22 Apr Kia Ora …Another Stamp in the passport…
What a beautiful adventure. What a beautiful life.
Beauty is described in many different ways by many people. There are types of beauty that you can see, feel and understand. But when all three of those come together it’s something magical.
New Zealand is just that. It is pure magic.
When I booked my Australian trip, I knew that I wanted to go to New Zealand. It’s just next door and the way people would talk about it was hypnotizing. The landscape, the colors, the culture.
When I arrived in Tasmania weeks ago I went into a Travel Center to talk to a booking agent. I knew I had a flight back to Melbourne but I didn’t want stay there. I was after a same day flight to somewhere I hadnt been. I looked into Perth in Western Australia, but the flights were pretty expensive. So when I chatted (and ended up making friends with my cute little travel lady) we talked about some options, but we came to the best decision that New Zealand was where I needed to go. It was literally calling my name.
Since I had just traveled solo through Tassie I decided that I wanted to do An actually tour for this adventure. She gave me two Tour companies to look through. They were very similar 18-35 year olds, you could choose the number of days you wanted to be on it. Both the north and south islands could be done and it was all taken care of by a flat payment. One was a little more expensive but for a few more days.
So after pondering both brochures over a cup of green tea, I decided to go with The Big Tiki, put on by the tour company Contiki. They have tours in Europe, Asia, USA, Australia and so many other countries. I decided on the 19 days that would start in Auckland and end in Christchurch.
It was meant to be, because the start date was April 2 and I had my Melbourne flight on March 31st. The universe was working in my favor (I love when that happens) My travel agent and I worked it out and boom… Booked it. That was the day before I left on my two week Tassie adventure. So After returning I finalized it all and was ready to discover the beauty of NZ.
I arrived in Auckland at 11:30pm on the 1st, and after immigration, having to declare my peanut butter and running shoes and getting that brand new stamp in the passport i arrived at a hostel. I had a full day in Auckland before the tour officially started. I walked around the harbour and then made my way to Mt. Eden.
Mt. Eden is a dormant volcano in Auckland, the hike up to the cone was beautiful. From the top you had a 360 view of the city. Unfortunately the weather was windy and rainy so I didn’t get to stay long. But it was surreal to actually be in New Zealand and on a green beautiful valcano.
That night I had a meet and greet with my Contiki group to get checked in. After meeting 40 some strangers and forgetting every persons name (who else concentrates on saying their own name right that they completely black out on the other persons name??) Haha but I did end up chatting with two girls from England that were traveling together for 4 months and automatically clicked with them.
The next morning we departed from Auckland at 9am. After meeting our coach driver, Dyce and tour manager Mon, we were off to Paihia. Paihia is on the north coast of the North island and is known for the Bay of Islands.
So with this tour, we have inclusion activities that we all do, but we also have “me time,” activities that they offer at each stop at and you pay for separately. You can do all of them or you can do none. It’s solely based off what you are interested in. The catch line to this tour is #NoRegrets, it’s a great way to get out of your comfort zone in terms of meeting people and doing adventurous and pushing boundaries and self doubt.
When we arrived in Paihia we had the afternoon for a Me Time activity. Some people parasailed or went on a boat cruise. I decided to go to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
We got to see The Carved Meeting House, the Ceremonial War Canoe and the Flagstaff.
It was really enjoyable, I wanted to start my trip off with some education on the culture and learn where I was going to be spending my days. As well as give respect to the land and the people of this stunning Country.
That evening we had a fish n chips included dinner and then walked to a local bar called The Pippy Patch. They had cheap drinks and a dance floor. What more could you ask for?
The next day we had a full day of Me Time so my roommates, Emily and Rebecca (England lads) and I went for a bushwalk. It was fun to get out and get to know my new found friends!
One of the Me Time activities was fishing. I have been on a mission to plan a fishing trip since I’ve been in Australia, but I just never got around to it. When I saw this was an option I knew it was game day. That afternoon I bought some beer and loaded a small fishing boat with two boys from the tour, the guide and then a 70 year old lady.
I have never officially fished. Well let’s be honest, I’ve never fished. Hahaha but today was the day that was going to change.
We started getting the reel set up and I just got so into it. I was putting that fresh fish and squid bait on like it was my job. Right away everyone started getting bites… Except for me. The older lady was on fire. She was reeling them in like a machine. It was pretty impressive. After an hour or so, I got my first bite and started reeling. Unfortunately, I mustve caught a shark or something because it broke my line.
