After a wild last night out in Sydney, walking home via Mcdonalds and Hungry Jacks, we rolled back to our hostel and had a few hours sleep before our 5am shuttle bus arrived to take us to the airport! We walked around the airport like zombies, hung over and sad our 9 weeks in Australia had come to an end. We saw Robson Green, getting onto our plane, he was filming himself with a video camera, possibly for a new TV program, either way we were excited at the celeb spotting!
Arriving in New Zealand, we were greeted with the news that an earthquake had struck in the early hours of the morning in Christchurch. Although scared at the thought it could happen again we were quite intrigued as to what a tremor or quake would actually feel like. I was quite looking forward a little gondola trip down the river Avon but it was never to be.
The centre of Christchurch was all closed off due to many buildings being destroyed and unsafe to have people walking around them. So we had to stay slightly out of town, our hostel was lovely, and even had a hot tub out in the garden which was a home from home for both of us!
We wandered around the outskirts of the city, it was like a ghost town and it was really sad to see all the old buildings, and churches all destroyed, 95% of the building are due to be pulled down because of the amount of damage the city has suffered with quakes over the past couple of years. The whole of New Zealand sits on two tectonic plates, which is why in certain areas the earthquakes are a regular occurrence, and one day may not even be able to be built on.
After a day in Christchurch we hopped on our Kiwi Experience tour bus, which would be our means of transport throughout the south and north island for the next 17days. After a long day of driving we arrived in Kaikora. A place famous for its whale watching and swimming with dolphins. We booked ourselves onto a whale watching trip for the next morning, seen as we had missed out on seeing them in Australia we were both so excited. We made some new friends that were on our bus, and spent the evening in our hostel, avoiding the rain outside and playing some drinking games that somehow ended up with the two of us drinking half a huge bottle of Bundaberg that we had bought from the airport! The next morning we woke up to a beautiful sunny day, with the most beautiful scenery (we had arrived the night before in the dark, so hadn’t seen it yet!) we walked to the port eager to catch the boat out to see the whales, and to our great disappointment all of the trips had been cancelled! This was due to very high sea levels caused by the crazy weather in the few previous days. We were gutted as we had used a valuable day of our trip to see the whales, but we stayed positive and instead, along with our new friends went for a long walk along the coast to a seal colony. The walk felt like a lifetime! We were walking for over an hour before finally reaching the dark, dull motionless seals! Nat loved them and took at least 25 photos. We saw many seals chilling on the rocks in the sun, looking very content, and on our walk back to the hostel later in the afternoon we enjoyed a lovely fish and chip meal for a cool $5 each, so our trip wasn’t wasted!
The next morning we got up early for our kiwi bus Everyday they pass around a clip board with the days activities on and you have to tick which ones you want to do etc. As we had already learnt the weather over here can be quite temperamental, so we were going to grab every opportunity that we could to do all of our activities, and hopefully we could get the good weather! So when we both looked at the clipboard and the days top activity was skydiving, a pang of excitement and terror set upon us. We had both been talking about doing a skydive, and said that if the time was right and we had enough money that New Zealand would be the place to do it, but suddenly the feeling of signing our life away felt very real. We both gave in and after a spur of the moment “yea what the hell” from each of us we signed our names on the board! We had hoped to do the skydive that afternoon, and if we weren't nervous enough we had to endure a further wait as the weather took a turn for the worse and it was called off until the next morning, which meant sleeping on it. Safe to say we didn't get much sleep.
The town of Kaiteriteri was tiny, literally one hostel and a few other places to stay, all set around a beach cove. We arrived there early evening, went for a walk along the beach, then back to our hostel bar to have dinner and a few drinks with some people in our dorm room.
After a very restless nights sleep we were up early and greeted by a beautiful clear bright blue sky, with a few perfect white fluffy clouds in it, and we knew that a skydive was on the menu!
We were picked up from our hostel and driven out to the skydiving site where we were briefed with a video, given our very attractive boiler suits, hat and goggles and then given partners who we were harnessed up to! We decided to go for the 13000ft jump, as we didn’t feel brave enough for the 16500ft one! We were crammed into a tiny plane with our instructors, cameramen, and three other men who were jumping on their own. Our instructors gave us both a commentary on where we were flying over. Our jump was over the Abel Tasman National park, which is a pretty spectacular view, rolling mountains, green fields the sea and even a glimpse of the north island!
But no time to admire the view because once we reached 13000ft the plane door flew open and the three solo skydivers jumped out! It scared the life out of both of us, suddenly the realisation that we would both be jumping next hit us!
