|Posted by mysorefeet on January 21, 2009 at 2:59 AM|
TSS Earnslaw at Queenstown, New Zealand
On Boxing Day, my friend and I (for all intents and purposes, I shall call her Travel Companion or 'TC') went to Queenstown, at the South Island of New Zealand, for a much needed Christmas Break. After a whole year of backbreaking labour, we felt that we deserved to hie off somewhere and just relax. Since Air New Zealand fares for that period were way beyond our meager budget, we decided to skip the NZ's national carrier and ride the Kangaroo (Qantas) instead.
Black Sheep Backpackers
We stayed at the Blacksheep Backpackers Lodge, obviously, a backpackers hostel that was just a 10-minute walk to the town centre. The hostel had all the necessary amenities such as a kitchen (with 4 fridges, several cupboards, a couple of stoves and a whole gamut of pots, pans and other cooking implements), an outdoor relaxation area, an indoor common room (with TV and 2 or 3 computers), laundry facilities, toilets and showers in each wing, and an outdoor jacuzzi. The rooms were spacious, the beds were firm, and beddings were provided for. If you don't have a towel, you can rent one for $5.00 I think (plus $10.00 deposit), and that's for the whole duration of your stay. The hostel was all right and the rates were fairly reasonable ($28.00/night; discounted for BBH cardholders). The only drawback was that the receptionist on the day we arrived was a tad bit unfriendly. Perhaps she was overwhelmed by the deluge of guests on that day thus, her inability to smile and be gracious. Apart from that, the hostel was fine.
Bird's Eye View of Queenstown
Queenstown, home of the now world-famous Bungy, is delightful little place with an average population of about 17,000, which quadruples during the Summer and Winter months (don't quote me on this one, this figure was given to us by the driver who drove us from the airport to town). To get to town from the airport, there are actually several options that can be considered, and these are:
(1) take a shuttle for $11.00;
(2) wait for the bus and pay only $6.00 (we should have done this!); and
(3) take a cab (which would have cost us about $40.00)
Of course there are other options like renting a car or getting someone to pick us up, but since we didn't know anyone in Queenstown, we took the shuttle.
On our first day, TC and I decided to explore the town centre so we could get acquainted with our home for the next 3 1/2 days. The township was not that big but it sure felt like one! It's packed with restaurants, bistros, pubs, shops, touristy retail stores and outlets, AND My Golly! Adventure booking offices for every adrenalin-fueled activity you can imagine like bungy jumping, jet-boating, paragliding, rock climbing ... you name, they've probably got it - were a dime a dozen - there seemed to be one at every street corner! Although I really wanted to, I didn't have enough funds to go jumping off bridges with just a twine of rope tied around my ankles so we (TC and I) had to find ways to appreciate Queenstown without breaking the bank.
So what did two penniless sitar players do at Queenstown? We walked. A LOT! Hey! Don?t get me wrong; we enjoyed our walking spree because we were able to thoroughly drink in all that Queenstown had to offer. We had coffee at one of those nice little cafes alongside the wharf and only had the magnificent Cecil and Walter Peaks and the calming blue waters of Lake Wakatipu to rest our eyes on. We walked up to where we could ride the Gondola and paid for a ticket ($22.00) so we could see Queenstown from above. We didn't pay extra to ride the Luge. We've been on the Luge at Rotorua so ... how different would the one in Queenstown be, right? We then wandered around the Queenstown gardens (and were able to take a lot of silly pictures of ourselves). We considered playing golf Frisbee at the gardens (it?s free to play) but opted against it due to inclement weather. Besides, I somehow managed to injure my foot so I had a sore foot (yes, just one, the left one) quite early into our holiday.
Early Morning at the Queenstown Marina
We did all these in span of about 2 days, and that does not include the time we spent at, going to and coming from Milford Sounds. Incidentally, we shelled out $155.00 each for our Milford cruise, which was, we thought, quite reasonable since it included lunch (a filled roll). Did we get the surprise of our lives when we found out that we could have paid only $115.00 had we booked the same cruise through our hostel! Darn it!!!! That?s $40.00 we could have used up for food ... or drinks ... or something else! Little Ms Receptionist didn't tell us that, if we booked activities through them we could get a discount. Bah!
Stormy Milford Sounds
Anyway, walking was a lot of fun (despite the sore foot) and it was by walking that we discovered the very cool (literally and figuratively) ice bar aptly called Minus 5. The temperature inside the bar is at the most, -5oC and everything in this bar was made of ice! From the bar counter to the seats even down to the little glasses! The floor was a wee bit sticky though - but that can't be helped because it would be difficult to mop up spills in sub zero temperature. We paid $27.00 each and for this amount, we were given access to the bar (just for 30 minutes - that?s the most anyone can stay in there anyway), an alcoholic drink made of vodka (which has a lower freezing temperature than regular alcoholic beverages), a big thick coat, warm woolies and adequate cold-weather shoes! Apparently, there's a similar bar up in Auckland. I've never heard of one in the North Island, but if there was one indeed, it comes highly recommended - if only for chilly the experience.
Minus 5 Bar
Apart from walking, we also went on a day tour to Arrowtown. Arrowtown is a small gold-mining village about 20 minutes from Queenstown. To get to Arrowtown, we took the Yellow Bus (I forgot what it?s called ? Xplorer, I think). It?s not the big, red, double-decker one - what we rode was the simple commuter bus that has a route and regular pick-up and drop-off points (it's the one that stops at the airport). A one-way ticket costs $6.00 but a day pass, which allows you to take unlimited trips to and from Queestown, costs $13.00. Naturally, we took the day pass.
Arrowtown is really very quaint and they have managed to retain the old-worldy appearance of almost all of the buildings. There are, as far as we know, about 3 main roads and an area they set aside to honour the first Chinese Settlers (they named the area "The Chinese Village"). Some of the homes of these first settlers were still intact and were on display and naturally, we had several photo ops beside these structures. Somewhere further, off the beaten track was the a river or a stream where the old-timers used to pan for gold. We didn't bother to go there because ... well, I had a sore foot and I didn't want to aggravate my condition by trekking on uneven ground wearing just pink jandals; and we didn't want to rent 'gold pans' for $4.00. The other tourists went down that route - we went the opposite way. We went back to town and I had an ice cream. Hahahaha.
Sister Mary MacKillop's Residence
When we had enough of Arrowtown, we hopped on the big yellow bus again and went to a Vineyard, which proved to be uneventful because there really wasn't much to see or do at that place. We ended up waiting for that yellow bus again and we went back to Arrowtown, had a sausage sandwich ($2.00 c/o the local fire brigade - a fund raising thing for them), explored the main town and visited Sister Mary Mackillop's Home and Chapel - and then we got on that yellow bus and returned to Queenstown.
On Monday, 29th December, we packed our bags and bid our backpacker hostel and Queenstown goodbye. We had a grand time at Queenstown and would definitely consider coming back again sometime in the future.