Saturday, 30 November 2013

Day 24 Queenstown in the Rain

Today has been grizzly and grey, almost felt like being back home! We’re all holding our breaths that the weather picks up soon as the budget isn’t flexible enough to allow us to stay in such an expensive place for an extended period of time – Queenstown is beautiful and so much fun but it’s not cheap! In the mean time we’re doing the few bits and pieces that you can do in bad weather.

First up was to try a FergBurger. Kind of a cult restaurant for Queenstown, everyone who comes apparently needs to try one, and I have to say it was very good, but it was absolutely huge! Mine was literally the size of my head! And mine was just the standard size, Axel got the Big Al which was ridiculously sized, and is basically a heart attack in a bun!

I met up with some people from Saturday night and went to see Thor (there really isn’t a great deal to do other than shop and go to the cinema when it’s raining) I did venture up to the cemetery – sounds macabre I know but all the guide books kept saying how interesting and beautiful was, and the misty settings did give it a magical sort of atmosphere!
This is the hostel's dog and he's definitely the highlight of the place :) we're moving hostels tomorrow morning though as if we're staying a while we want somewhere cheaper - so cute!

On the plus side it’s not particularly cold here, even when it’s raining.

Day 23 Hung Over & Hunger Games

This morning was a slow one.

We had an amazing and eventful night out last night, as Queenstown night life is definitely something! We ended up meeting a big group of cool people from our hostel and going to a house party, where there were easily a few hundred people, and then into town!

We didn’t leave the hostel until early afternoon, as it took a while for us all to be functioning enough to walk down to Vudu CafĂ© and treat ourselves to breakfast out. Claudilia joined us, she met George and Cara yesterday when they went on a walk when she took a photo of them and invited them round to hers for coffee and cake then she went out with us last night.
After a delicious breakfast/brunch/lunch we headed to the lakeside walk for a while, the weather was pretty cloudy and windy today, and I forgot my camera, but the view from the lake is just so lovely. Slowly falling head over heels for Queenstown. Me and Axel then headed up to the botanical gardens, which are beautiful, and spent the afternoon wandering around the gardens chatting away and looking at all the different types of birds they have here.

Next up was to find a cinema and check out the times for Hunger Games. We found a tiny little cinema in the heart of Queenstown, where we watched Hunger Games, and then we pretty much just crawled into bed.  The weather forecast isn’t promising so we might have to postpone a lot of our planned activities, not that we’re particularly bothered as Queenstown is beautiful rain or shine. 

Friday, 22 November 2013

Day 22. Bungy Jumping

I'm just going to let the pictures do the talking for this entry.. I think they tell the story, and are funny enough, without my rambling!

 I kinda screaming when I first fell... just a little... not so loud that the people watching on the platform started laughing for anything... 
 Just dangling above the river...

This is definitely one of my favourites! 
I did my jump on Kawarau Bridge as it was, apparently, the first commercial bungy jump, also I thought it was really pretty, and if I'm going to terrify myself it might as well be somewhere pretty!
I also paid for a video of the jump so you've got that to look forward to seeing when I'm home :)

Day 21. Glaciers

This should really be, Glaciers, Hitchhikers and Shooting since three pretty fun things happened today!

First things first it was a gorgeous sunny day so cancellations were out the window and it was off down to the helicopter launch site!!
 A beautiful view of the mountains from the launch site 
 Our helicopter coming into land
 The ride started by taking us over 'rainforest' clad mountains it was surreal how the clouds looked being so close and how high up
 And then we started to go further into the Alps with the snow covered mountains at our feet
 We got to see three glaciers, including the big two. Fox, Frans Josef and Tasman. As well as a look out over to Mt Cook.
 Me in the helicopter!
 We also booked in to have a landing at the top of the Glacier which I'm so glad we did, it was more expensive to have a landing but it was great to actually be out in the snow

 I should probably add we took this photo so we can submit it to the Lancaster Study Abroad Society Photo Competition - we weren't doing this weird pose for no reason!

 After about 10 minutes or so we set off again over the glaciers
 The view was stunning, and I'm pretty sure I had my mouth open for most of the ride


 It was back over the rainforest down to the landing site again, the whole thing took around 45 minute (it should have only been half an hour but we made sure to keep the driver chatting when we landed so we got some extra time) but it was possibly the highlight of my trip so far. It was very, very cool.
 So after packing up the car and getting changed we were off on the road again! We decided to mix up the seating arrangements as it's not been often we've all been driving together so I sat in Axel and Cara's car while Axel drove and Cara say in ours. 
 We stopped (I made us stop) at Knights view point to see our last glimpse of the ocean for a while, and to grab a photo of the stunning view 
 It was around this point, just before we actually got into the body of Haast Pass that we passed some hitchhikers, we and Axel drove on as we weren't sure we'd have room and didn't know if the other two wanted to pick them up. Just down the road I stopped for this photo and George and Cara said they wanted to pick the two guys up, so. We turned around...
My first time picking up hitchhikers was fun, Christoff from Switzerland came with me and Axel while Neil from Plymouth went with Cara and George. They were really nice and had some funny stories to tell about a car that lasted them two days before it broke down and was then too expensive to fix!
 We stopped off at one of the mirror lakes which I'm so glad about as they were at the top of my 'to-see' list, and they didn't disappoint!

 After the mirror lakes we came to Wanaka which is where the guys wanted to be dropped off, while there me and Axel ran to find a toilet while Cara and George carried on ahead - there's only one road so we knew we'd easily catch up!
But. Me being impulsive and Axel being easily persuaded meant we did a little stop off along the way.. On the road there was a saying 'have a shot' and I've never held a gun before nevermind shot one so, we did a minor detour to a gun range!

