Ultimate Queenstown


Hiking Mount Alfred

Posted by Kate Fahey: 31st Mar 2014 @ 11:24:08

As you drive into Glenorchy the pyramid shaped Mount Alfred is a prominent feature. The desire to stand on top of this peak has been with us since our first trip to the region, but we have never taken the time to go and conquer the day walk.

We wake up to a fine day and are eager for an adventure, so Mount Alfred is on. Driving out to Glenorchy we realise we actually have no idea where the trail head is. Oh well, we’ll find it. That’s why we have smartphones, right?

After a little searching we find the car park on the Dart River side of Mount Alfred, a small day pack of supplies on the back and we’re off into the native beech forest. Starting in rainforest like bush we can hear the roar of jet boats flying past. The NZ Marathon Boats are racing up the Dart River today, and were on the first of four race legs.

A marked route can be followed as far as the bushline. It’s a good zigzag track climbing about half of the way up, before turning into steeper roots and what feels like a few storeys of stairs. For me the relief of finishing the bush line section is apparent and with a smile that the top is in sight. I can push through the final climb because now I’m rewarded with spectacular views down the Dart Valley.

Above the bushline this track is steep and exposed. Climbing over tussocks, rocks and scree we see the first people we’ve come across all morning coming towards us. Poles in hand and at a guest in their 60’s, they traverse the steep slope. After a quick chat and a well-deserved break, I’m motivated by the fellow walkers to get to the top…not far now!

A couple of big steps and a little scramble and our feet are firm on top of Mount Alfred. Woohoo...I made it! Now for the seasoned walker this may just be another hike, but for the occasional hikers out there this will be an achievement.

We walked to the Northern end of the peak to check out incredible scenery over the Dart River and Mount Aspiring National Park. The Earnslaw Glacier is in view, as well as the Routeburn Valley, Lake Sylvan and Diamond Lake. Yep, this is Paradise (quite literally)!

Taking it all in, we can hear the 3rd leg of the jet boat race starting down at Lake Wakatipu. What a perfect viewpoint to watch the race. Perched up on the ledge we look down at the boats zoomin’ up the Dart at ridiculous speeds. These boats are dam fast!

Not wanting to leave but feeling the call of GY Café and a cold beer, we descend the mountain and go and enjoy a well-earned lunch to celebrate the day.

Fitness Required: Moderate
Top Tips: Take water, snacks and a camera!
Time/Length: We walked it in 4 hours return, however DOC recommends to allow 6-8 hours.
Getting there: The approach is on the Western (Dart River) side of the peak off the Glenorchy-Routeburn Road, 10-15 minutes’ drive from Glenorchy. Look for an un-marked car park on the right hand side of the road for access to this track.
Note: DOC advises that permission is required from Earnslaw Station for accessing the upper part of Mt Alfred - once you leave the bushline. This track is not recommended for young children.

Zipping with Ziptrek- Kea Style

Posted by Kate Fahey: 20th Mar 2014 @ 22:22:26

Stepping into the Skyline Queenstown Gondola, the excitement starts to build and I can't help but smile knowing that my journey down Bob's Peak will be a completely different experience.

We are about to do the Ziptrek Kea Tour which will take us on 6 ziplines and a forest walk all the way back down the 450 vertical metres we have just ascended on the southern hemisphere's steepest cable car.

Before we hit Ziptrek, we decide to take some time to check out the sights and get that iconic photo from the Skyline viewing deck overlooking Queenstown and the Remarkables - everyone loves a selfie! A quick post #wishyouwerehere on Facebook to the family back home and it's time to check in for our zipline tour on the edge of the Ben Lomond Forest.

At this point we meet our guides, Arjun and Tara, and step onto the first Ziptrek treehouse - our feet have left the forest floor and it's time to play in the canopy. Harnessed up and don stylish helmets we are on our way.

One by one we zip across the first line and as expected the group is ready for more. The second line Arjun is straight into teaching us a few different zip tricks and styles. Backwards take off and upside down we go, feet flying through the air and the blur of Douglas Fir trees rushing by before landing at the next platform.

At each treehouse the guides share eco-stories of the local area and how Ziptrek strive to operate sustainably within it. Information boards showcase facts & history along with great humour. Look closely at the Ziptrek Wildcards and you'll find the Tuamata Paihikara (Mountain Biker); Species - Homomontiscyclos, found extensively on Bob's Peaks, grows up to 2.2metres tall and lives up to 90 years. Classic!

But there's more zipping to be had. Get ready for the WOW factor on the 4th zipline as the most incredible view across Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables unfolds. Line 5, The Big Dipper, is up next and a challenge is laid down by the guides. We are told that if you scream “Canon Ball” it makes you go 2.1 times faster…yeah right! But hey, why not keep up the good humour and give it a go! You'll need a good set of lungs to make it to the end, but Tara will show you how it's done.

Then the pièce de résistance, the finale, the 6th zipline. After a 20 minute forest walk you reach the big kahuna. The steepest zipline in the world - at 30 storeys high, 300 metres long and travelling at speeds of up to 70km/h, they have saved the best until last. You feel like you are walking off “the plank” as you step down the stairs and zip away from the platform. The sound of the zipline is more intense as you speed down the line towards a big cargo net. The 6th line has a unique braking system and back-up safety systems, which of course makes you want to test them straight away. But you safely come to a stop, the net drops and you coast into the end.

What an awesome experience - great for all ages, families, couples and groups of friends. It's a soft adventure with an eco-twist, shall we say, and a great one at that.

Check out our VIDEO edit of the day!

