Queenstown, obviously one of the best kept secrets
At left are a partial view of Queenstown from the mountain top and of their equivalent to a beach at the edge of the township.
We flew into New Zealand after a three hour, pleasent enough trip from Sydney and the first thing we saw was the huge rugged mountain range. I remember wondering where there would likely be a piece of flat ground sufficient for an aircarft to land. Sure enough, the aircraft turned around and there it was, the Queenstown Airport, neatly tucked away among the suburbs of Queenstown.
Shuttling into the city centre, we arrived at the Nomads Backpackers Lodge after about a 15 minute drive. Our room, an ensuite on the third floor and designed for a person in a wheel chair was larger than we expected and nicely appointed. Even though there are only two of us, it's nice to have enough room to swing a cat just in case one gets the compulsion and opportunity to do so. (I hate cats!)
Queenstown was a surprise. I had expected a lot of old buildings reminiscent of Sydney, but the place looks surprisingly modern and is attractively laid out with nice roads, parks and of course Lake Wakapitu nearby. The lake is very imposing ... huge and fresh water, although surprisingly the Queenstown Golf Course, where the 2014 Golf Open was being held, looked incredibly brownish ... they don't irrigate from the dam. Couldn't believe it, but according to the locals, it usually rains sufficiently not to have to irrigate, but of late, it's been a bit dry. Well, dry for a few weeks, which by NZ standards is a serious drought.
The goods and services tax rate in NZ is apparently 15% which probably partly accounts for the generally higher cost of living than in Australia. Beer and wine seemed expensive as did most other things. If nothing else the exchange rate between the AUD and the NZD was marginally in our favour, but nothing to get too excited about when compared with countries like Vietnam where we can live like kings for almost nothing Australian.
We walked about the city and visited the lookout after a gandola ride. Beautiful views of thel ake and nearby regions. Younger, more keen people bungy jump, fly and ride a luge, which isn't a luge in ice or snow, but a plastic tray with wheels and a steering handle which also acts as a brake. There are different gradients so that the beginners don't wipe themselves out on a hairpin bend.
At the airport a customs official saw "Place of birth: Queenstown" on my passport and said, "Oh, so you were born here?" I replied, "Regrettably no, my Queenstown is in Tasmania and nowhere as beautiful as yours."
Tomorrow is another day and we still have about four weeks to go.