Queenstown (November 4 - 7, 2016)
Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand. Bungie jumping has been invented here. Not only does the town offer the expensive experience of plunging to the ground secured only by a rope, they also sell many adventure sports known under the sun. Of course, finding a quest under $100 will be hard. Bargaining the price might be tough, but worth a try. If lowering the price fails, maybe go for a free upgrade if possible. What do I mean with upgrade? Instead of paragliding from the lower height, get the higher altitude for the same price. An annoying sales rep stated that the prices were fixed by the company, but as soon as we were about to walk out of the office, he suddenly had connections that could get us the free upgrade. Still ended up walking out. The beauty of traveling around the world is that we can choose to do these expensive activities at locations with more budget friendly price tags.
Some non-adrenaline pumping activities we did in Queenstown included strolling around the waterfront and the botanical garden. There were a few flowers strategically planted to form a nice formation, but there were even more disk golfers. So, watch out for the Frisbees zooming past your head. Any disks found on the ground are better left alone if you don’t want someone running towards you with a frowny face.
Not only did we see the lake from up close, we gained a fantastic bird view of the waters and Queenstown when we hiked Queen Hill. No wonder tourists are drawn to this beautiful town. There are so many tourists, that locals have a hard time finding reasonable rent prices because not enough housing is available. Tons of construction projects are underway, but demand is even higher. Tourists get catered to first since we pay more. In the end, the unfortunate local workers need to drive in from nearby lodgings. We learned this from a New Zealander who drove us from Wanaka to Queensland, because we stood at the side of the street with the universal hitchhiking, thumbs up hand signal.
In the end the most nerve wrecking thing we did was hitchhiking for our first time. I’ve had hitchhiking on my bucket list, and where better to try it than a country known for safety and hitchhiker friendliness? We heard reports from other backpackers that they were usually picked up within 15-min. A lady stopped for us in less than 5-min. How did we do it? We asked the reception for cardboard and marker, which we wrote our destination on large and legibly. (A sign will help the pickup success rate.) We also stood at a location where cars are going slowly (not freeway), but the road is leading out of town towards the desired destination (ask reception for suggestions). Spots where cars can easily pull over for you are preferred. Looking well-groomed with a smile aids trustworthiness. Who wants to pick up people who appear to not have showered for a week? I saw some of those. Even if the country was relatively safe, we still made sure to talk to the driver before hopping in. Not only did we hitchhike into Queenstown, we also got a free ride out of town to the airport, where we also had a short wait time of 10-min.
Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo (November 7 - 8, 2016)
From the airport, however, we didn’t take a flight as one would expect, but we picked up our free campervan relocation. Not only did we get a free camper for 2 days, but also got a free tank of gas from the company. That’s almost all we needed to drive from Queenstown to Christchurch. We added $11 by Lake Tekapo, and later we got cold feet when the empty gas light came on near our destination and topped up with another $3.5 in gas.
On the way to Christchurch, we set up camp by Lake Pukaki. The beyond-belief turquoise lake and the incredible backdrop of snowcapped mountains made this spot ideal to marvel at nature. I was extremely captivated by the sight. We positioned our van ideally to get an unobstructed view as we relaxed in the van. Tranquility at its finest. The only point to consider was that the only thing nearby will be the tourist information at a 20-min walk away. They sold overpriced crackers and fresh salmon. We should have stocked up on food prior, but scraped by with the limited snacks we had.
In the morning, we filled our grumbling stomachs by Lake Tekapo. Lake Tekapo is nearly as gorgeous as Lake Pukaki. If you find a free camp spot, this place might be better for overnight camping if you want the comforts of a town, where you can buy whatever your heart desires. With a town, there obviously will be more people around you. There were many “no-overnight camping” signs plastered around the lake, hence getting a lovely spot as by Lake Pukaki will be difficult.
Overall, these lakes were ideal midpoint locations for us driving from Queenstown to Christchurch. We had no issues whatsoever getting a free campervan with the tank of gas. Probably because more people fly into Christchurch and then travel to Queenstown because the flight is usually cheaper. I was looking forward to see Christchurch, where a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit in 2011, 5 years prior to our arrival. I’ve heard a few stories from backpackers while traveling around New Zealand and now I wanted to see with my own eyes.
Cost breakdown of Queenstown (3 days with total cost of $68.30. Average daily cost is $22.77.)
- Hostel: $44.64 (3 nights)
- Food: $23.66
- Meals: $2.86 (1 meal)
- Groceries: $20.80
Random Money Saver Tip: If you feel like something sweet, go to Cookie Time. Inside, by the “dining area”, there are I-Pads. After providing your email, “spin the wheel” for free, and be guaranteed to win at least a small cookie or hit the jackpot of a shake (like we did).
Cost breakdown of Lake Pukaki (1 day with total cost of $11.35. Average daily cost is $11.35.)
- Transportation: $7.14 (gas money)
- Food: $4.21
- Meals: $3.21
- Groceries: $1.00