Nat - As my instructor edged us to the open door I turned round a yelled a quick “I love you” to Paul, and we both had a very pathetic attempted to grab each other’s hand. Then after my instructor waved his hand out to count 1,2..we were out! The free fall was amazing, it felt like we were flying – Paul said watching me disappear out of the plane was the scariest thing! The jump took my breath away, I couldn’t even scream, it went so quickly and before I knew it the parachute was up and we were gliding back down to the ground. Floating through the sky was amazing, we went through a little white fluffy cloud, it was so peaceful, and the view was just amazing.
Paul – I had a great instructor who put my mind at rest on the plane journey, I remember thinking "this is quite expensive, I hope its not all over to quickly!" I don’t know what I expected but it just felt really strange, my camera man was awesome and took an amazing video and pictures! I asked him to drop us through a cloud which he did and was a really strange feeling.
We both sat and watched our videos before heading back to the hostel, and of course we were straight onto facebook and texting our families to let them no what adrenaline junkies we had become!
On our way to Westport we stopped off for some famous Hokey Pokey ice cream – famous in New Zealand it is vanilla with honeycomb chunks, and very tasty! Then we decided to complete our crazy day and go Jet Boating! This is a boat that can reach excessive speeds and drive in as little as 10cm of water. It was brilliant, we went with a couple of other people from our bus and sped down the river, missing the rocky sides by inches and of course getting soaked.
Arriving in Westport, Penny and Ben (a couple form Birmingham) had become our new friends and saved us two places in a hostel room. The hostel was brilliant, we had a huge room with 10 of us in, but it also had a lounge and kitchen area, it was like being students, we all watched a film together whilst trying to avoid being bitten by mosquitos..that were everywhere!
Ben went out for a drink with some locals and came back drunk, and we were all woken up to a big crash in the middle of the night…it was Ben falling out of the top bunk, OUCH!
Another day, another destination! This was one we were all really excited for because it was where the “Poo Pub” was and this meant party night! The Poo Pub is a bar attached to a tiny hostel, owned by an 89 year man. Everyone on the kiwi experience bus goes there to have a steak dinner, and spend the evening drinking in the bar, every evening has a theme and our driver Briggsy gave us the theme ABC – anything but clothes!
So on our way to the hostel we stopped off at a local town to buy our outfits. We teamed up with Penny and Ben and decided to make joint costumes. The boys picked Bill and Ben – they bought giant flowerpots, cut the bottom out and decorated then with stickers and braces. They each had a small flowerpot on their heads, and of course were stripped down to their boxers! Penny and I decided on a slightly cheaper option and stole a pile of lottery tickets which we threaded string through and tied around us along with some polystyrene balls and we were “lottery girls”
The evening was a great success, we all drank far too much and had a brilliant night, everyone made a real effort, there were nuns outfits made from bin bags, a sheep from a bath mat, giant board games, someone even dressed up in their backpack! After far too much drink, we thought it would be a good idea to go and swim in the “nearby” lake. The road sign said it was a few hundred meters walk, but after what felt like an eternity we ended up in a very shallow, freezing lake, in the rain, not ideal! Still the pathway, although pitch black, was filled with glow worms which looked really cool. Ben suggested eating one to make his belly glow, thankfully we talked him out of it!!
We drove to Franz Josef via a bush centre – which was really just a place to stop to make money out of us. But an early start and a hangover meant we weren’t really up for it, so we all sat in the café with a cheap hot chocolate instead!
Once arriving at our hostel, we got wristbands allowing us free entry to the hot pools which were down the road. We spent the afternoon there with Penny and Ben, the pools were all really hot and relaxing, however the huge rain storm wasn’t ideal as we tried to shelter under the canopy’s over the pools! In the evening we headed to the Monsoon bar on the hostel sight to get together with the rest of our bus and have the winner of the ABC fancy dress competition revealed…It went to Paul and Ben for their joint effort as Bill and Ben…winning a Canyon Swing…UhOh!!
Day two in Franz Josef and we were feeling fresh after an early night, just as well because today we were climbing the Glacier! After several days of constant rain we were so glad to wake up to a reasonably clear day, drizzly but bearable. We were fitted with all the gear, and were driven to the base of the Glacier before our hike began. We spent the next few hours walking along rocks, then ice (using our clip on crampons) and weaving our way the glacier. It was hard work, but well worth the stunning views and walking through ice caves and tunnels with the beautiful white and blue glowing in the sunlight. The weather took a turn for the worse after lunch and the rest of the trip was in the pouring rain, but we struggled through and it was well worth it.
