Friendly Faces in Queenstown

20131129-224253.jpg

It was going to take a lot to make us leave our little slice of paradise we had found in Wanaka, but a week in and around Queenstown with friends and family was just enough to do it. We jumped on a bus for a couple of hours to reach the adrenalin capital of the world, Queenstown and checked into our hostel for the night, Southern Laughter, which got bonus points for giving us our own room and free popcorn. As we had not had a good ol’ big night out for a while we decided a few Sunday beers in Queenstown were in order, but not until we had grabbed a quick bite to eat at the world famous Ferg Baker (next door to the even more famous Ferg Burger). I chose a peppered steak pie and Caroline unsurprisingly had a steak and mushroom pie. To say they were sensational would have been an injustice, they were certainly a million times better than a Pride Park Pukka Pie. Stomachs now lined we went on our very own bar crawl around town and even acquired ourselves a couple of wristbands so we could get $5 drinks in lots of the bars. We warmed up with a few more games of pool which left me in a commanding 41-30 lead after 5 months away!!! The sun even began shinning for us so we went to another Monteiths pub to watch some guy play some pretty good live music. Our favourite bar we visited was probably Zepher’s which although pretty deserted was really cool inside with the walls being made of recycled floorboards from all the buildings that were destroyed in the Christchurch earthquake. The lad who owned it was from Norwich and had come out for a ski season never to return (this happens a lot in NZ!!). Fairly well oiled we decided it would be rude to not try out the number 1 activity on Trip Advisor, a burger from Ferg Burger!!! After a slightly guilty complex we decided to share a burger instead of completely pigging out. We get spoilt with great burgers in England from the likes of GBK, Haché and Byron, but it had to be said the burgers from Ferg Burger were undoubtably the best and most flavoursome we’d ever had. Yum City!! You can tell its poplar because whenever you walk past it there is always a pretty decent queue and loads of tourists all taking photos of it. It was a great first day in Queenstown.

20131129-205348.jpg

We woke up the next day in pretty decent shape considering the random beers and ciders we’d had and went off to pick up our hire car from good old Hertz. I’d booked us a huge Toyota Jeep and it was awesome. When my brother (Wicky Waa Waa/ Fresh Prince/ Will Smith) had worked at Sky he had a good friend called Nathan who was from New Zealand and had moved back to live in Dunedin a good few years ago. As I’d met and got on with him and his wife Megan a few times I promised we’d come and see them whilst we were on the South Island. I told Nath we were heading to Queenstown first, to which he kindly mentioned their family had a holiday home just on the outskirts of Queenstown and we would be welcome to use it for pretty much free when we were there. We quickly agreed and that is where we headed to that morning. A quick 5 minute drive from town took us to our not so humble abode for the week. It was a beautiful three bedroom house over looking Lake Wakitipu with some of the best views you could ever imagine, Queenstown on the right and the snow capped Remarkables mountain range on the left. As we’ve been living in hostels, cheap hotels and boats for 5 months we went a little bit nuts when we arrived, we were actually going to have somewhere to call home for a week and it was absolutely stunning. It will be difficult to ever say thank you enough to Megan and Nathan for letting us stay at their family’s home. After deliriously spinning round in circles and opening every drawer and cupboard we went to the supermarket to stock up in time for our visitors the next day. That night we made a great home cooked meal, baked cakes and just relaxed on the sofas watching dvd’s like normal people do for once!!

