Sunday, August 8, 2010

Queenstown

Ah Queenstown, the number one destination for partygoers and adrenaline freaks. My buddy Blake from Atlanta works in Queenstown for AJ Hackett, the creators of Bungy jumping where he takes pictures of people terrifying themselves while jumping off bridges or swinging through canyons. Quite a sweet job, eh? I went to Queenstown hoping for work as well, though hopefully with NZSki, who owns the local ski fields. Sadly, hundreds of other foreigners had the same idea, and finding work in Queenstown was a huge pain in the ass.

Queenstown was spectacularly gorgeous though. I can only imagine picturesque little resort towns in Switzerland look like Queenstown, with the snow covered Remarkables in the distance, the town nestled between fir tree covered hills, a gondola, and a gorgeous lake stretching through it all. Queenstown is a town of money though, and I was mostly broke, so I stayed pretty low key. But if you do like to push your limits, Queenstown is the place. Sky diving, bungy jumping, paragliding, jet powered boogie boards, not to mention snowboarding and skiing in the winter. Fortunately, there are also trails, and drunken frisbee golf in the botanic gardens.

I stayed at the Aspen Lodge for about a month with other backpackers who were there long term looking for work. Aside from being rather clean and staffed with friendly folks, what was particularly amazing was how the 10-bed room where I stayed almost never smelled bad or had people snoring in it. Though there was always someone sleeping, and people having to leave at some god forsaken hour before noon. Another benefit of staying at Aspen was joining BBH, a collection of excellent hostels across New Zealand, where I would book places to stay for most of the remainder of my trip.
While the daytime was spent looking for work, or putting off looking for work, the night in Queenstown is about drunken revelry. My pub of choice was the Ministry of Sports, which had both wall to wall big screens for sporting events, and cheap beer. They sold beer in full liter glasses called man handles, and had a club with a punchcard keeping tabs up to 100 beers consumed. Those hardy folk who completed their cards received their own man handle glass with their name engraved on it. I was only there for a month, so I finished a measly 25, but a few of my friends managed to finish the challenge.

The World Cup kicked off during my last week in Queenstown, and one of the earliest and most anticipated games was the USA vs England. Due to time difference, the football games usually started either at 2am or 6:30am. But I wasn't going to let something pesky like sleep get in the way. There were probably about 80 English blokes there for the game, and surprisingly at least about 15 Americans (and Irish, Scottish and Welsh more than happy to wish misery on the English). Ministry was packed, despite the 6:30 kickoff, and the beers were flowing. The US got off to a rocky start, allowing a goal 5 minutes into the game. But it was all made right by the English keeper letting a rather harmless shot score tieing it up for the Americans. The English mumbled and rolled their eyes at another typical World Cup meltdown, and the Americans were elated and more than happy to settle for a draw against one of the tournament favorites.

I ended up watching a few games at Ministry, including Germany ravage Australia, but within a week I was heading to Dunedin and would need to find another watering hole.

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