Friday, May 24, 2013

Wet and Wild on the Shotover River, Queenstown NZ

While in Queenstown this time I had of choice of some activities, since I had been there are few times before I opted to do something I hadn't tried before and it was white water rafting. I chose to go with Queenstown Rafting. 

Because I had no experience with river rafting I was little worried and hesitant about trying it. Luckily two others in my group decided to do it too, so I decided to go ahead.

Queenstown Rafting comes to your hotel to pick you up and brings you first to their office in Queenstown so you can check in, then onto their actual facility which happens to be on the Shotover River right next door to the Shotover Jet. Upon arrival there you are told that you will be wearing a full wet-suit as the river can be quite cold especially since it was late fall. This in itself is a challenge as getting into a wet suit can be quite tiring, there is a lot of pulling and tugging going on! They provide you with everything the suit, socks, booties, jacket, rain coat, life jacket, helmet and even neoprene mitts. All you need to bring is a bathing suit and towel. Important tip: it is advisable to go to the toilet before you put any of this on!

Since the start of the rafting is not where their facility is you then have to pile into a van with all this gear on and drive 40 minutes into Skipper’s Canyon.
Skipper's Canyon
Did I mention the road into Skipper’s Canyon is listed as one of the most dangerous roads in the world and it is probably one of the most scenic as well! It is a narrow one lane dirt road that clings to the side of the canyon and twists it’s way to the Shotover  River. This road was put through during the gold rush in New Zealand. On the way in you pass through 2 holes in the rock. The first was called Hell’s Gate by the miners as you were about to drive some precarious roads into the river. The second is called Heaven’s Gate as that was the first you would pass through on the way out of the Canyon and hopefully with some gold in hand. The river is still panned for gold and on occasion someone finds a nugget or two. Even one of the rafting crew showed off a ring that was made from a nugget found in the river bed.

Soon we arrive and now we are given a lesson on what to do if we fall out of the raft or if the raft flips. We also told not to stand up in the river if we happen to fall out but to float on our back with our feet up and to listen to instruction from rafting guide. At this point they tell you that you can opt not to do it if you don’t feel comfortable. I don’t think anyone ever does because the prospect of driving another 40 minutes out of the canyon in all your gear is probably less appealing. Basically after getting all that gear on you are committed!

Ignorance is bless!

Once in the raft you are taught basic paddling and commands as you have to work as a team. Before each rapid or challenge in the river we are given the lessons we need to successfully make it through without any mishaps. Ie. Falling out or flipping the raft.

Our guide Gabby!
Our guide Gabby was fantastic, she was small and mighty, full of energy and confidence which made us all feel comfortable. There is no substitute for an experienced guide with excellent people skills!

We were on the river almost two hours and it was so much fun! The ride down the river was beautiful with the fall colours and blue water. We also got a history lesson on the gold rush along the way and we saw many relics left from days gone by where people came to make their fortune on the richest gold bearing river in the world.

While on the river we encounter about 6 rapids all ranging from class 3-5 rapids, some of the names describes what you are about to encounter quite well, ie. Pin Ball, Jaws, Toilet etc. I’m happy to report that we did not lose anyone on our raft, although the raft behind us did lose one, but he was quickly scooped up and placed safely back in the raft.

One of the highlights of this trip was at the end where you raft through a man-made tunnel that was built by the miners to direct the flow of the river. Going through the tunnel was quite gentle but as you exit it you are suddenly dropped into the last rapid called Cascade, where the water completely washes over you!  It was a wild ride and I was glad that I decided to do it and didn't chicken out.

After the Cascade you are back where you started before the ride into Skipper’s Canyon. I have to say the most dangerous part of this trip for me was the walk on the sandy path, going downhill were my feet couldn't keep up with the rest of me, causing me to do an all-out belly slide on the path. At this point I was feeling pretty good about having all the wet suit gear on! I only suffered a sandy wet suit and hosing down when I got back to base.

To finish the trip you can warm up in the sauna they have on-site and finish up with a flat white coffee and treat or sandwich at their on-site cafĂ©. Even though you can’t really take your camera with you on the raft, they do take photos that you can purchase as they have different cameras set up along the route. 

I would recommend this for anyone that is young at heart and doesn't mind getting wet. No experience is necessary you only need to know how to swim and have the courage to try!

