THE OPEN TILL 4AM TOWN: QUEENSTOWN PICTURES
My Queenstown Music Playlist
Its finally here; my write up for Queenstown and Doubtful Sound, South Island, NZ. You know how the saying goes, "we saved the best for last". That would be Queenstown. I have never been across a more picturesque backpacker town in my life. Surrounded by an epic landscape lies dozens of independent bars, restaurants, and shops each with its own particular theme and feel. Always someone who longed to have more involvement with the arts I really appreciated the atmosphere. It could definitely be considered in some circles as hippie-ish but the chill environment was free and relaxing; exactly what most people look for in a travel destination. Backpacks and beer, that's all you need folks.
Unlike are more luxurious accommodations we had been staying in, we opted for a simple place with a great location; The Bella Vista. This was two blocks from the heart of the town and one block from the famous gondola that you have heard so much about. I would highly recommend. Sure, you might have to deal with a some drunk young people but your staying there for the location, not the lodging. After we got settled we were off at our break neck pace again, timezones be damned we were unstoppable.
The town was young, artistic, and offered a demographic vastness; from the thrill seekers to the honeymooners, to the wandering backpackers, everyone was there for a million different reasons and it was fascinating. This was the first town we found that had a bar scene comparable to the states in lateness (open till 4am) and atmosphere (the alcohol is the focus). I must stop here as anything more would be pretentious of me. It was simply a town that was beyond categorizing; there's so many people there for too many different reasons. Definitely open late and fun though.
After we stumbled our way around the harbor one night we came across one of those little stands (like the sample stands in Sams Club or Wal-Mart). Totally strange; I can't remember what they were giving away but we came across some locals who were enjoying themselves almost as much as we were. If there is one thing I love its interacting with the locals. Using my best social skills, which were questionable given my condition, I struck up a conversation and mentioned it was my wife's birthday. Well birthdays and drunkenness are just two peas in a pod so from then on our wolf pack grew from 2 to 6 and we were having a birthday celebration. They were a great bunch and we ended up in an empty bar for some reason. We had all the attention of the bartender and control of the music. Despite a few potential fights the night turned out awesome, ending in a place called the Boiler Room.
One of these kiwis (New Zealanders) actually tried to give me his family heirloom off his neck. It was hand carved whalebone necklace. His wife wasn't happy about this and knew he was going to have serious regrets. She was really upset so I gave it back to her (besides what am I gunna do w it?) Well, the Kiwi found out and was even more offended that I had rebuked his offer.
To quell the hysteria I wrote my website down on a napkin, gave it to him, and told him when he regrets it later he can contact me and I would mail it back. We poured another shot. Thought I would never hear from him again, until he randomly called a year later. Just as when I met him, he was partying; it was 11pm in NZ and I was about to go to PT @ 530am. I still have the necklace which turned out to be one of the coolest and strangest things I've ever gotten from an overseas trip. I was simply told "Never to sell it" and to "Pass it on to my kids one day".
The rest of the night was a big blur. The only part I remember was a heavenly place called Devil Burger. Open till a glorious 4:30am it caters to those poor, starving, and drunken souls wandering the streets in the wee hours of morning. These burgers are seriously good people ,don't miss this one. Also if you have to pee, go to the bathroom here. It leads you into a long hallway with back entrances to a number or seriously cool bars. We're talking fireplaces, cow skins, and blue lights (weird and interesting stuff).
After two nights in Queenstown we headed on a coach to Doubtful Sound; one of the more isolated Sounds compared to the most popular (Milford Sound). The Sounds were truly incredible and we met with a small party totaling 6 passengers for an overnight expedition. It was an old crowd, however the sites and experience were priceless. Overall we enjoyed pulling our own crab pots, deep sea fishing, waterfall sighting, dolphin sighting, and kayaking.
The fishing was great and collectively we pulled quite a few up including one small shark. It was a bit windy and cold as the winter season was still coming to an end. The seagulls we keen to spot our crewmen gutting the fish and were eager to get at the scrapes being tossed off board.
My wife got close to the waterfalls, convincing the crew to steer the boat under the waterfall itself. It was insane to see all that water come over the deck. I was assured that we weren't gunna sink but I like my water off the boat. The life expectancy in water of that temperature (38-42) is about 15-20 minutes.
In the morning we went kayaking. The sheer magnitude of the jungle cliffs jetting into the water was inescapable. The rains came in an absolute downpour; drenched head to toe. At this point we just kept kayaking and it was a surreal feeling. The closer we got to the shoreline the more apparent it became to just how isolated it really was. Think along the lines of Jurassic Park. I'm not exaggerating. If something goes wrong out here, the only option is a helicopter landing on the boat's heli-pad.
After making our way back to the boat with the kayaks we were eager to get warm. That is, until our crew-member Marie said "If you want go ahead and jump off the heli-pad" I looked at her and we let out a laugh together. A slight pause followed. Surely she was kidding? She wasn't. "It'll take you 15 minutes to freeze to death so a 1 minute dip won't kill you. Just swim towards the boat right after you jump in". Not gunna lie, I originally headed into the cabin to start changing. I'm not sure if it was bravery, probably more stupidity, but I thought to myself, Your will never be here again, if your gunna die you might as well die doing something ridiculous, like Steve Erwin, its not a string ray... but it'll due. And with that horribly misguided mental calculation I found myself standing on a heli-pad counting to three.
The water was brackish (freshwater/ saltwater mix). Freshwater is lighter than saltwater with a density of 1.0 while saltwater has a density of 1.025. Basically, I went deep into the water. All I could see was dark orange and then I hit the saltwater. And there I sat, buried in 38-42 degree water. It felt like I was burning. I finally surfaced and I could feel my movements becoming rigid and sloppy. Swimming was very difficult and it was amazing to see how fast your body starts shutting down in those conditions. I was able to squeeze out a chattering smile for this stellar photo as I came out.