Waking up with a teeny tiny headache (ha!) K and I decided to work off yesterdays gluttonous efforts by making the trek up to the Skyline Gondola. Most normal people just ride the gondola up to the top and enjoy the view without breaking a sweat, but we like to do it the hard (and cheap) way.
The Tiki Trail was a rather vertical hike and the cold fresh air sure wiped away any sign of a hangover approaching. It took us about 50 mins to do the hike and wasn’t too hard. The worst part is the start where it’s a steep climb for about 15 minutes but then it gets easier to the top. I recommend eating more than half a banana beforehand though, by the time we reached the top we were ravenous!
The views were as always, awful, just terrible – an eyesore! Haha, not even. The views from the top were brilliant, I don’t know whether the Gods were spoiling us but we were being blessed with incredible weather and today was no exception. It was cold, but the sky was clear and the snow capped mountains looked Photoshopped.
We took in the views from the top, letting ourselves become a part of the postcard before reluctantly making our way back down the hill to continue the day. Realising we were late (surprise, surprise), we had to catch the gondola back down to make it down in time to check out at 10am and currently it was 9:45am. Paying the $40(!) bucks to catch the gondola down, we ran all the way to the caravan park with five minutes to move Mimi and steal a quick shower.
Now I don’t condone breaking the rules, but early in the morning theres no one around to check your gondola tickets from the top. If you make the effort to hike up, just jump on without paying – don’t tell them I said that though!
Our stomachs were growling by the time we checked out and walked back down the hill so the first cafe we spotted we sat down for brekkie. Vudu Cafe was a cute, kitchsy cafe with a display cabinet full of the most delectable sweets and treats I’ve ever seen! The food was delicious and the coffee was on point. Basically the perfect breakfast. It was only 10:30am, but this day was going to be special, I could just tell.
One of the reasons it was so special was because the activity we had planned for the afternoon – a helicopter ride up to the snow on the mountains – it was something I had been looking forward to for ages. Initially I had wanted to do a glacier hike on the glaciers on the West Coast, but after a chat with a travel agent in Queenstown he recommended we take advantage of the beautiful weather and take a helicopter to the top of some snowy peaks around Queenstown. Not one to ignore local advice, we booked our helicopter flight at a much cheaper price – thanks to S and her persuasive ways.
We were picked up by Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters in downtown Queenstown and were taken to their office in Frankton. These guys actually did a lot of filming for Peter Jackson and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which was a cool bit of trivia for us to take home. After a safety briefing us four very excited girls were led out to the helicopter to be buckled in. Our pilot Jacko must have thought he’d landed a bunch of loonies because of how much we were acting like idiots, can you blame us though? We were about to fly in a helicopter up to the snowy mountains we’d been admiring for the past couple of days!
After getting strapped in and headphones fitted, Jacko lifted us off the ground and away we went. The views over Queenstown were just magnificent. The blue skies contrasted against the snowy peaks and the life below us was toy-like. We passed the Shotover River, famous for its jet boating and past Queenstown Hill – a popular hiking trail. I can’t remember how long we were flying for but it wasn’t long enough!
Jacko landed us on a mountain peak covered in snow and let us out before we totally lost it with excitement. If you have ever seen a litter of puppies playing around with each other, then you’ve got a pretty good visual for how we looked. The four of us ran from the helicopter but the knee-deep snow made that difficult and before I knew it I was face first in the snow.
It feel like about five minutes but we spent about half an hour up there running around in the snow. I was exhausted by the end of it, from laughing, falling and trying to jump around. It was such a phenomenal experience with my three best friends, something we will remember until we’re old and grey.
The flight back was equally as loud as the one over and we literally danced out of the helicopter when we landed. I can’t emphasise how lovely the whole experience was. Glacier Southern Helicopters were professional but fun and Jacko was a book of knowledge and one lucky bugger – flying helicopters everyday must be just awful! We were taken back to Mimi floating on a cloud of elation and said our goodbyes to the guys from Glacier Southern Helicopters.
Our perch for the night was a short drive out of Queenstown at Lake Hayes, so after a quick grocery shop (I lie – we took forever) we drove the 15 minutes out of Queenstown and drove into the freedom camping spot at Lake Hayes.
The day continued to shine a light on us and our good luck just kept coming. We parked up just before twilight and set up our table and chairs by the lake. It was such a picturesque little place and there were only a few other campers nearby.
We got a little classy with cheese and wine and toasted to a fabulous day in New Zealand. If every other day of this trip is half as great as today, we’re bound to have an incredible time (fingers crossed!)
Tomorrow we’re stopping in at Arrowtown for a squiz before checking in at Wanaka to see the little town that is blowing up on Instagram.