Monday, April 25, 2011


This was our busiest day so far!  We had opted to omit the Milford Sound trip as it requires 5 hours of driving one way, two hours of cruise in the amazing fjords, then 5 hours driving back.  Instead we had a jam-packed day of activities, starting with river rafting on the Shotover River.  Wow, just fantastic.  We suited up in heavy wetsuits and booties, jackets and lifejackets before departing in the van for the put-in point upriver.  Aside from the amazing scenery going through the canyon, we also rafted through the world’s longest river tunnel (170 meters) which was built to redirect the river in order to get boats further up river (around the rapids).  Unfortunately for the Australian builders, it was not engineered properly so they had to abandon the project at a huge loss of millions of dollars.  The Shotover River is the most alluvial-gold-productive river (per kilometer) in the world.  There are all sorts of artifacts from sluices to steam engines that were left by miners in the late 1800’s and 1900’s.  The drive down was a bit harrowing on the one lane access road built along the mountain sides…pretty exciting!  BIG drops with no guardrails.  Many people choose to helicopter in instead of driving down but flying through the canyon looked pretty scary too.  There is a very cool mountain bike track (one of the best in the country) that follows the old trail down.  The rafting trip took about 2 hours on the river—no one fell out of the boat and no one capsized, the guides were excellent.  We finished just before the bridge where the Shotover jet boats run.

After a picnic lunch in the warm sun, we walked next door to the Shotover jet boats and donned our raincoats and lifejackets.  I was bummed to learn that no cameras were allowed, but that is to make sure you hold on tightly at all times!  The boats have two big engines that pump through 200 gallons of water per minute and operate on 98% octane gas.  They rocket through the canyon at 50 miles per hour, getting extremely close to the edges and can travel in about 3 inches of water.  Quite thrilling indeed.  For future reference, the seat next to the driver is the driest (that’s where I sat!).


We were running a bit late for the Gondola Mountain adventures we had in store and took the gondola up to the restaurant area.  Then we took a ski lift up higher in order to get in carts and come back downhill on a luge track, great fun with very nice views! 

Luge with a view!

One ride and then we headed to the zipline tour – Ziptrek Ecotours. 

fantastic views of Lake Wakapitu from zipline platforms

They offered lots of conservation and sustainability information at each platform (we did four zips, there are actually six—ending in Queenstown at the base of the mountain).  The hike back up to the restaurant was pretty grueling but good exercise before a big dinner.  One excellent bit of info I learned and it seems like a great organization is Kiva.  They have a loan program to help people help themselves around the world.  Check them out and support!  98% of the loans are repaid and money can be loaned elsewhere.

One more luge ride and we had a delicious buffet dinner at the restaurant overlooking the lights of Queenstown.

When we returned to the lodge we had a raffle for the items that Aidan had picked up along the way, including our group mascot, a stuffed kiwi named Puka Nui (means fat tummy in Maori)...Aidan awarded  the New Zealand banner to Mike Cozza, who was ever-helpful on the trip!  But the whole group was wonderful.

Puka Nui (sorry he's sideways!)

Evan picking his prize---a piece of bungy cord


  1. KIVA was introduced to me a while back. Reminds me I have loans that have been paid back that I need to re loan!

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