Final stops in New Zealand: Mt Cook and Christchurch

img_20161116_100200The next day, I rose from my bed early as I was catching the bus at 8.40am and I didn’t want to miss it. After showing and eating breakfast, I took my stuff down the stairs to the common area to link to the Wifi and wait for the bus.

A little late, the stray bus arrived with a new driver heading to a new destination: Mount Cook. Saying goodbye to Queenstown, probably one of my favourite places in New Zealand, we speedily headed back on the same road in to Cromwell, where we had a twenty minute stop for a coffee and toilet break, where there was a statue of huge fruit to symbolise the city.  fb_img_1479199602054Then we went on the road pass a tiny village called Tarras, which is famous for a sheep with the biggest coat. The school children in the village created and published a book about Shrek the sheep and the story behind him, which was an interesting read.

We had quick photo opportunities along the way including a mountain range and the gorgeous, baby blue Lake Pukaki. It was such an incredible sight. Eventually, we arrived in Mount Cook, where the weather started stirring with grey clouds and fog so we couldn’t see the top of Mount Cook. In the hostel, we checked in, dumped our bag and layered up for the walk.img_20161115_112823

About a dozen of us jumped on the bus to be taken to the carpark for the Hooker Valley hike. The walk was through the valleys with mountain towering over us on both side and a river flowing parallel to the path. I had never done a walk like this before with the stunning views. Majority of the track was flat but stony so it wasn’t a hard walk. The only downer was that about half way to the end of the one-way path, it started to rain: just constant, miserable rain. With my Thai rain plastic bag on, we trundled to the end of the path, over wobbly, safe bridge to Hooker Glacier Lake. The lake was a picture with sporadic pieces of ice floating on the lake. I kind of wanted to see penguin on them but unfortunately there aren’t any there.DCIM117GOPRO

Facing the rain and the cold, we strolled speedily along the same path to the car park, keeping our focus on getting back rather than the scenery. I was walking mainly with a French girl who hadn’t put many clothes on so she was freezing. While warming ourselves up in a little room, dreading the walk back to the hostel, a guy offered us a lift back to our accommodation. We were so happy and grateful. Success! As we were driving out, we picked up a couple of more travellers from the Stray bus too.DCIM117GOPRO

Back at the hostel, I striped my wet clothes and hung them up around the room, and then lavished myself with hot water from the shower. It was bliss, warming one bone at a time.

In the evening, we just cooked dinner, put up our feet in the common area, eating snacks before heading to bed to rest the body for the night.fb_img_1479199818861

The next day, once we had consumed breakfast and placed our bags on the bus, we set off towards Christchurch. We were meant to be having an overnight stay in Rangitata but due to the lake of power because of the earthquake, the bus were advice to have a night in Christchurch instead. I wasn’t overly disappointed as I had heard that it didn’t have much to do except the white water rafting, which got cancelled owing to the terrible weather. It also meant not waking up super early the next day.

Our first coffee break was in Tekapo, where I went to the toilet and purchased a soy latte to wake me up. We bused it around the corner to ‘The Church of the Good Shepherd’ viewpoint, which overlooked the tranquil Lake Tekapo with these beautiful, purple flowers swishing gently in the wind. Inside the quaint, little church was the most perfect window with an amazing sight (unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos).img_20161116_113414

Back on the bus, we travelled to a town called Geraldine for lunch. First we walked to the cheese shop on the other side of town, where we could get free samples of about 15 different type of cheeses. They were so tasty with so many different flavours. I ended up buying one called Mt Peel, which was a strong-flavoured, blue, soft variety. I would have to eat it all within a few day as I was flying out but that wasn’t going to be a problem.