Denise Gushue - Travel Advisor
Kiwi Specialist 

Monday, February 11, 2013

2012 - As I look back

As I look back on 2012 I realize that I have a lot to be thankful for. I have grown as a person, a travel advisor and my business has grown!   I have to thank my clients for this as you have made me expand my abilities as a travel advisor by trusting me with your travel visions.  I have learned so much about new destinations, new ways to travel and what motivates people travel.  Here is a list of some things I’d like to share with you that has transpired over my year.

Most interesting flight itinerary I booked – Calgary to Norfolk Island, then to Chennai India and then return from Bangladesh. This all for a client that who went to Norfolk Island to visit his family home, then onto to India to visit his daughter who was teaching there and next to visit his sponsored child in Bangladesh.

Most luxurious booking:  A Private yacht chartered for a client’s 40th birthday and 4 of his friends in the Whitsunday Islands, Australia.

Most generous gifts:  A camper van hire for Germany with return flights as a gift for a retiring employee who always wanted to go back to Germany for a visit. Another company gave their long time employee as a retirement gift a private tour of Paris for her and her granddaughter. It was complete with chauffeur and private guide. These gifts will create lifetime memories for these dedicated employees, so much more than a gold watch. I felt privileged to be instrumental in making it happen for them!  

Most popular destination:  I sold a lot of trips to South America this year as well. Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos are hot spots for tourism right now.  I had opportunity to customize some trips to South America for some new clients and some repeat clients. I also have put together a writer’s retreat group to Peru with writer/comedian Deborah Kimmett.  To learn more about this trip click here.  

Most educational - I went on a Seminar at Sea on Royal Caribbean’s’ Oasis of the Seas, one of the world’s largest cruise ships. The Oasis is a beautiful ship with tons of activities, wonderful indoor and outdoor spaces, and wonderful dining options. This is a great ship for families and multi – generational groups as there is really something for everyone!

Fantail Falls, Haast Pass, NZ
Most loved destination - I had the opportunity to go on a familiarization trip to New Zealand which was fabulous! This had been my fourth time visiting New Zealand and I am still in love with it! I never tire of the place and can never wait to go back to visit! I got to see Milford Sound for the first time and it was well worth the drive from Queenstown into Fiordland National Park. The drive itself is just as spectacular as the cruise on Milford Sound.  We drove along the west coast of the South Island and through the Haast Pass, which is so lush and green with vegetation. Along the way we got to see the ever stunning Fantail falls and stunning seascapes along the coast.  
Nothing pleases me more than getting the chance to visit New Zealand and because of that I love planning and arranging trips to this beautiful destination for my clients! 

Most “proud moment” - I also was very happy to just have my name mentioned in Virtuoso Life magazine, a luxury travel magazine. Virtuoso is a consortium of luxury travel agencies and travel suppliers, such as hotels and tour companies, so I’m very proud to be a member. You can find my mention on page 87 under the Ecuador section of the January/February edition, here is the link to the virtual edition.  Virtuoso Life

Overall it has been a great year and I have my clients to thank for that! Here’s to looking forward to 2013, may it serve up new challenges, motivations, destinations familiar and not so familiar and of course success!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Creative Writer's Retreat in Peru

Have you always wanted to have an adventure in Peru? Would you love to write a great story?
I'm excited to announce I have put together a specialized group tour to Peru with One Funny Lady comedian/writer Deborah Kimmett. Deborah has been in the comedy/writing business for a long time and she is wonderful teacher/mentor when it comes to exploring the craft of writing, I can personally vouch for that!

 Deborah is now using her experience to help other writers or inspiring writers develop their skill and find their inspiration. She has held numerous writing workshops locally and worldwide.

After putting our heads together I suggested that it would be good to do a workshop at destination. Deborah jumped at the chance and decided on Peru as the place to do it, since she has always wanted to go there. So we came up with a plan and created a Creative Writer's Retreat in Peru.  

Peru is steeped in history, is biologically diverse, culturally rich and a desired destination for those in search of themselves or a spiritual connection. So what better place to find your inspiration!

Whether you are an experienced writer or a novice Deborah's aim is to help you tap into that inspiration while on this journey and put pen to paper.

Here is a teaser of what you might be inspired by in Peru! As they say "Don't watch the movie live it for real!"

