Last week I returned to Ottawa from Queenstown, New Zealand after spending nine days there. This is a small beautiful town that reminded me very much of Banff, Alberta. It is a touristic town surrounded by mountains with many exciting things to do. I arrived on Waitangi Day, which is the national day of New Zealand. I was welcomed with celebrations from all over.
In my research I learned that mountain biking is very popular in Queenstown. There are many excellent trails, both downhill and cross country. I was excited to learn that I was able to rent the same bike I ride back home. The only difference was, much like how we drive on opposite sides of the road, the front and rear brakes are reversed. This took some time getting used to, and remains to be my excuse for a painful crash.
Queenstown has some great paragliding. This was just outside of town, up in the valley, with some incredible views. However, it will be the first and last time I do this. I'm living proof that paragliding can cause motion sickness. Nonetheless, it was quite the experience.
I also had the chance to ride in a multi-passenger jet boat. The unique design of this boat allows it to travel in as little as ten centimeters of water at speed, and do 360 spins. We were able to go places only a kayak could go to. However, once stopped, it needs at least one meter of water to get going again.
I was excited to take a ride in a Sea Breacher. This is a very unique machine. It is a two-seat semi-submersible personal watercraft, in the shape of a dolphin, allowing it to maneuver like one as well. I was told there are only 125 of them in the world, and that Hydro Attack was the only company that offers rides to the public. In the search for doing something different, this was a jackpot, and a once in a lifetime experience. Be sure to watch the video below for some great footage.
My next adventure was an afternoon of four wheeling just outside of town. I have some dirt biking experience, but as much on an ATV. It was nice to try something different. We went through all kinds of trails up in the valley and got covered in some refreshing mud.
On my final day I booked a day trip to Milford Sound. This was a 4 hour bus ride with a few stops on the way for sightseeing. The bus driver was very knowledgeable about New Zealand and shared all kinds of interesting information along the way. Below is a picture of a small waterfall at Marion's Falls.
What I found most interesting during the trip was learning about New Zealand's wildlife. The island was free of land mammals before humans arrived. Thus, there was an incredible variety of bird life. As birds evolved, wings became unnecessary for some, as they had no natural predators to fly away from. As a result, several of New Zealand's native birds became flightless. As Maori and Europeans settled New Zealand, they hunted birds and brought predators including rats and stoats. This, and loss of habitat, led to the extinction of a number of birds, and left others endangered. New Zealand's national symbol is the Kiwi, a nocturnal flightless bird with nostrils on the end of its large beak. Unfortunately I did not get to see one, as they are now endangered, and we have different sleeping schedules.
There is also a large quantity of unwanted conifers. These include cedars, pines, firs, cypress, larches, and spruces. They are not indigenous to the land and unfortunately, they are a threat to the native plants and animals. New Zealand is trying their best to bring back their original plant and wildlife, but it seems everything they have tried has an unfortunate consequence.
The one thing that New Zealand is known for is the wool industry. I had never seen so many sheep in my life. There is about 28 million sheep in New Zealand today. That is 7 times more sheep than humans!
Finally, the tour got us to Milford Sound, where the views were stunning. This was a boat cruise that traveled through bodies of water separated by mountains with water falls, finally leading to the open sea. I find the pictures don't do justice of the beauty. Below is a picture of a water fall that is even taller than Niagara Falls. Its size is disguised by the mountain behind it. Take note of how small the red and white cruise boat is beside it. Again, great footage of Milford Sound in the video below.
Of course, none of these adventures would have been possible if the busking wasn't so great in Queenstown. I was very fortunate to be able to perform there and have some great crowds. I have performed in many places around the world, and this place is at the top of the list. I hope to return again in the future.
Below is a video of everything I enjoyed the most in Queenstown. I hope you enjoy!