Greetings from the opposite hemisphere again. I kind of adopted Queenstown as my resting camp for a day or two. Queenstown started as a gold-mining area (they were the richest rivers per kilometer in the world) and is the launching point of every extreme sport you can imagine. It grew again as the birthplace of bungee jumping; so I went out to watch some of the crazy folk throw themselves off bridges. They have canyoning, climbing, jetboating, paragliding, 4WD tours, and all kinds of stuff. The weather is almost exactly the same as Oregon, and there are lots of wineries down here. It is fall down here and the whole area is beautiful. I just missed the peak colors, but there are still lots of gold, yellow and red leaves around so I took a drive out to the old mining town of Arrowtown to see the old settlements and trees.
After that, I went out to Te Anau, which is right on the edge of the fjordlands. The fjordland area in the southwest corner of the south island is amazing. It’s a strange place full of glacially formed fjords. It was formed by the Australian plate forcing up the Pacific plate at a rate of 1cm/year – which is absolutely lightning speed in geological terms. There are tons of multi-day hikes out there. Easily enough to spend a whole summer. This includes the Milford hike which is considered one of the best in the world. However, right now the huts along the track are shut down and pickups to and from most of the bigger tracks are shut down so I won’t be doing any of them. Cruises are the next best way to see the fjords, so I took a cruise out in Milford Sound – all I can say is that it was spectacular. The drive out was equally amazing with near vertical 3000ft granite walls. It was freezing cold in the morning, a fact some backpackers learned the hard way when their car hit a wet, icy patch and they rolled their car. They were fine, but it took them most of the day to get their car towed out.
On my way back to Queenstown I caught a few Lord of the Rings filming sites – the edge of Fangorn forest where the orcs were killed in movie 2, the beach where Frodo takes off across when the Fellowship breaks up, the attack on the fleeing Rohans, and a few others. I’m now back in Queenstown and plan on doing some horseback riding tomorrow in Glenorchy. After tomorrow, I’ll be heading up the west coastline thru Mt Aspiring National Park. Looking forward to seeing Franz Joseph glacier and maybe do some heli-hiking. That’s where they fly you up and drop you on the glacier to climb through the crevasses – if the weather is good.