Best day ever. Pretty big statement right there...maybe it should be 'best day in NZ'? Whatever, the point is that my entire trip was fantastic but there were three days in particular that stood out and this was one of them. It stood out so much that this day gets its own blog post- also I took a crap ton of pictures so the post is long enough already.
Early in the morning, we were picked up and driven along beautiful Lake Wakatipu to the little town of Glenorchy. Along the way, our driver stopped to show us Lord of the Rings filming locations- I haven't seen the movies but was still impressed by the beautiful scenery. Our driver also talked about what it was like to be an extra in the movie. You had to get up at 5, get you and your horse ready, get into hair and makeup, then finally get into your heavy (and hot) armor costume for filming. It involved long days of filming and he told us that during one scene he fell asleep (on his horse) and woke up startled in the middle of the scene...yea that one needed to be reshot.
Two of my tour mates, Kaisa and Mia, and I decided to do the Trilogy Loop ride with Dart Stables. The Trilogy Loop is: An exhilarating 3 hour, 22km ride with plenty of good canters. Also riding alongside braided, glacial fed rivers this faster paced ride offers river crossings and spectacular scenery, including views of The Misty Mountain, The Wizard's Vale and The Mighty Methedras, but is strictly for advanced riders.
I used to ride regularly but haven't ridden in years so I was not in good riding shape but I figured I could handle an advanced ride. Mia and Kaisa are riding instructors and asked for 'forward' horses while I asked for 'old and quiet'. My horse was named Ginger and he behaved himself but was so quiet that he pretty much fell asleep anytime we stopped. His turtle-like pace meant we stayed at the back but I didn't care because I was too busy taking pictures (photo overload). Ginger did like to canter though- pretty much the only thing that woke him up and got him happily moving...and boy he could move! Forgot how fun cantering is...makes me really miss riding. Anyways, Mia was on Blue and Kaisa rode Angry Toby (usually just called Toby but he was pissed all day so we called him Angry Toby). The ride was spectacular- we crossed rivers, trotted along the sand and cantered through fields- all while surrounded by jaw dropping scenery.
Fun fact about one of the movies (don't ask me which one) is that there was a scene where the horses had to cross a river. Well all the fancy movie star Australia horses they had brought over for the movie came to a screeching halt when they saw the river and refused to cross it. Dart Stables brought over some of their horses (used to crossing the rivers) and had them go first to show the Australia horses how it was done. With the brave Kiwi horses in front, the Ozzie horses followed behind without putting up a fuss. Problem solved right? Wrong! As soon as the Australia horses were on their own and the cameras started rolling they refused to cross the river again. So Dart Stables now has a few movie stars that were used in the film to get the other horses across.
Chugging water to rehydrate, I dropped my stuff off at the hostel , changed out of horse-smelling clothes and went for a walk around beautiful Queenstown. The Kiwi's have a saying which is 'sweet as' and you hear it all over the place. So I loved this bakery's sign- yup cupcakes sure are sweet as bro.
I didn't have too long before our next activity but I did have a little time to check out the Queenstown Gardens. Gorgeous as usual. I found that if you pointed your camera at something in NZ and took a picture it would turn out great because the incredible views/scenery are everywhere down there.Shotover Canyon Swing to get checked in and to start thinking about our jump- there are 70+ different ways to swing. Cam drove us up to the canyon and played a video to start getting us excited... I think most people in our can ranged from nervous excitement to flat out terror.
We were harnessed up by Cam and then I asked to be the first one to go- I didn't want time to get nervous. Chris (aka Crispy) and Adrian were in charge of the swing and they knew how to put on a good show. I don't think I stopped laughing the entire time. Actually I take that back, when Chris had me come look over the edge and Adrian came up behind me pretending to push me (I was safely harnessed in) I lost my shit...then I started laughing. My first swing of the day? Gimp boy goes to Hollywood. Head first hanging over the canyon with a cute little bondage teddy bear between your legs. Of course they tell you they'll do a 3 second countdown but really they get way too much joy out of hearing terrified screams so I was dropped after 'three...'. It was incredible!!! So so so much fun! They pulled me back up smiling ear to ear ready to go again. First thing they said was that now I had to tell my parents that I was 'gimped by two Kiwi boys in New Zealand'...uh I left that part out until now :-) FYI they do multi-image shots so there aren't a bunch of people falling, just me (there's been some confusion).
There were a couple more jumps and then it was our tour mate Cam's turn to go. Cam celebrated her 60th birthday on our tour and was given the swing as a 'gift'. As canyon-swing-Cam was harnessing her up she just kept saying 'why does everyone hate me?'. Her swing video is probably one of the funniest things I've ever seen- lots of bloodcurdling screaming, then a pause for her to catch her breath and look around and finally a 'YOLO!'. Hilarious.
Most of us (minus Cam) voted to do a second swing. As I was getting checked over again, I mentioned that I was from Canada originally and I was promptly admonished for not informing them of my medical condition. Yes, they feel that being Canadian is a medical condition and I love them for it. For my second swing I decided to do the Chair of Death because that sounded nice and safe. Basically you get strapped in and then rock yourself backwards until you fall. Nice and easy right? Well it would have been if Adrian and Chris were nice, kind, understanding people. But no, you would gather up all your courage to rock backwards and at the last second they would pull you back in for one reason or another thereby crushing all your nerve and spirit. On the fourth time they did this I screamed 'I hate you!' while hanging backwards at a 45 degree angle, on two flimsy plastic chair legs, over the canyon and I get a 'Well that's not very nice' from Chris and he finally let go. It was insane! So much fun! The chair spun round and round on the way up so I was super dizzy when I got back to the top. Chris explained that I was dizzy due to being blond and Canadian..who knew such a condition existed ;-)
My last swing (yes I went three times) was just a run and jump. I wanted to launch myself off the edge and really enjoy the view (hard to do while flipping backwards in a chair). This one was the scariest knowing I had to look down and force myself to jump off a perfectly good ledge and into a 60m free-fall. Per usual, I would start to run and both boys would throw themselves in front of me telling me I can't go yet. So my actual run was more me nervously looking at them and shuffling off the edge before falling...always a surprise when they actually let you go. I seriously could have done this all day- probably the most fun thing I've ever done. Huge huge huge thank you to Chris and Adrian. Those guys are amazing and make for a super fun experience. They love what they do and it shows. They are also sure to grab you for a big hug after each swing and congratulate you for doing it.
On the way back into town we got to watch a video of Canyon Oscar Highlights. I can't find the current one online (which is hilarious) but here's an old one: video 1 and video 2. Funny times. After we got back into town, Vicky bought all of us canyon swingers a drink at Red Rock Bar before we headed back to the hostel to change. Our tour bus was hit by a nasty flu that knocked 95% of the bus out (it missed me but only because I was taking Airborne and echinacea drops religiously) so there weren't that many people into a big night on the town. Mia, Kaisa and I rallied and managed to create our own little pub crawl by going to: Vinyl Underground, The Find, Loco, Cowboys and finally a club that might have been Searle Lane and Social (memory is a little hazy). Cowboys was hands down my favorite. Awesome music (lots of country and 'Murican rock and roll), saddles as bar seats and $10 beers that were the size of my head...bring it! Kaisa and Mia rode the bull however as I was still recovering from our trail ride that morning (my ass has never been so sore), I decided to pass. We spend most of the night chatting away (met an Ozzie who lived in Tahoe!) and singing along with our new friend Stu.
And that is the end to one of the best days ever- will be hard to beat. Love me some Queenstown!! I want to go back immediately.