As we puff our way along the final few metres of the track up Bob’s Peak I wonder why some people are carrying huge packs. How can they be so fit? They’re almost running up the mountain. All is revealed, however, as these robust guys drop their huge loads to the ground and unpack them. Parachutes, of course – all that bright, breezy nylon weighs about nothing.
From the top of Bob’s Peak, and no doubt from a parachute, the view is fabulous. The town below follows the natural bays of the Lake Wakatipu shoreline before being squeezed up into the grid-work of side-streets lining the foothills. The glacial lake (one of New Zealand’s deepest) shines like a sapphire, ringed by mountains covered in the remnants of the last snowfall. Soaring above town, but still far below us, are the bright fairground colours of gliding parachutes that have launched a bit earlier.
To get the best out of Queenstown you’ve got to think ‘high’. Nature has given it’s very best to this landscape in the shape of rugged hills and snowy mountains, deep gorges and swift winding rivers, high lookout points and fertile riverside terraces. And Bob’s Peak is the ideal place to view them from.
If you’re travelling with children you may not be gliding off high hills but it’s still a great ride up in the gondola. Rising 450 metres from the centre of town the gondola ride ends at the Skyline complex where there’s lunch with a view, a chairlift up to an even higher luge ride and the walk up to the para-gliding base. The gondola is said to be the steepest lift in the southern hemisphere, with an incline of 37 degrees. Passengers ride in 4-person cabins, and there’s a car park for your Queenstown Airport Car Rental at the bottom of the ride. There’s also a ledge bungy where you can jump off a launching ramp 400 metres above town. It’s a great way to see the view.
Once back down at lake level we’re reminded of where we’ve been by the gargantuan shadows of giant para-gliding chutes floating above the town like pterodactyls. They circle slowly after leaving Bob’s Peak and glide silently over the town before dropping gently on to a local park. It must be a great way to see Queenstown.