) into Queenstown. Like Wanaka on speed Queenstown is an in your face outdoor adventure enthusiasts Valhalla. The downtown area is bustling with bars and restaurants (a local from Wanaka whom I played ultimate frisbee with told us something like 60 bars for a town of 10,000) and tour operators aplenty to take you bungee jumping, sky diving, jet boating, paragliding, abseiling, canyoning... you name it. This is were the almighty dollar goes to die. A loose credit card in this town would find itself striped of its magnetic stripe and laying naked in a loose ATM by dawn, totally spent. It was hard for us to refuse all the discounted marino wool products and adventure tours, but we persevered.
The Remarkables as viewed from Queenstown
Queenstown Sunset

We got tipped off that the weather forecast in the legendary Milford Sound, a place that gets 250 days of rain a year, was to be good for a few days so we decided skip out of Queenstown earlier than planned and drove to Milford Sound for an overnight (See our next posting). Disappointed about leaving QT early (although totally, completely worth it) we stayed another night after returning from Milford. This time we found a Department of Conservation Campsite by the lake and decided to head straight through town directly to our spot for the night.
View of the Remarkables from the back of the van

We breezed out of Queenstown without much activity the next day. I had been telling myself that I wanted to do a bungee jump in NZ and Queenstown was the sight of the first commercial bungee jump and the only place in NZ (maybe the world?) that you could bungee jump over a river bridge with a water. It was Expensive, really expensive, and I decided to let it go. BUT! As fate would have it, our drive back to the west coast just so happened to pass right by the bridge. We could see it from the road and it was at that point I knew it was my destiny. Their was a queue of people on the bridge waiting to take the plunge. Some young, some old. One couple did a tandem bungee and two guys backed out after stepping up to the ledge. The pressure built while waiting on the bridge and then got more intense while being strapped in. I expected to get rigged up in some fancy harness that had been approved by 5 different safety experts but this was not the case. I did have a backup harness on but the primary device to keep all 180 pounds of me tethered to the rubber band was a towel, a small piece of nylon cord, and a Velcro strap. The guy who set me up simply wrapped the towel around my ankles, wound the nylon cord around the towel and then through my legs a few times, wrapped the Velcro strap around it all, and then clipped me into the bungee cord. Up on my feet and walking like a penguin to the edge I looked down 43 meters or 141 feet (not a huge drop but still intimidating). 3,2,1 and I jumped. At first it was all slow motion. I saw all of the river, turquoise and blue, cutting through the steep canyon walls below. Then suddenly I felt the speed of my decent and felt like I would hit the water way to fast and I immediately braced for impact. Before I knew it I gently touched the water, just like easing yourself into a pool, and as soon as I felt the cool embrace of the river I was back up in the air again this time swinging wildly up and down back and fourth. At one moment all I saw was the blue sky, then the rock walls, then the blue river. Over and over for what felt a lot longer than it really was. As my perception focused back in on the river and I got a feeling for were I was I recognized that I was being lowered to the recovery boat were hanging upside down I reached out to be pulled in and brought back to shore. Was it worth it? Hell Yeah it was worth it! Not sure if I would sell out a 2 day budget for a 60 second ride again but I am glad that I did it.

Posted by pmunson 03:11 Archived in New Zealand

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