Around every bend and over every hill you're bound to see a Land Rover or troop carrier of nature in Queenstown. We love this. They share the same taste for adventure as we do (well we like to think they do) and of course we've got some common ground to spark up a friendly chat. Local knowledge is the best knowledge after all.
These friendly chats seemed to bring up a common theme... Skippers Canyon, so off we went. Its not even 100 metres in that you get a taste for what you're in for. You're not greeted with any friendly and encouraging ‘Welcome to Skippers Canyon’ sign but instead stopped in your tracks with red warnings, disclaimers and voiding your insurance nonsense (I mean this is very important information for which we took minutes to throughly read and understand).
After reading the sign, Joel started to get all excited at the thought of the keen tourists that have bombed their Toyota rental hatchback down the road in the past. We had only travelled 50 metres before we stopped to greet our first canyon surviver. Well just anyway. Lorenzo had literally just had a close call on his bike coming up and out of the canyon. Luckily Lorenzo fell to right, as the other side was a sheer drop a couple hundred of metres down. After a decent chat with Lorenzo we gathered that this drive would be no easy task. So off we went.
If your one to often punch things into trusty google, go ahead and enter ‘Skippers Canyon’. Among the crazy cliff drops and crystal clear rivers you'll find the drive to Skippers being ranked in the top 10 most dangerous roads in the world. It was at that moment that Joel and I were sold and knew we were in for something interesting.
Interesting we expected and this is what we found.
1. It’s scary
It really isn't for the faint hearted and you really have to be an experienced driver, or in my case a very trusting passenger with a quick eye for on coming traffic. The road is a single lane, is very narrow and is of loose gravel. There are no fluffy grassy knolls or picnic areas to rest and make a sandwich, only sheer cliff face upward and a sheer couple hundred metre drop on the other. It goes up and down and all around with blind corners making up for almost every corner. The whole ride has you on the edge of your seat. Real nail biting stuff.
*Note: Be warned, it's not the road that will get you, it's those you are sharing it with. Make sure you stay on the horn heading around the tight blind turns.
2. It's worth it
Once you get through the thick of it and slow your breathing, you are awarded with some serious breath taking beauty. You really could mistake this for a canyon else where in America or Canada, but it's right here on our door step. It just takes some more guts and time to get to. But it's worth every second and every new rattle the Landy now has.
3. Watch out for those rafting companies
Day after day these buses house crowds of folks keen to have a crack at the crystal clear river. They make the climb down the canyon and back up regularly, but if you ask me they need to slow down. Perhaps day after day they get to know the road but even so just keep an eye out for them, they can often come at you with some frightening speed. Maybe it's all part of the adventure? Nonetheless, I would hate to lose the paper, scissors, rock battle of who has to back up several kilometres to find an area wide enough to pull into to let the other pass.
4. Be ready to see the bluest, most crystal clear water in the world
But really it is! We unfolded our roof top tent, got out the cooker, brewed a tea and sat sipping with our toes submerged, in awe of this arctic blue water. I would say it's magic.
5. Take your time
Give yourself time because, like the entire South Island, every corner you turn offers something new. During the descent, if you're brave enough there are pull in areas to stop and quickly snap a few shots, but you'd better be quick as it could get messy. Once you are down in the canyon's clearing you will have thought you've hit the jack pot and it couldn't possibly get any better... but keep going. Because it does, or so we have been told.
Unfortuntely we didn't give ourselves enough time and got lost in the rivers magic. During your trip down, please go on further and share it with us would ya?
Beth is one half of Feldon Shelter (some say the better half).
When she's not creating the countries best roof top tent, you can find her planning,
navigating, exploring, photographing, writing and more often than not, sitting on top of the truck taking it all in.