There are trips that are so grand that they just overwhelm your ability to process them with words. You try to jot one word down after another to describe what the place is like, but then you realize that you’ve used up your vocabulary of hyperboles and expletives on lesser experiences. You pause and try to reimagine things. This is what our backpacking trip to Queenstown, New Zealand was like. This is also why it took me so long to write this down.
Queenstown is New Zealand’s premiere adventure town. Some describe it as the adventure capital of the world, and it’s not hard to see why. Along its streets are shops upon shops of adventure outfitters ready to take you on almost every imaginable outdoor adrenaline fix. Alpine mountaineering, rock climbing, rappelling, skydiving, bungee jumping, canyoning, rafting, skiing, snowboarding, and yes… mountain biking.
People here like to point out that the ridiculous postmodern sport of bungee jumping was invented here. Why would anyone want to strap ropes around their ankles and jump from a bridge? I seriously don’t know. I guess for the Kiwis here, the need for a different kind of rush is just overpowering.
But I didn’t come here for the bungee (although my wife who has tried it before in Macau was disturbingly considering it), I came here for the biking. Just the biking–because as much as I would’ve loved to try out all these other adventure sports, the spirit was willing but the wallet was weak, so to speak.
We landed in Queenstown after a multiple day bus and ferry trip from Wellington on North Island, to Christchurch on South Island. On the way to Queenstown, we were already awestruck by the beauty of the surroundings. Maybe it’s because we’ve never seen an alpine scenery before, or maybe it’s because the Southern Alps just really radiate magic.
I don’t want to keep making LOTR references here, but damn the Middle Earth vibe of this place! For someone grown used to the suffocating crowdedness of Manila, traveling through this place with its vast blue skies and seemingly endless empty stretches of green meadows and mountains was like being in another planet.
We arrived in Queenstown at around 7:00 PM, but there was still a lot of sunlight in the sky, like it was 4:30 PM in Manila. It reminded us that we were on the southern hemisphere, where the days get longer as December approached, the complete opposite of what happens north of the equator like in Manila.
After dumping our backpacks at the hostel, we went around Queenstown and to get a better sense of the place.
Some people say you should never go meet your idol, lest you get disappointed. Same goes for going to the destination of your dreams, they say–lest the place lose its aura of dreaminess for you, and also leave you disappointed.
Queenstown was different. It did not just live up to our expectations, it exceeded them.
After getting the cheapest food we could get our hands on, and a few good beers (because there should always be room for beer!), it was time to go back to our hostel and plan the days ahead. Of course, the next day would be spent biking.
Like I said, Queenstown has a lot of shops for every kind of adventure. We scouted several bike shops where we could rent bikes for a whole day of exploration. We settled on the Torpedo7 bike shop, because the staff looked chill.
We got a couple of Giant bikes with XCM forks and Deore and Alivio groupsets plus helmets, tool bags with spare tubes. We also got a map of the bike trail system around Queenstown and the surrounding towns.
The skies were gray, a light rain was falling. It was very very cold but our moods were up. We pedaled around the lake for a while trying to get our bearings. There seemed to be just too many places you could go to.
Originally, I wanted to go to a point along the Shotover river and see the bridge where bungee jumping was invented. But on the way there we sorta got lost as Google Maps made us take a road leading to the highway where cars were speeding at around 100kph!
The only nice thing about it was we got a much closer look at the mountains framing Queenstown. They were aptly called The Remarkables, because well they’re quite remarkable.
An attempt to correct our lostness then sent us to a very picturesque farm road. It would have been perfect if only we didn’t wind up in a private property with a large sign saying: Trespassers will be Absolutely Prosecuted!
Since we didn’t want to spend our vacation in jail, we doubled back and looked at the analog map we got from the bike rental and found ourselves on a more scenic track. The map said Jack’s Point wasn’t too far away so we thought we should try to ride to it, thinking it must be some kind of vantage point where we could get a better view of Wakatipu Lake and the surrounding mountains.
In between numerous stops to take photos and just soaking up the beauty of the place, we had already used up practically the whole morning and afternoon. But Jack’s Point was such a treat. I’ll let the pictures do the talking from here on since I might just end up repeating words like “awesome, brilliant, magnificent, petmalu, etc.”
We started exploring the Queenstown countryside late in the morning, it was already 4:00PM when we started to head back, regretfully because there was still so much light and so many places still to go. But the bike shop where we rented the bikes closed at around 5:00PM then and we didn’t want to keep them waiting. In New Zealand, most shops are very strict with their working hours.
It was a most interesting day of biking, and I knew I had to go for some more. But that would have to wait for another day as we still had to go to Milford Sound.
If you’re interested in a more detailed travel guide to Queenstown, check out Travel Up’s excellent writeup!