Monday, November 24, 2014

New Zealand trip diary - day 7

In addition to what I’ve mentioned so far, Queenstown has several casinos, and across the street from us is “the Club,” which bills itself as the city’s only “gentleman’s club.” I went online to research the place, but couldn’t find much (its own website is mostly “under construction,” even though the establishment seems to have been around for years); however, I did locate a local news clip from a year or two ago in which a junior reporter does a live broadcast from there and gets humiliated. Anyway, I could easily slip across one evening after Ally falls asleep, but then of course I wouldn’t be able to write about it here.

The hotel serves a great breakfast, but it takes forever to arrive – this must be deliberate, in the belief that if it comes too quickly it won’t seem sufficiently classy. We wanted to get out by 10 am, which should have been easy, but we spent too much time waiting for eggs. Our plan was to walk the “Queenstown trail” to Arrowtown, some 26km away, a historic gold mining town; the route leads partly along the lake and then through the mountains, and seemed to be well within our grasp. After about an hour of walking, along a very easy, pleasant trail, we’d accomplished only about 4 km, and since it seemed likely only to get hotter and steeper, we decided Arrowtown was a long shot for today. At that point we lost our momentum and wandered rather aimlessly by the lake for a while (by no means wasted time, as you probably couldn't contrive an ugly or even a plain spot there if you tried) before rejuvenating a bit and setting out to walk a bit further – as far, we decided, as the Lower Shotover Bridge, which didn’t seem like too daunting an object. However, we just kept going on and on without any bridge ever coming into sight, so that we started to think we might be making good progress toward Arrowtown anyway; later on we determined that we’d taken an indirect route that added something like 4 km onto the trip, and after over three hours of walking weren’t even halfway. At that point we decided we’d had a nice enough walk for one day (especially in the wake of our big climb yesterday) but it still took a while to get off the trails and back to some version of civilization (specifically, an industrial park). Eventually we went into a gardening centre and a woman called a cab for us, so that's how we got back to town. Then of course it took forever to pick the right lunch place (roasted vegetable salad!). Anyway, I think every trip has at least one day when things don’t exactly end up as planned, but it never really matters. Once again, virtually every step was marked by gorgeous natural compositions of size and colour (looking at the photos, I see there’s virtually never any red in them, as if they’re observing a majesty beyond earthly blood and passion).

In January, Queenstown's holding a music festival featuring Heart and Foreigner and Three Dog Night! And Paul Simon and Sting are performing here in January, almost exactly a year after we saw them back home. I guess you never know what global superstars are up to. In the meantime, one might have to settle for the nightly Queenstown Pub Crawl, the perfect way to meet new people and have a great night out while saving $$$, which for $35 gets you a free signature drink at each of five bars as well as other unique drink discounts. The flyer, with little apparent irony, points the reader in the direction of The other big attraction in town is Fergburger, famous for its high-quality and unique burgers (including the Cockadoodle Oink, the Chief Wiggum and the Sweet Bambi). It’s open 21 hours a day and apparently it can take as long as an hour to get served – we’ve walked by several times and it’s always surrounded by a swarm, as if people had just spotted Taylor Swift. Anyway, the cab driver brought this up, and when I said burgers didn’t really excite me much, he entirely agreed. The difference though was that I was saying burgers didn’t really excite me much, whereas he was saying they didn’t excite him as an actual meal, only as a snack.
From the “testimony” section of the Fergburger website: “Favourite fergburger moment was when a police woman turned up to grab some food and a smashed irish bloke was convinced she was a stripper and kept saying she had a nice arse.” Of course, that particular piece of testimony doesn’t tell you that much about the food. The Ferg empire also includes a baker’s next door: we have been in there, but of course it’s nowhere near as popular – maybe the business mostly comes from people grabbing a snack while they wait for the burger. Queenstown also has all kinds of opportunities for adventure sports – bungy jumping, tandem hang gliding, rafting, jet boating jumping, skydiving, canyon swinging, baton hoisting…actually I just added in that last one. Between the natural wonders and the unnatural embellishments, you can see why people might say it's as good as it gets.

We wandered around for a while in the evening, and everything felt content and quietly celebratory – people sitting on the beach or the surrounding low walls, watching the sun descend toward the mountains. We ate in Eichardt’s, a tapas bar attached to a hotel. A woman came in and greeted the barman, taking him by surprise; she sat down and talked as he made her a drink, and we overheard a lot of it – she’s here for the weekend from Melbourne; he’s off soon for six months in Europe. It made Queenstown seem like a town of infinite possibility. Then we had a couple of drinks in Pog Mahone’s Irish pub, where it was hard to imagine the possibility of them ever talking the crowd into accepting closing time.

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