Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Queenstown Round Two!

Our second foray into Queenstown began with the group sleepily climbing onto a bus at 9am Friday morning (Thursday nights are big party nights here in Dunedin, students are too impatient to wait until Friday nights for the weekend to start).

After a four hour ride on a bus that barely managed to climb most of the hills between Dunedin and Queenstown, we jumped out at the banks of the Shotover River. A brief safety talk was given, and then we were loaded onto jetboats and sent spinning down the river. The boat drivers where insanely good, swooping by the sides of the rocky ravine with barely inches to spare and doing 360 degree (or more) spins whenever there was enough room. I still can’t get over the fantastic blue color of the water around here. According to the boat driver that blue color is the result of a mineral from the glaciers that feed many of the rivers in the Fiordlands.  

After dinner that night we visited a different kind of glacier, the Ice Bar. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a bar made entirely out of ice inside a large walk in freezer. Even the glasses were made out of ice!

Chilling with Donna and Nikki at the Ice Bar

The next day the real fun began. We packed our bags and piled back on the bus bright and early, heading to one of the Great Walks of New Zealand, The Routeburn Track.

We started from the Routeburn Shelter and (some of us) hiked all the way up to Conical Hill and back for a total of 9 hours of hiking.

Routeburn Shelter and Conical Hill circled in red. Click for an expanded view

It was easily one of the most gorgeous hikes I've ever been on.  Even the slight drizzle as we stepped off the bus seemed to enhance the beauty of the beech forest. The variability of the environment as we trudged along was astounding as well. Every time we turned a corner I wanted to whip out my camera and take more pictures, and that’s pretty much what I ended up doing. I'll leave you with a few of my favorites.

Getting Started!

Still stream in the valley

Grasslands in the valley
Flora at higher elevations

Sheer cliffs and snow capped mountains

From the top of Conical Hill
Selfshot on the way down

One more thing! My flatmate and I are planning a three day trip for a bunch of us to the Kepler Track (another Great Walk) in two weeks. It's gonna be awesome!

Kia Ora!