“I wish I could do all the things in Queenstown,” I say now, as I look through all the adrenaline activities it has to offer. I mean there’s plenty of hiking, which is cool, but not nearly as cool as a good jump off an airplane (Richard disagrees). Skydiving, bungee jumping, and paragliding, oh my! I search for the name of the activity where you jump off the mountain in a flying fox suit. That would be the ultimate. I haven’t found the name of that one yet, which is probably for the best for Richard’s nerves. Anyway, it’s all out of our (my, really, since I’m the only one of us interested) budget.
What is in our budget? Well, before and after the Milford Track and before the Routeburn, we did some stuff. Read all about it!
Staying in Queenstown proper was absolutely not in our budget. So we stayed about a 45 minute drive outside of it. This is where having a car comes in handy– we can drive and do whatever we want, whenever we want. It is so flexible! Sure, it can make us a bit lazy sometimes when it comes to either walk 20 minutes to the grocery store or driving 2 minutes, but for flexibility? It’s pretty great. That said, gas/petrol prices were the highest we’d ever seen them. $2.21 in Queenstown per liter of gas. It cost us $125 to fill our tank. Ouch!
Before Milford we stayed in a small town south of Queenstown, at the bottom of Lake Wakatipu, called Kingston. We slept in a caravan. Situated in the driveway outside the main house, it was cozy, if not a bit cramped. The AirBnB in Kingston was a bit of a hostel getaway. In addition to two caravans outside, they had one small hostel room in their beautiful house, 2 rooms with a bed or two each, a big kitchen, a trampoline, a slackline, canoes, a movie room…all they needed was a bar and it’d be set like an all-inclusive holiday in Jamaica.
I was determined to take advantage of the plethora of things to do that were included in the price of our stay. I ran outside and jumped on the trampoline and disappointingly got winded much faster than when I was ten years old. I stared at the slackline longingly– I’ve had a decent bit of experience with those things and I. Am. Not. Good. We cooked in the kitchen, indulged in the included breakfast with its yummy homemade bread and Nutri-grain cereal, and sidled up to the movie room to watch The Punisher on Netflix. Having only 6-8 people there at any time meant there was opportunity for socializing (we played Cards Against Humanity on our first night, which elicited some laughter), but also plenty of space to just hide in a corner and stare at your phone. I also stared longingly at the circus rings hanging in their garage playhouse. Probably half of my life is spent staring longingly at things; M&Ms at the supermarket, movies/TV, soft clothes, M&Ms, root beer…
One of our 4 days at Kingston we sidled on up to a small lookout point near the property. Rich could’ve run up but I felt like a 3 out of 10 that day and so we went slowly. We passed a small waterfall where I had horrifying thoughts about Rich slipping down it (if I have the bad thoughts, they won’t happen, you see), and also pulled our way up by some tree roots. It took about an hour- some pleasant minutes, some grueling, to get to the top, and the view of the lake and of little Kingston was adequate.
After the hike, we had the bright idea to go on a canoe trip. We dragged the canoe out of the driveway and towards the lake, with little mishap. We eagerly climbed into the canoe, knowing that we were doing this for free, versus paying $20 an hour to do it up in Queenstown. I peered out at the lake and the excitement died off as it felt like we were floating/paddling aimlessly. “Let’s go out to that point!” I said, pointing out a spot that looked like if we could just get around it, there’d be a great picture somewhere. We started paddling- not hard, I didn’t think. But we were going at a pretty good clip. We reached the point, but there was just another point after it, and another. We kept going. The wind picked up, but was at our backs and so it didn’t bother us. The waves were a bit choppy, though, which made us glad we’d brought our lifejackets, but apprehensive about the electronics. If we tipped over, bye bye phone. We pulled over at a bank to have a drink of water and a quick snack.
I sighed, looking out at the never ending points. Surely, if we could just get around this next bend, it’ll open up into a great view. What I failed to see was how far we were from where we began. Rich agreed to go around the next bend before we would turn around. 30 seconds in, I suggested it wasn’t worth it- sense had finally kicked in. We turned around to go back. How naive we were to come out so far! We didn’t even realize how far we’d paddled! Once again I set my sights on a large piece of land jutting into the water. We rowed and rowed, but it was like 2 inches forward, and 1 foot backwards. The wind was working against us now and the waves were pushing us further and further out. We both got frustrated and I grunted as I rowed. We pulled in close to another bank and Rich got out and started pulling the canoe along. It felt like we could go faster walking the canoe than rowing it. It felt like we could go faster swimming (we didn’t try it, I promise)! I’m not sure if we went any faster, but it was certainly a nice break. Eventually, a mental breakdown or three later, and 4 hours after we’d begun, we made it back to the shore we’d started at. Our arms were dead. We rewarded ourselves later that evening in the hot tub.
Did we ever even go up to Queenstown, you may ask? Well yes, we went up for some coffee, grocery shopping, and to get ripped off on an oil change. Other than hiking, Queenstown was just too expensive, and we didn’t feel like hiking; we are lazy bums. We found ourselves on a couple occasions just sitting in a park and reading.
After finishing the Milford Track and before starting the Routeburn, we stayed in a couple of nice AirBnbs in two other small towns outside of Queenstown; Cromwell and Clyde. At both of them, we mostly recovered from our hike and then prepared for our next one. We did take a couple of day trips, though. One day we went back to Queenstown and walked up Queenstown Hill. It was super steep and tough, but there were definitely a couple of highlights. At one point, we walked through a section full of pine, the trees smelled divine, it was like drinking fine wine. Other than the views at the top, that section of the hike was my favorite.
On another day we headed up to Wanaka, where we will definitely go again. Wanaka is a small tourist town north of Queenstown. It’s super touristy, but somehow more pure than Queenstown is. Also, there’s a funny little tree growing out in the lake all by its lonesome.
From hiking to jumping off of things, the best parts of Queenstown are the parts that make you sweat, gasp for breath, or your heart pound. There’s so much we didn’t see and experience, but we did get a taste of it. It’s tangy; sweet but still makes you pucker up.