I was drinking beer and having a great time, it was a beautiful day! About another hour went by and my competitive spirit fired up. I was mad that nothing was happening, then boom, I got my chance again. I reeled and lifted and spun and yanked and that fish gave me hell. But I finally got him up and was so surprised at what just happened.
I caught a few more small guys that I wasn’t able to keep. But by the end of the evening I was in love with fishing. The two other boys were sea sick and the old lady caught 9 fish to take home. She decided to give me 6 of hers, what a kind soul. We got off the boat and I took the fish to the local fish n chips shop and got them all fried up. It was so cool!
The next day we headed back to Auckland. We had a free pass up to the sky tower, which is the tallest building in the city and had a gorgeous 360 view of one of New Zealand’s capital cities.
Then we met up with the big group and went to a club for another round of dancing and cheap drinks. I must say that this tour group went hard. They all got really drunk, I enjoyed two beers and people watching, it was hilarious.
That afternoon we went in groups to the Waitamo Caves to black water raft. We got dressed in full wetsuits a helmet and wet boots, we grabbed an intertub and then practiced jumping off a water fall. We climbed into a small opening in the rocks and made our way down into a dark cave that was filled with rushing water.
We switched between floating and walking through the water in the pitch dark. Our guides were hilarious and made the whole bit overly enjoyable. The water was freezing, but it was worth the numb fingers and red nose.
Lonely planet has rated this a must see and I would definitely agree.
The next day we headed to Rotorua. This is a popular spot for tourists and vacations because of the location of it having geothermic activity. As we drove into view of the city you could see the clouds of sulfur puffing from the ground.
Not only could you see it, but the smell of sulfur was unreal. If you enjoy the smell of rotten eggs farts, this is your spot.
We stayed at a hotel right on Lake Rotorua. The views were stunning though. It felt powerful being in Rotorua like the underground activity have the place a little hop in their step.
I got my team pumped and we literally ran around that place, we weren’t supposed to but my dads voice came into my head,” if you aint cheating, you ain’t trying.”
*this does not apply to relationships.
We didnt end up winning, which was complete bullshit. But it was fun and we got to see some more active geysers and boiling mud pools.
That evening we had an included Traditional Maori Hangi dinner and performance. The Maori people are still heavily respected here. The culture is put first and the way they talk and tell stories of their ancestors is amazing.
The meal was delicious, they steamed most of the food underground in a pit. Then we watched them do the Huka and other Maori chants and songs. It’s semi intimidating to watch. Now I understand why the Rugby teams do it before matches.
During these past few days Emily, Rebecca and I made friends with 4 more girls from England; Jess, Zara, Lucy and Emma and an Aussie girl, Emily. We became a small army and I gained a nice English accent. Haha
The next day I chose a Me Time activity of White Water Rafting on the Rotorua River. Me and 5 of the girls jumped in a raft and hauled ass down the only grade 5 commercial rapid in the world. We dropped off of a 7 meter waterfall and I was right up front to feel it all. We got out and held on to the side of the raft, The nerves and anticipation of it all made for such a fun afternoon.
Then we jumped on a dinner boat cruise on Lake Taupo aka booze cruise. The whole tour was on it and let’s just say things got crazy. We had dancing on tables, naked people jumping off the boat and a little freedom photo…
We left the next morning to head to Wellington on the far south of the North Island. It was a long day on the bus and gave me some down time to do some thinking. I couldn’t help but to miss home and have a little bought with feeling really far from the people I love.
As we pulled into Wellington, my tour manager was giving us fun facts and driving around to show us the city when we came upon the waterfront to a white tent mob with purple everywhere. I had one look and knew what it was. Holy shit, my heart fluttered and a sense of happiness filled my body.
Just when I needed a pick me up and to know I was still doing what I’m supposed to do my sweet girls give me a sign. ?
We got to the hotel and I booked it back to the waterfront. I walked into the familiar feeling of purple, hope and so much love. I walked into the Wellington, New Zealand Relay For Life.
What an amazing surprise. I was overwhelmed with so many emotions. And unbelievably thankful to feel at home in a completely different country.
I walked a few laps and then went and made a Hope Lantern which is a luminary. I sat and talked to two local ladies about the event and her diagnosis of lung cancer. She told me that last year she walked so many laps but as I sat and looked at her in her wheelchair I couldn’t help but remember why I did what I did.
