Queenstown, or Tahuna in Māori, has been my home for almost 4 months now and I’ve really enjoyed my time here. It is a fantastic place to live with loads of things to do and see and I would definitely recommend anyone visiting at any time of the year. Nevertheless the resort paradise situated in the shadow of the remarkables mountain range has its issues (as do all places). Nothing and nobody is perfect, but even with that said, I wouldn't trade my time I got to spent here for anything in the world, except maybe... more time!
So here are few things I have to cope with every day. I consider them small price for living in photographer's paradise!
Queenstown is tiny. A mere 12,500 inhabitants call this place home, so what do you think happens when 2 million tourists come here in their rental cars every year? Mayhem that’s what. Drivers that are not used to driving, in cars they’ve never driven, probably on the opposite side of the road, with weather conditions that would test Colin McRae. The ever so popular Facebook rage page Queenstown Whinge has firmly placed the blame on everyone and everything Chinese, to which I agree with to some extent but it is definitely coupled with the lack of road signs, driver education and general infrastructure. This is also not only the case in Queenstown but the whole NZ, it just seems like here is the epicenter of it all.
Here’s a picture of the surroundings to take your mind of all those honking horns.
The Hierarchal System
Queenstown is pretty much a new tourist town, only really becoming popular in the past two decades and it goes to show with the people who live here. The locals (+1 years) think they are more deserving than the long termers (+6months), the longer termers look down their noses at the short termers (1-6months), the short termers get really frustrated by the tourists, and then somewhere on the bottom of that weird hierarchical chain are the Chinese. There’s a lot of asian hate here, yet not many people have realised that it is the hated Asian who, by spending so much of their hard earned Rupees/Dongs, ares the ones that have made it possible for us all to be here. And lets be honest even the locals haven’t been here too long.
Unfortunately, the problem being a short termer is that the businesses here know that there is such a huge turnover of people willing to work that the hourly pay is normally not that great.... and by not that great I mean minimum wage.... and by minimum wage I mean $14.25 an hour, which is 12.11 after tax. I managed to secure myself a well paid job although it doesn't happen very often here. The strange thing is that, generally speaking, the bigger the business the lesser the pay (I am talking to you Fergburger).
You don't mind the sh*t pay though if you can enjoy your lunch break in here.
The cost of Living
There's no denying that Queenstown's expensive, I’d put it on a par with Zermatt, Switzerland for sure. Everything has a significant, what I call Queenstown Tourist Tax, lumped on top of it. From buses (connectabus aptly named connectac*nts for their $5.50 charge for a 1km ride), to restaurants, to activities. Lets take Skydiving for example: 15,000ft skydive in Queenstown with videos is around 700$. 15,000ft Skydive with videos pretty much anywhere else in New Zealand is around $400. I don't mind paying a bit extra though If living in here means getting this view from your terrace almost every day!
Now don’t get me wrong, the weather here is normally really good. My only reluctancy is that how quickly it can change. It goes from glorious sunshine to torrential downpour in a matter of minutes. It’s completely unpredictable and, on many occasion, has ruined days out. It gets annoying having to carry around waterproofs everywhere, but I don't mind the clouds if they look like this!
THE TEMPERATURE OF THE LAKE
Imagine a stupidly beautiful sunny day, you’re relaxing on a hot beach surrounded by snowcapped craggy mountains, your ears tingling to the sounds of soft reggae beats. You stand up, overzealously beat the golden sand off your towel and head in the lake for a long deserved afternoon plunge. Sounds good doesn’t it? Well let me tell you that that does not happen in Queenstown. It's the coldest water I’ve been in with it normally being around 10 degrees. Don’t know how cold that feels? Imagine grappling your opponent in a wrestling competition, now imagine that your opponent is the abominable snowman, and you’re wrestling on an ice rink and the abominable snowman has you in a bear hug and you’re naked. That’s the only way I can describe swimming in Lake wakatipu.
But enough about the negatives, now to the positives! Why do I love Queenstown so much? Because it is just damn pretty. Everywhere you look you get stupidly stunning views of the Remarkables and lake Wakatipu.
The sunrises and sunsets will leave you speechless...
You can even witness the southern lights here!
Queenstown has the most friendly atmosphere I have ever encountered anywhere in the world with everybody helping each other out. Crime pretty much doesn't exist here either. Everyone has so much trust in each other that I've even seen people leaving their car keys in the ignition whilst shopping in the supermarket! I felt in love with this place and I am heartbroken to be leaving soon, but my adventurous soul is calling for another escapade, plus I have loads more of discovering to do in New Zealand. I had such a great time here, that I kept extending my stay and I felt that If I extend it once more then I will just never leave. Yes it is expensive, but you sort of just deal with it and after a while you don't mind paying an extra dollar for a beer because when you drink it you can enjoy the incredible views over the Remarkables. Yes it can get crowded, but there are more than enough places here where you can escape and hardly meet anyone during a whole day. Queenstown I'll miss you, but I'll be back soon!
Have you ever been to Queenstown? What are you views on it?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I am Marta Kulesza - the photographer and creator of www.inafarawayland.com. I come from Poland, but I've been living, travelling and working around the globe since I turned 18. A few years ago, during one of my trips to Scotland, I bought my first DSLR and my adventure with photography began. When I am not stuck to my computer editing photos, you can find me somewhere in the mountains.