Sunday, 25 September 2011

New Zealand 2011. September 12th. Queenstown, The Luge, Jet, and Flying Fox.

 Today we drove from Dunedin to Queenstown, following the Culther River and the so called ‘Fruit Route’ via the towns of  Milton, Lawrence and Alexandra. All the fruit trees in the orchards were full of blossom and it was a nice drive. All the small towns in NZ have a local coffee shop. these are great and sell loads of traditional home made items, such as Scones, both the sweet and savoury variety. Home made soups and pies, we stopped at a few on the way up to support the local communities! Well that's our excuse.
Queenstown is a resort town in Otago, this is in the south-west, of New Zealand's South Island. It is built around an inlet called Queenstown Bay on Lake Wakatipu, a long thin Z-shaped lake formed by glacial processes, and has spectacular views of nearby mountains.
We are staying in a private house in an area called Fernhill, I rented it from the owners via the Internet and it is perfect, just as described on the web page. Fernhill is a very nice suburb, just up from the Heritage Hotel where, coincidentally the England Rugby Team are staying. It is however a little too far to walk into the main town, but this is not a problem as the house and its mountain views make up for this. We have the most fantastic view of the Remarkables, and you could just sit and watch them change colour all day. We can also see the coal fired, 100 year old steamship, the TSS Earnslaw , do its tourist trip on the lake and sounding its whistle. The steamship looks tiny against the lake and mountains and just puts into perspective how large the mountains are.
Queenstown is a resort town, and sells its self as a centre for adventure tourism. Skiing, jet boating, white-water rafting, Bungy jumping, mountain biking, skateboarding, tramping, fly fishing and more are all here. In fact, this is the place where the bungy jump was born. Queenstown is also a major centre for snow sports in New Zealand, with people from all over the country and many parts of the world travelling to ski at the four main ski fields :Cardrona, Alpine Resort, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Treble Cone. As we have found out, everything about Queenstown is designed to part you from your money and have fun whilst doing it!
We headed off to the ‘i-site’, to book some activities. The ‘i-sites’ are all over New Zealand, operating as tourist information and booking office. The service they offer is outstanding and they are in even the smallest of towns.
Our first activity was the ‘Shotover Jet’. This jet boat runs on the Shotover River, passing through narrow canyons. The Jet Boats use jet units for propulsion. Water is drawn in to two jet units then forced out through the jet nozzles at the rear of the boat. It is this that propels you through the water at great speed. The jet boat does not need a lot of water to move and can do tricks, such as 360 degree spins. It was great fun, but I did not expect to end up soaking wet! That was despite the rain coats / capes we had to wear. At the end of the thrilling ride we were like drowned rats...and cold ones at that!

Once we had dried off, and warmed up, we went up the Queenstown Gondola, we were going on the ‘Flying Fox’, this was a bit of a disappointment as it was advertised as a unique high wire experience above Queenstown. '' Experience the freedom and adrenaline rush of soaring in the sky through the forest as you fly along zipline cables (flying fox) in the treetops! Above central Queenstown, Ziptrek offers a thrilling eco-adventure experience''. I think the clue was in the word Eco, I missed that! It turned out to be a few zip wires combined with a lot of eco education. The zip wires were fun, but the whole experience was a bit drawn out and long winded, there was a lot of waiting around with clipping & uncoupling of safety harnesses and all the hanging about made it rather cold at times. It was a cold day, snowing at times!
I have never heard of or seen a Luge before. This is a concrete Luge, not on snow. It is generally known as "The Luge" in New Zealand . it was first created in Rotorua, and built at Skyline Skyrides. It is a downhill gravity ride on a 3-wheel cart, the cart is plastic and has a very primitive breaking system. At the top of the Queenstown Gondola there are three tracks.
The "Scenic" track runs for about 2 kilometres, and is a perfect first ride when becoming familiar with your cart. The "Intermediate" track features a few more sharp turns, as well as a sudden drop, giving you a quick burst of speed (good fun). The "Advanced" track is a quicker ride, but definitely the way to go for those who are seeking a thrilling, fast ride!
We received a simple "driving lesson" on how to start and stop, or slow down your cart. (You push the handlebars forward to speed up and pull them towards you to break.) We were given a brake test then got a stamp on a hand to show that you had complete the talk and understood how to operate the flimsy plastic cart.
Then it was racing time.....and you really can go as fast or as slow as you like on these plastic trays, making it enjoyable for the speed demons, and the overly-cautious driver, who they nick named Mrs Magoo. The Luge was my favourite activity in NZ and we had more than one go!
We seem have been following the England Rugby 'Team'  about today, they have a 'day off'. I use the term 'Team' lightly, as they are the Back Room Boys, the physios, water carriers etc. Every activity we have done today they have been there. BUT, I am not impressed, I know that this is the day off for them, hence the activities, and do understand that they do not want to be pestered for photos etc. But Martin Johnson did not even acknowledge the fact that there were other people on the rides and activities, let alone other English people, let alone the English Rugby Fans. There are lots of Rugby Fans in town, they are easy to spon in the England Shirts! He did not even make eye contact with any of the English Fans or us! The team did not talk to any of the staff who were working on the activities, many of who are English students on a Gap Year. The physio only spoke because we spoke to him (sorry!!! but we recognising you as a consequence of you being on the TV! if you don't like it then stop coming into our house via the TV set ). Very rude behaviour was displayed by this team, who have obviously forgotten who pays the wages, and that they are representing our Country in New Zealand, Ambassadors almost. I think it is time for Martin Johnson and his cronies to go!