I stood and watched a group of caregivers shave their heads and about lost it. My stomach was in my throat. I felt my sister and mom with me and that was a beautiful moment.
After feeling revamped by my Relay For Life, we had a group dinner at Blend and ate a fantastic meal.
The next day we had a whole day to discover Wellington on our own. I took that chance to find a gym and then met up with my England girls to wonder around the Te Papa museum and the local shops. Wellington is another Capitol city and sits on reclaimed land. They have believed that there will be an earthquake every year but it hasn’t happened. Thankfully.
As we walked we came upon two movies being filmed, Pork Pie and then a movie that Scarlett Jo Hanson is starring in. There are always films being made here.
Then jumped on our bus and cruised another 5 to Christchurch.
When we arrived in Christchurch I had an idea that it would be a little less lovely than the other towns and cities we’ve been. This is due to the rebuilding of their city from the 2011 Earthquake. The earthquake was a 6.3 on Richter scale and occurred at midday. Christchurchs central city was badly affected, though the earthquake only lasted 19 seconds the shallowness of it made it more severe. 185 people lost their life and over half of those were due to a six story building collapsing.
The next morning we had a walking tour through town. distruction, reconstruction and memorials that are so prevelant around the streets. The town is empty and it is quite sad. Building are gone, businesses are still shut down and the feeling of tragedy still seems to be in the air.
We entered a church that was rebuilt and is constructed out of cardboard and shipping containers. It was beautiful and peaceful. I sat and prayed for the town and the families and thanked the Lord for this opportunity to witness life and and actually feel it.
There’s something in me that makes me believe that you can be alive but not really be living. That you go through these motions of daily life, redundant and repetitive ; and never really feel little moments or take a chance to understand why you’re feeling the way you do. You have to really fight the urge to not go into autopilot in your daily activities. If even for an hour a day you take the time to really feel something then good. My job here is done.
Just kidding, keep reading.
Then we arrived at a memorial for the 185 lives that were lost in the earthquake. They intended for this to be a shot term way to honor them. But the reaction from the community and visitors was so positive that they have kept it.
I walked through the chairs each one different. It ranged from a baby carriage to a wheelchair. There were beanbag chairs, stools, old, new, broken and crooked. Each chair was a life and my gosh was it powerful. I stood in the middle of it, thinking about the loss. How a natural disaster can tear families apart, but how naturally beautiful this country was. There was a bulletin board with letters and poems. They really hit home.
We loaded the bus and drove through the most beautiful terrain I’ve ever seen. The green is so radiant and the South Island is filled with postcard views. Pictures just don’t do it justice.
Later that day we arrived in Franz Josef for the next 2 nights. Franz Josef is a small town that lays at the bottom of the beautiful Franz Josef Glacier. They offer helicopter rides, kayaking and the ice explorers as a way to experience the glacier. The town is small and comfy. I fell in love with it. You are surrounded by green rainforest and then you look into the mountains and see a white cap glacier.
In the morning I got up and went for a rainforest run, serenity at its finest. Then got ready and set off for my Ice Explorer Tour with the girls.
We got dressed in layers, water proof pants and jacket, gloves and a hat. We were given a satchel with clip in ice boots and were off. We loaded into a helicopter,( I got to sit in front) and had a quick 5 min ride to the base of the Glacier. The views out of the helicopter were mind blowing. For one it was my first helicopter ride and to be flying into a white abyss to trek through a glacier was unreal. We landed on a small square of ice and ran from the bird.
The day couldn’t have been more perfect. They usually have to cancel 60% of the trips due to bad weather, but not today. It was clear blue sky’s. I think I have some girls above looking out for me. ?
We laced up and began our 3 hour trek. We walked through open, clear white frozen ground and then squeezed through walls of ice. We went through tunnels and climbed ice made stairs. I drank fresh water from a small waterfall and even saved the group from sliding off the side of the glacier.
The whole time I had a huge smile on my face. I just couldn’t believe what I was doing. It was so surreal. I have done some amazing and just plain incredible things in my life, but this was one of the best. I just kept thinking how crazy it was that I was here doing these things. How lucky and thankful to be able to see and experience the magnificent wonders of this world. To be on top of a glacier in New Zealand. Wow.
The beauty of this specific adventure was definitely felt.
