Sunday, January 22, 2012

Downhilling in Queenstown

View from the Skyline gondola- snow on the Remarkable mountains! Bungy jumping platform is in the lower right
We rolled into Queenstown around lunch time, planning to stay for a few hours or overnight at best, then roll out to drive towards Mt Cook.  The drive from Te Anau had been spectacular- a cold snap the night before left the mountains topped with snow and it was exceedingly scenic all along the way.  But back to Qtn: we arrived with kind of low expectations.  Sure the natural setting is gorgeous, said the kiwis with whom we'd sought route advice along the way, but it's really a spot for people who want to go bar hopping, or bungy jumping.  Twenty somethings like it, said another person, strongly implying that forty-somethings like ourselves would hate it.

We took a second gondola to go luging
We looked around a bit, glanced in at the holiday park that was right in town, and decided that we'd just stay a few hours. The holiday park was right near a gondola right up the side of the local mountains, so we headed up. Dan signed us up for a couple of luge runs.  We noticed downhill mountain bikers going up in the lift- kind of cool, I thought. But I wouldn't feel comfortable doing something like that. After all, the last time I rode a regular cross country mountain bike I crashed badly and injured my knee, something that I've been recovering from for the last couple of years.

But after wandering around town a bit after the luging (which was pretty tame, more of a kids thing), I got kind of interested in downhilling.  Dan sealed the deal by investigating bike rentals.  We'd stay overnight in Qtn, then downhill the next day.

Dan with rental downhill bike and protective gear. I had similar gear, but no good pics alas

Partial garmin track
Suffice it to say downhilling was a blast! I stuck to the beginner run (Strava profile of a full run, with a partial run in the beginning is above- I started the garmin late) but did it four times with increasing speed and confidence.

Trail map: the black runs look scary! I did only the green run, but Dan did one of the blue runs as well
The bike weighed a freaking ton, but it was very forgiving and was just a blast to run over bumps, around banked corners, and even get a little air on some of the drops.  It was really neat to blast down the hill (relatively speaking, as we were going rather slowly compared to the more experienced folks on the run). I did feel a bit nervous at the start, especially on the corners which had sheer drop offs, but the joy of riding fast downhill kind of calmed my nerves and my confidence increased throughout the day.

Anyhow, to wrap up the Qtn experience, we had a blast there. Sure, it's super touristy and very youth-oriented. But, compared to the average US mega-tourist destination, it did not feel very crowded and we enjoyed the downhilling plus had some decent Thai food for dinner. What fun!

Backtracking a bit, we came upon this coal-fired train on our drive to Qtn. It's the Kingston Flyer, and we could climb into the locomotive even though the thing was stoked with coal and gushing stream. (I love New Zealand's lack of concern about liability.  I practically broke my ankle getting out of the cab and no one was concerned about suit)

And this is a shot from our campground that morning in Te Anau-- after a freeing night with heavy rain, we woke up to snow capped peaks. Crazy weather for summer, but very pretty.

1 comment:

djconnel said...

Nice! You clearly dusted me every time, riding into the corners with enthusiasm. It was a fun day!