JIPP's WORLD

…….The World Without Boundaries

Hello Queenstown !

Written By: jipp - Apr• 17•17

If there was one place that I really wanted to go to in New Zealand, it’d be Queenstown. And true enough, New Zealand did not really wow me until I arrived in Queenstown. Only then I saw why New Zealand is considered one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Arriving there late in the afternoon after an almost 9-hour drive from Christchurch, Queenstown captivated me almost instantly when we got there.

Queenstown is another lakeside town located in a beautiful valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains. In winter the whole valley is covered with snow and turns Queenstown into a ski resort town.

We checked in at a hostel called The Black Sheep Queenstown. Queenstown is a very popular tourist destination so it was not easy to get a room at affordable price, even more so when we were there during summer which is considered the peak season. We took a room with triple bunk beds so we had to share the room with four other guests. I had to tell them right away that it was highly advisable for them to put their earplugs on while sleeping because we could be very loud especially after spending the whole day driving for almost 500km. They seemed to listen – and nobody complained the next morning. LOL.

One of them was a lady, probably in her late 40s, who was from England so I had the best of time asking her about Brexit. It was good to get a first—hand opinion from a British national who was more than ready to give us some insights on what exactly was going on in the UK.

The Black Sheep Queenstown

The other one was a young guy from the Netherland who has been traveling all over New Zealand and beyond for the past 7 months. He told us how just the day before he got arrested at a bar in Queenstown because of a commotion. It all started when his girlfriend called him from the bar and told him to come over because she was apparently in trouble.

He rushed to the bar and got into a little bit of ‘physical contact’ with one of the bouncers. The bar called the cop and before he knew he was already being handcuffed and led to the passenger seat of a patrol car. Later at the police station he was questioned but was later released after the CCTV recordings showed that it was the bouncer who started the fight and not him.

“My only regret is that my girlfriend blamed me for what happened” he said before heading out the door to do a little bit of hiking up in the mountains. “I need to clear my head off” he said before exiting.

We only got to explore Queenstown the next day. The town center itself is quite small and badly stricken with parking problem. We went up to the famous Skyline station from where we could see the whole town, the lake and the beautiful mountains around it. It was so beautiful I swear to God I could stay there the whole day and still could not get enough of it.

We did the ‘luge’ as they call it, which is something like a go-kart but uses gravity to move it forward and down the mountain. It was exhilarating but I gotta say I was struggling with the butterflies in my stomach right from the beginning. It was like riding a wild horse. There was no way I could get a full control without straying off the track.

I couldn’t help but hitting the side dividers several times. The screeching sound whenever I pressed on the brakes was deafening but it really was unavoidable so I had to laugh it off while my travel buddy who is a go-cart person wheezed by and disappeared almost instantly. I didn’t really enjoy the ride, may be because I was not really good at it but then it was quite an experience.

The Skyline is also famous for its bungee-jumping and for a moment I felt like doing it but somehow I didn’t. May be because it did not look scary enough and I did not want to spend a big chunk of my hard-earned money over something that I was not really felt challenged doing. LOL.

BTW, I actually registered myself for skydiving. Unfortunately, I did the booking (via NZONE Skydive)  at a very last minute so the morning sessions were all fully booked, leaving me with no other option but doing the afternoon session. The bad thing about doing it in the afternoon is the weather. It could get bad in the afternoon and the possibility of a cancellation is higher than it is for the morning session. And true enough, I was waiting for the bus to come and pick us up at the shop when we were told that our session had been canceled due to the unsafe weather.

I was frustrated and so were the others in the group. Some of them even questioned the decision, saying that they should be allowed to proceed so long as they were willing to take the risk. But I think the company knew better. A little bit of accident could jeopardize the whole business and they did not want that. I had the option of coming back to Queenstown after doing the hike in Milford Sound and do re-registered for the sky-diving but then I’d rather go and explore other parts of New Zealand than to come back to Queenstown for something that was not even confirmed. They might, or rather the weather, cancel on me again. I could always do it some other time – probably in South Africa or even back in my home country Malaysia.

One of the highlights of our stay in Queenstown was probably our little trip to Glenorchy. Glenorchy is a little town located at the far end of Lake Wakatipu so going there requires driving along the coastal road with breath-taking view along the way. The combination of the lake and beautiful mountains was certainly made for a perfect picture postcard. It was so surreal (that) I had to stop the car every now and then so that I could take in as much of the beauty as possible.

Glenorchy is the kind of town that I could spend my whole life retiring in. I could never get enough of its beauty. It is so beautiful which is probably why Peter Jackson decided to film some of the scenes in the LOTR in Glenorchy. The lake, the mountains, the farms and the town itself are so perfectly matched for a fairy tale movie.

If there was one thing in Glenorchy and even Queenstown that I probably had some hard time coping up with, it’d be the weather. It was summer but the cold was unbearable so I could only imagine how worse it could get if I was there in winter or even spring. Brrr!

We wrapped up the day by having some beer back at the hostel and we were joined by a Singaporean man who was obviously happy to have other travelers from the neighboring country around him.