Then I wandered around town, observing the largest jumper in NZ, picking up some sweets from the superstore, buying a hat and sunglasses for the next part of my trip and taking advantage of the free wifi. After, we packed back on the bus to Christchurch. It didn’t take too long but by the time we reached the hostel, it was around 4pm. We lodged at the hostel I originally stayed at when I first got to New Zealand. Once we had checked in, we took our bags to our room and chilled.DCIM117GOPRO

In the evening, I made some food then sat on the balcony with the 2 Austrians and a French girl, where we slurped on some wine. When we finished the bottle, we headed to the pub next to our accommodation for a beer. We only stayed for one as it was extremely quiet so we went back to the hostel, where we joined a group of travellers outside chatting, all from various countries. One of the guys drove us in his van to the shop but it wasn’t open so we just hung out in the freezing cold until we decided to go to bed.

The following day, I actually had a bit of a lie-in but I still had to get up as check-out was at 10am. Once I had sorted myself out, I waited in the reception area for a friend to pick me up. This friend is someone I was close to at college but we kind of lost contact so the last time I saw her was about 6 years ago. Her mum works with my mum so we found out we would be in Christchurch at the same time as she is currently living there.fb_img_1479199807394

Soon enough she collected me from the hostel and took me back to her house. The weather was awful with gushes of rain constantly throughout the day. Therefore, we just caught up all morning, ordering some fish and chips before she had to go to work. It was so lovely finding out about her live. Some point in the afternoon her boyfriend came in, where we talked for a bit before he disappeared.

For the rest of the day, I just sorted out photos, researched some things and wrote more of my blog. I had a shower before going to bed quite early as I was feeling exhausted.

With my alarm waking me up at 4.00am, I grudgingly got out from under the covers to brush my teeth, shove some clothes on and pack the rest of my bag. I was leaving New Zealand. My friend kindly took me, travelling about 10 minutes to the airport. I simply and tiresomely waited in the queue to check in then go through security. I spent the last of the New Zealand cash and sat reflecting on my time in New Zealand.DCIM117GOPRO

I have to say New Zealand is probably one of the most beautiful countries I have ever been to with different picturesque view every corner you turn. I have absolutely loved catching up with my friends from Thailand and home. The stray bus has made my experience here wanting me to come back to explore more as well as making some incredible friends and unforgettable memories. I have encountered many new experiences including bungy jumping, hand gliding, mountain hikes and river cruises. I have even considered staying just a bit longer but it is time to leave for now. Until next time New Zealand! Back to Australia, I go!

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Milford Sound, New Zealand

 

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As I was being picked up at 8.20am, I rose from my bed early to get ready for the long day a head. I had booked a day trip to Milford Sounds, a place recommended to me to visit.

When I got on the Kiwi Experience bus (rival company to Stray… I know I was a traitor for 1 day), I took a seat at the very back and started talking to those around me. The driver talked about different points of interest throughout the day and when he wasn’t talking, he played some tunes.

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We stopped at a café for coffee before heading into the mobile service free zone. First, we parked up and walked to a waterfall, which was beautiful even though it was chucking it down with rain. Then just many viewpoints to take pictures, where we saw a common bird called Kia. Winding through the valleys with high, rocky, grey mountains either side was such a picture but also gave the feeling of being claustrophobic. I have never seen scenery like this with water running down the slopes of the mountains.

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A little before 3pm, we arrived at the ferry port, where we were about to take a cruise around Milford Sounds. Once we were given our tickets, we lined up for the boat. In front of our eyes were mountains scattered along the gentle waterside with fog floating low, giving off a mysterious, eerie setting.

As the ferry pulled away, we grabbed some seats to take in the breath-taking view. It kind of reminded me of the setting in Nint Binh in Vietnam, but with so much more rain and clouds. The whole cruise took about 1 hour 30 minutes of sights of different rocks and many waterfalls including a huge one, where the water crashed into the lake and near our ferry.

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Back on solid ground, we mounted the bus which basically dropped a group off that were doing the Deep South, while we retraced our drive from the morning back to Queenstown. By the time we got back to the city, it was 9.00pm so I ordered dominos before retreating back to the hostel to pack and sleep.