The main reason we write this blog is for our family and friends to get a glimpse of what we are really up to during our 12 months away as you can never explain it well enough via an e-mail or Skype. It’s been really nice to hear how much people enjoy sharing our adventures and makes us realise just how much people care. For me it’s been great to see just how excited our parents are when we Skype them. One of the people who has been most enthralled with our worldwide adventure has been my father (Graham). As he said before we left it was going to be the trip of all our lifetimes as he would have loved to have done it, but had never had the chance to because life was different back then! Without his love and support it would have been a million times more difficult for us to have been brave enough to begin this journey so we were both absolutely delighted when he said a few months ago he was going to come out and visit us in New Zealand with his partner Judy. Just to top it off they were also going to be bringing my dear Nan out with them. She is without doubt one of the most incredible women you’ll ever meet. Unless I told you she was 87 (sorry for telling Nan!) you would never ever guess, she’s got more energy than Caroline and I put together. Since her husband Ken passed away 34 years ago my Dad and his sister Penny have been tremendous at looking after her, but she more than looks after them in return and I think Dad taking her on this once in a lifetime adventure was a beautiful way of saying thank you to her.

Today was the day when we were going to pick them up at Queenstown airport as they’d been in Hong Kong. After missing seeing them land from our balcony we jumped in the jeep and and said our emotional hellos after not seeing each other for 5 months. The trip so far has been phenomenal and we wouldn’t change anything but it was really great to see family again.

20131129-203843.jpg

On our first day together in Queenstown we showed them around this most beautiful of towns, grabbed a ridiculously good coffee (a whole soup bowl of latte) and cake from the Vudu Café. Judy’s carrot cake was the biggest thing you’ve ever seen. That night we went for a few welcome beers to introduce them to our favourite new tipples and ate an incredible meal at a steak and ribs restaurant called Flame, even my Nan (legend) had half a rack of ribs. We of course washed it down with an obligatory couple of bottles of NZ red.

The following morning we were up early for our first road trip. I’d promised I’d take Dad some spectacular places and top of that list was the Fjordlands of Milford Sound. If you’ve ever seen postcards of New Zealand there’s a great chance they are pictures of Milford Sound. It’s a place where mountains tower almost vertically from the Tasman Sea to make a dramatic landscape. We decide to really do it justice we would do an overnight trip and spend the night on the Milford Mariner. Before we got there however there was a 5 hour drive to negotiate. With the Dad in the front, kids (Judy and Nan) in the back and dog (Caroline) in the boot we set off. A 5 hour drive would normally be a real pain, however this isn’t the case when you are in New Zealand as the scenery is so diverse and stunning that the time and distance just disappear. Once we got to Milford we bordered our boat which was far more luxurious than we’d ever expected and set sail into the Fjordlands. It was so peaceful and beautiful in there that we thought it couldn’t get much better, that was until some dolphins popped up alongside the boat and started to swim in front of the boat. These were much bigger than the Dusky Dolphins we had been lucky enough to swim with in Kaikora. The weather was perfect and the ship’s captain took us to see lots of waterfalls, which, because of the sunshine, created some amazing rainbows. We anchored in the middle of the Sound and Caroline, Judy and I went out in kayaks on our own little tour, whilst Dad and Nan had a tour on a smaller boat. We were all lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the penguins on the beach. Caroline and I even braved a quick dip in the chilly waters before dinner. Everything on the trip had been magnificent so far and the food completely surprised us too. After a gorgeous soup we were given one of the best buffets you could wish for. Just to top it off there was a desert table with 9 different choices on it. Full up and a bit tired we all went to bed happy and excited for the morning as it had been one of the best days of our whole trip. It was really great to be able to share some of our experiences with our families for once and it was brilliant to see how captivated my Nan was by every moment. She was excited because she’d never slept on a boat. Caroline was obviously just as excited because of her un-humane love of boats!!

20131129-203948.jpg

20131129-204127.jpg

20131129-222809.jpg

Breakfast was served bright and early so that we could get out to the open ocean (Tasman Sea) before the swell picked up. It was another feast from the buffet. After a quick visit to the Ocean we headed back to the harbour. The previous day Judy had missed the Dolphins so we all had our fingers crossed we may get another glimpse of them on the way back in. Eagle eyed Caroline had spotted some splashing from about a mile away and we kept it quiet so as not to get her hopes up, but sure enough it was the dolphins again, only this time there were twice as many and they swam in front of the boat in groups of 5 or 6. It was a beautiful way to end a great trip. We broke the long drive home up with a few stops at some absolutely beautiful place like Gunn Lake, which was perfectly reflective, and The Chasm, which was a huge rocked area where the snow melt rivers came gushing through narrow holes in gigantic boulders.

