Just after lunch we arrived back at Queenstown airport, thoroughly buzzing from the morning’s exploits at Milford Sound. We were blessed with that rarity in New Zealand – fine weather – so we had to capitalise on it.
It was the perfect day to visit Queenstown’s most famous vantage point – Queenstown Hill. We took the gondola up, over lupids and rogue sheep, to the lookout at the top. In such perfect conditions, the view was magnificent as expected.
But this wouldn’t be New Zealand without the area offering some kind of adventure sport. Bungy is possible but none of us had that on our bucket list. Luging was more our cup of tea.
Being peak season and such a glorious day, the queues were intimidating. However, the line moved fairly quickly and there was a lot to look at in the meantime.
The first queue was for the chair lift that took you to the top of the track (hopping on and off was an extreme sport in itself!) From here there was a shorter queue for first time riders. Kitted up with a helmet each, John and Connie could ride tandem with Stephen and I and Thomas could control his own luge.
And by control, I mean initially show enough skill to trick the attendants into believing you know what you’re doing. By the sheer will of a higher being did he not come away with a broken bone. As it was, on his second run down, he confused the break with going faster (understandable given the controls) and hit a corner at full speed. In a sickening accident I have replayed over and over in slow motion, he flew over the handle-bars and collided with a sign – with his head. After a bit of a cuddle and a check for broken bones, he hopped back on his luge to complete the track. It was only after we took off his helmet that we discovered the huge ‘ACME’ bump on his forehead and spent the next hour with first aid having him checked over.
Although a little shaken and bruised, he was fortunately, none the worse for wear and it didn’t stop him taking on the Shotover Jet the next morning. The original canyon jetboating experience had been on Stephen’s bucket list since he was a teenager. I had done it before with a school trip, and although exhilarating, the cost to ride again was prohibitive. Connie was way too small and John, much to his annoyance, was just a few centimetres under the limit to be carried for free (under 5s go free if they are over 1 metre tall). Stephen’s parents declined, so that left just Stephen and Thomas for this ‘must-do’ New Zealand activity.
And it’s definitely ‘must-do’ for a reason. You couldn’t wipe the smiles from their faces when they disembarked. “That was so cool!” announced my usually muted boy. That’s the equivalent of 5* on Trip Advisor from him.
Once their heart rates had returned to normal we moved on to Arrowtown, a historic ex-gold mining town just 20km from Queenstown. It’s a quaint little daytrip destination with two highlights for the kids. The first was found along the Arrow River walk. It was a sizeable lean-to created by hundreds of walkers as they passed, each adding a branch or two to the construction. The kids loved adding their touches to the creation and John was particularly taken with the prospect of coming back with his own kids to see what it might have become.
The other highlight was exploring the Chinese Settlement. This is a collection of reconstructions, restorations and ruins of Chinese miners’ huts from the 1800s. Imagining the physical hardship these workers endured was not difficult when you are able to explore the draughty and dark shelters that these people called home.
No wonder there was a probable 60% casual opium usage amongst this disadvantaged group!
Finally on our return to Queenstown we stopped by the original bungy operator – A.J. Hackett bungy at the Kawarau Bridge. Although there was not a chance in hell that any of us would have done it, it was fascinating watching the endless stream of people willing to launch themselves off a perfectly good bridge.