New Zealand Nov 2004 trip – Queenstown

This is part of some travelling notes I wrote exactly 4 years ago for a trip to New Zealand in November 2004. Please enjoy the story.

Day 5, 10 November 2004, Wednesday

Decided to wake up a little late this morning at 7:00am. Had two Snickers bars for breakfast (I’m left with 5), did the usual morning stuff and went to reception counter at 8:00am. Told receptionist about broken blind twister thingy, but she said it’s fine. She said few guests tell them these things anyway.

Original plan: Gondola in the morning, paragliding in the early afternoon, and jetboating in the late afternoon. Plan failed. The receptionist (Alison) called the paragliding company for me and got a 9:30am departure time (from hotel). It’s a two hour event, so it’ll end at about 11:30am, inclusive of driving up to Coronet Peak, paraglide (just about 15 to 20 minutes) and drive back down to town.

No biggie. Made rough calculation and probably a two hour rest after that is enough. So jetboating at 1:30pm? Alison called, and the company Kawarau Jet operate every hour, on the hour. So I said 1pm. All this setted, I now have about one hour and 10 minutes before the 9:30am appointment. Thanked Alison, and went out to solve my digital camera memory problem.

Big Bear

I found a PC store (The Big Bear), but it’s closed (opens at 9:00am on Wednesdays. It’s now about a quarter to 9. They don’t say 8:45am here…). Luckily, a man (I think he’s the manager or something) came up and asked me if he could help I said I wanted camera memory and he opened the door, and showed me his goods. NZ129.95 for 128MB! I bought my 128MB in Singapore for $59.00… I said I needed a few seconds to think about it… And he probably took it literally, because he didn’t move. Well I gave him his few seconds and said yes. *sigh* Buuut, Camera-Vince is back!

Queenstown library
The Queenstown library. I’m fascinated by books, don’t you know? Didn’t go in though. No time, no time…

Gondola hill
The gondola. Can’t believe I actually climbed to that later on…

Giant kiwi statue
Didn’t get a real kiwi. Might as well get a fake one.

Cloudy sky
I’ll never get bored seeing clouds shadowing mountains.

Ship and gulls
Gull in flight! Waited for minutes for this shot.

Squawking gulls
The situation’s like this. One gull squawked. The other squawked in reply. They kept squawking back and forth, and I thought it’s funny. Several passersby thought so too 🙂

Kawarau Jet
The jetboat I’ll be taking later.

William Gilbert Rees statue

William Gilbert Rees information
William Gilbert Rees.

Cloudy sky
Another cloud-shadow-mountain picture. Spot the duck swimming in the freezing water.

Queenstown memorial

A-Line Hotel
A-Line Hotel, where I stayed.

Slope from A-Line Hotel
And the climb I took to reach it.

I took a few more shots on the first memory card and went back to the hotel. 9:15am. Changed the memory card to the new one and tested it. Working perfectly. I now have another 381 1600×1200 fine quality pictures to take. Tried switching to super fine mode, but the number of available pictures halved. Needless to say, I switched back to fine quality.

The van came to pick me up at 9:30am sharp, with a couple and a lady already as passengers. We drove around to pickup two more passengers and four pilots. There’s a fifth one, but he will drive to Coronet Peak himself. Five pilots, five passengers (the woman in the original couple passenger is just an observer. One of the pilots asked the couple who’s the hare-brainer who wants to fly. The woman pointed to her husband.). Anyway, we drove up halfway to Coronet Peak to pick up the pilots’ equipment. They lashed the equipment to the top of the van, and we set off again.

We’ll be gliding from about 3700-3800 metres above sea level, and land at about 2300 metres above sea level. We reached the take off point, and the fifth pilot who came first was already strapped and ready to go. “Who wants to go first?”, he asked.

View from Coronet Peak
View from my paragliding launch.

I just got new memory, and I’m standing way high up, so the natural thing to do is: take pictures! I snapped 2 or 3 pictures and went looking for a pilot. His name’s Rob. “Are you flying with me?”, he asked. I said yes. Then he asked “Why choose me?”. Uh… I just smiled, and we laughed.

Vincent at Coronet Peak
The adventurer, before liftoff.

Rob asked if I wanted pictures of my flight taken, 12 pictures for NZ30.00. I thought hard, and said yes (*sigh* don’t do this very often, so can only keep pictures.). He showed me the safety precautions and what to do before, during and after the flight. Then it’s my turn (I’m the fourth to go). “1, 2, 3!” and I ran to help the lift off, and I’m off the ground. I was kind of lucky, as I had a lot of warm currents, so I stayed aloft longer than the others I think. Incidentally, one of the passengers was named Rob as well, so during the ride up, the other pilots kept calling for the pilot Rob, but the passenger Rob responded instead.

Vincent paragliding
The classic pose the paragliding company uses in their advertisement pamphlets.

Vincent paragliding
I’m flying this thing!

During paragliding
Aerial view.

Found out that Rob had flown for 15 years. On average, he flies 2 passengers a day. Peak period, about 5. He will fly down, pack up, drive up and fly down again. It’s a hard life.

