A Little Icing Sugar

Attention all fellow winter-haters: think again.

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What happens when you infuse stunning alpine landscapes with adrenaline rushes, dangerously low sleep, and ten days of alcoholic merriness? Apart from serious fun (and what turned out to be over a month of pneumonia), cue juicy insights and that fabulous travel high.

Sliding off the best corner of the map is a magical stretch of mountains that look as though they’ve been delicately sprinkled with icing sugar. Less delicate however, is the descent into these mountains, which is said to be one of the most turbulent and difficult flight paths you can make in winter. Definitely sifting out the worthy there. But plummeting down through those clouds and bouncing unpredictably along the tarmac is surely one of the most stunning sights to behold. Especially with the bestie grabbing your wrist and squealing in belly-dropping anticipation by your side.

Unfortunately, this was not me, as I discovered at the airport a few hours earlier that I had booked the wrong flight, so was forced to abandon my travel buddies and bolt to the opposite end of the airport to board my own plane. Yes, we paid extra to get adjacent seats – which we DID – but on different planes… Good start.

So there I was, looking out fondly over an empty 25A, through the window, at Queenstown. Let’s establish my morbid fear of all things cold, so a blast of one-degree air when disembarking the plane is about on par with death. Despite this, the view of The Remarkables for the second time this year was still striking enough to settle me till I got into the terminal. Then it was just a matter of circling the tiny airport till the homies landed (side note: ninety minutes alone in an airport with only a handful of stores and unlimited free fudge can only go well, right?).

Any prediabetic concerns were obviously cured by the magnificence of Ferg (all hail) and the first night of an illegal ten-day bender. Not even mid-way through the month and I watched Dry July drown helplessly in the rest of the night. And because luck was in our favour, we managed to coax out the snow, so day one was filled with much midnight snow dancing by the still lake with happy faces that were sprinkled with snowflakes.

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Picturesque views for 360 degrees

This special little town not only quenches all those crazy adrenaline dreams, but even has local activities to amuse you. Where else can you use your frozen fingers to launch a frisbee blindly through a forest of stunning pine trees in the hope that it doesn’t take out an innocent tourist or land in the lake, but rather perfectly in a designated basket that you can’t see? Frisbee-golf is a legitimate thing, and despite taking hours to a complete a course (with mild tricep casualties), is the most entertaining forest activity. And then there’s the main reason for booking tickets: the Luge. Yes, you can race toboggans down a mountain with the pressing fear of getting pushed off the road by a fellow luger, or obliterating a child who’s stopped mid-course.

And when you thought it couldn’t get much better, think free pub crawl. I’m talking limbo contests (double yes) at bars where you can play connect-4 while sipping hot rum chai and being served free shots all night (Dry July was a joke). Nightlife where etiquette is to dance on counters, swing on beams, and run into endless streams of adrenaline junkies and thrill-seekers from all over the globe. You know it’s been a big one when you actually delete your late night snap story the next day before anyone’s had a chance to behold its insanity… In this snow-sport hub where people literally bid farewell with “see you on the slopes tomorrow”, predictably we didn’t make it up for skiing the next morning.

 

When we did manage to get ourselves up the mountains however, it was James Bond-style darting between other skiers and round flags (ft. one fall off the ski lift, getting stuck on the chair as it started going back down the mountain, and an ironic crash through the ‘Go Slow’ sign). Injuries acquired: zero. Score.

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Whooshing down sun-kissed, snowy slopes?

The rest of this wintery adventure included running off a cliff into free fall (said limbo contest prize), eye-popping pizzas bigger than dinner tables, ludicrous punch concoctions (NB: shower and shave BEFORE your first drink), late night yoga bliss (hang in there stretchy jeans!), heavily endorsing swimming in icy lakes (friend of the year award), being offered jobs daily in such a employment hotspot, and it wouldn’t be a true Catherine trip without smashing a glass.

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Air temperature: slightly above zero, water temperature: don’t even want to know, but my legendary mate managed to go head-under and come out alive

After skipping Dry July for good reason, I’ve had five bedridden weeks of a definite Dry August (including many an antibiotic to cure me of what x-rays revealed to be a pretty brutal lung infection) to confirm that it was all undoubtedly worth it.

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In love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is This the Best Burger in the World?

We’ve all been asked that question: ‘What’s the best burger you’ve ever had?’

If you’ve been to the adrenaline junkie hub of New Zealand – Queenstown, then it’s more than likely Fergburger would be up there in your considerations. And what’s not to love about a burger joint that’s open to satisfy your potential 4:30am munchies?

Open 21 hours of the day, this hunger-crushing heaven seems to have gained reputation as the gold standard of burger houses not only in New Zealand, but internationally. And I’d be first to raise my hand to vote Ferg #1 (make that two hands), as even the classic  Ferg is utter mouth bliss with their genius combination of tender meat, soft buns and that sweet, sweet aioli (cue drooling).

Whatever various health-related hold-backs you have, throw caution to the wind and abandon them for one perfect night with one of these bad boys. Tucking cautiously into half of one of these guys was – albeit at doctor’s instructions – my first baby step into breaking over three years of vegetarianism, and I can say it definitely set a high standard for further reintroduction of meat. That said, I hear the vego options here would give the carnivores a run for their money.

If you’re beyond that simple life and game enough (*cough* intoxicated enough) for a feast, prep yourself for one of the Big Als. This monster isn’t even part of the main menu, and sits not-so-humbley at the bottom of the page waiting for some worthy soul to step up and attempt to consume a tower of burger bliss.

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The Big Al. Image via Google

If you time your plan of attack well enough, it’s possible to avoid the often hour-long queue from fellow burger enthusiasts. There are generally two lulls in the constant stream of hungry travellers (let’s be real – there are virtually no actual Kiwis in Queenstown): the first being around 10:30am when the breakfast burger goers are all nursing their food babies or getting out early to suss out their activity game plan. You want to get in that line before people’s early lunch hunger kicks in, so plan for a solid brunch burger. Then the dinner rush seems to extend till around 9:30, and the wise drunks who’ve decided to soak up their night’s efforts and succumb to those Ferg cravings come out around midnight, causing burger-tantrum-inducing wait times. 11pm is perfect for minimising the suspense so you can sink your teeth into one of these legends and avoid any serious burger withdrawal symptoms.

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Burger with a view?

Best burger in the world? Let’s just say my plans to go back to Queenstown in ski season aren’t just for the skiing…