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January 4 – Queenstown



Woke up at 6:30am and was still tired…man, I haven’t been drinking very much at all but I have been exhausted at the end of every single day. And getting up has been tougher and tougher…plus, my muscles keep getting more and more sore from all my activity.

Last night before bed I booked my fun for today…the Triple Challenge through Viator (viator.com). It includes the famous Shotover Jet boat ride, followed by a helicopter ride over Skipper’s Canyon and then finish the day with a white-water rafting adventure. How exciting! Now, I had to juggle a few things to accomplish such a day…asked for a late check out, arrange for a taxi service first thing in the morning for the Shotover that started at 7:30am, and arrange another taxi for my ride to the airport later that day because I had a flight to catch for Auckland at 6:05pm.

I arrive at the Queenstown Rafting Center at 7:15am…my driver, Marie, was fantastic like most of the Kiwis I’ve encountered. She gave me her card in case I needed her services again while I was in town. The shop wasn’t open yet so I walked around for a few minutes before they opened. Once they did, I went in and gave my name and a guy wrote some initials on my hand to designate what I would be doing for the day and talked to me about one of the items in my package. Turns out no one else signed up for the helicopter tour over the canyon (boo hoo…would have been my first ride in one) so if they didn’t get anyone else to sign up by the time my Shotover ride was done then my ride would be canceled…sad to say that it was. Up side (so I’m bright siding (thank you for inventing that word CK)) was I get a picturesque vantage point from a small bus ride to Coronet Peak…saw rock formations distinguished my shapes like clouds in the sky…King Kong Rock, Upside-Down Elephant Rock and Mushroom Rock. The story the safety guide told about UD Elephant Rock was that when elephants were roaming about then one ate the mushrooms and ended up upside down and never righted himself.

The road to the canyon is narrow, gravelly, and there are no rails. It’s high up too so if you do it and are afraid of heights, be sure to sit away from the window. And hope another vehicle doesn’t come by because the thought of ‘there is NO WAY two vehicles will fit here’ may pop into your mind more than once.

Pulling into the boat and rafting area was easy enough…it was a very well organized deal. These events are very well put together and are easy to sign up for and easy to get pick up and drop off service too. In downtown Queenstown there are hundreds of tour shops and everywhere is something to do and experience – they are professionals here!

For the Shotover Jet, they whisk you into an open shed and you get a extra large black rain jacket with velcro closure and a life preserver. You cannot bring a camera but you can wear sunglasses…and they have a place to store you belongings. The driver buckles you up and makes sure your jacket is on snug before hoping into the boat. Then a quick photo (gotta make the sales) and we were off!

The boat is like a See-Doo…uses air propulsion to move through the water…it goes super quick in water as low as 4″ (which I believe we did) and it gets so close to some cliff walls I swear if my hand was just held outside the boat I would have touched them! It was exhilarating! Fast, tense, and I did let out a few ‘ohs’ when I felt we were too close for comfort (my seat was in the front and closest to the side)…we did 360 degree turns and those were such fun! Going through the canyons with very tight space made for exciting times and the ride was a very fun highlight…would recommend it for sure!

After the boat, the people on the rafting tour were to walk over to the rafting complex, about 50 meters away. Once there, we got a talking to about the safety of the raft, talking about any serious health conditions to report (I fessed up to my aneurysm) and then we were ushered into the building where we were given a helmet, booties, and a wetsuit to change into. In the girls locker room, we all changed into our rafting gear and left our change of clothes behind in cubbies. Everyone’s valuables were stored in a locked storage compartment all together (which was slightly unnerving actually but for only a moment) and then we went down by the water for our orientation.

Orientation was painless and then we were divided into groups of six people per raft. My particular group had only five…an Aussie couple, a Kiwi guide and two woman originally from Poland (both had the same name and were friends) and one now lives in NZ and the other lives in Amsterdam. I did talk about how I go weak for the guide and couple’s accents when they were asking about mine. It’s so funny to think I have an accent even though it makes complete sense.

Oh, speaking of accents…at one point on the trip, we were allowed to jump into the water for a swim if we wanted…and even though I didn’t have a camera because we were told not to bring one (I don’t see how!) I was loving loving loving the scenery…the rocks and the way they were carved out in the canyon were wonderful. I saw crystal clear waters and rocks that were slightly smooth but not quite old enough to be really smooth except the rocks that were in the river bed. The cliff walls were jagged and some were layered like phyllo dough. Pictures like postcards were in every direction…I really wish I had a camera! I’ll have to Google it for you to see or check it out…Skipper’s Canyon.

The Aussie wife and I chatted while keeping the standard pose in the water (you are never to stand up but are to either float on your back with your feet up or on your stomach with your feet behind you. We were floating on our backs and going with the quick current for a few minutes…I was asking what I could see in two weeks in Australia and where I should go…how can I see the locals and hear the accent the whole time (she really got a kick out of me crushing on their accent but I can’t help it)? Right before she gave me some tips, the others started yelling at us we were so deep in relaxing conversation…we didn’t realize we were IN THE RAPIDS and headed straight into a rock wall!!! Oh no!! Everyone started yelling ‘SWIM, SWIM’ to us…we kicked it into full gear and stroked our way around the rock literally without a moment to spare for me. Unfortunately, I may have kicked my new Aussie friend and left her against the rock. She pushed off and then it was all of the ladies (all four of us) trying to stand up and make our way back into the raft. We were at a place where we could stand but the water current was so strong it was done with plenty of laughing since we couldn’t get it together right away. We finally all were pulled and pushed back into the raft and continued on the tour.