It was really fun, we got 25 bullets to shoot at this tiny target. And I did pretty well, if I do say so myself, 20 in the middle 5 in the red just outside the middle. Natural good shot the guy said :)
 Aside from that little detour we took our time getting to Queenstown - mainly because I kept wanting to stop!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Day 20. Franz Josef

After an interesting night sleep (in our 8 bed dorm 6, 6, people snored) and after being woken up by the man above me jumping up at 5oclock after his alarm scared him, we awoke to a very cloudy and drizzly morning in the mountains. We’d already been warned our trip might be cancelled as the forecast wasn’t great but we went down to the counter and sure enough, nothing was running today. Instead we’ve rescheduled for tomorrow morning so we’re just going to spend another night here and cross our fingers, and our toes, that the forecast is right and tomorrow is sunny!
We booked ourselves into Axel and Cara’s hostel (rooms are in pretty high demand so the YHA one me and George got last night was now full) and then we all went to do our own bits and pieces around the tiny village. Axel went to check flights and his emails, Cara and George set off on the walk I wanted do, I’ll come back to why I opted not to later, while I went to The West Coast Wildlife centre. The centre was bigger than I’d expected and really informative without being dull, giving lots of information on the conservation work being done as well as information on the Glacier and the area’s gold mining past.  
The highlight was by far the chance to actually see some Kiwis though! They’re very cute. There’s no photos allowed, as Kiwi’s are nocturnal so it was very dark and loud noises, including talking and camera noises, scare them. It was great to see such an endangered animal up close though!

I opted to not go on the walk because the weather forecast was set to get worse, and the closer you get to the glaciers the wetter and colder it was meant to be… Needless to say an hour later George and Cara turned up back at the hostel completely drenched and with purple lips!

The rest of the day was spent exploring the hostel a little, reading up on our next stop, Queenstown, and, obviously, dawdling away some time in a coffee shop with Axel.

Day 19. Hokitika Gorge

Today has been interesting. After a lovely relaxed start to the day, where we sat on the veranda having a, free, cup of tea, we set off down to Hokitika. It’s an incredibly tiny ‘town’, I hesitate to use that term, but it’s cute and it had two things we wanted to stop off and see on the way down to Franz Josef.

First stop was the Jade Gallery.  Recently me and George have been looking into what sort of Jade we wanted to buy by going to different galleries and we decided we wanted to buy out pieces in Hokitika. Jade’s an important stone for the Maoris and New Zealand has some of the most beautiful types of Jade in the world, it’s also a bit of a symbol for the country. Hokitika is one of the best places to buy New Zealand Jade as the source is close by and it is known as the place to buy jade.

After perusing what was on offer for a while, armed with leaflets telling us what the different symbols and carving meant we made our purchases, and pushed ourselves way over our daily and weekly budgets…
I bought a Fishhook which is meant to bring prosperity and encourage strength and determination, while George bought one in a Toki shape which should encourage strength and courage.

 Next stop was the one we were really looking forward to having read about it in the guide book. Ready? The Sock Knitting Machine Museum.
 The Sock Museum!
I don’t really have anything else to add to it, it was an… interesting stop. (the video they had playing was weirdly hypnotic though and we stood staring at it for way too long)

Another hours drive brought us to Hokitika Gorge.

I should probably mention, as this blog is to give me something to look back on to remember by time travelling New Zealand, that we very almost, nearly crashed and died at this point. I’m sure I’ve mentioned, on the odd occasion, the state of the roads in some parts, well here tarmac suddenly stopped and became... I want to say gravel but that’s too nice a word for what it. Basically we skidded, a lot. The scariest bit was that there was a sheer drop on the side we were skidding towards while the other was a high fence… It’s a bit of a miracle George somehow got the car under control.
(before you hyperventilate mum it’s fine, I’m fine)

Aside from that minor speed bump, which left us both white faced and shaking, the Gorge was beautiful. A 15minute walk took you to a look-out where we got to see the shockingly icy blue river and the stunning white rocks which line it. We only spent a few minutes on the lookout though before George looked down, squeaked, and then started squatting at his legs. The Mosquitos hit again.

Although I’m not entirely sure they were mosquitos this time, or maybe just a different type, as they left little cuts all over our ankles… We ran back to the car to get the insect repellent, smothered ourselves in the stuff, and then set off towards the swing bridge.

The bridge was a similar size to the one in Able Tasman although this one felt much safer as it didn’t rock so much and the view, if possible, was even more beautiful! This was probably one of my favorite sights I’ve seen so far.

Once again we ended up making a speedy exit off the bridge though as a group of 6 tourists decided to come onto the bridge all at once… despite there being no less than 4 signs warning no more than 6 people to be on the bridge at any one time…

And after that things went a little bit downhill as me and George started to really not feel too well. George is now putting it down to the high altitude that the drive was at but regardless we spent the next leg of the journey feeling sorry for ourselves. My head felt funny, I could barely keep my eyes open while I was convinced I was about to faint and be sick all at the same time. Considering our longest drive was 8hours and this was a measly 3 it felt like the longest, by far.
Aside from how rubbish we felt, the drive was incredibly beautiful. It was described as a very scenic drive and it certainly lived up to its name.

I haven’t really mentioned on here how beautiful many of the drives we’re doing are, some are literally jawdroppingly stunning, but obviously since we’re driving, I can’t take photos so I wasn’t sure there was much point telling you how beautiful the views are when you can’t see them! 
(I did force George to pull over on the side of a few busy roads while I jump out to take photos a couple of times yesterday though…)

We finally go to Franz Josef, checked into a hostel (we both have bottom bunks!) and I think we’re just going to relax and try and stop feeling so sick this evening. And cross our fingers tomorrow’s activity isn’t cancelled as the weather forecast isn’t too promising!