You can accomplish a lot in 24 hours. I traveled back and forth between Dunedin and Queenstown. I also managed to have a night and day of firsts: my first time staying in a hostel, my first time standing in a building made of ice, and my first time leaping from a plane into nothingness.
If you’re living in Dunedin, it is fairly easy to take a weekend trip over to Queenstown. Pack a small backpack. Consider including a swim suit. Book a bus seat and bring along a book for the five-hour, somewhat bumpy, ride. Arrive. Partake in a post-car-ride burger binge at Ferg Burger. Hike to your hostel to drop off your gear (the Pinewood Lodge is $26 a night, clean, and about a ten-minute walk from downtown. It also has a trampoline, which is awesome). Wander to the waterfront and go for a refreshing swim. Head over to Shotover Street to schedule some solid activity plans. Now, I’m not normally one for tourist-y things, but when in Queenstown, well, the tourist trap in nigh unavoidable. Then again, Queenstown boasts the sort of tourist trap that I wouldn’t want to avoid.
The restaurants (and bars) in Queenstown are quite remarkable (that’s a smidgen of funny if you know that the mountains looming over the city are called “The Remarkables.” Ha. Ha). A hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant across the street from the downtown hostel serves delicious, tapas-style, small-serving-size foodstuffs. And drinks cooled with glorious ice balls, icy spheres that provide hours of entertainment for the easily entertained.
At this restaurant, I learned the definition of a “sake bomb.” They be messy.
Queenstown also has two ice bars. In my mind, ice bars are the coolest bars (more puns yay); they’re like theme parks that provide you with parkas and alcohol. I was finally able to fulfill my dream of lounging on an animal skin in an ice palace, feeling like an ice queen.
On certain days of the week, the ice bar is featured in Queenstown’s “pub crawl.” Queenstown has many pubs to which one can crawl. The city also has a strip club. Yes, I saw my first strip club. No, it wasn’t open (scratch that. It was open, but they weren’t “warmed up.” Whatever that means). And I wouldn’t have been allowed in anyways (people had to be 20-years-old to enter, so there’s my excuse for not attending. I overheard my so-called friends say, “let’s get linds a lapdance.” I HEARD them! They try to be sneaky, but I hear. And hell no. Find me a Magic Mike kinda joint where Matt Bomer works and I’ll reconsider). In the midst of all these bars, I encouraged my friends to go easy on the drinking because the next day we would be jumping out of a plane.
Skydiving. Predominantly indescribable. Freedom. Flying. Falling. Wholeness. Nothingness. Sensory overload…. I think my best chance at describing my experience would be through the words of Chbosky: “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”
We jumped with a company called nzone. They took good care of us. We were driven out the town to nzone’s picturesque field base where we suited up and skipped jumping instructions (on the way to the plane, my tandem jump dude told me to make a banana with my body – sure thing, bro – and let go of my harness when he tapped me. Easy enough). My tandem buddy Aaron (who happened hail from Idaho and invited me to come skydive there – Mom, we’re going) and I jumped with a British bloke named Olly, the photographer. I felt that I should probably have visual proof of my first skydiving experience, despite the photos costing me an arm and a leg. The high wind-pushing-up-face force and resulting chipmunk look did wonders for my already photogenically-challenged face.
I was last to board the tiny, not-so-sturdy-looking plane, at which point my friend informed me that I would be jumping first. Great. The plane didn’t even have a real door. It was just this flimsy, transparent, pull-up-pull-down gizmo. And I was seated right next to it. And it was partly open for a bit of the trip because my wee toes could feel the cold wind and the open air. Possibly my foot was outside the plane. I leaned over to Aaron and asked if we were strapped together, reasoning that I would feel much safer about the whole partly open, plastic door thing if I knew that I was hooked into the guy with the parachute. He cheerfully replied, “Nope! Just don’t fall out of the plane!” How very Kiwi. Aaron, you’ve been here too long. He also pulled the AHHH!shake-my-shoulders-saved-your-life prank that every NZ adrenaline junkie seems to do to me. My canyon swing guide yelled and jokingly pushed me towards the edge of the cliffside platform and then his buddy did the same in an attempt to one-up him. The second time, I wasn’t actually hooked into anything. Now, I’m just desensitized.
If you’re afraid of heights, opt for skydiving over canyon swinging and bungee jumping. In the plane, thousands of meters above the ground, I didn’t even feel a sense of height, just a sense of void. The initial jump from the plane is overwhelming and wonderful. Then, you quickly hit terminal velocity and suddenly you feel as if you are simply in wind chamber with a flawless view. There is no sense of falling.
If you’re averse to pain in the inguinal region, opt for canyon swinging over skydiving. When they pull that parachute… ooh, harness be tight.
After the most amazing experience of my life, I went to support my bungee jumping friends. On the way to the bungee site, I saw a beautiful cemetery.
I think it’s interesting, from a business standpoint, to have a cemetery right at the foot of a gondola that takes many a tourist to meet their bungee jumping fate. Nevertheless, we rode the gondola to the top of the hill and I was able to once again revel in the glory of Queenstown, this time somewhat closer to the ground.
And there I cheered on my friends as they too took the leap.
And cheered for this random fella who wasn’t really my friend, but who looked pretty hilarious as he tumbled/tripped off the platform. Good on ya!
That there is courage.