Queenstown: Final goodbyes, gondola rides and an earthquake

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I had decided to get up early with the girls to wave them goodbye on their journeys. With their alarms going off, I laid in bed until they were ready to leave.img_20161113_132649

Outside the hostel, a crowd of backpackers waited for their bus to arrive. Waving goodbye, the Irish girl and the driver I’ve had most of the time left to do the deep south. Then shortly after, the two British girls mounted the bright orange bus to continue to Christchurch. I was in a bit of a funny mood, not sure what to do with myself. I was always fine with goodbyes but as I’ve got older it has become harder and harder. I will never forget my time with them.img_20161113_130710

As it was still early, I decided to go back to bed until midday to catch on lost sleep.

After getting dressed and eating some toast, I wandered around the city, first trying to find the market but without any success. Then I mooched over to the gardens by the beach, which was such a peaceful walk with the most picturesque scenery. The cool air brushed through my hair. One side of me was the gentle lake and on the other was a forest. In the forest, there were many Frisbee goals to enjoy and sounds of different birds chirping away. I did a loop around the park admiring the views including fountains and beautiful flowers.img_20161111_184728

While walking through the town centre, I meandered in and out of shops, looking for postcards, tasting fudge and tea. It was just so tasty.

I wanted to go to the top of the mountain so moseyed towards the opening of the hilly path. However, I had been advised by a fellow traveller to go up the mountain in a gondola. Usually I’m pretty careful with my money and would have walked up but I decided to treat myself after losing my friends.DCIM117GOPRO

Once I had purchased a ticket, I joined the queue for the gondolas, where I stepped in the revolving mental box and took a seat. A lady insisted on taking my photo before ascending up. The high I got, the better the view was. It was such a beautiful day with the sun blazing down and a slight breeze.

At the top, I walked round the viewing deck to take some photos and watch people throw themselves off a ledge to do a bungy jump. As I continued strolling higher along a windy path, many people were paragliding and racing cars down a track on the luges. I took myself to a quiet area on a patch on grass and just watched the world go by and reflect for a bit whilst being mesmerised by the sight.img_20161113_151333

Later on in the afternoon, I rode the gondola back to the ground floor and with my stomach feeling empty, I bought a veggie pie, which New Zealanders eat all the time (it was my first one as the majority of them have different meats in). Back at the hostel I met two girls who had just moved into the room and exchanged the normal sort of information but they were very drunk.DCIM117GOPRO

At about 6.30pm, I went to cookie time (famous in NZ) as they had 2 for 1 on their hot cookies, where I got a rocket road and a white chocolate and cranberry cookie. They just melted in my mouth. I went to the supermarket to buy lunch for my day trip the following day.

In the evening, I just chatted to my Mum on skype and then had an early bedtime. When I went to sleep, the two British drunk girls were already in bed together. I think they were a couple and they might have been having fun with each other when I walked.

Some point after midnight, I got woken up, which is very unusual for me. Initially I thought it was because of the girls talking to herself, saying ‘my bed’s wet’ and her rummaging about as she had wet the bed. How gross! However, the next day I found out there was a huge earthquake north of Christchurch but it shook the whole of New Zealand so this is probably what woke me up.

Queenstown: Bungy Jump and crazy nights New Zealand

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Back on the bus, we drove to Queenstown through different high, stony valleys, passing several bungy spots including the first ever one in the world. I didn’t know what to expect of Queenstown. I kind of thought it would be like Wellington with a shopping area on flat ground, maybe even a harbour. I had spoken to many people who had been there in the past and said it was one of their favourite places in the world. I can now see why.fb_img_1479199777592

As we approached the city, there were mountains of different sizes and shapes surrounding the town with snowy tops next to a picturesque, blue lake. I just can’t put into the words the beauty of the city with houses scattered on the hills.

After an orientation of Queenstown, showing us the best places to eat and explore, we got dropped off at the hostel in the centre of town. As per usual, we checked in, took the lift to the third floor and placed our bags next to our bunks.

