Lovely lie in this morning seeing as we get an extra day here. Most people have gone for their glacier walk so was nice and peaceful. I sorted out my computer, bag, food etc and then had a lazy breakfast rather than the usual rush. When Megan and Deborah were ready, we head off to complete the walk to the glacier without getting on it. After an hour’s walk, we were only just at the car park. We had the choice of a 20 min steep climb, 25 min or 30 min walk, or 1 hour 30 walk. So we went for the 20 minute steep climb. Still great views and not too strenuous. Lots of silly photos, and then to the hour walk back again.
We stopped off for coffee and carrot cake. Out here, the cake slices are like wedges, so we split a piece, meander around the two shops in town, then head back for another hot tub in the rain, Dinner and early to bed tonight I think. Coach leaves at half 7 tomorrow morning, and the coach four days later is fully booked. So nice early start again.
Wednesday 17th October
For once I’m not the last person onto the coach! Woop! The reason we started so early today becomes clear when we arrived at our first stop – Lake Matheson. The morning views of the lake are “postcard shots”. The water is perfectly flat like glass, and the two lines of trees either side are perfectly matching. In the background, a stunning mountain that reflects on the water. Not something I will forget in a hurry. We then drove to Ship Creek. It’s a beach with a watchtower from which you can see dolphins in the sea. Apart from today, it was raining, windy, and there weren’t any dolphins to be seen at all! I felt cheated! The drive to Lake Wanaka was spectacular. Driving past Lakes Wanaka and Haweha, The lakes are surrounded by snowy topped mountains, and the sunlight is reflecting across the water. Indescribable. We then arrived in Wanaka, a smallish town but still had a cinema (old style with couches, and cookies at the interval), a supermarket, mini golf and several walks. We asked at the hostel reception about the available activities in the town. “Well you can go for a walk from here, along the road, up Mount Iron and the view is amazing. It will take about 1 hour 45 each way. Alternatively, you can head along the water’s edge, take some great pictures where the tree grows out from the water, and there’s a vineyard at the end that offers free wine tasting”. Imagine which option we went for! The reception definitely gave great suggestions. We head off around the lake, taking in everything around us. The houses overlooking the lake and the mountains were just what you see in the movies…glass sliding doors opening onto a wooden decked balcony, the yellow retriever trotting at the owner’s side and sitting with an orange juice having an afternoon chat. All this for the same price as a two bed flat in Surrey. Hmmmm, tempting! Everyone out here is so polite as well. They all say “Hello” to each other, whether it’s the first and only time they’ll pass, or if they’ve been friends for years. We arrive at the vineyard and make out way to the Cellar Door. We are greeted by a young woman and a dog, and brought into a room with wide glass windows offering a spectacular view of the mountains and lake. She tells us of the family run business of organic wines, and all about the oaking, soil and wine making process. I’m not a big wine drinker, but these wines were beautiful. They were called Rippon after the family name, At this point, I noticed a photograph on the wall of an actress drinking the wine. In my head, I presume Angela Rippon and that this is her family. Thing is, I have no idea what Angela Rippon looks like so am probably just putting two and two together, and I don’t have the courage to ask in case I am completely wrong. A couple of the girls buy a few bottles, and we slowly meandered back to the hostel, all a little more ‘animated’ on the way back. Group supermarket trip and back to cook dinner. As we sat in our room, everyone slowly brought out the goodies they’d just bought. Mette shared her coconut dairy milk, Anna her peppermint chocolate, Megan her dairy milk with honeycomb, and Laura had white chocolate with raspberry pieces. Who says girls like chocolate?! I’d bought something for dessert. Pancake mix to me (being English), crepes to Laura and Megan (being French/American). Mette attempted to make the first one. Not only is the first one always rubbish, but Mette poured loads of the batter in by accident, so we were gifted with a wedge of crispy batter which had us all in stitches. So the expert Laura took over. A French girl making crepes – perfect! The stack grew and grew, and so we sat down to about 15 pancakes/crepes between 5 of us. Cue the thick spreading of nutella on them, and it all got very messy, especially once more chocolate was handed out. Tie for a change of clothes, washing the nutella off my chin and cheeks, and down to the hostel bar. There were lots of games for the chance to win respect, but sad to say most people lost their dignity in the process. Limbo, musical chairs, killer pool, and karaoke. You can imagine that in a bar of 20-30something year olds, the musical chairs was hilarious to watch the dancing, and the boys singing “You can leave your hat on” was one that could have been missed. Also, there are three different coaches in town tonight, and the bus drivers are having a good reunion. One of their stunts…to stand next to someone at the bar and see how long it takes that person to realise that the drivers trousers are round his ankles (thankfully pants still up). Watching was hilarious as the other person was completely oblivious, until lots of photos were being taken. Funny times!