20131129-194424.jpg

The next morning Judy wasn’t feeling very well so the rest of us took a little day trip over to our favourite town, Lake Wanaka and some of the surrounding wineries. One of the highlights of the day was Nan demanding that we played baseball with sticks and stones from the lakeside. Nan was absolutely brilliant at this and her hand to eye co-ordination was scary, hopefully I’ve inherited some of that and some of her boundless energy.

20131129-223454.jpg

On the way back we stopped at the vineyards of Peregrine and Amisfield and sampled some of their stunning wines. We nipped in to town for a couple of beers and insisted that Dad and Nan sampled a Ferg Burger. Dad loved his but Nan didn’t like all the ‘gunk’ on the top but still demolished the burger.

20131129-204708.jpg

My Dad is a very keen golfer and fancied a round whilst he was in NZ, so he and I headed off to play at Millbrook in Arrowtown, which has hosted the NZ Open and was absolutely incredible. Having not played for at least a year due to saving my pennies and still carrying a pretty sore thumb I wasn’t that confident but was relived that I could still remember how to hit the ball and started off on fire. The course was beautiful and driving off the tees at the base of The Remarkables mountain range was awesome. After taking a commanding lead on the front nine holes the pressure all got too much for me and my father, the seasoned pro began to claw back the Stableford points!! By the end it worked out that I won by a single point, but whether that was just a Father being kind to his son is still unclear. Either way it was a brilliant day for both of us and a really great way of spending some quality time together.

20131129-223554.jpg

Whilst we had been playing golf Caroline and Nan had been shopping for bikinis in Queenstown, although I think it was only Caroline who brought one!! In the evening we did a little bar crawl and Nan became an instant celebrity with the lads of Cowboys Bar who even brought her a shot, although we decided it was better if Caroline had it for her. She then impressed everyone with her new found pool skills!! That evenings dinner was a gorgeous steak in The Botswana Butchery.

As we had mentioned we had really struck gold with our accommodation thanks to my brother’s mate Nathan and his wife Megan, so I was desperate to drive over to see them to say hello and thank them in person. They now lived 300 km’s away in Dunedin, so Caroline, Nan and I went on another road trip through yet more stunning scenery. It was great to see them both after 12 years and they were just as warm, friendly and hospitable as I remembered. The only thing that had changed about them was the fact that they now had two amazing kids, Mana and Tui, that entertained us for the whole afternoon whilst Nathan russled up a wicked BBQ. Mana was definitely his father’s son and was heavily influenced by Bear Grylls and Dynamo making him an adventure magician I think.

20131129-204601.jpg

Our last day with Dad, Nan and Judy turned out to be a blinder! After I had a little tantrum because I wanted us to do something to remember rather than sit on the Internet for the day Dad made an inspired call of wanting to go on a Jet Boat Tour on the Dart River. Before that though we took them out to see the home of the original Bungy Jump run by AJ Hackett, who were celebrating their 25th birthday that week. After watching a couple of jumps Caroline and I decided it wasn’t extreme enough for us anymore but was too much for the others. However Dad and Judy surprised us wih their bravery as they went on the massive zip wire over the canyon. This was a big thing for my Dad as he’s a bit afraid of heights! Judy was obviously feeling better as she did it twice. After they’d Calmed down a bit we headed to Glenorchy for the Jet Boating. Before we got to the water though we went on a fantastic little tour and saw some of The Lord of the Rings film sets where they had filmed the Isengard scenes and also a place they’d filmed some of Wolverine. We were then taken on a little half hour forest walk, where my Nan took it upon herself to ask lots of questions about everything. It was really sweet to see how interested she was about the plants and wildlife. The undoubted highlight was though when we were shown a giant wooden chair that was a piece of the original set from the film, The Hobbit. Most people has climbed up it and sat there to get a photo where they were made to look like a dwarf in the giant chair; not my Nan though she climbed up it and preceded to stand aloft on it, much to the delight if everyone on our tour group, who cheered with delight at this magnificent lady!

