Queenstown (part two: Gondolas and Luges)

As a result of my commitment to reducing my load and making travel easier, I decided I needed another pair of shorts. I wandered around town and found an outdoor gear store. The prices were not what I was willing to pay, but an employee that offered to help turned out to be from the states. Her name was Brigit, and she’d been in NZ for a couple of years. We talked for a while about her experience immigrating, and life in NZ since moving here.

I commented on the cost of shorts, and she agreed that they were pricey. She bought most of her clothes second hand. She also offered some advice. When she moved here, the one thing she brought with her was her gear. Apparently, any camping/climbing/outdoor gear is quite a bit more expensive than in the US.

She pointed me towards one of the thrift stores in town, and suggested that when I go up the mountain to ride the luge, that I take a few friends, so that I could race them down. I headed back to the hostel to try to recruit a couple of folks, but couldn’t get anyone to come along.

The luge course was above the gondola, so there was a second lift that took you to the top. The cost included round trip rides on the gondola. It was something like $17 for two rides or $20 for seven. That seemed like a no brainer to me, and I prepared myself for an afternoon of speed.

Here’s a view from the chair lift looking NE towards the town of Arthur’s Point:
arthurspoint.jpg

I wasn’t ready to jump out of an airplane with a parachute, or off of a bridge with a giant rubber band tied to my ankles. Shooting down the inside of a concrete pipe twisting down the mountain, sounded like it could be pretty thrilling, so I decided to try riding the luge. Besides, I knew the trip to the top would provide some great views of town, the lake, the Remarkables, and valleys that stretched in a few directions.

After the gondola I rode the chair lift to the top of the luge course. I was disappointed that it wasn’t the concrete tube I had imagined, and that the luge sleds didn’t seem to be very speed oriented, but figured I’d give it a go, and see what kind of fun I could have with it.
luge.jpg
Surprisingly, the first ride down was more hair raising than I had expected. There were a number of times I felt that I could have flown right off the mountain if I hadn’t braked hard enough, so I took it pretty slow. By the seventh ride however, I was racing down the course, leaving little tourist kids in my wake.

Before heading down into town, I decided to take advantage of the altitude, and hiked up from the top of the luge run, over into the next valley to see what I could see.
lakewakatipu.jpg
Back in town at the hostel I met two dutch women, a german fellow, as well as a Texan guy (from whom I immediately tried to disassociate myself).
We talked about their experiences traveling, skydiving, bungie jumping, and all of the other extreme activities that make Queenstown so famous.

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