Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I Love Queenstown

I am have a great time in Queenstown, so much so I am staying an extra day. There is so much to do in this town. Of course most of those things cost money but it is still worth it.

I spent yesterday sightseeing. I took a flight (7 seat Cessna, single prop) over to Milford Sound in the morning. It was about a 1/2 hour flight, of which 15 of those minutes I was flying though the Southern Alps, what a blast that was. I was flying between mountains and going over the low passes. I think the people in the back where a little freaked at first but when we landed (pilot did that part) they told me they thought it was cool I got to fly. I took some pictures and waited for the return flight with a different pilot. On the way back I sat in the back of the plane to get some photos. I took 3 rolls of 36 exposures. I had to hold the camera to the far back window and hope for the best, I will see how they turn out. I had to do this to try and get the widest field of view without the wings showing up too much. The views of the Southern Alps are fantastic. Most people take the bus tour then a boat tour and return by bus. This takes 12 hours. My trip took only 2 and I got to see so much more than most ever do. I skipped the boat ride, I just was not what I was into. I have seen dolphins, puffins and sea lions before so I don't feel I missed much.

When I got back I spent the afternoon walking through town doing some window shopping. What I have figured out is I have so many people who I could by gifts for that I would need another suitcase. Having said that please don't expect anything expect postcards and the photos when I get back. If I see something that just screams out to me, I will buy it.

Later in the afternoon I stumbled upon something I had not seen before in Queenstown, a Casino. I had seen the one in Auckland but decided not to go in. But I just had a good feeling about this place so I went in. It is a small place, they have about 100 slot machines (called pokies here) a few craps and roulette tables and three blackjack tables. No one was in the place, ok maybe three people playing the pokies but all the tables where empty. I sat down at the blackjack table and got 200 in chips on a $5 table. I was betting $10 as my min and $25 max. I hit 5 blackjacks in the first 12 hands. A few more people showed up and everyone was doing well. Now anyone who has ever been to a casino with me knows I smoke like a chimney when I am at the tables, it keeps me relaxed. As of Dec 10th of last year smoking was banned indoors. I thought that would be a problem but it wasn't. They had a nice deck to go smoke on outside, so when the dealer would shuffle we would go out and grab a smoke. (Am I just rambling now?) It works out nicely, by the time I finished my smoke the dealer was ready for the next round. Over the next 1 1/2 hours I was never down below my initial $200. I walked out with $110 for the day. I was up $200 but got waxed the last 6 hands. I had great cards but the dealer keep drawing just 1 or 2 above me. So I took the cash and ran. The way they play blackjack here is just about the same as home except the strange way they deal. I will try to explain this, the dealer gives the players one card and his one card as normal then we get out second card and he does not give himself his second. The dealer then gives everyone the cards they want before he takes his second card. I am not sure why they do it this way but it was strange.

I grabbed dinner at a little cafe and read over some travel stuff. During the week the town is not as hopping as it is on the weekend. I was going to go to a pub but they don't get going until around 11pm. As it was only around 8, I wasn't going to sit there drinking in a mostly empty bar by myself. I have been there before in the past, it's not a good look for me. Plus as most of you know I really don't drink anymore so two beers and I am loaded. I headed back to the hotel for the evening. I hung out with people a few rooms down. (We all have a large common balcony.) A dad with is daughter (26? Maybe) and her daughter (18 months) on vacation. I had a few drinks with them just hanging out chatting about NZ and OZ. I then went in and read until I went to bed around 11:30. The lack of good TV is nice. (what Sean is happy about not having TV, does he have a fever or something?) It keeps me from just lounging around in the room at night. Most nights here in Queenstown I hang out by the lake, which is right in front of the hotel. The fact that the sun sets so late makes it a nice place to read at night.

For those who might have been concerned that I was not having a good time, let me put that to rest, Queenstown has done wonders for my outlook. I know I was down for a few days, starting with the gout and lasting the next few days. What can I say, I was in a funk, call it UMS (ugly mood swings) I was also somewhat homesick during that time. When you are not feeling well and are away from friends and family you can't help but feel somewhat alone in this big world. The other issue was the lack of a major landscape change made things tough. I felt like I was going over the same ground. This is why I did the long drive of Picton to Queenstown, and I am glad I did.

So where does that leave me? I will spend today doing some more sightseeing and driving to some places for photos. After I check out tomorrow I will figure out which route to take to get to Christchurch. I have to be there by Friday, as I leave for OZ on Saturday. I still may go to Dunedin for one night and then on to Christchurch. But I am torn on which way to go. I would like to go to Mount Cook, the highest in NZ but this takes me in the wrong direction for Dunedin but does get me closer to Christchurch. I will mostly likely flip a coin if I can't work out the pros and cons of both places.

Thanks to those who write me emails, It is nice to keep in touch with everyone. Keep them coming.

Until later.

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