Home > New Zealand > Day 7: Rainy, Rainy Queenstown

Day 7: Rainy, Rainy Queenstown

06 June, 2010

I woke up this morning raring to go for a fun, action-packed day in the Queenstown area. The goal was to shower at Base (a hostel), go up on the Skyline Gondola and go luging. We then planned to travel out to Glenorchy, Kinloch, and Paradise for the rest of the day.

Our first plan was ruined as we walked into Base in the morning. The lady behind the counter (with a mean look and a black eye) told us that they “don’t do that anymore” (allow showering without a room) for security reasons. The guy at the desk last night (who told us we’d be able to) apparently hadn’t heard this new rule. So, instead we drove to Queenstown’s sports complex just outside of town and got a shower there. While the showers were mediocre, the rest of the facility looked amazing. It had the biggest, most impressive indoor pool I’ve ever seen, complete with water fountains and multiple waterslides.

Leaving the facility, it started to rain fairly hard. Not a downpour, but not something easy enough to walk around in when it’s 40 degrees out. We were hoping it would pass, but the rain held up all day. Because of this, I only got a few pictures, and I’ll be surprised if I get one or two keepers out of them.

We bummed around for the next few hours. First we parked in Queenstown and made some phone calls to try and confirm bookings for ice climbing and skydiving, but didn’t get an answer from either. We then drove 15 minutes to 12-mile delta, a campsite along Lake Wakatipu and filming location for Ithilien in Lord of the Rings. We almost got stuck again in some of the thick brush and definitely had some bushes scratch along the sides of our van as we tried navigating the narrow roadways. We parked near the water and stayed for a while as we napped, read, and ate lunch (tomato soup and 3-cheese grilled cheese with havarti, cheddar and Edam).

Despite the continuing rain, we decided to continue and try to get to Kinloch and Paradise. The drive to Kinloch was fairly easy. The rain didn’t prove to be a problem, even on the windy Queenstown-Glenorchy Road. (Another car wasn’t so lucky; we saw that their car had gone off a mini, 10-ft cliff…probably sometime last night.)

As we were pulling into Kinloch, the rain was turning to sleet and then to snow. The Kinloch campground was just as I remember it, though completely deserted and not nearly as beautiful as it was during the summer. The view was very limited, and a layer of mist covered the lake. Also, turns out that the Port-a-potty toilet used by the campground was set on a sinkhole, and the entire thing is now sunk 3 feet into the ground.

Sunken PottyTaken in Kinloch, one of my favorite campsites from the last time I was down south.  Turns out the toilet was built on a sinkhole and has since fallen into the ground.

The drive to Paradise was a bit trickier. Paradise lies through Mount Aspiring National Park, the setting for Lothlorien in LOTR. The trees in the park were tightly packed and rose so high that it really did feel like you were in the movies. We took a few pictures and turned around before reading the end of the road. We didn’t want to get stuck again, especially since the roads were getting tighter, windier, and more snow-covered.

Lothlorien

The road to Paradise, out past Glenorchy. This forest served as the setting for Lothlorien, the home of the elves in Lord of the Rings.

Leaving Paradise, I noticed a really cool photograph waiting to be taken: a bridge straddling a stream with a misty glacier rising high in the background. I pulled off the road to park, but my mirror was so fogged up I couldn’t really see where I was going. I backed into a muddy ditch, and my tires were spinning helplessly.

After 10 minutes of trying to get out, we gave up. We had no cell reception, it was a 30-minute drive to the closest town, and this was nowhere near the main drag. We didn’t expect anyone to pass, so we were fully ready to climb in and spend the night there.

Just as I was about to climb in the van, a 4WD truck came down the road. It had the license plate “FR0DOS”—a LOTR tour group. The driver asked what the problem was, and I told him that we were stuck. He told me that it was company policy not to pull anyone out with the truck (because of insurance issues in the past), but that he would tell the garage when he got to town.

The truck drove off a few feet before stopping again. The driver got out. “You know,” he began, “It’s Sunday and there won’t be anyone at the garage in Glenorchy. I could tell someone in Queenstown, but they wouldn’t get here for hours. I can’t just leave you here. My head is telling me to leave you, but my heart is saying no.”

He pulled out a rope that he attached to our bumper. After making sure we understood that it might damage the bumper (and that he wasn’t responsible for that damage), he gave us a tug with his truck, and we were out in no time. No bumper damage either. “I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that you shouldn’t have been down in that hole,” he said before leaving. He bid us a great rest of our holiday and drove away with many thanks from Kat and me. What an adventure.

Needless to say, we took the rest of the drive to Queenstown slow and easy, vowing to never again attempt anything close to off-roading again.

We walked around Queenstown for a while, looking at the chintzy souvenirs—lawn chair covers made of NZ sheep wool, kiwi bird dolls, tons of dirty and erotic t-shirts, and lots of lotions. (Though none could compare to the placenta cream that I saw when I was with my parent back in Welly.) I ended up buying a beanie, something I’ve been looking for for a while, but I could never seem to find the right one.

Brandon 3

My new beanie (taken the next day by Kat).

We ended the night the same way we did last night. We grabbed Fergburger (me a Southern Swine—beef burger with bacon and avocado—and Kat just some fries, all washed down with a tall glass of Speight’s). Just as delicious as last night, and I’m even considering stopping again for lunch tomorrow.

Now we’re parked in the same place we parked last night. Easy to get to for us, but far enough off the main road to not be bothered. We’re hoping to try the gondola again tomorrow. Hopefully it’ll be nice; the rain has stopped at least.

See the full set on Flickr! (Photos will be uploaded as I go through each day.)

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