We have arrived in Queenstown, in the region of Otago. It is one of the more central and strategic cities here on the south island. It is also the “Kitzbühel” or “St. Anton” of New Zealand, if not the entire Australasia. This is a paradise for adrenalin junkies. And there is plenty to do if you are into that kind of thing. Jet-boat trips on the local lake. Bungee-jump from bridges in the mountains. Various ski- and snowboard disciplines on the slopes around the city.
And then there are plenty of cafés, bars and restaurants in the city centre. Side by side with outdoor- and ski equipment shops. And of course an almost endless row of hostels and hotels. The new and more expensive ones are all in a cool and “alpine-chic” style. However, we have chosen a more moderate type of accommodation in a caravan park on the outskirts of the city. But actually, this is also rather chic. In the hilly landscape, between roaring rivers, cliffs and pine-trees you find offices, reception area, lounge room, communal kitchen, toilets and showers. All built into old shipping containers, adding a rather industrial look. It is all very modern and fancy inside. A different experience, and by far the cheapest accommodation in the area. Not bad!
We will stay here for some days. There is so much that we want to see and experience here. A cruise on the lake and up along the river. A trip in the gondola up the hills. Perhaps yet another hike in the mountains? We do not need any sky-dives, rappelling or other types of extreme adventures. But it is all fun to watch! However, yesterday we saw some sky-divers over the city with quite a bit of speed on their way down. I could not see where they landed, but i reckon it was a rather hard and unpleasant touch-down!
Today it is raining so we took Anton to the cinema. This was his very first big screen experience! The producers of Cars and Toy Story have just released a new movie called “Planes”. Needless to say we had to see this! Anton was totally excited! He had no time to eat the popcorns that his father had bought him, as part of a proper introduction to the whole concept of going to the movies! Clever marketing people have (of course) made sure that special mugs and popcorn containers with portraits of the movie characters are available for “just” a little extra in the kiosk. We bought the whole program! And I got rid of my craving for pop-corn. At least for a while! Anton sat with his ticket in his hand during the entire film. He was completely absorbed!
The landscape around Queenstown is probably the the most beautiful I have ever seen! If they used every trick in the book when they created New Zealand, they must have cracked it up yet a few more notches when they created the Queenstown area. Driving around the alpine scenery you see the most beautiful mountain tops with permanent snow, the clearest meltwater lakes with turquoise nuances and a diverse range of animals like sheep, goats, cows, alpacas, lamas and many, many more. Everywhere there is grass on the hillsides and you see the livestock grassing on the steep slopes. I have to ask myself how they ever learn this! It is a balance act! In the valleys there are enormous fields of grass, also filled with livestock. Fields in New Zealand are ten times bigger than the ones I know from Denmark. And that’s the smallest ones! This is really a completely different league!
The scenery around Queenstown is a much beloved area for filming. The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia are just a few examples of what has been partly filmed here. But there are many more! This is probably because the nature around here seems so untouched and “original”. It’s like New Zealand has been caught in a “time pocket” and nature still looks like it used to do “in the good old days” or “ancient times”. There is an aspect of fairytales, with something raw and untamed, and then a splash of something seducing. I can easily understand why the authorities here are taking many measures to preserve and protect the rich nature.
Before we arrived in Queenstown we spent a few days in Wanaka. This is also a skiing center. Contrary to the rest of New Zealand the peak season is about to end, as the snow is melting and the ski slopes are closing. In most other areas, the summer season is about to begin. We stayed in a caravan park on the outskirts of town, with just about a 10 minute walk into the city center.
Wanaka distinguishes itself by having an amazing lake promenade and a beautiful view over Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Every morning when we put the curtains aside in the campervan we had snow covered mountain tops in front of us. I can NEVER get tired of such a view!
A few kilometers outside Wanaka we visited an odd attraction. In the good sense! Stuart Landsboroughs Puzzling World. This is a “Museum of illusions” where you can experience funny phenomenons and displays challenging your senses and your brain. “Sloping” floors and water floating upwards. Your balance nerve on overdrive! Holographic artwork, perpetual motion machines and much more. And then a huge labyrinth, where the guests are supposed to find all 4 corners. This took us quite a while! Well, actually we had to leave before we found the last corner. Anton is still too small to keep his concentration going long enough for stuff like this. He did not want to keep going and started to jump and crawl over the fences and under the barriers. This is only allowed in emergency situations. Otherwise it is considered cheating! We didn’t mind. We had already had a few hours of great fun.
It will be very hard to “top” the Otago region here. So filled with picturesque sceneries! And just to add to that, we also discovered that you eat well here. Twice within a few days we have eaten extraordinarily delicious food. The first time was at Kai Whakapai Café in Wanaka. This was in the middle of the Lake Promenade, so we expected only overpriced, touristic convenience food. But it was actually very well made, and certainly with lots of love! Alexandra had a risotto that you will only find better in Italy, and I most likely had the best burger I have ever had in my entire life. The “Pulled Beef Burger” with oriental coleslaw. Amazing! And in Queenstown the best burger bar “FernBurger” had us check in twice within two days. Also here they make everything “in house”. I will almost say that these two experiences alone are worth the plane ticket to New Zealand... Almost! I know, I know! This is not exactly gourmet food. But it is world class eating within our budget!
We have been on the road for almost 6 months by now. This means that half of our journey and time is over. It feels like we just left Munich yesterday. We have met so many fantastic people that we hope we will keep in touch with once we are home again. We have heard danish spoken in the streets of Nelson, but apart from that we have actually not met any danes since we were in Thailand. In contrast to that, we seem to be meeting germans all the time. Lately we met Fanny & Daniel, who actually live close to us in Munich. That was a bit funny! We got to talk one evening at the campsite in Franz Josef Village and had a few great evenings together after that. They are exchange students here in New Zealand and they had a few weeks off from their studies. They will stay here until February. The next beers we drink together will be in Munich.
In the coming week we will drive further south. Next stop is planned to be Milford Sound. This is down in what they call “Fiordland”. It actually resembles the western part of Norway with its many fiords. We are looking much forward to see this! Also, not far from Queenstown is a small town called Alexandra. Of course we have to go there for a look as well!
You can see highlights from Queenstown and elsewhere on the south island by clicking here!