For those of you that may not know of Deborah here is what she says about herself:

 "After three decades,of performing  (The Second City, Winnipeg Comedy Festival) and writing my own one-woman shows, writing and directing on TV shows ( Steve Smith aka Red Green and CBC TV) And CBC Radio (15 Episodes-The Debaters) I have mentored thousands of people ( and businesses ) to change the story they tell themselves and get right with their ideas. My workshops centre around Change, Communicate and creativity. I travel across the world teaching writing workshops, called Let me Midwife your Creative Life."

To learn more about Deborah please visit her website at and check out some of her videos and writings. And here is the link to Deborah's blog on Why she wants to go to Peru.

The trip is 8 days/7 nights and starts in Lima on June 29th, 2013. For full trip details please go to:

Or contact me directly at

All pictures provided by Prom Peru.

Friday, August 31, 2012

New Business Cards

New Business Cards

I recently found a website that offered some very different business cards and thought I'd give them a try. The company is called Moo and their website is They can make mini business cards and you can add your own photos or text to them. 

Since my two passions are travel and photography this was an excellent way for me to showcase what I'm good at, being a travel advisor and photographer.

The video below shows what the cards are like. Needless to say I am very happy with the outcome!

Denise Gushue - Travel Advisor

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Shotover Jet - Excitement at it's Best

Edith Cavell Bridge
 The Shotover Jet is one of Queenstown's the most exciting attractions. It is located 10 minutes outside of Queenstown  on the Shotover River at Morning Star Beach where in 1862 gold was first discovered by Thomas Arthur and Harry Redfern. If you are staying in Queenstown at a hotel you can be picked up by the Shotover Bus. While on the bus ride the driver plays an information video of a safety briefing before you get to the boat launch.

Once you arrive on site the first thing that strikes you is that water is a beautiful aqua colour and the surrounding scenery of the canyon is stunning! The historic Edith Cavell bridge, which is a one lane bridge  frames the entrance into the canyon beyond.

Once you make your way down to the boat you are given a rain coat and life vest and are advised to wear a toque (especially in the fall and winter), ensure your glasses are well fitting and you must leave your camera and personal belongings in a secure locker.  As you board the boat the driver reminds you to hold on to the heated hand rail, keep your hands and arms in at all times and definitely no standing is allowed. Get ready the fun is about to begin!

The river is noticeably shallow, and can be as shallow as 10 cm in some spots, this makes you wonder why the boat does not bottom out especially with 14 people in one boat. The boat call "Big Red" is designed specifically for the Shotover River conditions. With no exterior parts the water is actually sucked in towards the inside propellers called impellers and then forced out the rear nozzles with great force allowing it to reach speeds of 85 KMPH. The jet boat can brake and reverse using deflectors and thrust buckets similar to a jet aircraft, this allows it turn on a dime for incredible 360 degree spins!        

As we start to pick up speed and move through the canyon it is hard to know what to feel? Should I be freaking out about how close he comes to the rocks at incredible speeds or just be in awe of the incredible view from inside the canyon? The canyon is very narrow in some parts and it doesn't even look like the boat can pass and it barely does. And, I have to wonder why sheep who has wandered down to the shore for a drink and seems totally oblivious to the fact that there is a big red thing coming down the river at 80 KMPH and there is a bunch of women screaming in it as it does a complete 360 degree spin a mere inch or two from the rocks. I guess even sheep can zone out seeing the same thing over and over again on a daily basis.

As there is no way to really describe the acceleration felt while riding in " Big Red" the video below might somewhat do the trick. In my opinion is this probably one of the most adrenaline pumping things you can do short of bungee jumping or riding down the side of a mountain on a bike. It requires no strenuous effort unless you count exercising your lungs strenuous. Great for all ages and it is family friendly. Kids must meet the height requirement of 1.2 metres or more. You will disembark a little damp maybe, your face a little wind blown but there will be a smile on your face.  I recommend The Shotover Jet a must do while in Queenstown!

Denise Gushue - Travel Advisor
Kiwi Specialist

View from Shotover Beach.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Safari of the Scenes, a tour well worth doing!

Safari of the Scenes, a tour well worth doing!

Day 2 - Queenstown and surrounding area.

