Monday, April 8, 1996
Woke Up: Queenstown, New Zealand
Went to Sleep: Queenstown, New Zealand
To commemorate our wedding twenty-one years ago, and subsequent month-long honeymoon trip to New Zealand and Fiji, here is a day-by-day account of our travels. To travel with us from the beginning, start with Tuesday, April 2nd.
Milford Sound is synonymous with New Zealand. Besides the other adventure travel options available here, Queenstown is the launchpad for trips to Milford Sound. It’s an eight-hour bus ride (round trip) from Queenstown. We are on our honeymoon, so we’re trying to avoid camping, cave descents, crampons, and bus rides. We decide to upgrade to a plane flight. This is our story of how we flew to Milford Sound, almost.
A plane trip feels really up-scale. We’re scheduled for a morning departure, and we head towards Queenstown Airport in rain and fog. The weather is supposed to be nice at Milford Sound, but it’s not so good here. On the tarmac at ZQN, we are introduced to our pilot and our conveyance. Maybe up-scale was a little optimistic. It’s a puddle jumper.
Off we go, into the wild blue yonder, which is grey and overcast, but plenty wild. I’ve been in turbulence in a jet airliner before, but never in a twelve-seater. This is rough. At one point I hit my head on the ceiling, and I’m belted in. People are shrieking. In spite of the teeth-rattling ride, I’m enjoying this, a lot. The pilot starts shouting over his shoulder and pointing to the huge storm dead ahead. He tells us that it’s too big to fly around, and if we go through it, the ride will be even worse. He asks for a show of hands: who wants to go on? I put my hand up. Who wants to turn around and go back to Queenstown? Everyone else puts their hand up.
Back to Queenstown we go. We’re in the air for all of 45 minutes, and it’s a wild bucking bronco ride. Adrenaline still flowing, we decide to go visit some nice safe wineries and have lunch.
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We head back up Highway 6 to Arrowtown, a quaint little gold mining town. We’re still buzzing from the plane flight, so this is a little to quaint for us. (Sorry Arrowtown, but it’s not your fault.) Back in the car and to Chard Farm Winery. In the tasting room, our new best friend Keith spins the most excellent yarns about every wine we try. We love him, and wish we could take him home with us, along with a few cases of his wine. I also make friends with his cat, which is no surprise to anyone.
From Chard Farm we head to Gibbston Valley Winery for some lunch. We are finally starting to calm down from our aerial roller coaster. We have a lovely outdoor lunch and a glass of (very) local wine here. It’s very calm. Looking out over the terrain, we begin to understand why New Zealand doesn’t export very much wine. There isn’t a lot of room for vines on these steep hills. Our host tells us most wineries sell everything they make right in New Zealand. Nothing left to export.
After lunch and calming, we decide to go watch other people have an adrenaline rush. The world-famous AJ Hackett Bungy Centre, where people jump off a bridge over the Kawarau River with a big rubber band tied to their ankles. It’s really intense to watch people do this. There’s a lot of yelling involved. It’s 141 feet to the surface of the Kawarau River. If you want, they can tune the bungy to dip your head in the water before you bounce back up.
Once you stop bouncing, they lower you down into a yellow raft. The rafters paddle you to shore and you walk back up a whole lot of steps to the bridge to get your free t-shirt and VHS tape. I can’t imagine how difficult that walk must be with wiggly knees.
The jumpers take a break, and we walk out on the bridge. I am usually okay on bridges, but this is a really steep gorge. I stick to the center of the bridge, and Laura shoots photos from the railing. As we turn around and walk off the bridge, I’m happy – for the second time today – to have my feet on the ground.
When we get a refund for our Milford Sound flight the next day, the exchange rate has changed and we actually make a few dollars on the deal. Some consolation prize.
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At the End of the Day: The Stone House
After 21 Years:
Arrowtown is still really cute. AJ Hackett is still convincing people to jump off a bridge. Both wineries we visited are still going strong. Thousands of people have probably made it to Milford Sound on a little plane.
Tomorrow: Another Day in Paradise