Our stomachs were churning due to lack of food so we decided to go to Fergburger, which is an extremely popular and famous food restaurant in Queenstown. There are literally queues down the road to order a burger. While waiting for our food to come, I popped into the travel agent to sort out a refund.fb_img_1479199782359

Finally our food arrived; I ate the fish burger, containing succulent fish in batter, tartare sauce, avocado and salad in a huge, crusty roll. It was delicious but I’m still debating whether this burger or Fat Tuis burger in Abel Tasman is better.

The other hired bikes and rode around the town whereas I just chilled back at the hostel for a few hours. At around 6.30pm, the Stray bus backpackers plus two drivers gathered on the beach to have a couple of drinks as it was the only public place it was allowed. In front of us was the perfect vision of the lake surrounded by snow-topped mountains.

When it started to rain, we vacated the beach and headed to Loco to start the Stray pub crawl. Ready to get the night going, we were given a free shot and cocktail. However, I only wanted a few drinks as I had a big day ahead of me: I was going to do a huge bungy jump.DCIM117GOPRO

Early on in the evening, people danced to the loud music with others chatting. With the crowd already quite drunk, it was difficult to move people to the next place easier but after some time we walked to The World’s end bar. It was a small kind of place with some tunes, where we were given another shot, made in a teapot. Again, we danced a little before heading to Vinnies, a club-like place with people dancing on the platforms and a huge square bar in the middle. Whilst others were going through drinks like they were going out of fashion, I just talked and danced.

In the early hours of the morning, we decided to leave, dragging and carrying one of the drivers out as he was obliterated. We decided to go back to this house about 7km away from the centre to chill. It seemed like a good idea at the time. We started walking there for about an hour but in the end we pulled over a taxi to take us there especially as the last part was a massive, windy hill.DCIM117GOPRO

At the house, I got cooked some food, a random concoction of noodles, sweet chillies sauce, lettuce and bagels. We chilled for a bit before nodding off to sleep.

The next day, we had to work out how to get back to the centre as I needed to be at the bungy shop at 11.30am. I can’t believe it was the day to do the bungy jump as I had booked it more than 6 weeks before, and had several nightmares about it. It was crazy! Why was I doing this to myself? I am generally not scared of anything except doing a bungy jump. I wanted to overcome this fear and challenge myself. Of course, if I was going to do it at all, I was going to do the biggest on in Australasia. Go big! 134m jump!

After catching a bus into town, we went back to the hostel so I could sort my things out and mentally prepare myself. I met the other three girls, who were as crazy as me and then walked to the shop. First we checked ourselves in then we went to the ipads to make sure all our details were correct and sign our lives away, then back to the counter for them to measure our weight. We lounged on beanbags for a bit, watching the extreme sport A J Hackett had to offer, while everyone else went through the check-in procedure.DCIM117GOPRO

The crowd were called into the minibus, where we would be taken to either the original bungy, the Nevis bungy or the big swing. Our driver was very perky, trying to calm our nerves and blaring out music. It was a forty minute ride to the Nervis jump through the valleys and up on a bumpy path to the top of the mountains. I was feeling more and more scared the closer we got with my palm sweating out buckets. Again we checked in then climbed into a harness, where I was strapped up. We walked outside toward the edge of the mountain where there was a cable car hanging from the middle of the valley, looking down on a stream and rocks.

After some instructions, we piled into a little carry cart that took us to the middle where the cable car was and then we carefully stepped into it. My mind by this time was exploding; working myself up, thinking there was no way this was actually going to happen. One of the instructors put two padded reels on my ankles, getting ready to jump. I watched as others jumped and came back up with excitement on their faces. There was upbeat music playing loudly to psych us up.

