Vlog by Jules: see below.
It’s Jules’ birthday today! He’s 11 years old.
I go and buy some chocolate breads and croissants at FergBaker.
Kids do a session of homeschooling while Isabelle and I go to town. We first go to the bungy company (AJ Hackett Bungy). After seeing our enthusiasm, Isabelle is indeed keen to do the bungy jump as well. But they refuse to sell us a family ticket (for 2 adults and 2 children), which would enable us to benefit from a much better deal (50 $ vs. 205 $). They said that they could have done it if we had bought the tickets (for the girls and me) with them and not in another agency.
We then go to DOC office. The DOC (Department of Conservation) is the public service department of NZ in charge of the conservation of NZ’s natural and historical heritage; they also manage the Great Walks. We collect our tickets for the Routeburn Tracks, one of the greatest treks in the world. This is the other trek (along with the Abel Tasma Coastal Walk) that we booked more than 6 months ago. We are excited but the weather forecast for the 3 days (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) is bad: a lot of rain and wind (and even snow). I’m not convinced that it’s a good idea to go for such a trek (going up to 1,300m, including one day of alpine crossing) with the kids with this weather. I’m not sure it will be fun + the views won’t be great (to say the least…). Isabelle is nevertheless tempted to do it. I see her point: we’ve been looking forward to doing this trek for so long and it’s definitely one of the highlights of the NZ trip + it’s always a disappointment to “give up”. We don’t know what to decide. We go back home to do a “family council”, to ask the kids’ opinion. Ludivine doesn’t think it’s a good reason either, while Florence is ready to do it and Jules is 50/50. Isabelle is much disappointed. I can understand. But I think it’s more reasonable not to do it.
It’s such a pity. This trek is described as “the ultimate alpine adventure”. Though the Milford Track gets more recognition, the Routebrun Track is even better according many specialized websites. It’s definitely one of the top ten treks in the world. “One of the world’s best treks, for the views”.
I go back to town to try to get a refund for these tickets (2 nights in huts) but the girl at DOC says that they can’t give any refund because it’s less than 48 hours before the trek.
I also go back to Happy Travel, the agency where I bought the activities the other day. The guy is very helpful and calls the bungy company (AJ Hackett Bungy) to try to convince them to accept our request to an upgrade to a family ticket. And they accept. I rush home to announce the good news to Isabelle. She’s happy!
I prepare a salad.
Isabelle leaves to her bungy jump and I leave a bit later with Jules to do riverboating on the Shotover River, with Skippers Canyon Jet. He’s happy to do this activity for his birthday.
On the way to our shuttle, we go to ‘Real Journeys’ to inform them that we will come back with them to Queenstown, while initially they were supposed to drop us at the beginning of the Routeburn Track (at The Divide).
We have a one-hour bus drive to reach the start of the jet boat ride. It’s a kind of spectacular guided drive into historic Skippers Canyon with on board commentary from the driver. It’s a land rich in gold mining history. The ride is impressive, through stunning scenery via the infamous Skippers Canyon Road which was carved out of the vertical rock face by miners over 120 years ago. Getting there is already half the adventure. This road is one of the most dangerous roads in the world.
While on the bus, I speak to Isabelle who is so happy to have jumped (“it’s like flying”). See pictures below and videos in Ludivine’s montage of Saturday 10/03.
We then embark on the boat for a thrilling jet boat ride through the narrowest canyons on the Shotover River. Skippers Canyon Jet is the only company permitted to operate on the upper Shotover River. Once on the boat, our adrenalin surges. The driver manoeuvres the boat just centimeters from the sheer canyon walls and keeps the excitement levels high with speeds in excess of 80 km/h and a series of full 360 degree spins (see Jules’ vlog). Jules enjoys: “It’s the best half an hour of my life”. The canyon itself is quite impressive; some parts of Lord of the Rings and the last Mission Impossible (6) were filmed here.
We come back home around 6:30pm. We share our experiences.
The girls prepared a chocolate cake for him. We take an aperitif and then eat a good dinner prepared by Isabelle: sole fish with rice and beans.
We offered a small pocket-knife to Jules.