By Radhika Bhirani
QUEENSTOWN, New Zealand– The land, rivers, mountains and sky — Queenstown serves up adventure pursuits aplenty, everywhere. Be there, and just go for it.
Whether it’s sailing, hiking, white water rafting, jet boating, bungy jumping, skydiving, paragliding, canyon swinging, skiing, mountain biking… or whatever more to get your adrenaline pumping, this resort town, nestled in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, is a perfect stage for it all.
Setting sight on the hustle-bustle of activities happened as soon as I drew the curtains apart in my hotel room, which gave me walking access to the front of the glistening Lake Wakatipu. It was visibly dotted with sails, kayaks and boats. The backdrop was the Remarkables mountain range, and it was sunset.
“Oh my god, if only I could settle here!”
Queenstown can do that to you.
It has a compact town centre, where everything is within walking distance, including about 100 places to dine — which are often alive during the day and night with live music — and a beauty that’s remarkably picture postcard perfect. What’s more? You can see it from every height and angle.
Ask those why skydive from 15,000 feet!
Alas, it was a case of ‘Been there, not done that’ for me at the world-famous Nzone Skydive, New Zealand’s first Tandem Skydive operation. Safety is priority here, but what it takes is courage — lots of it.
“Take the plunge, take the plunge,” people kept urging me. My heart said ‘No’.
Missing the skydive, especially after daring to bungy jump during a past trip to New Zealand, will remain a regret. So, hey, if you’re there, just do it. Let the experts and parachutes take care of the rest.
Queenstown is a resort town in the south-
west of New Zealand’s South Island, some 900 km from the capital Wellington. It has its own airport. For many Indians, the first glimpse of the town’s beauty came through the Bollywood blockbuster “Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai”, starring Hrithik Roshan and Ameesha Patel, which was partially shot here. Even the 2010 release “I Hate Luv Storys”, featuring Sonam Kapoor and Imran Khan, captured its beauty.
But a live experience is of course, always hard to match.
On another day, we were to traverse the infamous Skippers Road, a mostly one-way, narrow and steep way said to be one of the world’s most dangerous roads some 25 minutes away from Queenstown. Scenes from “Lord of the Rings” came alive in the mind as we crossed some breathtaking locations, at parts of which the iconic movies were shot.
Our destination was the Shotover river, which the guide told us, is the world’s richest gold bearing river of its size. We were going jet boating, with the impressive company of cricket greats Stephen Fleming, Simon Doull and Scott Styris.
With the cold wind slapping us in the face, eyes barely open, jet boating can turn out to be quite a joyride as you feel your adrenaline surge when you speed through the narrowest canyons, often taking 180-degree spins just inches from the canyon walls.
Look up at the sky during the ride, and you’ll spot the deadly Kawarau Bridge bungy site — the world’s first commercial bungy operation. Must be something to just jump off from there… And no, I wasn’t going to even try.
Also, if you find some time, do take a ride on Queenstown’s ‘Lady of the Lake’, which was first launched in 1912 – the same year as the Titanic left shore. One of the oldest tourist attractions here, and said to be only remaining passenger-carrying coal-fired steamship in the Southern Hemisphere, it takes you on a mesmerising tour. Have some hot chocolate while you’re aboard, and soak in the beauty of the landscape.
Queenstown can make you forget your worldly worries. Good enough reason to go there.