Motatapu 2014

Posted by Dave Fahey: 9th Mar 2014 @ 22:00:07

Motatapu held its inaugural event in 2005, offering mountain bike and marathon options which attracted 1000 competitors. Now the event has swelled to a field of over 4000 entrants competing over 5 separate events. The word Motatapu comes from the river traversed by the athletes, Mota (river) Tapu (sacred), named by the early Maori, who journeyed through the valley as access to food and Pounamu (greenstone) gathering grounds.

I think it's safe to say that while 5 events now exist the flagship event with the biggest field is the Speights Summit Mountain bike attracting around 3000 of the competitors. The great thing about the Motatapu is the field of competitors it attracts, and I use the term competitors loosely, and not in a bad way. Standing at the start area in Glendu bay you look around and see people from all walks of life and each with their own story. While the lycra clad athlete paces nervously with podium and time goals in mind, two friends let out a jovial laugh with the only goal in mind completion, followed very closely by a can of the sponsors product.

This is where full credit has to go out to the organisers. Iconic events were responsible for creating an epic event capable of attracting a field of first timers and world renowned athletes, and providing a course that is entertaining and challenging for all - no mean feat. Now days Wakatipu Trails Trust are entrusted with carrying on its legacy after purchasing the event in 2013 as an income stream to help fund the upkeep and ongoing development of the Wakatipu Trail network.

For those who don't know the course starts in Glendu bay just outside of Wanaka and winds its way through Motatapu Station parallel to the creek which shares its name. The 47km course starts off along wide open gravel roads which allow time and space to separate the casual entrants from the serious. As with all events held in the alpine setting of the Southern Lakes, hill climbs are inevitable, and the Motatapu is no exception. The great thing is that the majority of the climbing is put behind you and your tired legs early as the course makes way to the beautifully rolling high country landscape. As you near the finish line near Arrowtown you're reminded that what goes up must come down as you hurtle your way down the break burning Soho decent. Just when the legs are ready to throw in the towel riders must negotiate a series of glacial feeling river crossings as you criss-cross the gold bearing Arrow River on your approach to the welcomed finish line at Butlers Green, Arrowtown.

As I stood on the finish line this year, camera in hand, cheering on friends and deserving competitors I couldn't help feeling a shallow sinking in my stomach. FOMO (fear of missing out) had kicked in, and the painful reality had kicked in that 2015 was more than likely going to see me once again lined up with the other competitors with a goal of both beating previous times, but also just completing the course and downing a beer. So next year's blog will no doubt be written with heavy legs and from the perspective of someone with an epic sense of completion.

See you at the start line.

Farm Jam 2014

Posted by Dave Fahey: 2nd Mar 2014 @ 12:06:58

As another summer draws to a close, Autumn more than announces its presence with a healthy dusting of snow on the hills. In the lower south the 1st March means much more than a change of season this year. A steady stream of cars load up and roll out of Queenstown along the winding Kingston Highway. In Southland, t-shirts bearing energy drink and motorbike labels are being donned, mullets shaken clean and cases of double brown and Cody’s loaded into the back of dropped out Kingswoods. Destination – Farm Jam 2014

For those not familiar, Farm Jam is a FMX, BMX and Mountain Bike event held on the Frew’s Farm just out of Centre Bush, Southland. For one day a year farming is put on hold while a collaboration of world class athletes and local huckers entertain the crowds on the purpose built dirt jumps of the Frew’s Farm. With a jam style format competitors have the time and freedom to use the course as their playground, try new tricks and entertain the crowd without the pressures of time and run limitations, and the results are epic.

Unfortunately, mother nature did not play her part in the build up to the jam. Rain saw clay jumps turn soft and claggy. Never fear, kiwi injunity will prevail. While the FMX line was being scraped, fresh dirt applied and hand slapped in place, a dirt jump hungi was being prepared. Local legend Mike Clarke got to work spreading petrol soaked straw across the dirt jumps, lighting it and baking them dry. As well as being insanely practical the atmosphere this created, being greeted with a haze of smoke and the baaarrp of two strokes was the perfect welcome to Farm Jam 2014.

As the crowd started to gather, the sound of rock n' roll and two stroke filled the air and the FMX riders started to fly. Local legend and RedBull X-fighters champion Levi Sherwood entertained onlookers with an aerial bombardment, twisting himself inside out and upside down to take not just the FMX win but also best trick & most style. Fellow X fighter’s rider Nick Franklin schooled fellow riders on the art of flight while securing a second place finish, as Brazilian Freddy Kryillos rounded out the top three.

As the FMX rolled to a close the crowd all rolled across to the dirt jumps where the BMX and MTB riders were getting the show underway. Both fields again saw an impressive hybrid of both NZ and international talent on display. With both cash and bragging rights up for grabs know one was holding back.

In the Mountain Bike section UK style legend Matt Jones was schooling the locals with some massive air time, huge off axis 360's, mind blowing whips, but what really got the crowd off their feet was the insane final jump double back flip. Local Queenstown riders, Conner Macfarlane, Emmerson Wilken and Kelly McGarry, entertained the crowds as always with big casual 360's, superman’s, tail whips and laid back, back flips, as Elmo Cotter took home the style title and probably a handful of ladies.

As the wheel size shrunk the amount of distance between dirt and tyre didn’t. With a massive field and high percentage of foreign riders, having fun with mates and entreating the crowd was top on these guys’ lists. Disco Stu was horsing around, while Paul Langlands looked like he was fresh out of a war zone, covered in clay, dirt and blood but always smiling. A combination of off axis spins, twists, body’s flying behind bikes, people upside down, new tricks landed, massive crashes trying and heaps of smiling faces was an epic way to finish the day.

This event is not about the money, nor the sponsors, it’s all about getting out, doing what you love and entertaining the crowds, which each and every rider achieved. Great proof that these guys do what they do because they love it & the rest is just a bonus. If Farm Jam 2015 was not on your list before, I hope it is now.

Im off riding!

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