What would be more appropriate than starting my first blog post about my first day in Queenstown? But a bit of background first. I’ve lived in New Zealand for over 17 years, my whole life actually before I moved to Los Angeles. But this was the first time I’ve really seen any of the South Island. After watching Lord of the Rings a several times and having numerous questions asked about what the NZ landscape is like, I decided it was finally time for me to visit Queenstown.
So I hop off the plane and wait for my cousin S at the airport, which is actually located in Frankton, a 10 minute drive from Queenstown, to pick us up. After a quick lunch, we head to Arrowtown which is a famous old gold mining town. Many of the towns around the Central Otago region were built during the gold rush days after gold was discovered around 1860s. At one point this area was filled with hundred of settlements of gold miners who had travelled from over the world, namely Australia, California and China to mine for gold. Arrowtown was one of the main towns left after most of the others had been abandoned and left to decay once all the gold was gone. Today, Arrowtown looks quaint and attracts a number of tourists every year. The town is made of one main street, Buckingham St., where most of the shops are. A short walk down the hill is the Arrow River where the men used to pan for gold. However, a few metres down from the river is the old Chinese settlement where the Chinese miners lived. They lived a harsh life, living in small huts that looked barely large enough for oompa loompas to live in, on the outskirts of Arrowtown. The Europeans has invited the Chinese and Japanese miners to NZ to help them mine the gold but discriminated against and segregated them, forcing them to live in tougher conditions. It was quite unsettling to see the ruins of some of the houses which had collapsed over time or had been washed away by floods from the Arrow River.
Next we drove into Queenstown to catch the sunset. The town was buzzing with busy energy like Auckland. It has a lot of similarities; it’s hectic and surprisingly traffic can be very slow. There were more tourists than locals. But the ambiance was very laid back and down to earth and everybody was very active, ready for their next adventure, be it the man holding skis or the van driving with a hand glider strapped to its roof. We made our way to the Skyline Gondola and rode up to the top where we enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner next to magnificent views of Lake Wakatipu. The lake, 80 km long, is the third largest lake in New Zealand (behind Lake Taupo and Lake Te Anau) and the longest. From the observatory, you can see the TSS Earnslaw (iconic local twin screw steamer, hence TSS) that has been sailing down Lake Wakatipu since 1912, the year the Titanic took her maiden voyage. Within view is the ledge bungee, paragliding site, and of course Queenstown itself. The season was also perfect for lupines that only blooms for 2-3 weeks a year. They were spread up and down the whole mountain in a lovely coat of blue, pink and purple flowers.
Just before we left, W and I rolled down the slopes on the luge ride. Very fun and thrilling while we watched the sunset set. You think Queenstown is gorgeous during the day. But it’s even more beautiful just as the bright orange and reds from the last peeks of the sun sparkle on the water while casting a misty glow of yellow light over the town. So after one day in wondrous lands, I was ready and EXCITED about my adventures the following day.