Hurtling towards steep rocky walls, we turned away at the last minute, swimming the surface of the water and narrowly avoiding a partly submerged tree branch sticking up out of the water. It might sound as though we were having to endure some sort of disastrous escape scenario but no, this was our ride on Queenstown’s Shotover Jet.
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Today began with the song ‘RESPECT’ being blasted into our room and the housekeeping girls singing along loudly and stomping around the room changing the beds. It wasn’t really the nicest way to wake up after quite a long and late night yesterday and so we huffily stayed in bed, desperately trying to cling on to the chance of some more sleep. Grrrrrr. This seems to be happening quite a bit at the moment and it’s making me really look forward to having my own room again and the chance of a decent lie in! Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and so we decided to just get up and start the day. Queenstown is renowned for it’s activities and, according to trusty old Wikipedia, has 220 adventure tourism activities on offer since 2012. Now we haven’t really done much in terms of this so far throughout our trip and thought that there was no better place than here to have a go so decided to have a go on the Shotover Jet. The jet boat has been operating on the Shotover River Canyons for 50 years and states that it’s the “World’s Most Exciting Jet Boat”. Since I’d been wanting to go on one for absolutely ages, it seemed like the perfect chance and so quickly getting dressed, we headed out into the sun to see what the day had in store for us.
Wandering into the tourist information centre past a model of the Shotover jet, we made our way over to the desk to see if we could book ourselves in for a trip. I’d heard from a few people that it gets quite busy and that very often you need too book way in advance so I wasn’t really expecting it when the woman at the desk said she could get us on the next one leaving. How exciting! After paying for the trip we took our tickets and went to another tourist information place where we were to wait for the bus and then paid another $19 each for their ‘Instant Replay’ offer. That meant that we were able to go on again on the next available trip and that just happened to be straight after our first go. Hooray! It seemed a bit pointless to pay $129 each for one go and not take advantage of that offer so when it was all sorted, I sat down feeling quite content and waited for the bus.
By the time we reached the Shotover river and had been briefed about what to expect, I was so excited and could not wait to get going. Being thrown around almost hitting rocky cliffs, what was there not to look forward to? At 12:45 we were dressed in our waterproofs and our life jackets and after having our photograph taken in front of the famous bridge, we were ready to go. Hooray! We’d got seats on the second row at the edge for the first trip and clinging on to the rail in front of us, enjoyed our first slide as we went passed the photographer before being pinned back as we headed off down stream. It was absolutely mental! We hurtled along, skimming the surface at speeds of 90km/h, barely missing the rocks and various tree branches sticking up in the water. Normally I find myself getting a bit dizzy when things rush towards me but here I just couldn’t take my eyes off what was ahead, barely daring to blink in case I missed anything. All of a sudden, the driver lifted up his finger and signalled that he was about the throw us into a 360 degree spin, leading to us all holding on as tight as we could and pushing our feet as hard as we could into the floor. It was amazing. Skim, spin, skim, spin; the twists and turns seemed never ending and by the time we stopped for a bit, I was glad of a little rest!
After continuing the excitement further down stream, skimming the river bed in only 10cm of water, we pulled over to one side to wait for another boat to come past. They set off in sets of two and so it’s important that there’s a procedure but in place to avoid a collision; one at the speed we were going would be catastrophic. It didn’t really matter that we had to wait for a bit as we learnt more about the boats like how they are completely flat on the bottom to enable them to provide enough go a cushion to skim the water and pick up as much speed as possible. I think it also helps that they contain two V8 jet engines to give them the power they are renowned for though any faster and I think your eyes might fly out! Once we’d watched another boat come flying past with it’s passengers all screaming and gripping on, we set off once again and continued our adventure back up towards our starting point. We didn’t stop there straight away there, oh no, we carried on hurtling around the corners and spinning frantically until we came to a little waterfall pouring out of a cave. This, we were told, had been built to divert the river away from the river bed so it could be mined for gold. A good plan you might think but by the time the two guys had finished working on it, they discovered that all their hard work was for nothing as the empty whiskey bottles and mining tools told them they’d been beaten to it. Oh dear. It turned out that the river had frozen the year before so other miners had been able to check for gold without the monotonous task of hammering through rock. I bet that didn’t go down well! At least all their work wasn’t totally pointless though as it’s now used for the whitewater rafting trips. Not sure what they’d think of that though….