Being a Malay, he was fast to tell us of what he thought of his fellow Malays in Malaysia. “They keep saying that we are being marginalized in Singapore when in reality we are not. We are far better than Malaysia when it comes to racial unity. I don’t know why guys keep fighting against each other in Malaysia”.

I found myself nodding to it.

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Driving from Christchurch to Queenstown

Written By: jipp - Apr• 10•17

It was our 5th (full) day in New Zealand. It would be the day when we’d do the longest leg of our road trip in New Zealand, covering some 400 km from Christchurch all the way to Queenstown. A non-stop ride would take around 6 hours from end to end, but of course with so many places to see along the way, we did not intend to rush through. In fact, it was the part of the road trip that I was so looking forward to, so when the day of doing it finally came, I was super excited.

Starting off early from Christchurch, we wheeled off on the Main South Road, across unending stretches of pasture and farmlands. They were beautiful – I had no doubt – but they became quite monotonous after a while. Then it all changed when we arrived at Lake Tekapo. It was one of the lakes in New Zealand that I had heard so much about so it felt surreal to be finally there. I wouldn’t say I was really wowed by it, I had seen more beautiful lakes before, but the blue-ness of the water really captivated me. I didn’t know a lake could be that blue. It looked surreal, almost like a painting or something. I was there when the South Island of New Zealand was experiencing one of the driest summers in years so the grass was mostly dead but still the beauty was there.

I went to see the famous chapel, which I had first seen and known about when I browsed Lake Tekapo on Google Earth. My further search had led me to the fact that it is one of the most pictured churches in New Zealand. I was not at all surprised though. It is so beautiful and located in a very perfect setting. I came in and said a little bit of prayer – mostly thanking God for the opportunity of simply being there and witnessing it all – the stunning beauty, the ambiance, the calmness – everything. Just being there made me feel so relaxed and calm. The benches face directly towards the lake and I could see the lake and mountains on the other side through a huge glass panel placed just behind the altar. I wish I could stay there longer but the road trip had to continue.

Then from Lake Tekapo we continued driving to another lake called Pukaki. Again the blue waters really captivated me. I could see Mount Cook on the other side which at 3764m is the highest mountain in New Zealand. This mountain was made famous by Sir Edmund Hillary because it was there that he spent so much time of his time to train before he went to Nepal and became the first person to ever conquer Mount Everest. As somebody who is very much into mountain climbing myself, I felt so blessed and privileged to be there and seeing the famed mountain even from a distance.

Lake Pukaki

Driving on Southwards, we stopped at a small town called Twizel for lunch break. Twizel was listed as one of the filming locations of Lord of the Ring but the exact location was in a private land and going there requires joining a tour, which was not cheap. I didn’t even bother to consider putting it in our list of must-dos. New Zealand is a beautiful country, I had no doubt about it, but then it is a country that is full of fences and private lands. Almost all the beautiful filming sets in the LOTR and The Hobbit trilogies are located in a private property so it’s not like we can just come to those places to see them for ourselves.

That is where the Himalayas differ. Over in the Himalayas you tend to have the whole valley all to yourself and you are free to roam around as long as you’ve got the time and energy. For me, Himalayas are certainly in its own class that cannot be matched by any other region on this planet. But I’ll write more about this in another post.

Lunch break at Twizel

We were in our last leg of the journey when somebody suggested to me (on facebook) that we go and check out another South Island’s top tourist destination called Wanaka. It was an impromptu detour but it was worth it. Wanaka is another lakeside town and was famous for beautiful ski resorts. Of course being there during summer means there were no ski activities but the view was breath-taking nevertheless.

Also known as the gateway to the Southern Alps’ Mount Aspiring National Park, it was fully packed with summer holiday-makers when we got there and it was not easy to find a parking space. It is probably less known compared to its sister town Queenstown but it really is gaining popularity among adventure seekers. More and more people opt to come to Wanaka for sky diving, water-sports, jet-boating, hiking and many more other adventurous activities.

The beautiful Wanaka lake

I did a little bit of sun-bathing (with my clothes on of course) in Wanaka before continuing on to the place that I had always wanted to go to since the beginning of time – Queenstown. The landscape was beginning to take on a dramatic change. The hills became higher and higher and the road became more and more of a zig zag as we moved further towards Queenstown. The beauty was unmistakable. I was beginning to see more familiar landscapes – those that I saw in LOTR movies and I remember saying to myself that “those are what I had come to New Zealand for”.

Some of the hills looked more like pieces of metal which have been repeatedly hammered creating bends and curves all over. The landscapes were unbelievable.

We were driving along a beautiful valley when something caught our eyes. Dozens of bras of all colors and sizes were hung along a fence in support of New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation. There might be no reason for me to be really surprised but I just did not expect to bump into something like that in the middle of nowhere.

So it was quite late in the afternoon when we finally got our first glimpse of the Queenstown valley. The valley reminds me of place that I really wanted to go to in Italy called Tuscany. We stopped the car and took a little bit of time to enjoy the breath-taking scenery. It really was made for a perfect picture postcard.

I really thought what I saw from there was beautiful enough – until we wheeled further off towards Queenstown, then I realized that we had not even seen anything yet. It was in Queenstown that I finally saw why New Zealand was considered one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

There was absolutely nothing that could prepare me for the beauty of Queenstown.

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