He gave me gloves (didn’t bring mine), and it’s still freezing. We did the whirly thing, where the parachute stays in the centre of a circle while we’re flung around like a centrifuge. I learnt to control the parachute from Rob (took over for a few seconds). Rob took shots of us flying from above, the side and front. I was wondering where he stowed the camera, and he told me it’s dangled on his belt. Just before landing, I got another current, and got about 20 seconds longer. 🙂

Back on terra firma
Back on terra firma.

Landed without much mishap. I had mucus running down my nose (it’s cold and I couldn’t feel my nose…). Hope Rob didn’t notice it. He probably did, and was polite enough to leave it at that.

Fellow paragliders
Other fellow paragliders.

Head oozy, arms rubbery and legs trembling, I watched him pack the parachute and I helped with carrying my safety harness. Joined the other passegers, and found one from Utah (passenger Rob), United States, the couple from Melbourne, Australia. These two were married, with pregnant wives. There’s the other lady passenger from UK, I don’t know about the last passenger. Paid NZ31.00 for the photos because Rob didn’t have a dollar change for my NZ20.00 + NZ 5.00 + 3xNZ2.00 = NZ31.00. I let him keep the change, for the information he gave while flying if nothing else.

Arrived back in town, had lunch (finally found McDonald’s in the mall.), and went to the pier for my jetboat ride at 12:50pm. Not many passengers for the 1:00pm ride (probably lunch hour). 1 Dutch, 2 Germans and I think 2 Americans. And 1 Singaporean. 🙂 Pilot explained the Hamilton spin, where the entire jetboat spins 360 degrees (more like 270, but never mind).

Jetboat ride souvenir shot
My only tangible souvenir from the jetboat ride.

I got splashed by Lake Wakatipu, splattered by Kawarau River and sprayed by Shotover River. There were 3 ducks in the way of the jetboat (on separate occasions), and when the jetboat got close, they uh, ducked out of the way. Saw Remarkables (mountain range), sand cliffs, Coronet Peak and a mountain range used in the movie “Lord of The Rings”. Jetboats require only waters of depth of 10 centimetres to run. Lots of sudden turns and spins and slip-and-slides. Returned to the pier… and bought my jetboat pictures for NZ25.00. Urgh! *sigh*

Gulls and ducks

More gulls and ducks

Ducks
Gulls, ducks and is that a goose?

School children playing in field

Children crossing the road
School children.

People playing frisbee in field
Frisbee in rugby field. Look for the tiny red disc in the centre…

Queenstown Skyline gondola
The Skyline gondola.

Returned to hotel (steep climb) to store my jetboat pictures (scared of crumpling them in my bag). Then I went looking for the school I saw when returning from the paragliding trip. Found school (children playing pass the ball), and went for the gondola. NZ18.00 for a trip up and down again. Then 3 ladies arrived, one of them suggested they climb to the top of gondola, and another one said “You must be joking!”. My next decision was propelled by: A show of masculinity, a love for tramping, a touch of recklessness and a surge of leftover adrenaline.

I climbed up the gondola trail.

Up the gondola track

Up the gondola track
Bramble, fallen trunks, dangerous cliffs, rocks. Gotta love this. Don’t know whether to be scared or excited. No one’s climbing up you know…

Split in dense trees
View from a split in the tree crowns. Magnificent.

Sign at halfway up gondola track
I thought I’m close now. I was wrong. This was just halfway…

Started climb at 3:40pm. First part was really steep. Had 7 encounters with people walking down the track. Huffing and puffing and breathing through the mouth about halfway up because my nose wasn’t processing oxygen quickly enough anymore.

Luge
The Luge.

Bungee jumper

Bungee jumper
Bungee jumper!

View from gondola top
Pier in centre’s the jetboat start point.

View from gondola top
View from gondola top is fantastic.

Going into gondola
Thank goodness they have a going down ticket…

View from inside gondola

Bungee jumper
Oh yeah, another jumper.

Sheep on gondola hill
Sheep! They’re everywhere, I tell ya.

Reaching bottom gondola station
The gondola station at the bottom.

Finally, hot and a bit sweaty, hands and face close to ice-forming temperatures, I reached the gondola at the top at 4:31pm. Bought orange juice (NZ3.50), and wished fervently they have going-down tickets (please don’t make me backtrack…). Yes! NZ9.00. They had the luge and bungee jumping, but I’m not interested. Got on gondola and reached the bottom at 4:57pm.

And I met Mie from the Milford Sound cruise! She’s surprised (so did the gondola attendant) that I climbed up the gondola track. She’s tired just climbing up to the gondola station.

Queenstown mall
The very posh and expensive street.

Earnslaw ship
Ship from pier. Didn’t get the name. Earnslaw I think.

Pizza Hut
Finally found Pizza Hut! Too late now… broke already…

We parted, and I went looking for dinner. With my budget now, I can’t eat at Pizza Hut anymore, so I decided on KFC. Exact same order and exact same seat as yesterday. Then went to 24-hour-open Night’n Day (the Singapore 7-11 equivalent) to get sandwiches (NZ3.50) for tomorrow’s breakfast (need to ration my Snickers bars). Went back early to hotel at 6:40pm to rest. I’m gonna have to starve one or two lunches…