This morning was a decent start at 9am, and the first stop was Puzzleworld. I didn’t go in to the 4d maze (it has to levels) so we girls sat in the waiting room which had lots of games in anyway, I tried (and failed) at two of them. Think I need to get a job again as my brain is turning to mush. The coach drive took us to Queenstown, stopping off at AJ Hackett on the way. AJ Hackett is the company that built the highest bungy jump in New Zealand at 134m. We watched a video of how the bungy came about as a sport, and the different options available, from a 43m jump, to a canyon swing, to the Nevis at 134m. The Nevis jump is from a clear platform suspended from two cables, so you can see down whilst standing on a swaying small platform when preparing for the jump. Not one for me. A few sign up for it, and Megan books her canyon swing for winning the fancy dress. We arrived in Queenstown in the afternoon, and settled in knowing we had three days to relax, wander, and find our feet again. Deborah has now left us as she has friends in Queenstown and so is staying with them. We spent the afternoon perusing around town, looking in arts and craft shops, sweet shops, and ending up in the old faithful Starbucks. This is where I realised where my money has taken a bashing. Whilst sleeping in rooms with 6-10 beds was initially comforting, it has become less so over the two weeks. People go to sleep and wake up at different times, people rustling around in the bags in the morning, going to the toilet in the night, some snorers or phones going off. This has meant I have been buying a lot more coffee that I expected, trying to wake up each morning after about five hours of interrupted sleep each night. I am looking forward to sleeping in a room by myself at some point again. After Starbucks and dinner, we went to the World Bar, which was a nice bar in town. The outside area was decked with two large fires plus wall heaters, and there were coloured hanging lights around the ceiling bars. Listening to the rain fall suddenly made me realise how surreal this whole experience has been. It is my Milford Sound trip tomorrow, which I’ve been told is the “must do” of New Zealand, and “it is like going to Egypt without seeing the pyramids”. Excited!
A fine 6.30am start to the day, but I am ridiculously excited so I don’t care. Megan and I hopped onto the coach, and were pleased to see a couple of others from our extended group already there (Jasper from Holland and Ian from Liverpool). The long journey to Milford Sound is made easier by watching Kick Ass, and tales of the previous week’s activity. It turns out we are very lucky to be going on this trip today. To get to the Milford Sound, there is just one long road; The Milford Road. The single carriage way is over 200km long, and the area experiences a huge amount of rain. It rains two out of three days, and last Friday, it experienced a year’s worth of London rains in 12 hours. This resulted in a ginormous landslide, and the road had been closed until late last night. As we drove into the area, we passed the landslide rubble. We were told that they’d used extensive amounts of dynamite to blow up the granite boulders and clear the road, and there were several diggers and men still working to clear the mess. We were allowed to get out of the coach once we were through the ‘avalanche risk zone’. The sign said ‘Air temp: 5.2 C’. Fresh! Photos were taken, and Ian and I stood behind the coach exhaust for some warmth. It also felt a bit homely smelling pollution and fumes again. The air out here is so clean and light. It made me realise that the reason I struggled with feeling sick just before my skydive was because the aeroplane wasn’t pressurised and the air was so thin with a lack of oxygen. It also made sense as to why those jumping from 15000ft (an additional 3000ft) had to jump with oxygen. We came to the Milford Sound at around 1pm after a 7.30am coach pick up. Onto the catamaran, and to our hot buffet lunch. It was lovely to have fresh, healthy, hot food again. As we set off around the sound, the captain gave a running commentary. We passed our first waterfall, and it was here that I suddenly regretted being so polite. The captain steered the front of the boat right into the waterfall. Everyone ran back towards the doors to get back inside, and I politely let others go in before me. Big mistake! With wet trousers, and my coffee a big more dilute, I felt like I’d wet myself. Off we travelled a bit further, and then everyone was outside again. Three penguins sat on the rocks at the edge of the bay. It was so strange seeing big penguins in their natural environment, and they even had the yellow tufts next to their ears. The next waterfall came, and seeing as I was already soaked, I stayed out on the deck, and Megan and I took a photo of us in the spray. We then came across a small seal colony, sleeping and sunbathing on the rocks, and were able to get up close. The next drop off was at the underwater observatory/information centre. The observatory was 8m underwater, and there was a huge starfish stuck to one of the windows. Other than that, there was just a lot of murky water. Back onto the catamaran, and then to the coach. At this point, we were told we were even luckier to have done the Sound today. We passed a coach on the way in as they were taking photos. That coach had an accident afterwards, blocking the road and no one else could get to the Sound. The road had now been cleared for us to get back safely. We popped out to the World Bar again this evening, and danced the night away.
