Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Perfect Day in New Zealand!

A perfect summer day in Queenstown

The South Island of New Zealand is one of those very select places whose beauty is indescribable with words. Anyone who has watched the Lord of the Rings movies has been exposed to New Zealand’s amazing and exotic landscapes, ever since film director and native Kiwi (the name New Zealander’s call themselves) Peter Jackson shot the movies in his home country.

New Zealand was one of the very last places on earth to be inhabited by people, discovered by tribes that originated from the Polynesian Islands. These people, the Maori, settled on both Islands about 1000 years ago, and still have an important presence today both in terms of population and culture. Most of the country looks the same as it did when the Maori first arrived because New Zealand has been very good about protecting their natural resources and environment through a great park system and a dedication to conservation. A perfect place to begin exploring this majestic wonderland is in the city of Queenstown, the self proclaimed “adventure capital of the world”.

Located in the South-East portion of the South Island, this surprisingly cosmopolitan and stylish city of 20,000 people, sits along the shores of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu. Across the lake, towering high above the city is The Remarkables mountain range. Queenstown’s downtown area is compact, easy to get around, and offers a great blend of relaxation and fun with its numerous restaurants, designer shopping, and exciting nightlife. Queenstown’s surrounding environment is awe inspiring and almost unbelievable. A great way to get a feel for the whole area is to hike up or catch the gondola up Bob’s Peak, where the views are spectacular.

It was on a hike up Bob’s Peak on a Friday afternoon in January (one of New Zealand’s summer months) several years ago to catch the sunset, where I first saw Sabrina, an energetic and attractive young teacher on holiday from Canada. We met on the walking trail and struck up a conversation as we traversed steep switchbacks on the way to the summit, both opting for the trail up to the top instead of the gondola ride. Once we reached the summit, we both enjoyed a hard earned pint of Steinlager beer (one of New Zealand’s national brews), while watching the sun sink below the peaks of The Remarkables across the way, sending beams of light bouncing off Lake Wakatipu’s royal blue waters. Sabrina and I hit it off. We had so much in common, and were both traveling alone in Queenstown; so we decided to pair up for the next couple of days.

Following the gondola ride down the mountain, and after freshening up in our respective hotels, Sabrina and I met out for dinner at an adorable outdoor venue right downtown. New Zealand is well known for having 12 times as many sheep than people living there. Not surprising is that lamb is a favorite Kiwi dish. Extremely fresh, tender, and very affordable, the lamb entrees we ordered exceeded our expectations. After a delightful meal, topped off by sampling some quality wines that came from the increasing number of local vineyards popping up in the area, we decided to see if Queenstown’s nightlife was as thrilling as advertised.

After visiting an assortment of pubs and clubs, trying our luck in a small casino, drinking and dancing until the early hours of the morning; we both concluded that Queenstown’s nightlife was amazing. The locals were all so friendly and all the other tourists and travelers were just soaking up the positive vibe that the city seems to send out at all times. Sabrina and I were having such a good time, and I realized that this wasn’t all a dream, it was real. She was real, and she was amazing. I felt a special connection to her, fueled in part by the great energy and beauty of Queenstown.

The night was almost over, but there was still time for just the two of us to stroll down to the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Completely alone, we sat together holding hands on a small sandy beach and watched the stars flicker in the sky. Suddenly the first signs of dawn began to light up the water and mountains around us with incredible blue and pink colors, so soft and always changing. It was at that moment that time was irrelevant, and I felt completely peaceful. As the sun peaked out from the horizon, Sabrina fell asleep in my arms, as my body tingled and my soul smiled. I will never forget that experience, and I always have had a special place in my heart for Sabrina and Queenstown.

By Erik Rasmussen, owner of Erik’s Adventures LLC Travel and Tour Company, world traveler, and outdoor enthusiast. To contact me please visit, or email me at Thanks