20131129-204315.jpg

For the next hour and a half we were thrown around the Dart River in a jet powered boat at 70 km/h. It was a great experience as the driver sped through really narrow streams and inlets at super fast speeds and every now and then threw us into a huge 360 degree spin. Everyone loved it (even my Nan was screeming and smiling). It was really great to see my Dad just sitting there, shaking his head in disbelief at how amazing the experience was.

20131129-224501.jpg

20131129-204447.jpg

During our trip we’ve eaten very well and had some amazing food bit that night’s dinner at a restaurant called The Bunker was up there with the best meal a lot of us have ever had. It was a very small restaurant set up like an old fashioned Speak-Easy. I had beef carpaccio and venison and it was out of this world. Caroline had scallops and lamb which she loved.

So that was the end of a very special week together and we all agreed we had experienced things that we will remember forever. Caroline and I took them to the airport and said some pretty emotional goodbyes. I’m not sure if the tears in my Dad’s eyes were because we weren’t going to see each other for another 7 months or because he was going to miss New Zealand so much! I knew that they would be ok though because I had insisted that they went to Fiji on their way back to London, so they would be spending a few nights in the paradise we had already experienced. I had recommended them to go to Blue Lagoon Resort and from what I have heard they had an amazing time, even taking a sea plane back to Nadi on their last day!!

We had to say another emotional goodbye that day as well. This one was to the wonderful house we had spent the last week. We were really sad to leave our first proper ‘home’ after 5 months travelling but knew there were more adventures around the corner! The only way we could lift our ‘mini-depression’ was to book another epic trip. One experience we had been excited about since planning our trip was to be able to walk around one of New Zealand’s glaciers. So we booked an Ice Explorer trip on the Frans Josef Glacier. We set off on yet another long drive (standard 5 hours) and made a sneaky detour in Wanaka to see if Caroline’s donkey friends were there again, unfortunately they weren’t this time. The scenery was yet again breathtaking. We only managed to make it about halfway to Frans that day though as they had been closing the Haas Pass at night due to a huge landslide last month. So we slept a particularly weird place called Makarora. We did however stay in an awesome A frame bungalow.

We set off early that morning to ensure we got to Frans Josef in good time for our trip up the glacier. When we got there we were kitted up like Arctic explorers with crampons, boots and waterproofs. To get up to the glacier we were flown up in a little helicopter for a quick 5 minute ascent. That in itself was a phenomenal experience, but paled into insignificance once we got onto the ice of the glacier. After a brief lesson on how to walk in crampons and the dangers of the glaciers we began our three hour trek around one of the most insane places you’re ever likely to experience. Our American guide Matt was great and really insightful about how glaciers were formed, he promised we were in for a real treat today as it was going to be possible for us to visit a pretty rare blue cave on our trip. The walk itself actually felt really safe as the crampons gave you incredible grip, but we were constantly reminded and shown the dangers of Moulans (like ice water slides to your death!) and crevasses just off our path. After climbing up a really steep path we went into the blue cave, which was one of the most incredible places I think either of us are every likely to go. It was just a narrow gap in the ice which lead into a cave made entirely of ice. As Caroline said it was the bluest place in the world as the sunlight passed through the blue ice to create a stunning blue light in an enclosed blue cave. We were told to walk further in and wade through some icy water to see what was basically a well hole 10 feet back up to the sky, it was even more stunning than what we had just seen. It was everything we had hoped it would be and we got some photos that we will cherish forever up there. We stood in the middle of this alien land and waited for our helicopter to whip us back down to the town center, which was another beautiful and surreal experience in itself. It had been an amazing day and well worth the 10 hour drive.

