THE DEEP SOUTH, PUZZLING WORLD AND THE LARGEST SWING IN THE UNIVERSE

First, I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who takes the time to read my blog. I honestly really appreciate it and hope you enjoy reading!
After the adrenaline rush of doing the heli hike and my skydive, a few of us went for drinks at the bar. Hunter was there along with Georgina, Anna, Line, Lara and Katie, but also a lot of kiwi passengers. Katie had done a skydive earlier that day and so we just talked about how amazing it was. One of the kiwi drivers then came over and actually picked up Line’s phone whilst she wasn’t there. I asked him if I could have it, and nearly snatched it out of his hand. Later on he made a comment about my hair, so now he has gone to the top of my kill list.
Next morning was our journey to Wanaka. On the way there we stopped at a place called shipwreck beach. It was a cute little place where Georgina and I skimmed rocks, but there was a copious amount of sand flies. So many got on the bus and my ankles are still covered in marks now. Sand flies are now second on my kill list.

We arrived into Wanaka and immediately realised that this was one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand. Stray only stops here for one night however, so a group of us decided to stay two extra days, especially as we arrived quite late. Some of us joined in with an awful quiz at the Base bar. It was honestly horrendous with a guy from Newcastle ‘hosting’ it. He spent most of the time flirting with a group of girls so we kept shouting for him to hurry up.

 

Suz had signed up to learn how to fly a plane the next morning. She was allowed to take someone with her as a passenger. Yes, you guessed it… I DIDN’T get to go with her! Some random girl that had joined our bus the day before had asked if she could be the passenger; obviously Suz couldn’t say no. But the girl never showed up apparently, so she had to go alone. After that, Hunter took us to Puzzling World; a world full of puzzles. The first part was all illusions and they actually had a tilted room that looked like it was meant to be straight and then another room that became smaller the further you walked into it. It was very trippy. The second half was a maze; we split into two teams to try and find each corner of the maze and then meet in the courtyard in the middle. Suz, Mathlide and Katrine were one team, then Georgina and myself were another. And yes, you guessed it… We DIDN’T win!! Actually, we couldn’t even find the first corner, so may have cheated a little. But shhhh, don’t tell anyone.


Once we were done with this excitement, we walked back to the hostel (Hunter and the stray bus had left to go to Queenstown.) This was the most beautiful walk I have done in my life. The colours of Autumn were so strong; the leaves had half fallen off the tress, surrounding the path and roads in brights colours of orange, red and yellow. This, combined with the smooth, clear lake was the perfect image of autumn. But of course, this was one of the times the camera on my phone wouldn’t work.

The next day was the challenge of Roy’s Peak. And my goodness, what a challenge it was. I think I died several times on the journey to the top. Although the view was glorious, especially at 9am, it was just a constant uphill climb for three hours with no let up. And it seemed the higher you go, the steeper the track became. We all started out as a group, but it wasn’t long until Georgina and Matheis were able to stride ahead and then Mathilde and Katrine slowed their pace. Suz and I stayed together for a bit, but then we both decided to listen to our audio books (Harry Potter, thanks for asking), and just went at our own paces. It was kind of hard doing it alone as there is no one there to joke about the situation with, but at the same time, I usually can barely talk whilst doing “strenuous” activity, so it may not have made much difference anyway.

We made it to the actual ‘peak’, but we decided to go right to the very top. As soon as you pass this peak bit, you’re hit with snow and cold, bitter wind. I could barely breathe the wind was so hard. It was one of those times where I cursed myself for not bringing a scarf, hat and gloves with me from home. But it did feel like an immense achievement, making it all the way to the top. I met Suz up there who reached the top about 5 minutes before me. We didn’t hang around, but soon started the descent back to the peak to eat lunch and take photos that weren’t ruined by our hair covering our faces.

Usually I look forward to going downhill, but this was nearly as hard as going uphill. My ankle is still sore from the Tongariro Crossing (yes, I know I should probably get it checked out), and the constant downward angle did nothing to help. So our main aim was just to get to the bottom as quickly as possible. Mathilde made a comment like ‘If people back home knew the effort that went into getting one photo.’ And it’s true, so many people to go the top of hills and mountains just to get that one picture that will make their friends and family be shocked that you witnessed such an incredible scene.

Thankfully it took half the time to reach the bottom and we were soon back in our a-bit-too-cosy hostel. I’m pretty sure we spent the rest the day day just lying down, not walking. Despite stretching, the following days were incredibly painful.

