Archive for June, 2011

In and around Queenstown with ‘Big Ed’

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

In May, my old friend Ed was in Queenstown for a conference. Ed and Clare considered bringing the two kids down, but they’re too young to appreciate or remember it and it’s a hell of a journey from the UK, so Ed came on his own. Given the time available, it was simpler for me to fly down to Queenstown for a long weekend. I arrived on the Friday morning at about 9.30 after the red-eye out of Napier at 6.40 am. I picked up a hire-car and then Ed from his hotel in Queenstown. After a quick cafe stop for me to get a late breakfast – short connections, no chance flying down – we went to explore around Queestown. We stopped at the ‘Shotover Jet’ and watched that. It’s hellish expensive at $120 for about 10 mins (they claim something like 20 mins, but there’s a lot of briefing time. We decided to skip that and look at the Dart River jet trip the next day. Anyway, we headed up the hill from Arthurs Point towards Arrowtown, but curiosity took us up the road to Coronet Peak and Skippers Canyon. The sign saying ‘rental cars may not be insured’ at the entrance to the Skipper’s Canyon road was just too tempting. I took it easy as there were a few rocks scattered around and I didn’t want to damage the underside of the car – god knows what it would cost to recover it.

Impressive and scary drops in Skipper’s Canyon

We passed couple of Landrovers doing a tour at a thankfully suitable part of the track to get past easily. The occupants looked suitably ripped off realising the track was far from rugged enough to stop a Ford Focus. There were sections that would clearly flood over at the slightest hint of rain though, so don’t be too bold.

We returned to Q’town and had a bite of lunch. We booked to go on the Dart River jetboat safari the next day from Glenorchy. I had booked us into the Glenorchy Hotel that night. We drove there and had a wee snooze, me from a very early start and Ed from a very late night. We had a few beers, a very average dinner, made better only by the Highlanders beating the Hurricanes in Invercargill.

After a lazy Saturday morning snoozing to the sound of rain on the roof we went for breakfast at the wonderful Glenorchy Cafe down the road. Cool music, great food and great coffee – we both had a second coffee because it was so comfortable. After a walk down to the lake and around a local wetland area we arrived back just in time for the jetboat trip. The bus trip up to ‘Paradise’ near the top of the jetboat trip was great and the driver funny and very informative. We had a wee walk through the woods to the pickup point. We maneuvered to the back so we would hopefully get to sit in the front of the boat, all the others filing forward like sheep, but we needn’t have worried, the driver told Ed he would only have any legroom sitting in the front, so we were in! The trip took us up river for a while and then all the way back to Glenorchy, about one and a half hours. At speeds of up to 85 km/h it was an awesome ride! These guys really know the river, the boats just scraping the gravel in the shallow, wide, braided sections of the river.

Also not meant to take hire cars up here – 5500ft at Snow Farm Lodge

to be continued…