Sunday was the day that I would be zipping from tree to tree with ZipTrek Ecotours, an eco-friendly zip-line (or flying fox, as the Kiwis call it) company with a set-up in Queenstown. Before I could do any zipping, however, we first had to make it to the top of the gondola line at the Skyline Complex that sits over the city. It was a drizzly morning, but the view was still pretty amazing so high up.
In our gondola
Sheep having breakfast.
It doesn't look it, but this mountain side was steep!
The view of Queenstown from the Skyline.
And a good luck kiss before I went zipping.
Soon enough it was time to meet up with the guides for the flying fox at the first jumping platform a short walk down from the Skyline. As Chris isn't so fond of heights, I did this one without him, though not on my own. Along with three other flyers, I geared up and set out to take a ride through the treetops, expertly guided by Haley and Julia. Between the 2 Aussies, local Kiwi, American me and our Canadian guides, we were a diverse group, but you gotta love it when four different countries still equal just one language.
|The first platform|
Since ZipTrek is not just your typical adventure tour company, from platform to platform we learned about how they work to not only offer adventure tours without damaging the environment, but also how they use these tours to teach sustainability, minimizing our impact on our environment, and the benefits of community outreach. Much of the money made from their tours goes to local charities and community projects, and even the platforms and lines between trees, once removed, will not cause irreparable damage to the forest.
The first line was scary only because it was the first, and a lovely Kiwi woman named Sonsoray stepped up to go first. (Forgive my phonetic spelling, it's such a beautiful name!) The feeling of flying among the trees through early morning, misty air was exhilarating and freeing. Doing so while hanging upside down was a whole other experience! I took along our Flip Video camera to capture what I could - beware, wind and screaming may call for you to lower your volume. Upon further inspection, I opted not to include the video of me flying upside down, as there's the slightest chance some profanity made its way out of my mouth, and my mom reads this! (Yes, I'm a goody goody who wants to believe my parents don't know I know such words, let alone speak them.) But here is the one where I stepped off the platform backwards, arms out.
Chris and I met up down by the wharf, where we ran into a bunch of Wilsons on their way out to celebrate Mother's Day. Such great people, and a reminder to try to call home. We headed back toward the gondolas to lunch in one of Queentown's most loved, local eateries, Fergburger. When I tell you we had burgers, it is impossible for you to fully comprehend what we actually ate. Kiwis may make the best hamburgers in the world. Their menu had burgers with beef, venison, chicken, tofu, or lamb, topped with everything from streaky bacon, avocado, all kinds of cheese, curry, and vegetables. These burgers had to be eaten partially wrapped in paper or it'd never make it to your mouth in one piece, so heavy and dripping with savory goodness were they. Fergburger started off as a shack and is now treated like a national treasure, in Queenstown at least. We felt honored to have been able to digest a little bit of that treasure.
Later in the afternoon was our ride on a jet boat on the Kawarau River. Everyone put on their waterproof pants and jackets and loaded up for our hour long, high speed ride down the river, complete with 360 degree spins. If we were on a road and not a river, we'd have left some serious skid marks from the hard braking and spinning. It was a blast.
Monday, May 9 - Milford Sound
Milford Sound is one of the best known and most visited areas in the Fjordland National Park on the South Island. We booked a tour with the BBQ Bus so we could sit back and enjoy the 5 hour ride there and back, which was great first thing in the morning when the fog gave us all good reason to nod off for a bit.
Something we saw a lot of on our way out to Milford were deer farms, something we didn't expect. Just as beef cattle are raised for their meat, and sheep raised for their wool (and lambs), deer here are raised in the same way. It was a little strange at first to pass by fenced in fields of adult deer with their antlers sawed off, but it made sense as venison is a popular meat choice in many places.
We made a stop in the town of Te Anau for some breakfast and a pick-up before we got to Milford. Before meeting Jamie from Fresno, Chris and I wandered down the road from where Nick parked the van to get a couple of pies from a tiny roadside shop. Clearly all those deer farms had made us hungry, for we both went for a venison pie for breakfast. Yum. We have GOT to learn to make meat pies!
The walk to Lake Gunn
The day was mostly sunny and the water was beautiful. The heavy low-hanging clouds lolled on the tops of mountains around us, but that just added to the beauty of it all. We saw one seal asleep on some rocks, got right up under a gorgeous waterfall, and I tried not to fall (more than once) on my rear when the boat tilted.
There's something about being out in the middle of something so enormous as this. When the boat's engines were quieted, the only sounds came from birds and waterfalls. The silence between is something beautiful, too, as there seems to be nothing but you and the air you breathe for a moment out on the water. It's easy to forget that there are people around you and you start to wonder when you last heard silence so heavy and calm.
The drive back to Queenstown was as beautiful, as the fog had burned off in the afternoon sun and we could see the landscape around us. I'm drawn to water, be it sea or lake. As I look over our pictures, it's apparent that the photos below are my favorite to take.
It was a full day and we were saturated by the amazing beauty of this place. Until tomorrow then.