As we headed back to dock, I could feel the adrenaline pumping through me and I was so, so pleased we’d booked on to go again. One trip would never had been enough and after all that fun, I was ready for more. Back on dry land for all of about 5 minutes, we wandered back around the building, had our photo taken again and then hopped into the next boat. This time we made sure that we were at the back to get maximum splashes and maximum thrills and wow, it was definitely better. As we set off for the first slide for the camera, we were both covered in water almost immediately and were definitely thrown about a hell of a lot more. It was great! Off we went back down the river, tossed about like rag dolls and even closer to the rocks than we were the first time. Talk about clearing your sinuses! This driver seemed a little bit more daring than the first and it felt like we spent most out our time spinning around and around to the point when I could seem to get my bearings again and ended up just holding on and hoping for the best. I loved every minute of it. I did manage to catch a glimpse of a bemused looking cormorant on the pebbles watching us go past but other than that, your mind is just taken over by the thought that any moment you good either be soaked or thrown around even more. The perfect start to our proper full day in Queenstown.
With my legs still shaking from all the adrenaline, when we made it back to the dock we clambered out of the boat and headed up to view our photos. They were a little bit pricy but as we hadn’t been able to use the GoPro due to problems with the head strap and the battery pack, we thought we may as well get the $69 video/photo pack so we had a little reminder of the day. It’s all very well saying that you’ll remember but in a few years just how much will you be able to? That was the argument that went on in my head anyway as I desperately tried to justify the spending! We ended up buying the photos from the second trip and the video from the first as the cameras had failed the second time around. Annoying for the people who’d got off expecting to be able to watch it but not too bad for us as the staff were lovely enough to find our first go and give that to us instead. Now equipped with some great memories both in our heads and in our photos, we hopped back onto the shuttle bus for the trip back into the centre. I was really glad that we’d made the decision to ride the Shotover Jet. Yes, it may have seemed a little bit expensive at the time but for the thrills you get from it all combined with the knowledge and experience of the drivers and how smooth the entire operation is, I felt like it was worth every single..penny…cent? The fact that it’s the only jet boat able to operate on the most incredible stretch of river doesn’t damage it’s reputation either and I’d absolutely recommend it to anyone.
Back in Queenstown and it was time for what I thought was a well deserved lunch. Not that we’d been doing much other than enjoying being driven around in a boat but you know what I mean! We decided to pay a visit to Fergburger as from reading my friend Becca’s blog and hearing about it from other people, I knew it was supposed to be amazing. The queue was still fairly long, though not as bad as earlier, but we decided to just line up anyway. Well, we are British after all! Whilst we were waiting, we looked at a menu even though I’d chosen my burger well in advance (I think we were still in Brisbane!) and opted for the Cockadoodle Oink burger. It was a butterflied and breadcrumbed chicken breast with American streaky bacon and salad and as somebody who isn’t a fan of beef burgers, it seemed like the perfect one for me. Having said that, I’m not sure whether it was the actual burger than caught my attention or the name but I knew what I wanted and that was that! Codie, on the other hand, went for a Chief Wiggum burger which was made up of pork belly and a hash brown along with the usual salad stuff. That looked delicious too…they all did!
When it arrived 20 minutes later, I was in awe of the sheer size of it. It was absolutely huge and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it was the size of my head. It was so big that a woman in the queue came over to us to ask which one I’d got because she didn’t want one as large as that. Neither did I! For some reason we’d thought it was a good idea to order a rather massive portion of onion rings as well which meant that we were now facing what felt a lot like an ‘I’m A Celebrity’ eating challenge. We were very grateful for the free beer we’d ended up with whilst we were waiting though even that wasn’t enough to force it all down and after a good 20-30 minutes of trying I had to give up. What a shame. Of course I didn’t throw it away, don’t be silly, I took it back to the hostel and continued to try and finish it off there. What a mistake. I don’t know what made me think it’d be any easier to digest it all sitting on a comfy sofa but all it did was make me feel even more full and very, very sleepy. So…so….sleepy….Did I mention how delicious it was though? Definitely worth the stitch andthe chest pains but I’m not sure I’d be able to face another one for a very long time! There was just so much of it!
Two hours later and still feeling very full, we sat down on the pebbly beach by Lake Wakatipu and watched the ducks and the seagulls bobbing past. It’d been quite a long day, at least it felt like that anyway and it was nice to just sit down and take in the beautiful views of the Remarkables mountains as the sun began to set. We’d spent a little bit of time wandering around the town looking for a headphone splitter for the long bus journeys (the old one seemed to have toddled off ) and filming a time-lapse for the video so as you can imagine, we were really rather shattered. We’d also wandered through the botanic gardens to see if we could get a better view of the mountains but upon discovering we couldn’t had ended up on the beach staring at the scenery ahead. It had been absolutely brilliant day and I had enjoyed every single second.
After sitting back reflecting on all the fun we’d had and watching some seagulls fight a duck for an apple core, we dragged ourselves back to the hostel for a well deserved shower and a lie down in the cosy snuggly bed. All in all I’d loved my time in Queenstown and was quite sad that we were having to leave. Full of happy, friendly people, glorious views and so many fun things to do, it was the perfect place for anybody looking for adventure in New Zealand. I really hope that we’ll be able to visit again sometime in the future because 2 days just hasn’t been enough for such a interesting little town.