20131129-223835.jpg

20131129-204906.jpg

On our drive back to Queenstown we had our last call in to see if Caroline’s donkeys were there. Much to her delight they were and we feed them lots of carrots and apples! I’m sure they got more food than me that day. Our last few days in Queenstown were spent in Bumbles Hostel, which a lovely place right in the centre of town. We celebrated our last real night in Queenstown with a fun bar crawl and I of course had a sneaky Ferg Baker Pie for my dinner!!

Unfortunately our two months in wonderful New Zealand had nearly come to an end and we will always look back fondly on this part of our trip as it had been magnificent. When planning our route we had asked for advice from lots of our friends and they had all unanimously said that New Zealand was amazing and we should give it a decent amount of time to explore it. So we gave it two months which is the longest amount of time we have dedicated to one single country. We were really glad we did because we absolutely loved every minute of the two months. The north Island was fascinating, but the South Island had stolen the show. I’m sure that if we wrote a list of our top 10 things we’ve seen and done in our incredible year at least 5 of them will come from New Zealand! We’ve swam with dolphins, jumped out a plane at 15,000 feet, slept on a boat in the middle of Fjordlands, jet boated along a river and walked on a glacier. The fact we got to share some of those experiences with friends and family just made it all the more incredible. From the bottom of our hearts we would like to say thank you to New Zealand for being so amazing and we hope to see you again one day.

As usual the photos on this blog are just a small selection of the ones we have taken and because of New Zealand’s incredibly un-natural natural beauty there are even more than normal. Please click this link to see some more photos.

Next stop for us will be Australia where we meet our friends Matt and Rel and begin our camper vanning from Cairns to Sydney via Melbourne!

Sending everyone all our best and love from the Southern Hempisphere.

Tommy and Caroline.

Xxxx

20131129-223809.jpg

Advertisements

Two weeks in a campervan….. and the best day ever!

After our 35 minute flight to Christchurch (it was cheaper than the bus) we headed to lucky rentals to pick up our van for 2 weeks. As lucky rentals are the cheapest campervan rental company in NZ, we were expecting our van to be basic at best! However we were pleasantly surprised, Donald (yes I named it) was excellent and much bigger than our previous van, we headed off extremely excited about what the next 2 weeks had in store.

After spending most of the afternoon in the supermarket collecting supplies, we were like kids in a sweet shop, we decided to head to Akaroa, an hour south of Christchurch. We managed to find a free campsite to stay for the evening and awoke to one of the most amazing views ever.

20131115-161534.jpg

We spend the morning exploring Akaora, which was a beautiful French village next to the sea and then headed up a road called summit pass which is meant to have one of the nicest views of the region. I think the pictures tell you everything you need to know.

20131115-161646.jpg

From there we headed north towards Kaikoura, apparently one of the best places in the country to swim with dusky dolphins. On arrival we decided to head to a car park overlooking the water with views of seals…they were everywhere. In the car park, lying under cars, on the beach, in the water, amazing.

20131115-161750.jpg

We’d been told that the best time to swim with dolphins was in the morning but unfortunately for us the trip the following morning was booked up. The forecast for the day after wasn’t great so we decided to book onto the afternoon dolphin encounter and keep our fingers crossed.
We arrived at the centre the following day to the news that the morning group had been successful and they’d managed to find a large pod of dolphins to swim with. I was uncontrollably excited, this was something we’d both been talking about since arriving in New Zealand. Wetsuits on and ready to go we headed out on the boats in search of Dusky dolphins. 3 hours later we returned, tails between our legs and my bottom lip well and truly out. We saw the odd dolphin but nowhere near enough to swim with so we had no option but to return to land. The owner of the company even headed up in a plane searching for them, it just wasn’t to be our day. We did see a blue whale spouting out water though which was pretty cool. Later we found out that there were many Orca (Killer whales) in the area so the dolphins were probably scared off. Not to be deterred we decided to book on the early trip for the next day, we vowed not to leave Kaikora until we’d been swimming with dolphins! In an attempt to cheer ourselves up we decided to go and eat some seafood. We’d spotted a caravan at the side of the road the previous day boasting ‘world famous seafood’ it had to be good! Well, good wasn’t the word, it was amazing. We shared a seafood chowder, I had half a dozen scallops with rice and salad and Tom had crayfish, not bad for £5 each.

