New Zealand - Queenstown

Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Returning to Queenstown and our new 'home-from-home' Oaks Shores Resort, we checked into a hotel room. Unfortunately they didn't have any apartments available over New Year - we had been on a waiting list for weeks to try and get one. We were lucky to even get a hotel room, having managed to nab a cancellation at the last minute.
We kept trying during the 30th to get an apartment and finally a cancellation came in and we were told that we could have the apartment on the morning of the 31st for 2 nights - great!
The following morning we were told we had to check out and wait for the apartment to be cleaned but should be able to get it within an hour or two. Having packed up all our stuff (and that's a LOT of stuff!) we checked out and at that point were told that our apartment had been given to someone else - who's booking they had lost off their system. Needless to say we were fuming!
After about an hour of discussion (argument) with the manageress she told us we had no choice but to return to our hotel room or find somewhere else. We were not happy and she certainly knew this. As a result she gave us the full 3-night stay for $200 and a free breakfast on New Years Day. The original price should have been about $700 so we were quietly satisfied - though an apartment would have been very nice!
As New Years Eve progressed Andrew had a few drinks in the room as we watched some movies on the flatscreen TV before we ventured into town at around 10:30pm to catch the celebrations leading up to midnight. The harbour area of Queenstown was the main hub for the festivities and they had a couple of stages erected with a DJ on one and bands on the other. These areas were packed so we found a spot in between the two stages, on the wall in front of the harbour, and waited for midnight (PICS).
As the time grew nearer the crowds began to develop until the beach in front of us was shoulder to shoulder (PICS) - luckily our strategic position meant we didn't have to get involved in a game of push and shove like we had the previous year in Sydney!
On the countdown to 2007 a boat pulled out into the harbour and began letting off a tirade of fireworks (PICS). Some were particularly impressive and ones we hadn't seen before, one in particular travelled slowly up in a column of light before letting off a huge explosion - superb. Obviously it wasn't a patch on Sydney's display but we didn't expect it to be - nevertheless we were impressed, especially at the way our new camera managed to capture some of the better ones.
Completely out of character we arose early on New Years Day so that Andrew could get his free breakfast (ok - that bits not out of character at all!). Having had only 6 hours sleep we would have gone back to bed but there was a much better reason to be awake - the 'Shotover Jet Boat' and the 'Canyon Swing'  - both of which we had booked to do in the afternoon.
We headed for the Shotover Jet at 1pm and after a short drive to the Shotover Canyon we got our waterproofs and lifejackets on and boarded the boat. The Shotover Jet is the first jet powered boat circuit in New Zealand and is the only one to run through the tight turns of the Shotover Canyon (PICS). The jet boat is needed to clear the shallow waters of the river - something that would cause a normal speedboat to simply fall to bits! We sat next to the driver in the two front seats and held on tight. The boat travels at speeds of up to 70km/h and within inches of the canyon walls doing tight turns, 360 degree spins (even one 720 degree spin) and generally getting everyone aboard soaking wet. It was great fun!
The ride lasted for about 15 minutes and although it went quickly it actually seemed longer (and better value) than we thought it would. We were soon back on dry land and waiting for our shuttle bus to the Canyon Swing.
Reaching the Canyon Swing we were shocked to see a signpost with a distance to 'Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobllllantysiliogogogoch'... in Wales (PIC)! So we were only about 19000km from home then!
The Canyon Swing is similar to a bungee jump, though some people claim it is better. Having decided to do the swing and not a bungee we can't really compare but we figured the swing looked a bit more 'interesting'. The swing is basically a rope attached to your midsection and then suspended out over the canyon, 100 metres from the canyon floor (PIC). You then jump off the ledge in any style you choose and freefall for 3 seconds - more than some bungees. The swing then kicks in and you swoop over the river in an arc and back and forth until you come to a stop.
There are many styles of jump that you can do but they suggest a number of different ones to give you some ideas - some being nice and simple like a forward leap, and others being a bit more challenging - like the ones we chose!
Verdi (ever the daredevil) opted to go first of everyone and decided to do 'The Chair'. This is where you are strapped into a plastic chair, balancing on the ledge with your back to the gaping chasm below. You then tilt yourself back on the chair until the point of no return, somersaulting into the unknown - simple! (PIC) Andrew nervously filmed the action as it took place and wondered whether he would bother doing his jump!
Having seen Verdi successfully complete her swing, Andrew braved the challenge and got himself ready. He chose to do 'The Pin Drop' - a jump where you hold your hands behind your back and look down at your feet. You then do a little sideways jump off the platform and DOWN, still staring at your feet and the rapidly approaching canyon floor! (PIC)
We both really loved the Canyon Swing and the thrill, excitement and adrenalin that went along with it. The freefall seemed to be over in a flash and the whole thing is a bit of a blur. We could have opted to do additional jumps at a much discounted price but figured we had tempted fate once and emerged unscathed - a second jump would have been pushing our luck!
Back in Queenstown we mulled around for a while, taking in the relaxed feel of the town before heading back to our hotel and getting ready to head up to Fox Glacier the following day
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