Back To Queenstown

It’s felt like ages since I had a bit of a holiday (even though I spent, you know, all of January in Thailand) so Thursday morning G and went down to Queenstown for a long weekend.

Queenstown lake walk

I go to Auckland very often for work but I’ve traveled to the South Island quite a lot this year too, mainly to Dunedin with a couple of trips to Christchurch and Balclutha thrown in for good measure. I haven’t done much in those places though–work travel mostly involves me being at a meeting or at a conference for a minimum of eight hours so at the end of the day all I want to do is get takeaways and go to bed early. I am still very grateful to be employed at all, let alone in a job that lets me travel and is generally ace in all regards, so I’m not complaining or anything. It was just time for a little break.

leaving the lake

We chose Queenstown because I hadn’t been there since my backpacking days and G had never been at all. It was either that or Melbourne. In fact we were congratulating ourselves for being sensible and staying within our means when Theresa emailed me and said that she and my bandmate are flatting together now and that my presence was required before he moves back to the UK via Thailand, so…now we’re going to Melbourne too, in a couple of months. Sensible. I regret nothing, because the Queenstown weekend was so fun and great and visiting friends is fun and great, and travel, even it’s pretty near in the grand scheme of life, is fun and great.

bow view

We were just there for five days and it was a fairly low-key little trip. I am no more into adventure sports now than I was seven years ago, so the big excitement was going on an overnight cruise to Doubtful Sound. It did involve quite a lot of bus and ferry rides but it was worth it: everything looked so big and majestic and splendid and amazing and all the other words.

Majestic Scenery, Doubtful Sound

Gareth on a boat

distant waterfalls doubtful sound

We went out to the Tasman Sea from the Sound (more properly known as a fiord) to a seal colony, which was just as delightful as you would expect. The boat had an on-board naturalist who was an extremely nice, extremely self-effacing guy, all dressed up in thick waterproofs as the weather was cycling between sun and rain and wind and hail and more wind. In the evening he gave a powerpoint presentation about Fiordland flora and fauna that was essentially, like, a slideshow of his holiday photos.

seal colony far away

seal colony closeup

When I wasn’t being enjoyably frozen or rained upon there was a nice big stack of nature books inside in the main saloon and bottomless cups of tea, so I was very happy. Right as it was getting dark they lowered down a smaller tender boat and a bunch of single kayaks so I got to do that for a little while (also in the rain). At one point the naturalist pulled the tender boat up to one of the cliffs for a closer look and the kayaks all paddled over to see what he was pointing at: a tui. This time of year there are tui screeching outside my flat every morning, so it was a little like being shown an egret in a borrow pit in Miami, or a crow in a pine tree in Seattle. I love tui so I didn’t care.

waterfall reflection

We got back to Queenstown on Saturday afternoon, which left us plenty of time to freak out about the election and ultimately be very disappointed by National’s overwhelming win; we did have to watch the election results in the motel room because unlike in Wellington, none of the bar TVs in Queenstown would have been showing it. Sunday felt pretty politically sad and resigned, so naturally we thought we’d try paragliding. It turned out to be too windy to actually do it—which was sort of a relief?–but we did get to take the gondola up the mountain and get a bit of perspective on life, looking out over Lake Wakatipu.


The rest of the time we did touristy stuff: went to a very long and luxurious lunch at a winery with some friends of G’s; went to a spa; went to the fudge shop; went to get pies next door to
Fergburger because we couldn’t be bothered waiting in the queue; went for walks by the lake. I did think a little bit about my backpacker days, about the luxury of traveling so aimlessly and about the way I used to write about those travels, but mostly I was content to be doing what I was doing, in the way that I was doing it. I was glad to get a few days off and to have work to go back to, and to spend the time with people I enjoy rather than with strangers or alone.

My favourite bit of time on the boat was on the second day, coming back to Deep Cove, where they shut off the engines and generators for what they call The Sound Of Silence. They ask that everyone stand still and quiet, and not take pictures. I hadn’t realized how loud the engines actually were until I could hear the extraordinary waterfalls and the pleasantly commonplace tui. The sense of space and time and longevity was very peaceful to me; I felt very small and insignificant, in the very best way. Outside but inside, at the same time.

Lake Manapouri profile pic

All photos taken by G


  1. Too bad you didn’t make it to Fergburger – it’s worth the wait! Next time. :)

  2. Yes, it IS worth going to Queenstown one month and Melbourne the next (well, within two months). Cuz it’s gonna be AWESOME.

    And you know what our housemate just gave me and Jez? A video camera. That’s right, baby. You know what that means…