In the lap of luxury in Queenstown
02/06/2012 - 02/10/2012 68 °F
As you can see from the heading, we have spent the last couple days here in Queenstown living luxuriously - eating at restaurants, checking movie listings (though we didn't actually make it to see any), sleeping in a comfortable bed, and showering daily. We felt we deserved a break and some celebration, as we just finished a 3-day hike through Fjiordland, and these were our last 2 days in kiwi country (NZ). We stayed at a beautiful backpacker called Sir Cedrics Southern Laughter Backpacker and wandered around, checking out shops, beer bars, and adventure travel operators. While Queenstown is supposedly one of the larger cities in NZ, its permanent population is only ~13K people. Though it certainly seems to be many times that with the number of travelers passing through.
We had our first full dinner out last night at a great spot called 1876 - we'd promised ourselves that we would try the lamb before we left and it did not disappoint. We also treated ourselves to a brilliant chocolate fondue for dessert (truly a celebratory night when chocolate fondue is involved). We followed that up this morning with a beautiful breakfast of eggs benedict, bacon, and toast at a cozy spot across the street from the hostel called Cafe 111.
The 3 days on the routeburn were really amazing. It was about 32K of total hiking, with about 3000 feet of elevation changes thrown in and most of it covered over the first two tiring days. Wednesday, the last day, was mostly a slightly downhill winding trail, following the Routeburn River as it meanders out of the mountains. Throughout the 3 days we had spectacular views of rivers, valleys, and mountain ranges. On the second day, easily the most challenging of the 3, we started out with a climb above Lake McKenzie (where we had camped that night) and soon found ourselves completely enveloped in soggy, low visibility clouds which wouldn't lift for a few hours. We're not sure what views we missed during that period but it may have been best not to be able to see, as most of that time was spent walking along a very thin, exposed alpine path where we were mere inches from sheer cliffs. The bugs were also a real nuisance - everyone warns you about the sandflies and they are truly awful, though fortunately too slow to be a bother while hiking. They were bad enough at night to prompt Annie to compare being in the tent at night with them buzzing around to shark diving! (ie, she can admire the swarms of bugs without having to worry about them eating her for dinner.)
In an hour or so, we leave Queenstown for a 6 hour drive across the south island to Christchurch, where a plane waits to take us to Denpasar, Bali and our next adventure. Talk to you soon!
Jeremy and Annie