Out of the four of us, the Irish girl went first: she was adamant that she wasn’t going to do it, pushing herself away from the edge but in the end she did it. It was my turn next, squeezing through the gate and sitting on the dentist like chair while they attached a rope to me and going over the instructions again. Then I stood and the guide shuffled me to the edge of the platform. My heart was racing; my face looking was absolutely panicked, my hands were opening and closing, my voice was shaking saying “No”. In my mind I still though ‘There is no way I am going to do it’. The guy told me somethings which just went in one ear and out the other. Okay…3…no…2…no…1…fb_img_1479199730916

I think I just put my brain on hold and just jumped out like a bird with my arms in the air. It took several seconds to realise I was just falling, falling to my death. It was weird: there was no jolting, no head rush, no feeling of being upside-down. I looked up to count the bounces. I was way more concerned about pulling my leg strap at the correct time to turn myself the right way up than looking at the scenery or the sensation I was feeling. Yes with one swift pull I was vertical again. I clenched on for dear life, laughing and hyperventilating at the same time whilst being pulled back to the cable car. My mind was running in circles. I couldn’t think straight. What had I done? At the top, I was swing around, panicking about how I was going to get in the silver box. The guy grabbed my leg and pulled me inside. Questions were fired at me, still with adrenaline filling my body. I wasn’t sure I actually enjoyed it. I was still in complete shock. I did it… 134m bungy jump in New Zealand with 8 seconds of freefall.

Looking back on hindsight I wished I took the time to take in the view and also to be calmer. At the time, I thought I would never do a bungy again but now I know the feeling, I’m tempted to do another one so I can just take in every moment and feeling.

After me, two of the other girls did their jump too. Before leaving the cable car, our equipment was taken off ready to travel back to the top of the valley. On the other side, our harness was taken off and we had the opportunity to view our photos and videos. I had already planned to buy both as I knew I would never do it again. My video was pretty funny with panic smeared across my face just before jumping.

Once purchased we sat and relaxed for a bit before jumping back in the minivan to take us back to the shop in Queenstown. I, stupidly, left my hoodie in the cable car but they managed to retrieve it for me just as the bus was leaving.   The journey back was a bit of a daze with the feeling of unbelief.img_20161111_184728

Back at the hostel, the girl out of our foursome, who didn’t join us with the extreme activity, bought a bottle of bubbly and party hats to celebrate our success of jumping 134m into a valley. It was so sweet of her.

We were all feeling hungry after all the excitement so we went downstairs to the bar to grab some food. I had vegetable quesadillas and hot chips, which was really tasty. After we walked around town to find a hair salon but we were unsuccessful so we got ready for our last night together before departing ways: two girls heading to Christchurch, one doing the deep south route and I was staying in Queenstown a few more nights. I was really sad to be splitting up with the girls as we had been with each other for the previous two and a bit weeks. The Stray driver was also leaving me and I was going to miss him too; he was on my first bus from Christchurch doing his trainee loop so we kind of got close and I got used to having a familiar face around. When travelling, people seem to make close friendships very quickly as they are constantly spending time together.

In the evening, we gathered in Loco for some drinks and then joined the pub crawl, much similar to the night before. We danced and chatted and drank, and when I was ready to leave, not too late, I bid my farewells to everyone before walking back to the hostel and falling asleep in my bunk. It was a good last night.

 

Wanaka, New Zealand: boozy bingo and puzzling world

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The following day with brekkie in my tummy and my rucksack on the bus, we headed off about 9 towards Wanaka. We hopped off at Mirror Lake taking a 40ish minute walk to find the lake. We managed to find a clearing amongst the trees into the lake to see the spectacular view with the snowy mountains behind. fb_img_1479199744706Due to the lack of time, we could only to part of the loop, where I feel we missed out on the best view but instead we rushed back. It was just one of the English girls and myself that did the walk out of our group, where time flew as we hiked around sharing information about our lives.

fb_img_1479199754546Soon enough we were back on the road taking the most incredible route I think I have ever been on. The sun was shining in the bright blue, cloudless sky and the mountains reflecting into glistening, still blue lake. It was just so picturesque, where we stopped a couple of times for photos. We drove over bridges and side by side the mountains to the town of Wanaka.img_20161110_095730

When we arrived, we checked in, again for an upgraded room so just the four of us could be together. We chose to go for a walk around town and to the lake side of Lake Wanaka, where photos were taken. Opposite the lake were several restaurants and bar, where we took a seat in the blazing sun and a pint of refreshing water.img_20161110_155352

After a while, two of us headed back to the room to chill, while the other two girls stayed there, meeting some friends of theirs.

