Queenstown: the final destination of my trip, known for its winter and extreme sports. I arrived in the evening and checked into Haka Lodge Queenstown (yes, the same chain as the one from Auckland), and headed out to grab a bite to eat at the famous Fergburger. Supposedly Fergburger serves the best burgers in the world. I can’t speak for the meat variant, but while the falafel burger I had was very tasty, it certainly doesn’t hold up to that standard!
While the burgers maybe weren’t the best in the world, as advertised, the comments about long lineups proved true!
Of course, I wasn’t in Queenstown to eat burgers. I was there to ski! So I took off the next morning for Cardrona, probably the most famous of New Zealand’s ski fields. The bus there was an hour long, but totally worth it! The views of the surrounding mountains were quite spectacular, and the trails weren’t half bad either.
Cardrona also proved to be a host to kite-skiing
I spent the day at Cardrona, and took the shuttle bus back at 4pm when the hill closed. I spent that evening relaxing in the lounge of my hostel, since I was pretty tired out from my intense day of skiing! I also needed to get to bed nice and early, cause… I was going skydiving the next morning!
Selfie of the crew before jumping out of the plane!
I had a morning appointment with NZone Skydive to jump out of a plane at 15,000 feet! I won’t divulge how much it cost here, but I certainly won’t be paying for it again any time soon! Maybe someday. We were shown a training video on how the jump would work, but compared to how monumental the task at hand seemed, it certainly felt like it was too short! Then we were shipped off on a bus to the drop zone, where they outfitted us in jump suits and googles. Before I knew it, we were loaded onto the plane and strapped with our tandem dive partners. And then, just like that, 10 minutes later we rolled out into the open air.
Nothing like falling out of the sky at 200km/hour!
It was exhilarating, but also over so quickly! Perhaps the lack of oxygen in the atmosphere at 15,00 feet caused me to forget or gloss over parts of the fall, who knows. But the speed was intense, and afterwards I was left with ears that wouldn’t pop for hours! But I made it safely to the ground… almost like the staff had done it before!
Post-skydive pic with my tandem skydiver!
Then, as if I hadn’t had enough excitement for one day, I headed to another ski hill! Coronet Peak features night skiing, and also happened to be hosting the opening ceremony and event for the Winter Games NZ, hosting athletes from around the globe. So I jumped on an afternoon bus to ski out the rest of the night. I was supposed to ski with a guy from the hostel, but his phone stopped sending texts for some reason and we never ended up crossing paths on the hill.
The view from the top of Coronet Peak just after arriving was absolutely gorgeous, before the clouds kicked in
Unfortunately, within an hour of arriving the visibility got atrocious, thanks to being situated literally in cloud cover. It made it quite difficult to ski, or even to view the Winter Games that were happening mere metres away!
I felt bad for the athlete who had to race each other with such poor visibility!
Overall, I’d definitely say I preferred the skiing at Coronet Peak. The runs were longer and it was less crowded, although I definitely could use a bit more visibility next time!
The next day, I had the morning and most of the afternoon to kill, so I decided to visit the Queenstown Gondola. I’d heard that there was a hike that one could take to the top, so I figured I’d hike up and take the gondola back down. Definitely the right choice - the views during the hike were pretty cool!
The hike up through the forest, as an alternative to the gondola, took around an hour
At the top, they had a bunch of fun activities you could do, but the cheapest was luge! They had set up some tracks and a mini chairlift, so I strapped on a helmet and rode the luge a few times. The second track actually gained quite a bit of speed!
The luge at the top of the mountain featured an amazing backdrop
Finally, I took the gondola back down the mountain, packed my stuff, and headed to the airport to catch a flight to Auckland!
I seem to be revisiting my primary cities a lot, don’t I? I had booked my international flight out of Auckland well in advance, but had only decided on ending with Queenstown much later, so I figured I’d get to Auckland a day early to allow for any delays or cancellations. After arriving, I checked into The Attic Backpackers and grabbed a nice final dinner and a beer at the Indian place next door.
So, I found myself with a morning and an afternoon of free time the next day in Auckland. I decided to do something that I hadn’t had the chance to do the first time around: visit Rangitoto Island. I hopped on the ferry, and did a lovely couple-hour hike to the summit of the 500-year-old dormant volcano, before finally heading to the airport to fly home! And guess what: I’m finishing writing this blog post literally as my flight lands in Ottawa, so you could say I timed everything perfectly - especially since I started writing after I got to Vietnam!
Want more? Check out an overview of my New Zealand trip here!