Sex, Drugs, and Rock’n’Roll
(Note: I would have loved to add some pictures to this post, but Google Blogger seems to be broken.)
Yeah. So ZQN then. It’s easy to hate this place. It’s very much like a mixture of Switzerland and Estes Park, CO. But on the other hand, there’s so much great scenery and nature on its doorstep which costs nothing. So I think I found the right approach: Enjoy the views and hikes and beat up a couple of backpackers in town in the evening for fun and exercise. Bloody hippies, they wouldn’t even fight back at first, where’s the sport in that? Anyway, ZQN brought the first real peak, my good old friend Ben Lomond. I had been up there in late March 2004 – back then ZQN was completely different from today. But the mountain hasn’t changed much. Back then, I was with a friend and we basically ran up and down in ca. 3,5 hours altogether. Crazy. Our knees hurt for months afterwards. This time I was smarter (and the Reisebegleitung is very much against running anyway) and we walked at a normal pace. The peak being at ca 1748m it is a nice 1400m altitude difference, so a good leg stretcher to get into the mood. And no, we did not cheat and walked all the way from the town center. We picked the perfect day, cloudy in the morning on the way up, but it cleared when we approached the saddle and was sunny afterwards. Ben Lomond is great not just because of the exercise but of course the views, the views, the views … BEAUTIFUL. And not too many idiots around! And you don’t even need to drive anywhere. I love this guy.
The next day was sunny and really hot, we took off early and drove up the Remarkables road – fantastic viewpoints along the way and two very nice hikes at the top: Lake Alta and Shadow Basin. The Reisebegleitung took one look at the ascent to Shadow Basin and decided to wait in the car as her legs were still sore from the day before. I welcomed the chance to get some real exercise. So everybody was happy and what a great view you have from up there. It’s not advertised anywhere really, there was nobody around, I was alone on top of the world with killer views. Can’t get much better. And it’s a very honest climb: up, up, and more up. Don’t miss this one. Again thank you to Scott Cook for the great advice on driving up this road in summer.
We’d spent the first two nights at Pinewood, which was really ok, although we were in the non-backpacker section of the place („standard double room“), I have the feeling that the backpacker part of the property is probably much noisier, but do I give a fuck? Not really. We then switched accommodation to Hippo Lodge – nostalgia rules, I had stayed there on my first trip to NZ in 2004 and it hasn’t changed much or rather only for the better. In my eyes still the best budget accommodation in ZQN. Friendly folks, clean, comfortable, excellent location (love the steep climb).
Next stop was Wanaka. We’d been there three years ago and loved it, much better than ZQN, and we needed some change anyway so we decided to drive up to Wanaka. Accommodation was at first hard to find but then we got lucky – I was talking to the lady at Matterhorn Lodge and they didn’t have any vacancies but in typical NZ fashion she knew a guy who had a house … you get the picture. So a few minutes later we were all set, 45 minutes later we were in Wanaka and picked up the keys at the Brookvale Motel and drove another five minutes out of town to Albert Town. And guess what, we got really lucky. Nice house, nice room, perfect spot. There were gazillions of running tracks along the Clutha river on the doorstep, lots of forest and birds, very picturesque. Wanaka itself, again, very nice, but I’m not sure … if I’m reading the signs correctly they might be tempted to go down the same road that Queenstown did … only the future will tell, it would be a pity. And here another secret revealed: The BEST BURGER (well at least veggie burger) IN THE WORLD is served at Red Star Burgers (26 Ardmore St, across the street from the doc office). Fan-tastic! Not only do they have four different veggie choices, they really do something different than the usual „veggie pattie“. AND, they do bloody good smoothies as well. Sounds too good to be true? Go there and see for yourself. I love this place!
Next day we tackled another peak, namely Roy’s Peak. It’s only 1578m high with a 1300m difference between parking lot and peak, but it’s a very very honest climb: straight up, no deviations. The first two hours is through sheep country, so you had to watch your step and of course resist temptation. They are so cuddly and hot, grrrrrrrrrrrr! But – No More Sodomy! Sodomy parties are, btw, the real reason why the Berlin airport has been delayed again and again, but try to talk to Wowereit about that! Btt, the views from the top are smashing – especially on a sunny day like this. Snow capped peaks, the deep blue of Lake Wanaka … heavenly. The Reisebegleitung had turned back ca. halfway up and on my lonely way down I met a nice Aussie guy (on the other end of a sheep). He turned out to be a psychologist and had actually published with Mouton before (in Humor), it’s a small world. We had a nice chat about (risk) perception and the uselessnes of AI’s cognitive models. After that, back to Red Star for more burgers and then back to ZQN for our last day in NZ! More of that later.