20131115-161852.jpg

The next day we awoke to glorious blue skies and no wind whatsoever, perfect weather to swim with dolphins. We arrived at the centre to news that they had spotted a pod of dolphins earlier that morning so they were optimistic they could find them again. So off we went, and this time, much to our delight, we found them. In full wetsuits, booties, hoods, gloves, a snorkel and fins we plunged into the sea…then nearly drowned as it was 8 degrees and so cold it took your breath away! I was just thinking that it was unbearably cold and then a dolphin swam past me and suddenly I couldn’t feel the cold anymore. It was absolutely fantastic. We were told to hum and sing through our snorkels to attract the wild dolphins over and then swim in circles with them to maintain their interest. So that’s exactly what I did, squawked away through my snorkel and entertained the dolphins by swimming round and round. It was honestly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. Tom on the other hand was too busy trying not die of hyperthermia that he hardly saw any dolphins on the first swim, but thankfully we had another 3 goes so he agreed with me that it was out of this world.

20131115-161958.jpg

We were on cloud nine by the time we got back to the centre so decided to once again head to the seafood caravan, well it’d be rude not to.
Once we’d come back down to earth we decided we’d start the journey up north towards Blenheim. We picked up some monkfish from the fishmongers to make Monkfish kebabs for tea (we are definitely the best fed backpackers in New Zealand) and headed off. Someone had mentioned that there was a place en-route called Ohau Stream that was well worth a stop. Seal pups swim upstream to the waterfall and stay in the safe environment for several days at a time whilst their mothers are out getting food. Just when we thought our day couldn’t get any better we arrived at this place and were blown away. Just standing there watching the young seals playing in the water was mesmerising.

20131115-162104.jpg

20131115-162117.jpg

We went to sleep that night next to the beach near Blenheim and both agreed that it had definitely been the best day ever!!!

The next day we decided to find out about the wine cycle tour. As usual we hadn’t planned anything so headed into the info centre in Blenheim to come up with a plan. 10 minutes later we were back in Donald armed with a map of all the best vineyards and a booking to stay in a hostel car park and hire bikes in a town nearby called Renwick. There were about 30 winerys in the area, and as they are all relatively close together you can ride around them. We probably visited about 10 plus a brewery, it was great fun. Most gave free tastings which was even better! We did end up buying an amazing bottle of sauvignon blanc from our favourite vineyard Allan Scott and Tom bought some beers from the brewery. By the end of the bike ride (which was actually quite tough because of the wind) we decided that maybe alcohol and exercise does mix. I did break a spoke on my bike on the way home…nothing to do with the wine of course!

20131115-162212.jpg

The other big thing we wanted to do in the north of the South Island was go sea kayaking in the Abel Tasman National Park. That was a bit of a trek from Blenheim and we needed to book the trip in advance so we decided to stop off at a place called Nelson on the way. On there we called in to Havelock, which is called the greenshell mussel capital of the world. Just look at the size of them!!!

20131115-162257.jpg

After our mussel feast we continued on to Nelson and after a conversation with tourist information booked our sea-kayaking trip and also found out Nelson council allows you to sleep in their car parks for free as long as there is a toilet. Excellent, a free sleep, albeit in be middle of a town centre car park!! That evening there was a weird carnival going on with local school children and then a fair and music concert in the evening. It definitely beat sitting in the car park, but it was a bit odd.

20131115-162353.jpg

The strangest thing was there was no alcohol served at the concert…it would never catch on in England. We hung around for a few minutes, then decided to head to the pub instead!

