South Island: Last Day in Queenstown

Monday the 16th

Finally, today was the day we got to sleep in. Thank goodness we planned our last day in Queenstown to be low key because we all needed the rest and flexible schedule. The only thing we had to do was get to our campsite near Castle Hill so we could be there and able to climb the next morning before our flight home. Our days had been so busy so far that I realized I hadn’t really spent any time getting to know Queenstown (in the daylight). So a few friends and I ventured out for a late breakfast and cuppa as we wondered down the streets. It really is a beautiful town and not at all what I was expecting. I thought that Queenstown was going to be as urbanized as Auckland, with lots of cars and hustle-and-bustle. But I was wrong. It kind of reminded me of Vermont; purposefully relaxed. It is definitely a tourist destination, don’t get me wrong. But it wasn’t hard to find a little cafĂ© on the waterfront situated just right for people and nature watching—with delicious cappuccino and churros. What else could a girl ask for?

Around mid-afternoon my van decided to hit the road for Castle Hill. The other van decided that they wanted to skip the climbing and go south to Dunedin instead. From what I had heard from other friends who had been to Dunedin, it is a glorified college town with penguins. Yes seeing penguins would have been cool but I really had my heart set on climbing (are we surprised…?). So we said goodbye and parted ways. It took us ALL day to get to the Castle Hill area, and by the time we did get there it was pouring rain (not a good sign for us rock climbers), pitch dark out, and we were out of gas. We pulled into numerous stations to fill up but none were open or required a certain kind of credit card which we didn’t have. Eventually we gave up the hunt and asked for directions. We were closer than we thought! Tensions were a little high from being in the car for most of the day so we were all relieved when we finally saw the sign to the campgrounds we were looking for. It really was difficult to see so as we were pulling down the long driveway into the unknown and unfamiliar field where we were supposed to park we all felt a little creeped-out. We turned the car off and were trying to figure out exactly where we were supposed to pay for staying there was a knock at the passenger-side window that made us all jump. The proprietor of this fine establishment had come out of nowhere to give us the scoop. Little did we know that this too was a powered campsite—win! But we had to sign in and pay for the night. When we asked how to do this he said, “Follow me to that tree over there”. Yeah, because that doesn’t sound like you’re going to murder us by the tree…. So Eric and Jessie went together to get us all squared away while the rest of us waited at the ready in case they called for help. Right before I was about to send a search part for them, Eric and Jessie climb into the van, shut the door, and start bursting out laughing. As it turns out, our lovely host (while yes being kind of creepy) was very nice, and also only had one leg and liked to make really awkward jokes about it. The absurdity of it all, on top of a long day, on top of a long trip got us all giggling. Relieved that we weren’t going to get murdered in the night, we made a quick dinner with the food we had left in the van and went to bed. I found it particular hard to sleep (again) out of excitement for the promise of some really awesome bouldering the next day. If the weather holds out….
Fun Fact: The oldest building in Queenstown is William’s Cottage that has been renovated into a little shop. It was originally built in 1864. William Gilbert Rees established the area’s first farm in 1860 after the Maori greenstone hunters started to lose interest in the land.

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