Sorry for leaving you all in the lurch last week; as Abi mentioned I was suffering from ‘technical difficulties’. I’m sure the suspense of waiting for the next installment of my adventure has been too much to handle, but, you’ll be overjoyed to hear, I’m back now and ready to tell you about the awesome, adrenaline capital of the world – Queenstown.
Queenstown is a serious contender for my very favourite place in New Zealand (it’s a toss up between Q-Town and Wanaka, which I will talk about in a future post). I think it’s fair to say, after the damp experience of Franz Josef, I was more than ready to get my fill of some Vitamin D as we travelled away from the miserable West Coast, via Haast Pass and Thunder Creek Falls, into Queenstown. I was not disappointed. As we came into Q-town, the sun was shining and I got my first glimpse of an absolutely stunning place, surrounded by majestic mountain ranges, with the beautiful blue waters of Lake Wakatipu at its heart. Our hotel in Queenstown (Aspen on Queenstown) was a serious relief after the squalor of Franz – we only had 3 to a room, the beds weren’t of the bunk variety and, best of all, we had a balcony which had an amazing view out over Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables Mountain Range.
For the first night in Queenstown, Contiki offer the optional extra of going to the Skyline Restaurant for dinner and I genuinely cannot recommend going enough – it was one of the best dining experiences I have ever had. After checking into our hotel, we all got dressed in our finery (I FINALLY got to wear a summer dress) and piled on the coach to the bottom of Bob’s Peak, ready for our ascent up to the restaurant. Now, the only way up is via Gondola and if you don’t know what one of these are take a look here. As previously mentioned, I’m a definite scaredy-cat when it comes to anything even remotely dangerous, so this has to be the scariest thing I did in NZ (which is actually laughable considering my tour mates threw themselves off cliffs and out of aeroplanes etc but, hey, the Gondola cable could have snapped at any moment, sending me plummeting to my doom – true story). Honest to God, I was shitting myself the whole way up the mountain – I had my eyes closed for the entire ride and was holding onto Holly and Mitch’s hands for dear life. But, despite the harrowing experience of the ride up (FYI everyone else loved the Gondola so don’t let me put you off), the view is so worth any discomfort caused. Plus there is alcohol available at the top to calm those nerves. Suffice to say, I immediately headed for the bar and ordered a cool glass of bubbly. The restaurant has a wrap-around balcony, upstairs from the dining area and, before dinner, we headed out there to take in the view – which can only be described as breath-taking. Standing there, drinking in the view, as the sun set, glass of bubbly in my hand was definitely a top moment of my trip. And the food, oh my God, the food. My only regret was that I was still so jet-lagged and had somewhat lost my appetite, that I really did not do that food justice. It was all you can eat and they had barbequed and grilled meats and fish, sushi, antipasto, salads, breads, vegetarian options, pastas, curry and all the trimmings, not to mention the mountain of desserts. If heaven exists, it’s at the top of the Gondola in Q-town, seriously. The whole evening cost $79, including the ride up the Gondola and a spare ticket in case you don’t get your fill the first time, and it is so worth it so go go go.
As the next day dawned (sadly overcast) there was a wealth of activities open to me to partake in in Queenstown. I could go sky-diving, bungee jumping, jet-boating, hiking, luging down a mountain, engaging in some form of water-sports, horse-riding – really any activity you can think of in Queenstown and the surrounding areas you can probably do. But did I do any of this? Did I fuck. Holly and I ventured down to Queenstown centre with the intention of going to Ferg Burger (apparently the best burgers in the world or something, the queue is massive whatever time of day), but instead had the absolutely brilliant idea of going and getting a massage. Now, before you’re like what the fuck, I just need to reiterate how jet-lagged I was – a massage would surely cure that and then I could happily get down to some partying and proper site-seeing/activities. If anything, the idea of going to have a massage was one of my most genius. With this in mind, we headed to the nearest i-SITE. i-SITE’s are amazing tourist information centres in NZ, where they will recommend and book you onto activities, as well as helping you with any query you might have – they are fantastic. Anyway, the women in there recommended that we booked ourselves in for a full body massage and facial at the Hilton Hotel, which would also give us access to their spa facilities. At $160 each it wasn’t cheap but, dear Lord, I am so glad we went for it. The Hilton is across the lake from Queenstown centre and the best way to access it is via a really fun speedboat water taxi. Holly and I spent the most blissful afternoon in the Hilton spa and, I’m not kidding, the massage really did cure my jet-lag. The hotel has an awesome seating area right on the lake, with deckchairs, blankets and heaters – so we ordered a cheese board, glasses of wine and sat looking at Lake Wakatipu, feeling totally blissed-out and relaxed. If you’re looking for some relaxation in Queenstown, the Hilton spa is definitely the place to be.
So, now I’d had the jet-lag massaged out of me, I was ready to party. Big time. I mean, I’d spent 3 nights watching everyone else on the tour party like there was no freaking tomorrow, whilst I donned my cap and night gown and succumbed to crippling ‘lag – well, no more. I will admit now, I was already fairly ‘3 sheets to the wind’ when Holly and I arrived back at our hotel following our massage and quickly assembled fellow tour-goers on our balcony to consume some of NZ’s fabulous Sauvignon Blanc (seriously all I drink now is NZ Sauv, it’s a frigging revelation). That night, we’d signed ourselves up for a Contiki-planned trip to Queenstown’s Below Zero Ice Bar. If you’ve ever been to/heard of the Ice Bar in London it is exactly the same principle – a bar entirely made of ice, including the glasses, the bar itself, the seats, EVERYTHING. For $25 we were given entry, uggs, a massive coat, gloves and one free shot. You’re only permitted an hour inside the bar so we made the most of it in a big way, downing shot after shot of ice cold, luridly coloured alcohol. One particular highlight of the experience was when my ice glass started to melt at the bottom, producing forth a waterfall of beverage and Sophie, in her inebriated state, decided to crouch down, open her mouth and make sure not a single precious drop of MY drink reached the floor. Wonderful. The Ice Bar is definitely an experience best had with a large group of people and was a really great start to the night. After this the evening becomes somewhat of a blur, we essentially just wandered from bar to bar, drinking and dancing the night away – ending up with me and Holly completely and utterly pissed, conducting a ‘quiet’ conversation in our bathroom at 4.30am whilst Sophie tried to sleep. Poor Soph.
With it’s great restaurants, bar, clubs and just general party atmosphere, Queenstown makes for an absolute cracking night out. It’s safe to say my first night out on the town was a success.
So, here I leave you for this week – I hope you have enjoyed reading about my first couple of days in Q-town. Next time I’ll be talking about what happened when we took a 10 hour day trip to Milford Sound following our mad night out. Trust me – it was not pretty.
Please leave a comment – I’d love to hear from you – and, if you’ve missed any installments of the adventure you can catch up using the links at the bottom of the page.