The trip was about an hour and 45 minutes so it was a good amount of time and we all chatted about home life and vacation, etc on the trip. The sun was out and we had water fights with the other rafts…the one raft with all guys happened to be the most accurate water shooters with their paddles…there was a great deal of banter amongst the guides and rafts, it was a good time.

We went through five or six named sections like Oh Sh–! and Cascades and compared to the Shotover, I would recommend doing the rafting first because it was somewhat tame in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great excursion and I appreciated every moment but it wasn’t super hairy or anything any it was pretty tame overall. There were a few moments when we were jarred about and once when we even almost fell out of the raft but we didn’t and all was well. Mostly, the ride was relaxing and worth the trip! Would add it to the recommend list!

There is a cafe and you may shower up after the activities. I had to high-tail it back to the hotel for a 1pm check out and it was almost 12:30pm. I hopped into the waiting bus and headed back to town, grabbed a voucher for my missed but paid for helicopter flight, and then made it to the hotel just in time for check-out.

Quickly packed, checked-out and needed to eat (had not a chance to eat a thing all day yet and I did plenty of work today). Grabbed a final bite at the hotel cafe and only had three hours to spare before the car was coming for my airport pickup.

Made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare, checked in and headed to my gate. Security for my domestic flight was null. I hope I can show a picture for you as I did take one. It’s strange when I am so used to so much security to come to an airport with regular security. I’m sure they are extremely safe here but it is just a way I am unfamiliar with.

I grab a drink at the bar, head to the gate line, and then I’m off again…back to Auckland! I arrive around 10pm and I saw the Novotel Hotel on my way in when I arrived in NZ so I knew it was walkable…one of the main reasons why I even selected the hotel in the first place.

I’m tired (surprise) and am looking around for how to find the hotel and/or the International section of the airport because that is where I know the hotel is located. I walk outside with confidence (because it’s all about the confidence so everyone knows you are not lost) and cross the street with taxi drivers swarming the place. I miss the signage even though it was right in front of me and I walk to the right which takes you towards the parking lots…didn’t feel right so I start to walk back to retrace my steps since I did see a sign for the International Terminal…and I see someone working the closed window counter of the parking deck. I ask him where the IT is and he points in the direction I am walking (so it was to the left – I had a 50/50 shot). I say ‘thank you’ and move along. There is a very clear green line to follow to the IT and duh, it was so obvious once I was on it! It was easy to navigate and it was a great walk. Just be aware if you are walking alone, don’t be distracted by your phone or iPod, and enjoy the walk. Part of it takes you by the police station right before you reach the IT – total, it’s about a 14 minute walk…so about a mile plus or minus.

Once I’m finally at the International Terminal, I see the Novotel! My bed is only minutes away!! Why didn’t I take a taxi over?! Oh, btw, the signage for the IT was very clear on the walk and very easy to see…it was just the immediate sign walking out of baggage claim that stumped me but I may not have been paying attention…probably looking around too much.

Checked in and was wow’d by the hotel…wish I had energy to stay up for a drink but I did not. If I could have spent the night on the plane, I would have. My eyes could barely stay open. I set the alarms…about 4 of them…so I would be sure to wake up in the morning and then I took a long, hot shower.

I forgot to mention two things: after the water activities I did I did not get a chance for a shower…so sorry fellow passengers! I was a complete stinkfest from the day. Yuck! Oh, the rash…so I go to take a shower and notice that on my side is a red rash that appeared. I’m guessing it is a direct effect of wearing a wetsuit and being in the water and not showering after doing all of the water activities. It wasn’t itchy but I saw it and I’m hoping it will disappear by the time I get home (fingers crossed).

The other thing I forgot to talk about was about the room…so at this hotel you must swipe/fan your key card not only to gain access to your floor but also to your room (nice touch). Well, I’m in the room for a solid 10 minutes before I turn on the television. I did this because the electricity does not seem to be working. What is going on?! Did I miss something?! Maybe I didn’t turn on the right switch or there is a main switch somewhere or a fuse box?! I can’t get a single light on. Or is the air on. I don’t understand this one bit. The television works and the clock works…the phone…yep, there is a dial tone. Okay, I cry ‘uncle’ and call the front desk for assistance. Dion (my second on this trip and the guy that checked me in) asks me if I put the key in the card slot…what?! I’ve never heard of such a thing. I understand what he’s talking about though because I kept trying to push this one switch with a small light and I couldn’t get it to budge. I thank Dion and say that I think I got it now. As soon as I walk over to the card slot and stick my card in, the place lights up like the sun!! Who would have thought?! I didn’t get that debrief during my check-in and that would have been rather important to note.

Things that make you go hmmm…



The BEST holidays

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