New Year's Eve 2020 I arrive in Auckland from Sydney Australia. Checking into the Verandahs Backpackers hostel, I had plenty of time to settle and get ready for a party at Fhloston Paradise just across the street from Verandahs. Fhloston Paradise was the name of the vacation-cruise planet from The Fifth Element SciFi movie.
You don’t need to be a Lord of the Rings fan to enjoy this enchanting village of Hobbiton just a 2-hour drive from Auckland. Although this is a movie set it doesn’t appear as such. It’s an idyllic village with fantasy-like landscaping of flowers, vegetation, fruit trees and walking paths. It’s like stepping into another world, the world of Hobbits. You’ll even get to enjoy a complimentary pub drink at the Green Dragon Inn.
As my Uber ride from the airport arrived in downtown Queenstown my eyes opened wide seeing myriads of interesting looking places to eat. I already knew I would have trouble choosing and never be able to sample enough of them. Even less than a block from my hostel there were more places to eat than I could manage. I quickly checked into my room and darted out to check out the town.
It’s my last day in Queenstown and while I’m having breakfast at the nearby Starbuck’s I’m thinking about hiking to the Skyline via the Tiki Trail to have a view and checkout the luge which sounds like a fun ride. I already had a day of rest after the Routeburn track and the legs are ready for more. I walk towards the Skyline Gondola in Queenstown which is also the start of the Tiki Trail via the Hammy Track.
I start the day with another beautiful weather day and an 8am pick-up in front of the Nomads Queenstown hostel by Guided Walks NZ. I booked this trip for $199 NZ about $133 USD. Compared to other offers/guides this one seemed the best value for money. Our goal is to day hike the Routeburn Track from the Routeburn Shelter on the Glenorchy side of the track. I’m the last one to be picked up before hitting the road.
It was an early morning rise for me to walk over to the Southern Discoveries center for a 7:00am departure. It was just a short walk from the Nomads hostel on this beautiful fresh morning. The moon was out big and bright just over the mountain peak.
Of the many adventures to choose from in Queenstown, river boarding was something different for me to check out. I booked an afternoon trip from Serious Fun Riverboarding in downtown Queenstown which is the same place to meet up for your shuttle transfer with your guides to the river. They are located on Shotover street just across from the famous Fergburger.
As I’m sitting at the Boardwalk restaurant/bar sipping some Happy Hour champagne and toasting my arrival to Queenstown I spy a jet boat that is painted like a leopard shark. I had discovered this is the Hydro Attack tour. I’m posting pics on Facebook of the lake view and talking about this jet boat ride, thinking I want to do this. My friends are saying yes, yes do it! Like I needed that much convincing 😉
I arrive at the Queenstown airport via Air New Zealand from Auckland just after 2pm. Exiting the plane was via the rear ramp onto the tarmac. I see this jagged mountain ridge line with just a bit of snow still remaining at the top peak. I already feel this place is going to be awesome!
In the Maori language, wai (water) and tomo (hole or shaft) name the small village of Waitomo on the North Island of New Zealand. It has extensive underground cave systems famous for glow-worms that light up the caves. The tour operator in Waitomo, Black Water Rafting, has a variety of tour levels for the cave systems. I was privileged to discover and join the Blackwater River Rafting tour called the Black Abyss, the most extensive tour option (5hrs) they have featuring abseiling down a 35 meter hole, zip lining in the dark, rafting with inner tubes in the cave river, and finally climbing up water fall to get out of the cave. This was quite the magical, exciting and surreal experience. You just can’t believe you’re there doing these things.