Our sea kayaking in Abel Tasman was out of this world. We decided to do the 2 day freedom kayaking which meant we self guided ourselves around the coastline and camped in one of the many designated sites along the route. We hired all our equipment from a kayak company and after a few hours of training headed off with a kayak full of sleeping bags and mats, a stove and tent, and of course food. The whole trip was brilliant, the weather was perfect, we stopped and ate our food on the beach and camped overlooking the turquoise waters at a place called Anchorage bay. It was so peaceful out at sea and we saw loads of different sea birds and seals.

20131115-162450.jpg

20131115-162457.jpg

I almost crashed the kayak into rocks at one point as I was guiding us through a tricky section of rocks and that was the moment a seal decided to bark at me from about 30cm away!!

After Abel Tasman we decided to head west with a view to getting back to Christchurch via Arthur’s pass, a road which runs through the southern alps. The views from up there are meant to be stunning. Our first stop on the west coast was Westport, which was nothing more than a stopover, plus the weather had taken a turn for the worst. We slept in the car park of a hostel and decided to go to the cinema for the first time on our trip. The cinema was brand new but because Westport was so small there was no-one else in there. We thought we had our own private viewing until a man walked in 10 minutes into the film and much to Tom’s annoyance and my amusement selected the seat pretty much next to him!!! There was a whole cinema of empty seats….but no, only that one would do. Having pretty much your own private screening definitely has its advantages….but also when the bottom drops out of your popcorn and there is no one else to blame…it also has it’s disadvantages! I spent 5 minutes after the film ended on my hands and knees scooping up popcorn…then made a sharp exit!

After a quick detour to see some more seals including loads of pups we headed for Greymouth, home of the Monteith brewery. I have sampled a lot of cider so far in New Zealand but Monteith’s is definitely the best so we were both keen to go on the popular brewery tour. The journey took us along the coast road which is rated one of the top 10 coast drives in the world. The weather had decided to stop blowing a gale too so the scenery was fantastic.

En-route we stopped off at Punakaiki where I’d read that columns of water shoot skyward from rocks that resemble giant stacks of pancakes! The horrible weather had actually made this far more enjoyable as the rough seas led to some spectacular sights.

20131115-162535.jpg

After making and eating our food in the car-park (I still love how bemused other people are by this) we continued on to Greymouth and headed to the brewery for a tour. We managed to find a used car salesman’s car park which doubled as a campervan park (yes it was weird) and headed across the road to the brewery. The tour was actually good fun, the highlight being all the beer and cider we were allowed to sample!

20131115-162626.jpg

Afterwards we headed into ‘town’ to seek out more drinking holes but quickly realised that Greymouth isn’t the place to stop if you want a large night out! Our pub crawl consisted of 2 pubs…..

The plan for the next day was to head over Arthur’s pass and spend the night in a campsite at Arthur’s pass township. However, we awoke to gale force winds and torrential rain, not the best weather to tackle a road through the southern alps!! After a conversation with the I-site we decided that it wasn’t worth it, we wouldn’t get to see anything and the weather wasn’t set to improve on the west coast for a week. So plan b was put in place, head to Hamner Springs instead and sit in the thermal pools…ok then!

Hamner springs is a pretty little town which is famous for it’s thermally heated spring water pools ranging from 28-42 degrees Celsius. We happily lazed around in there for the afternoon, it’s a hard life!

After Hamner we headed back to Christchurch, said goodbye to Donald and decided to spend a few nights in a hostel which used to be a jail! It was actually really cool as the layout was exactly the same as it used to be, thankfully they’d upgraded the beds though!

20131115-162705.jpg

Christchurch was an interesting place but the effects of the earthquake in February 2011 were everywhere. The centre of the city was like a ghost town, windows still smashed, hardly any shops or restaurants open, it was as if people had just walked away after the quake hit and left things how they were. Obviously this wasn’t the case and many of the buildings had to be demolished because they were unsafe but as we hadn’t seen the city beforehand it was hard to imagine what it used to be like. It was really sad and felt a bit eerie walking around the centre. There were some positives though. They had made a shopping area out of shipping containers, there was a cathedral made of cardboard and loads of ‘pop-up’ cafe’s and bars.

