Friday 2 July 2021

Queenstown rules

With thanks to Destination Queenstown for this famil

The advantage, of course, of being so far south in winter (in the southern hemisphere, remember, regular 😀 reader) is that the sun gets up at a civilised time, so everyone can be smug about enjoying a pretty sunrise. Which we had, from our Juliet balcony at Brown's Boutique Hotel here, just above Queenstown's centre.

It was to be a busy day today, and first up I was whisked to the airport to join five other punters for a helicopter sightseeing trip with Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters to Milford Sound. It was originally to have been a chopper up a mountain to do some snow-mobiling, which sounded exciting but, amazingly, given what I saw from the plane yesterday, there wasn't enough snow. So this was the very acceptable substitute: scooting up the lake to Glenorchy and over the mountain tops to Milford Sound. We landed there for a coffee (it was amazingly quiet - in normal times, in the middle of any given day it would be heaving with coaches and people) and a wander along the shore to marvel at Mitre Peak before taking off again.

We stopped again on a remote beach to appreciate, well, the remoteness - though there were some picturesque ruins there from the whaling days - and then swooped away again over the sound (actually, fiord) for the most exciting bit: landing on a snowy glacier way up in the mountains. Virgin powder snow, a classic triangular peak right there, and us the only signs of life, surrounded by white pointy mountains - magic!

The pilot, Albie, who did a lot of aerial filming for LOTR, made a specialty of drifting alongside steep rocky slopes - surely closer than the 500ft legal limit - then lifting up slowly to reveal, as we crested a knife-edge ridge, a whole new vista of mountains and valleys. Spectacular.

That ought to have been enough excitement for one day, but I was then picked up from the airport and driven all the way up to Coronet Peak, Queenstown's iconic skifield, to do a spot of Yooning. Honestly, it would have been enough to just watch everybody happily skiing and snowboarding, at various levels of expertise - something I'd never seen up close in real life before. But I was introduced to friendly, enthusiastic Tuki, owner/operator of YoonerNZ, who is Tahitian but also, bizarrely, a snow fiend. His thing is the Yooner - a sort of low sit-on scooter with one ski and a handle grip, that you whizz along on with no fear of falling since you're only inches above the snow anyway.

Well! It was huge fun. Super-easy to operate, so that after a couple of runs on the nursery slopes with all the little kids, I graduated to a proper ski run, 100m higher up the ski lift. Tuki said (repeatedly!) that I was amazing, scooting down, trailing my hand in the snow to make sweeping turns, avoiding the other sliders, and pulling up at the bottom just like that. But I wasn't really - it was just so easy. I could have kept going for ages.

But that was my taster done. I took the gondola then up actual Coronet Peak, where there was a steep and dodgy track right to the very top, all ice, with no handrails at the start and finish. Reader, there was crawling. The views were worth it though, on this fabulous day.

And still the action wasn’t over - next, mulled wine by the fire with oddly-named but chatty host Peter-Ray at Brown’s, and the other guests, which was nice; and then we took the gondola up to the Skyline restaurant on Bob's Peak, where I don't think we'd ever been before at night-time. The town looked lovely, all lit up down below, and then it got even better when the Welcome to Winter fireworks began. WTW is a smaller substitute for the usual much bigger Winter Festival, but that didn't mean they stinted on the fireworks - they were terrific.

The restaurant though wasn't great - buffet food, which feels odd these days even in (currently) Covid-free Enzed, and the plates were cold; but the desserts were yummy.

And that was the day -  so busy, but lots of fun, and full of glorious sights. Well done, Queenstown.


the queen said...

That is a proper mountain. And Enzed - that took a moment, but I got it!

TravelSkite said...

Well done! You would say Enzee of course...


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