The Remarkables, in the middle of this picture, is one of only two mountain ranges on earth that run directly north/south. Click the image for a larger version.

Saying the Remarkable Mountains, which stand guard over Queenstown, are “remarkable” is a bit like telling a tall person he’s tall.

“Hey! How’s the weather up there, guy?”

Sure, it’s true, but you’re not the first idiot to say it.

Even so, they are pretty freaking remarkable. So much so, in fact, that after looking at them from Bob’s Peak (taking the steepest cable car in the Southern Hemisphere), I needed to get up close. Since this trip is coming to a close, time is of the essence so I booked a helicopter flight (not everything on a vacation has to make complete sense). What I didn’t know is that we actually got to land on the mountains.

It was spectacular. Click for a larger version of this picture.


I haven’t said that too often on this trip. None of the pictures I took do this any justice. It was incredible, but one fellow passenger a British man named Richard was truly moved.

“This is. Oh. Jeeze. I. Words. I’m getting. Emoti. This is so embarrassing.”

You can say that again, Dick. He started tearing up. We all did our best to pretend not to notice and look away. Of course, we all snuck peaks of the poor sucker. Then, when we caught sight of each other, our eyes got big as if to say, “Are you seeing this? Can you believe this?”

I wonder whether whoever named the mountains had the same reaction?

William Gilbert Rees was the first to settle in this part of the world. He, like most men in this country, apparently loved sheep.

Picture two European blokes looking at the range for the first time:

“Hmm. Well Alex, those mountains over there are nice looking. What do you think?”

“Oh. My. God. Bill, they’re simply amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it. Oh, I’m becoming overwhelmed. Blubber, blubber. Oh, I can’t stop the tears! It’s remarkable!”

“Get over yourself, Alex. Anyway, did you say ‘remarkable?’ I think we can sell that. Let’s call them ‘The Remarkables.'”

My Natural Disadvantage

I’m at an unusual disadvantage in this country. The locals seem to think the most remarkable things about New Zealand are The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. They’re big down here. And I do mean big. As in B-I-G. Even the Air New Zealand flight safety video is like a scene from one of the films.

So, today, (on what must be the windiest day of the year) I saw some of the locations from the filming down here. It turns out many of the locals were used as extras. For example, there was a scene where some bad people were chasing after some good people. Everyone was on horseback and they needed to ride through a river. This was apparently too much for the actors so they got some local girls in a pony club to stand in. Nothing like a Kiwi to take on a challenge.

I was the only member of our little troupe who had not seen the movie. I now know what it felt like to be a leper. As Tim the tour guide said,

“Sorry if some of what I’m saying sounds like gibberish, but you should have seen the movies.”

That’s a long way to fall.

One stop took us to the highest point on a half-lane gravel road. The view – through two giant boulders that acted like a wind tunnel – was magnificent. As we tasted blowing sand and grit, we were afforded the opportunity to gaze at a river that appeared somewhere in one of the movies. I, however, was far more concerned with my traveling companion. She was a 42-pound woman from Singapore who was nearly picked up by the wind and carried away. Thank goodness for the Fergburger I ate before I left, which made me heavy enough to hold her down. The wind must have been going 80. We were all at 45-degree angles battling it.

See, I’m not making this wind up. My legs aren’t two different sizes. It was crazy!

The vistas were “worth writing home about!” That’s the backside of the Remarkables, by the way.

Our trek took us along one of the two roads in the country that void your rental car insurance contract. Thankfully Tim was a skilled driver.

This is an incredible place. Not since Cape Town have I been so amazed by a city. Table Mountain is still my favorite spot from this journey, but this is a close second.