In the evening, we climbed down to the bottom of the stairs to the large bar area to join some of the others on our bus and consume a free drink. The bar had organised a ‘boozy bingo’ for everyone, where we had four games of bingo with a slight twist. img_20161110_141352There were certain numbers where different things had to be shouted out to receive a watery black Sambuca. One of the girls had to snorted salt and others did naked head or tails to win a prize. Then I played pool with the driver, where I surprisingly did better than I thought I would as I hadn’t played in a long time. I didn’t win though.fb_img_1479199760455

On the dance floor the tunes blasted out of the speakers, gathering many dancers and a limbo competition, where I joined them. One drunken guy took a liking to me, which was hilarious, and offered a jug of beer and his Zoo York hat. However, I wasn’t interested and turned myself into to bed not long after.

Waking up super early, I gathered my stuff together, made some breakfast and mounted on the bus. After much confusion and many late comers, we left to be dropped off at either the doorway to the mountain walk or puzzling world. I decided to go to puzzling world as many backpackers had told me how good the place was.img_20161110_154403

Here there were two areas: one an optical illusion room and a maze challenge outside. We started we the optical illusions where there were many holographic pictures, trying to change perspective. There we a disorientating room, which was on a slope we different things on the wall to make you feel like you were falling, As a result, we were trying to get up what seemed like a mountainous hill but collapsing to the wall instead. It was so strange but also amazing how this can change our brain, making us think differently to the reality. img_20161110_172142Also inside this room was a chair slide and mirrors just to add to the confusion. Next was a room with loads of famous faces, jutting out of the wall, staring at you wherever you moved. Actually, when you take a closer look the faces were moulded inwards. Befuddling! Through a little window, there was a room again on a slope which, when I person walked closer to you it looked like they were getting bigger as there head got closer to ceiling. Around were lots of optical illusion posters with animals and faces, sculptures with floating ball and water flowing mid-air. It was incredible.fb_img_1479199785748

We took a bit of a rest in the canteen room, drinking our coffees, playing a 3D tic-tac-toe and solving puzzles which were provided on the tables.

Then five of the stay passengers ( an English girl, an irish girl, an dutch guy, a german guy and myself) took on the challenge of the maze. In my head, I was, like “This will be easy, looks pretty simple, can’t take too long”. How wrong was I? I haven’t done a maze since I was a child so it was great feeling like a kid againimg_20161111_100336. The aim of the maze was to climb the four coloured towers in each corner of the maze and then return to the start. Easy! We thought we would take on the closest tower first. Ha! This was the one we ended up getting to last. We took corners, getting lost, falling into dead-ends, climbing the bridges where we could see the maze from above. However, this didn’t help us as there were many passages going under them so we could figure out the route. There were even different sides of the bridges; meaning couldn’t go down the staircase we wanted to. We did after a lot of winding in and out to find the entrance to each tower. We thought that was the easy bit; however, we were so wrong. Trying to work out how to get back to the start was a challenge in itself, having to go over the other side of the maze, just to come back to follow the paths out. Eventually, after about 50 minute we completely the maze. Success! It actually felt like a great achievement and it was way more exhilarating than expected. I always like a challenge and stimulating my brain until it explodes.img_20161111_105032

We stayed at Puzzling world a wee longer just to unwind. Before leaving, I went to the toilet, which might be slightly unusual to write about but as I followed the signs, in front of me was an illusion. There was a wooden bench on each side with several holes acting as toilet seats in the roman era. On the back wall was a painting of peasants using the holes to do their business in. It was so peculiar but also such a great idea. The actual bathrooms were through a side door.

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