We hopped onto a new bus the next day with a driver called Tia. It really wasn’t a long journey to Queenstown, so Tia was our driver for a mere two hours before we hopped off again. Suz, Georgina, Matheis and I all decided to stay at a different hostel than the one allocated by Stray because we had an informant earlier on in the trip that Base in Queenstown was not somewhere you really want to stay. So instead we stayed at a place called Southern Laughter which had kind of apartment rooms with a kitchen and dining area shared between two rooms of four. 

There was a pack of cards on the table, so of course we started playing them. We soon met a guy from Argentina, Augustine, who was staying in the other room and announced he had cards against humanity with him. Who can say no to that? So we had a pretty fun night with Agu’s friend and his roommates joining in as well. We actually ended up playing it for around 3 hours and it started to get a little tiresome hearing about Samuel L. Jackson’s small nipples and other, much worse phrases.

I think it’s safe to say that Thursday was a pretty chill day. I think we all just needed a lie in to properly recover from Roy’s Peak. We met up with Anna-Maria midday and walked around the city, which feels more like a town as it’s roughly the size of Kenilworth, and a coffee at one of the many cafes. We returned to our hostel where we made veggie fajitas together and of course, ended up playing cards again. This time, we properly met Glenn, a fellow Brit, who was in the same room as Agu. Anna ended up inviting Glenn and Agu out with us that evening.
One of the bars we ended up at was called Cowboys, and it was exactly what it said on the tin. There was a proper rodeo inside, though the bar staff refused to let us have a go on it, and another game the other side of the bar where you have to slide a large, metal coin (I couldn’t think of how else to describe it) to the other side of a loooooong table, hoping it lands in a certain section to gain points. I was brilliant at this, obviously, and all the guys were cheering me on.

It wasn’t a particularly drunken night, but it was nice to go out for a few drinks. Georgina and I left kind of early as neither of us wanted to be hungover or tired for the Nevis Swing the following morning.

Georgina, Suz and I woke up bright and early the next day. I was so excited to do the swing; it was one of the activities I had been waiting to do. Suz was a little nervous as we checked in at AJ Hackett and waited for the bus to come pick us up to take us to the Nevis Canyon. After the 40 min journey, we got off the bus and that’s when I saw the platform in the middle of the canyon where the swing was. In my head I had imagined just jumping off the edge of a cliff, not being directly in the middle of the canyon in a small little box. 

We got harnessed up and walked across this small bridge to the platform. I was starting to get nervous now and thinking why on earth did I want to do this so badly!! This was the biggest swing in the world, 300m… But for some reason I thought it was going to be a lot smaller. It wasn’t until we watched two other girls drop that I realised just how big 300m was. It’s pretty big. And watching those girls go first just made me feel even more shakey. My legs were literally like jelly. And I still don’t really understand why.

Georgina and I were strapped in backwards into the swing and I warned them not to freak me out. I was so tempted to not do it, but I kept telling myself I’ll regret it if I didn’t. So I grit my teeth a bit, and nearly cried a little and let them pull the swing out into the canyon. The swing operator then told us that if we were going to hold on, make sure we hold onto the yellow and red straps as well. As we grabbed these, she released us and suddenly we were falling. I had a moment where I was like ‘Oh shit, we’re falling.’ We nearly went over backwards, but evened out. It was a wonderful feeling, different from the skydive. And then we were just swinging there in the canyon as they pulled us back up.

The way up was the worst part. I suddenly remembered that I never liked those big, tall swing rides you get a fun fairs. I still don’t know why, maybe I don’t feel secure? I love rollercoasters and this was way more scary than the skydive. Odd. I had to ask Georgina to stop swinging because it felt weird. I was eager to get unstrapped, but as the operator did it, she asked if I wanted to go again and then pushed me a little. I gripped onto her and said, if I’m going, you’re coming with me!

We then watched Suz do hers. She looked as scared as I had felt! This time, the operator told her she needed to pull the strap round her waist tighter; as Suz did this, they dropped her! Such a good tactic, makes you not think about it for a couple of seconds. Suz loved it! It was over so quickly. You just fall and swing for a bit; both of ours were over within half an hour. If you have me on Facebook, you will have seen the video where I am basically pooing my pants.

We played games again that night with Glenn and Agu and headed out after. It wasn’t long til I went back to the hostel though, after feeling a bit like an extra wheel. However, I didn’t have a key to the room with me, so settled on the sofa until one of the others came back. Not long after I curled up under my jacket, the French guy, Aurelién, who has moved into Glenn’s room that day, came back from his night out and ended up keeping me company for a couple of hours until Suz and Matheis finally came back at 4am. Funnily enough, we still didn’t sleep until about 6am… mainly because of Suz’s snoring…

The morning after we all made plans to play frisbee golf. In Queenstown, they have this park and they set up 18 holes (metal baskets), and you bring you’re own frisbee and have to try and get it in the basket with as few throws as possible. It was a fun day! Though it got a bit boring towards the end, so we skipped out a few. 