On our second day in Queenstown we did the Safari of the Scenes tour with Nomad Safaris. This is a 4 hour tours that starts with a pick up at your hotel at 8:30AM. Lord of the Rings fans will be happy to know they visit several locations where the film was filmed, thus the name Safari of the Scenes. However this tour was in existence before the film actually came out. It covers the Wakatipu Basin and part of Skipper’s Canyon.

The tour is done in a Land Rover Defender as the terrain warrants nothing less than a reliable 4WD. We start out with a steep climb up the Misty Mountain range from where we were blessed with incredible views of Deer Park Heights.

We also visited Arrowtown which is rich with history from the Gold Rush dating back to the 1800’s. The main street still looks like it could be a gold rush town from the 1800’s. The Arrow River today is still panned for gold and on occasion some get lucky. Our tour actually included a lesson in panning and we all had a go, no one got lucky, but the homemade fruitcake served with our coffee by our driver was worth writing home about.

This was definitely a very fun part of the trip as the Land Rovers ford the river several times as we travel down the river. Make sure you take your pictures with the window closed on this part!

Chard Farm Winery

We visited the Kawarau Gorge on a rather narrow road with a rather curious sign (see picture to the right), that is apparently built for two way traffic; thank goodness this is not part of my daily commute!   From here we could see the original site of the first commercial bungee which was started by A. J. Hackett. There is even a winery situated off this rather tiny road. Apparently the owner had great insight as it is a successful business now producing 6 variety of wines. But, when he first started most believed them                             foolish to even try.

The last part of the tour was to Skipper’s Canyon and in my opinion it offered the most incredible views of the day. The day was sunny and bright and because it was New Zealand’s fall the tussock (native wild grass) was stunning to see with the shades of gold, brown and orange.  Not to mention the while seated on the passenger side, which was also the outside edge of the road the view was literally heart stopping! Skipper’s road is considered one the top 25 most scenic drives in the world and probably one of the scariest, but so worth it! Our tour concluded at our hotel so we could get ready for our next adventure.

Nomad Safaris also offers other tours in the area including Glenorchy, private tours and they also have All Terrain Vehicle options. I’d be happy to give you the details on your next trip to Queenstown.

Denise Gushue - Certified Travel Advisor
Kiwi Specialsit

Monday, May 21, 2012

Queenstown, NZ, location, location, location!

Queenstown, NZ, location, location, location!

I just recently spent three nights in Queenstown, New Zealand and loved the lakeside town. Even though it was my second visit to Queenstown I didn’t do any of the same things I did before as Queenstown and the surrounding area has so much to offer.

Day 1

The first day was an easy day as I had just arrived via Los Angeles and Auckland.  The flight to Queenstown allowed us to see the Southern Alps which viewed from above looks like a spine running down the middle of the South Island of New Zealand.

As we neared Queenstown I kept thinking is there actually enough flat land to land this plane? The sun was shining and there were mountains in every direction you looked!  And, even when we landed at the airport and got off the plane on the tarmac everyone was busy clicking off pictures. The view of the mountains and the low lying clouds were stunning!

We were lucky to be staying at the Rydges Lakeland Hotel which is directly across from the lake so the views were incredible with lake and the backdrop the Remarkable Mountains. Even though the Rydges is not right in the centre of town is very close to walk to everything in less than 15 minutes. Most of the rooms at the Rydges face the lake and either have terraces or balconies from which to enjoy the view. Even the bar and restaurant have stunning views.  Seeing the sun rise over The Remarkable Mountains while having breakfast at the hotel restaurant each morning was fantastic!

I opted to walk around the beautifully located town of about 10,000 permanent residents, soon after we arrived at the hotel.  Queenstown is located on the shore of Lake Wakatipu. It is a glacier formed lake but according to Maori legend the lake was formed by the burnt sleeping body of the giant Matau after he had abducted a chief’s daughter.  A “S” hole was left behind which soon filled with the melted snow and ice forming the lake as it is known today.

 Queenstown has many restaurants and shops and wonderful places for coffee. That day we also lucked out as there was a craft market taking place which featured local artisans.  I ended up buying some hand poured tea light candles and a merino wool hat for my daughter.

It was a great way to ease into the beginning of the trip and to orientate myself with the life of Queenstown.  

Stay tuned for more on Queenstown and area.

Denise Gushue - Certified Travel Advisor
Kiwi Specialist