Published Oct 18, 2009

So this is it… the last morning in New Zealand. Not too many tears; this afternoon we head for Fiji. We ended with four nights — our longest stop yet — in Queenstown, the premier tourist destination in New Zealand and largest city in the area. We arrived with an equal mix of exhaustion and determination to avail ourselves of the adrenalin-fueled sports the area’s famous for. Plus food, wine, fun.

Our first day here ended up being a rest and recovery day, rather than the big trip we’d had planned — I for one was just too tired to pend 9 hours out doing stuff, no matter how fun. Instead, I slept and caught up on photo editing for you guys.

Next day was back to the big days — started out with a trip up the Skyline Gondola for a view of Queenstown from well above. The gondola was cute, steep, and the view was incredible.

And then at the top was the highlight of the trip: the luge. They made us take the “scenic” track because we’d never driven it before but I swear we were tearing along and both almost went off the road several times. Between the searing cold wind, the slick pavement, and the views hundreds of feet above Queenstown… we were ready to brave the rickety chairlift to the top of the luge course again.

We rushed down to visit the Kiwi Birdlife Park in time to see the kiwi feeding. Kiwis actually are nocturnal, and have few natural predators, as opposed to the imported dogs and stoats that like to eat them. Kiwis are also intensely territorial, and the little furball tried to chase off the handler when he went in to feed her. We also saw a lot of other endangered birds, as well as a number of drunk, obnoxious Aussies.

The evening concluded with a stop for a few drinks at the Minus 5 bar where we enjoyed vodka at a colder-than-advertised minus eight degrees, in an ice-lined room. Then it was dinner at Fishbone

Today was even bigger. We decided to end things on a high note and pack in as much New Zealand as possible. Missing our Dart River Safari, but wanting something shorter, we instead hopped on the Shotover Jetboat, rocketing down a high-walled canyon at breakneck speed. “How close you get to the canyon walls, that’s up to your own personal level of self-confidence,” explained our very self-confident driver. I flinched a lot. Apparently going 85 km/h down a 30-foot-wide canyon is me and Mrs. DJ Li’l Bit’s idea of fun. Actually, this was the perfect jetboat experience for us — totally different from the Wilkin River Jetboat that we took earlier; dodging canyon walls is very different from dodging tree trunks, shallow bottoms, and the like.

And then we doubled down by parasailing over the harbor. A couple of sassy Kiwis strapped us onto a big parachute on a winch on the back of their boat, told us it was time to “New Zealand us up a bit” and hit the gas on the boat, lifting us up into the air. First it was cool, then it was incredible, then it was ohmygodwe’re600feetup! and then we were just surrounded by the lake and so very high. Also, terrified. Also, exhilarated. Speaking of a thing I’d do again.

What better way to finish a day like that than with booze and food? We started out trying a good dozen New Zealand wines at Wine Tastes, one of those automated places where you push the button and get a taste of one of any number of wines. Then it was dinner at The Bunker, which was food as good as any we’ve had in LA, with stunning local wine pairings.

Nothing like a good meal before packing.