20131115-162804.jpg

20131115-162814.jpg

Once out of jail we headed to Wanaka, which is on the way to Queenstown. I’d spoken to a girl in Wellington who’d said that it was a lovely place and we should spend a few days there. She really sold it to me, so I thought we’d stop and have a look. If the bus ride there was anything to go by then we were definitely going to love Wanaka. The scenery was breathtaking. Imagine the Lake District and Scotland but on a much bigger scale. We stopped for a food break at a place called Lake Tekapo and I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. Whenever you see adverts for New Zealand they always have snow capped mountains behind turquoise coloured lakes…that is exactly what was in front of us.

20131115-162849.jpg

From then on the scenery just got better and better, which I didn’t think was possible. Every corner we turned there was an even bigger mountain and an even bluer lake, and then we arrived into Wanaka and I knew straight away we were going to love it.

20131115-162925.jpg

We stayed in a hostel overlooking the lake with beautiful snow capped mountains in the background, plus we found a place selling pints for £1.75, there was nothing not to like about this place. The 2 nights we’d originally booked quickly turned into 5 and we settled into one of the most beautiful and relaxing places I’ve ever been. We both agreed that for everywhere we’ve been so far on our amazing trip, this is the first place we could actually imagine ourselves living.

We didn’t do much for the first few days, just walked around and stared at the scenery. We then thought we should do something so I suggested sky-diving!! I was desperate to do a skydive whilst in New Zealand and I couldn’t think of a more beautiful and spectacular place to do one. Also, the weather was fantastic, perfect conditions for throwing yourself out of a plane.

We booked on for the following morning and to our delight we awoke to blue skies. I was out of control with excitement. We arrived at the airport, had a safety briefing, changed into our jumpsuits, got introduced to our instructor and cameraman and then headed off to the plane, no messing about! The plane was pretty small and we were crammed in ready to leap. As we’d decided to jump from 15,000 feet we had to have oxygen masks on whilst we were climbing to the correct height. It was all so surreal but unbelievably exciting.

20131115-163019.jpg

Even Tom didn’t look scared….well he didn’t go green like he did when we bungee jumped in Africa! Once at the correct height the doors were opened and Tom and his instructor were positioned over the door. It was so weird to just see him drop and disappear out of view, but by this point I just wanted to jump! My instructor and I shuffled over to the door with our cameraman and I was basically hovering over edge for about 5 seconds before he said ready and off we went. It’s hard to explain what it was like. We were free falling for one minute at 200 kilometres per hour but it honestly doesn’t feel like you’re falling. It’s almost like your flying through the air, albeit very cold air! Such an amazing experience and one neither of us will forget for a long time.

20131115-163249.jpg

20131115-163255.jpg

Whilst in Wanaka we also went to a cool little cinema called Paridiso where you sit on sofas rather than chairs and they bake cookies for the interval, (yes there was an interval) really cool.
We also decided to hire some mountain bikes and started cycling around the lake. We’d discussed the possibility of cycling around the whole lake, however, after consulting a map we saw that lake Wanaka covers an area of 192 km²….hhhmm maybe not! Instead we rode the 18km to Glendhu Bay along a testing mountain biking track. It was good fun but extremely hilly…the views made up for the hard work though!

On the way back much to my delight Tom spotted a couple of donkeys in a field and we headed over to stroke them. I decided that they looked hungry so fed them the 2 apples we’d been saving for the end of our bike ride! The perfect ending to a fantastic few days in Wanaka.

20131115-163354.jpg

We were both really sad to say goodbye but also excited about heading to Queenstown. The South Island so far had exceeded all our expectations and we couldn’t wait to find out what Queenstown had in store for us!!

As usual we’ve taken a million and one photos so please click here if you’d like to have a look