Our last day as the five of us. Tomorrow we head off to Christchurch, where Megan leaves to fly back home, and the other four of us will stay until our flights on Tuesday. The weather is beautiful today, and we pop round the corner to the lake front for the market. Soaps in the shape of cupcakes, jewellery, hats, crockery, and paintings were just a few of the things available. After I’d completed a couple of rounds, I sat on the grass, people watching. It was another surreal moment, sitting on the grass in the sun, watching people shop with the lake behind them and a snowy mountain behind that. This would be a great place to live. Shops, bars, culture, hike trails, spectacular views. Megan joined me, then Mette and Anna. We seemed to have lost Laura though. After several goes round the market to find her, we were just about to head back to the hostel when Laura appeared. She took us down the side street, and I suddenly realised where we were heading. The tattoo and piercing shop. Don’t worry… not for me! Laura had spoken to me about this last night. Laura has been travelling for around ten months now, and has and a great adventure. As such, she wanted “Once upon a time…” tattooed on her foot, and wanted my advice on the pain levels, where to have it etc. So there we were, in a tattoo parlour in Queenstown. I resisted, and enjoyed watching Laura get it done. The tattoo artist explained how he’d been in Lord of the Rings, and had tattooed Orlando Bloom afterwards. It turns out lots of films have been shot in New Zealand, including Willow (a reference for you Lauren). Megan then had to leave to do her Canyon Swing, and Anna went off to hike up a mountain. Laura, Mette and I popped out for (another) coffee and ended up at a beautiful restaurant on the waterfront. The man next to us had fish and chips, but these were no ordinary fish and chips. The fish and chips were served in a deep frying basket with handle, the mushy peas on a small dish, and the ketchup and tartar sauce in small shot glasses, all positioned exquisitely on a wooden chopping board. We had a nice long chat between us girls, and it dawned on me how much I was going to miss these girls. Laura gave me some great advice on Sydney as she stayed there for seven months, such as where to stay when, how far things were apart, what sim card is best to get out there. It turns out Sydney is bigger than I thought. My hostel is in the CBD, but turns out it is on the border of the red light district, and also it is ridiculously expensive for what it is. She suggested staying at the beach from now until New Year, and potentially CBD January to March when Emily from home potentially comes out for just under a month. When we got back to the hostel, I emailed my original hostel and cancelled my booking, and have booked Bondi Backpackers instead for a week. A much better deal, with a view of the beach from my room, less people in the room, cheaper, free breakfast and free half hour of internet a day. I’ve also emailed a few hostels to see if they have ‘work for accommodation’ options available, but they’ve replied saying there aren’t any vacancies but they have job boards and there’s plenty of hospitality work available if you look properly. I’m glad it’s all sorted now, and getting insider advice has been so helpful. Laura will be in Sydney for a couple of days when I’m first there too, so hopefully we can meet for a bit between us both having things to do. Our last night together means we are going out to dinner! Yay! We went to an American style restaurant, and my pizza was amazing. Sundried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, red onion, roasted pumpkin and feta. We decided to have a girl’s night in afterwards, chatting, playing silly games, sharing photos and teaching each other our languages/accents. I was crying with laughter. We are heading to Christchurch tomorrow, which is purely a day of driving with several toilet breaks and food stops. My washing has been done and my bag packed. I then remember my laptop is only half charged as is my phone and music player but to get all the cables out is too much hassle, so I’ll just be good tomorrow i.e. sleep on the coach.
I’ve had an amazing time in New Zealand, with some great memories, photos and friends. I’ve seen so many places in so little time. Some I could have missed (the cattery smelling hostel). Others I could easily have spent more time at (River Valley, Wellington, Wanaka and Queenstown). I’m so pleased to have done this, and will never forget it. Whilst on one of the coach journeys, I started to compile a bucket list. Since being in NZ, I am pleased to say I have ticked a good few of them off:
- Travelled by myself (bucket list)
- Been to NZ (bucket list)
- Cathedral Cove – stunning
- (attempted) a hot water bath on the beach made in the sand
- Caving and tubing
- Seen glow worms
- Wet zorbing (bucket list)
- Waterfalls, including standing under one (bucket list) and behind one (bucket list)
- Sky diving (bucket list)
- White water rafting (bucket list)
- Climbing huge hills
- Seen a double rainbow (bucket list)
- Saw a colossal squid
- Felt a (fake) earthquake at the museum
- Watched Lord of the Rings
- Fancy dress party
- Wine tasting
- Milford Sounds
- Seen penguins and seals in the wild
- Made great friends
I’m sure I have missed things out too, and the number of times I have been in pain from the intensity of laughing is too high to count. This trip has cost me a fair amount, not just financially but also missing family, friends, Christmas at home etc, but you can see from the list above that I have achieved so much already. I’m looking forward to Sydney, working along the beachfront somewhere, making more new friends and not having to pack/unpack every single day. I’m sure the 30something degree heat will make life a bit easier to bare too. I have my accommodation sorted, bank account opened with money in there waiting to be spent, and a lot of insider information too. I need to sort out my Tax File Number, pick up my bank card, sort out Medicare, and get a local sim card for my phone. From then on, it’s job hunting! Once I have a job, I can then go shopping again! Oh how I have missed shopping! Onwards and upwards (followed by Fiji and South East Asia).