Another day driving through gorgeous hillsides and we still had energy to stop at the AJ Hackett Bungy Jump Emporium, before unpacking in Queenstown. I’m not drawn to extreme sports, even in earlier days I’d rather snorkel than snowboard, rollerblade than run rapids. Once we walked into the recesses of the Bungy center, those predilections wore thin. The energy and adrenaline were infectious. This is the center of the universe for bungy enthusiasts. A.J. Hackett turned a dare devils idea into a booming business and there are at least three major ‘jumps’ in the Queensland area. I dedicated myself to documenting my companions folly, but was a hairs breath from abandoning myself to their fate. While they set up I chatted with a Queensland film crew who were working for the tourism board and ushering two Bolllywood stars around the sites. Evidently, Imran Khan wanted to jump but thought better of it.
The bridge across the river held a platform from which jumpers were bound at the ankles and coaxed out to freefall 140 feet towards the water below. My friend, Dave, fell dipping waist deep into the water before swinging pendulum-like and down into the waiting skiff. His daughter, Coral, waited nearly five minutes on the platform before stepping into the abyss. All tears dried she decided the following day to do the Swing and the Nevis jump of over 400 feet! My nervous system will thank me for my cowardice one day…I hope.
Queenstown is full of adventures
Queenstown is a frenetic, party central for young international tourists and also hosts gray haired retirees out to see the world. We saw very few families, probably because school is in session again. Aside from adrenaline rush options, you can take a gondola to the peak overlooking town for expansive views of the lake and mountains, or visit the Kiwi Birdlife Park. We chose the later for an afternoon visit and I studied a shadowy Kiwi (nocturnal feeder) as he poked a narrow beak into the feeding cup implanted in the ground, sucking up worms and such. They’re sweet creatures the size of a large round cat.
Also at the park were strange Tuatara lizards, other rare birds and a entertaining, educational program about the invasive animal species in New Zealand. Not all is bad news though, there are several islands that remain free of predators and the Kiwi, his other endangered friends are flourishing there.
Queenstown hosts more bars per capita than elsewhere on South Island, (perhaps barring Dunedin, University town, more on that later). After settling into our hotel with its expansive view across a carpark and out over the lake, we walked down Beech Street and decided to educate ourselves on New Zealands famous wines. The wine bar had a great system. You purchased a card and went from tap to tap where you could choose a sip or glass full of over 50 wines. We settled in for the evening snacking on a generous cheese plate. My favorite wine? The Oyster Bay 2007 Merlot and I’ve never had so smooth a Blue Cheese. After that we continued strolling down the wharf through the 9 pm twilight. There were several tour boats tied up till morning for fishing, parasailing, and cruising.
In a dockside building, flanked by restaurants, we found the Minus 5 bar. Designed by an enterprising Norwegian, the entire bar is made of ice. You’re given a long parka, booties and gloves. Leaving the tropical warmth outside, you walk inside the bar, essentially entering a freezer. Inside there are several huge ice sculptures. At the far side of the room is the bar, serving colorful cocktails and juices. There is a tilted ice car on one side and a small statue of a naked young man. Each has a clear hose running from top to, ummm, bottom. It’s set up for vodka shooters. Seems we were too sedate a group to order shooters that evening. Inside you could sit on fur lined ice couches and thrones, and otherwise just try to stay warm. We had to hold our glasses (tumblers made of ice) with both hands and carefully set them on placemats or they’d slip off the ice ledges. It was weird fun and everyone inside for the half hour we could manage it, had a great time. A short, warm walk later we nodded out dreaming of white water rapids planned for the morning.
copywrite 2010 Elaine J. Masters, RYT and author of Drivetime and Flytime Yoga