We took our last morning a bit more leisurely, since we had our shortest and easiest day of hiking ahead of us. After our normal chocolately yogurt goodness for breakfast we shouldered our packs and started off down the trail. The hut was right around treeline, so we quickly descended back into a beech forest. Since we had crossed the ridgeline the day before, we were now on the side of the mountains away from the ocean so there was definitely less moisture in this forest. The beeches were not as old and the moss was less luxuriously layered on the trees. It was still quite beautiful and we saw more birds on this last day then we had on the first day. The trail was pretty decent for the most part, with only a few areas that involved some steep scrambles down and as it followed the general path of the river that flowed out of the falls, there were numerous swing-bridges for us to sway across.
We got off the trail pretty early, around 11am and our bus wasn’t arriving until 2pm, so we had plenty of time to kill. Unfortunately, there were also plenty of sandflies hanging around at the DOC shelter at the start/end of the trek. We slathered ourselves in bug spray, which helped some, but we still got quite a few bites over the next 3 hours. Otherwise, we occupied ourselves with our e-readers (which are a godsend on multi-day hikes, since real books have the bad tendency of weighing quite a lot. Ths bus rolled up mostly on time and we were back in Queenstown in about 2 hours (there had been a brief stop in another small town along the way). The bus back to Te Anau did not depart for a good half-hour, so Beth was off to Nomads’ to check us in and I went off to Fergburger. Fergburger is a Queenstown institution which serves up rather giant burgers of all sorts, as well as excellent fries till 5am every night. I picked up their two veggie options, one a grilled tofu burger and the other a felafel burger, and we hurriedly ate them on a bench at the bus stop (no food on the bus). They were very good, though probably would have been more enjoyable with slightly longer to eat.
The bus rid down to Te Anau was another two hours and then once we rescued our car from the secure parking lot it was time to reverse the exact same route we had just come back up to Queenstown. Not the most awesome of travel experiences, but there really wasn’t much of a better way to structure this part of the trip. It was just around 9pm when we arrived by in Queenstown. We parked the car in the garage near Nomads’ and went up to our room to drop our gear and shower. Nomads’ is a chain of hostels across NZ, Australia, and Fiji which definitely caters to the college-aged set that is partying their way across Australasia. But they also have some slightly more upscale offerings for those willing to pay a bit more (which Beth and I were), so our room was up on the quieter top floor (away from the communal bunkrooms and kitchens), with a king-sized bed, en suite bathroom, and a lovely balcony view out over Church Street with a view of the lake and the mountains. Not too shabby.
We got changed and headed-out to experience some of the Queenstown nightlife. Our first stop was The World Bar, a Queenstown institution that functions as a seven-day-a-week party location for the dissolute college-aged crowd. Their specialty is fancy mixed drinks served in teapots, though describing them as something special is probably stretching the truth a bit far. Beth and I each got a teapot (SHOW YOUR NOMADS’ KEY AND GET $5 OFF ALL TEAPOTS) and neither of us was impressed with the drink quality (though I don’t quite think that was the point). I enjoyed the people watching, but Beth was horrified by the crowd. She was heard to declaim, “I think everyone in here has horribly failed at life,” which might have been just a bit harsh, since many of them were too young to have failed completely yet. The fact that the DJ was earnestly spinning a set of music that had been marginally cool in the US over a decade ago did not help to endear us to the place. So as soon as we finished our teapots it was time to move on to some place better.
Jo had recommended a bar called The Bunker to us and we had gotten directions to it from someone at Nomads’. On the way I picked up a slice of some of the worst pizza I’ve ever had (and I’ve had some terrible pizza in the my life), but at least it didn’t kill me and made me less hungry. The Bunker was located around the back of Cows Lane, tucked away from most of the normal traffic in Queenstown. It had a restaurant downstairs, and then a bar up on the second level, with an outdoor firepit and an indoor fireplace. We sank into the deep leather couch by the fire and ordered some fancy cocktails and a cheese plate. Definitely a much different vibe and one that we enjoyed more. I have no problems with being fancy. We stayed for three rounds of cocktails, which were all pretty good, though not up the high standards of the NYC places we like to frequent (which was sad given that we were paying NYC prices for the drinks). The way I judge cocktails bars these days is by whether they can make a Sazerac and then how close in quality it is to the one from The Shanty (the best Sazerac I’ve had in NYC so far). The Bunker succeed on the first count, but the drink itself was only so-so. The German Chocolate-Cherry Martini I had later was a bit nicer. By the time we were done, it was after midnight, so home to bed where we finally had a morning to sleep in as late as we wanted.