We took a break from the blizzard in Cromwell, its a town near Queenstown that had to be moved when a dam was built 10 years ago, needless to say the Kiwi's have made a tourist attraction of it, well its pretty picturesque and they do sell nice coffee, so who can complain...
This is also the centre for Otago wines (are you noticing a theme here), but with the snow and everything we didn't feel like stopping for a tasting... on to Queenstown.
Coming down from the hills into Queenstown felt like arriving in a ski resort (obviously in winter it is), but the blizzard had given way to blinding sunshine and the surrounding hills, the Remarkables were covered in snow almost down to the lake (Wakateapot). First stop the iSite, and booking a skydive (again), then a stroll around town, avoiding the odd snow flurry, and being amazed to be back in (semi) civilisation, after so many tiny dorfs since Nelson.
An early night watching Bourne Identity (much better than Taken!), eating Pizza, and expecting more blizzards through the night.... Clear skies the next morning, perhaps the jump was going to be on... we drove down to the town and yes the weather was perfect and I was going to jump out of a plane at 15000ft (gulp).
A quick briefing and we piled into a minibus to take us to the DZ (drop zone). Ellie followed along in the car.
I was scheduled to jump in the last trip of our group and so we had to wait about an hour, watching 3 plane loads of folk go up and come down again. Then at last it was my turn, another unbelievably short briefing, into a jumpsuit, squeezed into a very tight harness and we were packed into the plane. I was then strapped to a brazilian guy, alex, who seemed more confident than I was so I put all my trust in him, apparently he had done over 2000 jumps in his career. The plane took off and quickly rose to 12000ft where we dropped off a dutch guy, then up to 15000ft before we shuffled to the jump hatch and before I had a chance to think.......
..... into nothing, and falling, the world a long long way below.
We quickly reached our terminal velocity of 200kph and things started to seem slightly more real. It was cold (apparently -15C without windchill), my ears were screaming, the wind and astonishing drop in air pressure, making me think my sinuses might explode. The mountains and lake below looking unbelievably far away, but getting closer. The clouds seemed to be rushing upwards really fast.
And all to quickly (60 seconds) we had reached 3000ft and Alex opened the chute and my testicles were forced up into my throat. A leisurely float down to earth and it was all over. Oh my god, what a rush....Never again.
I was in some kind of trance for an hour or so after, we went back into Queenstown and took the gondola to the top of the hill overlooking town. In order to come down from the adrenalin ruch we went luging again (see rotorua for previous outing). Ellie loved the rush as we chased down the concrete track, but I was still on a 15000ft high.
Once we had completed 5 runs and made it back to town, we were just in time to get the last tee-time at Caddyshacks mini-golf. Ellie keen to start her fight back as I was leading the minigolf challenge 2 rounds to nil. Needless to say she pulled out all the stops and beat me by 3 strokes (I came a cropper on the ski lift)
Today we went on an all day trip up the Dart river... early start and an hour coach journey to Glenorchy, around the northwest of Wakateapot, amazing scenery (backdrop to lots of Lord of the Rings, the milka cow ad, Wolverine (prequel to Xmen), Narnia, etc, etc), then a 35km dart boat ride.
I had seen all the hype about the shotover jet and was expecting something similar, I was somewhat disappointed.. the jet boat itself was cool and the Dart is a braided river, but despite steering straight at rocks and posts in the river and the occaisional 360, it wasn't the same as shooting down a canyon.
After the jetboat ride we transfered mode and speed of transport by hopping into funyaks (like an inflatable canadian canoe) for a leisurely float down the river (or so I thought), turned out it was pretty hard work, and though the scenery was jaw dropping, the aching shoulders, legs etc were sufficient to distract.
We stopped for lunch, entertained some sandflies took some photos of the local fauna (rare new zealand robin) and then continued back down to Paradise (some 20 km down the river). It was pretty cool stuff, but the air was cold (10 degrees) and the river was colder (5 degrees) as its fed from some of the small local glaciers.
Friday night in QT and we are exhausted. Off to Milford Sound tomorrow for an overnight cruise. should be less adrenalin overloading than Queenstown.