We had a short drive to Wanaka, stopping to see thundering falls, a huge very picturesque waterfall. The sun made an appearance and the views around the winding mountains were amazing, they complimented the blue lake perfectly. Wanaka was pretty laid back, we went to a local bar with Ben and Penny for drinks – the boys entered a pool competition which Paul won, along with a nice $30 bar tab. Penny and I went to bed early while the boys stayed out until the small hours. This wasn’t such a good idea the next day when we went to Puzzling world and they both had hangovers. There was a maze there and many weird illusion rooms which freaked us all out.
Everyone that had been to Queenstown had loved it, so we were prepared for a lively resort, ruined by tourists, but much to our surprise it was a charming town – a ski resort in the winter, with lots of activities – known as the adventure capital of the north, people were friendly and the atmosphere was the right amount of lively.
We enjoyed a couple of days here, meeting up with our kiwi bus group one last time before we went our separate ways. We went for a pizza and a few too many cocktails in teapots which was interesting! During the day we went with Penny and Ben up to the peak of one of the mountains to admire the views, and got a cable car right to the top then had several luge rides down. Luges are little sledges on wheels which you basically roll down a track on, it was brilliant fun! Then to continue our energetic day we went to the Canyon Swing! Everyone’s nerves were clear – Ben and Penny jumped first and said it was amazing. Nat was chosen as the camerawoman, and then it was my turn to jump next……
I almost went for the easy option of being suspended then dropped but after a chat with the guys there I decided it would be scarier and more exciting to actually leap myself off the edge! I was standing at the edge of the platform, looking over down towards the sharp rocks and river! The safety men kept talking to me and I could barely answer them. I threatened to hold onto them when I jumped which they laughed at! I remember thinking that I mustn't swear when I jump because I might buy the DVD and don't want the family to have to hear that! After a minute or 2 of deliberating about how to jump I simply ran forwards towards the end of the platform and attempted to spring myself off with both legs together like you would from a diving board! It felt like I was seamlessly floating through the air in perfect dive formation but wasn't until I watched the dvd that my legs were like jelly and I rotated pretty quickly! I also screamed SHIIIIIIITTT which also wasn't in the plan! It was all over before I knew it though and I was being hoisted back up to the top!
We finished the day off with a Fergburger – famous huge burgers in Queenstown, and were joined to watch the sunset on the beach with our fellow kiwi friends.
The North Island
We had an emotional morning as we had to say goodbye to Ben and Penny Then we flew up to the north island and the capital city Wellington. It felt strange being back in a city with the hustle and bustle. We were only there for a day so did a bit of exploring, and went to the Te Papa museum which was interesting, before cooking one of our famous chilli’s for dinner.
We were picked up from the “windy city” by our new north island kiwi bus, which meant new people, and not so much fun! The drive to Taupo was very scenic, we saw Volcano Ruapea which looked pretty spectacular with its snow-capped top., then onto Huka Falls, which is a very fast flowing river where many has attempted to raft down, unsuccessfully! After settling in our hostel, we walked to the nearby hot springs, which is small rock waterfall, leading into a huge lake. The water comes off the rocks at about 50degrees, and feels so hot you can barely stand in it, but once mixed with the lake water it become a pleasant temperature and a very relaxing place to chill.
An early morning pick up took us out to Waitomo where we had booked to go black water rafting – you each have a rubber ring and are lead through pitch black caves filled with water! We were with a group of several others and began our adventure by climbing into the dark caves, which at first was very daunting. We spent the next hour walking and swimming through the caves, jumping in our rings down 1 and 2 meter falls, squeaking through tiny gaps, and floating along the stream looking at the glow worms. It was an amazing experience and we were both so happy we had come all this way to do it.
Our bus driver took us back to our hostel in Rotorua, where we checked into our first double room in a hostel – we had vouchers and it was the same price as a dorm! We had a few hours swimming in the heated outdoor pool before we went off on a Maori evening. We went with a coach load of others to the reconstruction of a traditional Maori village, we learnt about their way of life, saw them perform the haka! The evening was finished with a huge feast prepared by cooking the meat and potatoes in a huge brick over set into the ground. The food was amazing and as poor travellers we ate until we felt like we were going to burst! Our driver back to the hostel was hilarious and managed to memorise everyone’s names, very impressive!
The journey up to our final destination Auckland was very slow – we stopped off at Hobbiton which is where Lord of the Rings was filmed, then spent ages in a traffic jam trying to get into the centre of the city. We cheered ourselves up by heading to a pub then back to our hostel in the evening for “free pizza” in the downstairs bar. The we thought was too good to be true, free pizza for the whole bar, surely not. Well when the twenty odd boxes of pizzas arrived we were told to make a queue, take slice, then go back to the end of the queue again. We both two slices, which filled a gap but we were still hungry. So one last time we scrapped together the last of our New Zealand dollars and made ourselves a chilli and rice..the perfect one to end out trip.