We finally had a ferg burger that evening!! And they are MASSIVE! And by massive, I mean as big as my face. No exaggeration. And they tasted so good! If you’re ever in Queenstown, get one! I ended up seeing Ritchie again that evening, yaaaaaay! It was so good to see him after so long. He introduced me to Micah, who is the stray photographer who had been travelling on their bus for the past couple of weeks. So it ended up being a group consisting of Ritchie, Micah, Anna, Glenn, Aurelién and myself going from bar to bar together. At one point I remember doing ballet tricks (never done ballet before) and twisting my feet nearly 180 degrees. It was a funny night.

It was time to head to the Deep South. Georgina had an interview back in the North Island and Matheis had decided to go back to Australia, so it was just myself and Suz to rise at 6am to catch the 6:40am bus to Milford Sounds. It was a long drive, but we got to see the sunrise. And our driver Lego, from the Lake District, was awesome. They is some incredible scenery in the Deep South. So many green mountains, it’s stunning. We had a two hour ferry ride through the Milford Sounds. Although the weather was a bit rubbish, and the clouds really low, it was still beautiful. There were so many waterfalls that looked tiny from a distance, but were massive up close. Because the rocks go straight down, even below sea level, the boat was able to go up close so we got sprayed with water.

Even though the ferry ride was great, I much preferred the drive towards and back from the Sounds. We got to go through this long tunnel through a mountain. And there was just so much gorgeous scenery, guys you all have to go to New Zealand!

We stayed at this place called Gunn’s camp which was actually used by the tunnel builders some fifty years ago. No wifi, no signal. It was just the most basic place you can probably imagine. We got to light a fire in our little cabin though! And then Line arrived! She and 3 others didn’t know the time had changed for the bus pick up in the morning, so decided to rent a car and came and met us at Gunn’s camp! It was weird seeing her again! I didn’t think we would. 

Although we were warned it was going to be a cold night, I was surprisingly warm! It was only in the morning when the fire had gone out that we found our bums to be frozen. It was another early start and this time we were heading to Stewart Island! Island of the kiwis. There are only 350 residents on this island, so we expected it to be pretty empty. However, when we got there, we found there were more buildings than we thought. We had also been warned about the fishermen in the only pub… unfortunately we didn’t have time to go there.

Suz and I got our own twin room. At dinner we got talking to the two German guys on our bus, Marius and Paul and then a girl who had hitchhiked her way around New Zealand, Rebecca. We decided to go looking for kiwis together. We went the opposite way to the other group from our bus, hoping we’d have a better chance. But after a few misdirections, and some very loud screams from other birds, and nearly stumbling into a cemetery, we headed back the other way to the rugby field, where Lego had suggested.

It was a long and cold search. We could definitely hear the kiwis at times, just not see them. We decided to stop looking for the famous birds and head back to the hostel at half 1 in the morning. I forgot to explain that kiwis are nocturnal, so that’s why we were searching for them at night. Duh. 

It wasn’t until 3 the next day that our ferry would take us back to the mainland. In this time, we discovered Katie was staying at the hostel! Wooo! And Suz and I managed to squeeze in a short hike before treating ourselves to an ice creams. The hike was beautiful. We saw abandoned boats everywhere and a small abandoned house. It was like being by the seaside again and actually the weather was fairly warm for once, which was odd because apparently it rains most of the time there.

Katie was getting the same ferry back as us, but had decided to stay in Invacargill for a few nights as she had plenty of spare time. Lego had told us that it was mainly Scottish settlers who had come here and that’s why the accent is a bit odd. It is also described as the arsehole of New Zealand, so I’m not sure this was a clever spot to spend too much time in.

So we began our long journey back to Queenstown. A lot of people miss out doing the Deep South. It’s definitely worth it to see the Milford Sounds, though I’m not sure I would spend so much money going to Stewart Island again. Don’t get me wrong, it was a beautiful island and we saw some great views and it felt very homely. But, unless you’re crazy about setting yours eyes on some kiwis, then for me, the ferry price wasn’t much worth the short stay we had there.
(My captions are not working, so photo cred to Suz Eles for most of the pictures in this blog. My camera now works again, so more picture from me in future.)

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