Returning from the Milford loop encouraged me to extend my stay at Queenstown so that most of our group would stay together (and be on ET's bus) for the onward journey.
Reinstalled at the Base hostel, this stint in adrenalin city was a much more subdued and leisurely affair. Having had our fill of snow sports, jet boats and sky-dives most of us opted for the cheaper events market - tramping in the hills surrounding the town, relaxing boat cruises, the Luge, hot chocolate in an old bath-house and playing frisbee golf. Sadly for my wallet this frugality did not extend to matters gastronomique as visits to emporia such as Vudu larder and a return to Fergs put a bulge in the belly and a dent in the finances.
The walk up to the gondola station could well be described as bracing (a reminder that Bev, Emma and I had underperforming lungs and legs while Mark and Frida seemed to bound uphill like mountain goats!) but we were rewarded with sensational views and the Luge, a concrete racetrack which we negotiated in very small 3-wheeled creations at as high a speed as we could muster - the ultimate winner and Luge Formula 1 champion turned out to be Bev, much to Mark's displeasure.
The Queenstown Hill walk was even harder, indeed just getting to the start of the walk involved climbing the steepest streets and steps I have ever encountered but again our payback was great photo opportunities at the summit.
The Million Dollar cruise falls a little short of its own billing but the leisurely trip around part of the lake, allied to a very relaxed and knowledgeable captain, was just the ticket at the time. We also saw the lakeshore coffee shop and Winston Churchills launch on this trip, both of which merited individual visits afterwards
And so to one of the highlights of Queenstown, frisbee golf around the botanical gardens. Who would have thought that spinning a plastic disc, popular over three decades ago, would reveal a manic desire to win in the most placid of people - with the added benefit of providing so many laughs? All five of us were borderline useless at frisbee which just added to the group's enjoyment - we didnt keep scores as that would have taken too long but at the end of 18 "holes" it no longer mattered a jot who had triumphed.
Yet another bonus in Queenstown was running into Rich Brown, or Oily Bastard as he labelled himself early on the tour. Having missed his bus the day before Oily agreed to meet up with John and I for drinks on the eve of his last chance bus (the last one guaranteed to ensure he met his flight home). Having introduced Oily to the latest set of girls on our Stray bus we three set off for a live music pub and a supposedly quiet, or at least sensible, nights drinking. After 2 beers and enduring a heavy metal rendition of Britney Spears' "Oops I did it again" we decided to try and head off the girls on their pub crawl by completing the route in reverse. We finally met up in one of the bars where Oily scammed us a free round of Jaeger bombs by representing himself as a Stray Bus driver. Oily also gave Bev a demonstration of his dancefloor skills before attempting what Bev described as "mouth rape" on her - the boy has got some cohones! Given the amount of alcohol consumed it seemed unlikely that Oily would make his early morning bus but later reports sconfirmed that he kept on schedule by not going to bed that night, prefering to drink right through!
A more unusual night out was the visit to the Ice Bar which was exactly as described. Although quite small the bar provided some warm clothing, a variety of interesting ice sculptures and a free colourful cocktail drink in glasses made of ice. Time in the bar is strictly monitored but to be honest, at that temperature the time allowed was ample - worth a visit for curiosity value alone if you book early and get a deal on the tickets.
Queenstown is the self styled fun and adrenalin capital of New Zealand, a title which it lives up to very well, whilst still being a really nice place to just chill out. A must see stop on the tour of the South Island.