Saturday, September 30, 2006


Very near the park we were staying in was a DOC wildlife centre. Several cages and fenced off areas hold examples of some of New Zealands bird life. Some rare others less so. The centre was fairly interesting as I got to put names to some of the birds I'd seen on the road, and to see others for the first time.

After the bird park we drove on to Queenstown. Queenstown is New Zealand's 'adrenaline' sports capital and the place to be if you want to do things like bungy jumping. We didn't want to. Given the choice between seeing a lovely gorge on the end of a bit of elastic or seeing the same gorge on foot or by kayak I know which I'd choose, any day. I know it's a scary proposition launching yourself off a ledge and trusting in the equipment, but no more than the first time you lean back to abseil, I would imagine. And the safety record of the bungy operators is so good that there is almost certainly more risk in crossing the road. What you are buying is the illusion of danger rather than danger itself. Skiing, which is very popular in this area, is much more risky, judging from the number of people we saw on crutches. The truly amazing part of bungy jumping is the rapidity with which it makes your $140 disappear.

On the way into town I was struck by how many people there were. We quickly located and checked into the massive Lakeview Holiday Park. The park was big and well appointed but seemed to have a little bit of a pack-em-in attitude. Showers were coin operated, the first such that we'd seen, which sent Gemma into a bit of a rant. Queenstown was the place that we encountered our first grumpy Kiwis. Up until that point people had been super friendly and service had always been cheery. Not always in Queenstown. Perhaps it is because they know they don't have to try or perhaps it is the sheer volume of tourists bringing people down.

The town was nice enough, sitting on the lakeside with a view of mountains all around it. All around were the sounds of different accents and languages. Everything seems new and clean. It was clear that the whole town is one big well oiled and finely tuned machine with the purpose of separating tourists from their cash. Nowhere was this more apparent than the gondola. We took a ride on the gondola, which is a cable car up the mountain. At the top are a paved luge track, a restaurant and a Maori show centre. We didn't really fancy any of that, and wanted to do a short walk at the top. Unfortunately the track was closed so we had to settle with taking in the view from the viewing deck.

In the evening we treated ourselves to a meal out at the Queenstown branch of the excellent Dux De Lux restaurant/brew-pub. After the meal we had a swift pint in the bar. The swift one turned into several. There was a quiz on and despite not taking part, except to give a few answers to the nearest team to us, we ended up staying until the end. Oddly, many of the questions were about or related to Birmingham.

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