I may have mentioned the two rules we had before getting to New Zealand; no office jobs and no staying in one place for too long. However, I may also have forgotten what kind of a captivating young scamp of a place Queenstown is. Great mountain peaks awash with snow force their way into your vision no matter where you are; whether it be the hostel sofa I write this from, the aeroplane window upon arrival, every street corner turned, in fact even my morning seat in the bathroom is accompanied by glorious alpine views. You get the picture. Queenstown is a place that gets the heart pumping; if a gulp of the remarkably clear mountain air doesn’t do it, hurling yourself into a 200 metre deep ravine or hurtling within inches of a sheer cliff face on a jet boat probably will. The list of things to do here is endless, the places to eat, drink and be disgustingly merry are vastly numerous, the inability to turn down another Fergburger is impossible – it’s easy to see why so many people switch from a few initially planned days here, to a bit longer. And by that I mean forever.
For a country to erupt upon your arrival is pretty good as welcomes go, and as Mount Tongariro celebrated our appearance in style we dragged our weary bodies and weighty bags into an airport motel close to Auckland airport as we awaited the following days departure down South. Fears of the volcanic activities scuppering those plans were held up by the news reports as it was evident no one had a clue why it had erupted, how bad it was, whether it would happen again and even if it was an actual eruption or just some locals on a wind up again. One of the dormant volcanoes situated in Auckland city centre was the subject of possibly the best prank I’ve ever heard of a few years back. As the city awoke to billowing volcanic smoke and promptly evacuated tens of thousands of local residents from the surrounding area, a helicopter sent up to survey the situation hours later discovered a handful of burning tractor tyres was in fact to blame for the seismic hysteria. It’s a safe bet that at the same time somewhere nearby there was a farmer furiously scratching his head and a room full of stoned students hysterically high fiving in celebration. The other news item on repeat in our draught-swept motel room was that New Zealand were still ahead of Australia in the Olympics medal table. Ignore the fact they were placed around 24th and below the likes of Kazakhstan, they were beating Australia and well, what else could matter? Four days later and all talk of medal tables has mysteriously disappeared from the news bulletins, so I suspect our colonial cousins may have hopped, skipped and jumped ahead. Just a hunch.
Anyway, back to Queenstown. It’s been incredible so far. Jetlagged, Fergburgered and asleep by 8pm on day one, we set off for a lung busting clamber to the top of Queenstown Hill the next morning for fantastic views over the surrounding mountains and Lake Wakatipu. The 30 minutes of blissful, desolate silence at the top was only broken by the ever-increasing din of what we could only assume to be a pack of lesser known Kiwi Baboons, but in time turned out to be the more fearsome sight of a group of excitable Americans. Time to go. Greeting us at the bottom of our knee creaking descent was the more welcome sight of friends from home, with whom catch up burger and beers swiftly followed. It’s a peculiarly nice feeling soaking up happy hour drinks next to a roaring fire on the other side of the world as you discuss the likelihood of snow, with friends who two weeks ago we sat outside a pub in Cambridge with while discussing the likelihood of sun. The four of us then proceeded to attack the more amateur end of extreme sports over the following two days. Forget your heli-skiing, bungee jumps and black water rafting – luging, zip wires and frisbee golf is what the real adrenalin junkies round here go for. And what fun they were! Luging, for those not in the know, is a gravity fuelled go kart that gently careers down a mountain side, quite often alarmingly close to the edge of said mountain. A ski lift back up plonks you back at the start and off you go again; it’s like F1 for people with driving bans and/or disabilities.
Massive thanks to the loveable rogue that is Mr Russell Weekes for our next instalment of excitement, who ever so generously paid for an Ecotrek Zipwire session for Jamie and I. Think of the aerial runway you may have been lucky enough to have in your local childhood playground and put it 90 foot in the air between massive conifers, that’s Ecotrek Zipwires. There’s plenty of enjoyable ways to spend a Friday afternoon, but flying upside down at speeds of up to 70kph through alpine forest against a stunningly beautiful backdrop is most definitely up there. It was brilliant fun, thanks again Russ. Completing the extremely un-extreme trio was Frisbee Golf. In terms of an explanation, it’s pretty Ronseal. A golf course laid out but with big baskets for holes and a Frisbee for your ball – what’s not to like? Well watching your tee shot land within feet of the hole before cartwheeling 60 yards down a hill into the lake is not to like actually, but we’ll let that go. 18 holes, a thousand hit trees and one suspected dead bird later and we’ve just had probably the best fun for virtually no cost that’s possible.
Back to the serious business of rule breaking then. You may have gathered from all the above that we quite like it here, so we’re in a bit of a conundrum now. Do we try and get jobs and stay put for a while, or do we stick to Plan A and hit the road? We’re booked up here until Thursday so I guess that’s decision time. Job wise I think we’d be OK – being the transient town that Queenstown is there seems to be jobs about – but it’s not cheap here and the work that does come up seem to go just as quickly. Then we’d need to decide on accommodation; stay in hostels and spend my evenings holding in vomit as the Korean chap cooks up another monstrosity of fish heads, or really make a commitment and find somewhere to flat share? I appreciate this comes after all that spiel about not knowing where we’ll be from day to day and how liberating it would be and blah blah blah, ha, well that may be abandoned quite quickly! We’ll see though, I’m attempting to ski for the first time ever in two days so I’m fully expecting broken limbs and a stint strung up in a hospital bed. Ah well, just as long as it’s a bed with a view and I still get my daily Fergburger fix, I’ll be happy.