We finished up and I rushed to find a free wifi spot to call the guy that I wish I could do all these adventures with. When I’m doing these amazing hikes and crazy things, Sean is the person I would love to experience it with. For his birthday that day I called and talked his ear off with my glacier adventure. Sorry.. Haha but HAPPY 28th birthday to my brother and best friend. Can’t wait to come back to New Zealand with you! MISS YOU AND LOVE YOU!!
After being on such a high from my ice walking we relaxed in the thermal pools and called it an early night.
The next day we headed out for another drive day. Although driving in a bus sucks, the views out the window are to die for. I could stare out them all day. The one thing I wish I could do is stop whenever I want and be able to hike or walk. That’s the cons of being on a tour. But that’s just another reason to come back 🙂
We arrived in Queenstown that evening. Queenstown was named just that because they said it was a place for a queen to live. It is absolutely stunning. We were there in their early autumn so all of the trees are changing colors. Wow. The landscape is not like anything I’ve ever seen. I fell in love with it right away. Love at first sight.
For dinner we rode the gondola up to the tip top of Bobs Peak to have a buffet dinner with the skyline view of the city. This was the best buffet I have ever been to. Every single thing I ate was mind boggling good. And yes, I spent $80 New Zealand dollars on this buffet so I definitely tried everything. I could’ve been rolled out of that place. I do not regret any of it. Haha
As a group we headed to a local bar and I hung out until I was about to pass out from my food coma and my 1 shot.
Our morning adventure was a jet boat ride on the Shotover River. The river is famous for its mining, people are still finding gold. The water and the view, was again, jaw dropping. We wore raincoats and took a 25 min exciting and cold tour through the channel. The jet boat got up to 90km while barely missing rocks and boulders, we did 360s next to the rock walls and held on for dear life. I sat right up front and loved every minute of it, It was so much fun!
We took a short bus ride to Arrow Town where we had lunch. I had a traditional New Zealand beef pie. It is required by law all pies have to be 85% meet, unlike Australia where it is only 15%… So there’s a fun fact.
Then I took a solo stroll through a trail that was filled with colorful autumn trees.
When we returned to Queenstown that afternoon i just wondered around and I bought the fam some souvenirs. This place was cute. It was a layed back, slow paced wood cabin type of place. It reminded me of a smaller Durango, CO. The amount of bearded men was a nice plus. In the winter this town thrives, it has such a good vibe and I’ll be back to board the slopes. Trust me.
For dinner a small group of us stood in a small que to get a famous FergBurger. Apparently it is known as the best burger in the world. I honestly had never heard of it, but I’m not much of a burger gal so that’s understandable. But when they girls first told me about it they said “we have to get FergBurger!” In their English accent and I looked at them with a concerned face. “We have to eat what? No!”
I obviously misheard, because I am thinking Fur Burger, which for many reasons, didn’t seem like something I ever wanted to put near my mouth.
As I explained what a fur burger was to them we had another laugh about the difference in our language.
It was a good burger though! Definitely worth the line and experience.
The next morning I loaded a bus to Milford Sound. We drove 4 hours through the cloud and mist to arrive at the boat that would take us on the tour. Unfortunately, the weather was shit so the day wasn’t very scenic. Although I was mad, it was still a good day and now I can say I’ve been there. And because of the rain there were mass amounts of waterfalls all over the rock ledges and tall mountains. To entertain myself throughout the day and 8 hour drive I took snapchats of tourists taking 100’s of pictures of bushes, trees, signs, the street, really whatever you could see they would take a picture of it. (I would hate to be their Facebook friend)
We got back that evening and joined the tour group at the Below Zero Ice Bar in Central Queenstown. We bundled up and walked into the not so surprising below zero room that was filled with ice sculptures an actual ice hockey table, and drank out of cups made of ice. I was pretty good at pretending I wasn’t miserably cold.
I took it easy that night… Hahaha it’s funny cause I take it easy every night. But I really didn’t want to be hungover for what I had signed up to do the next morning.
In the morning I laced up my tennis shoes, put my running pants on and prepared myself to throw myself off the tallest cliff jump in the world. Why would I do that, you ask?!
I have absolutely no idea.
It just seemed like something I should do. Maybe it was because my life feels like a dream and this was going to make it real.
Or because I’m insane.
Anyways, it was happening regardless of the reason. I signed in, got weighed and jumped in a van with 2 girls from my tour and 3 older men to drive up to the base where we jump. The cool thing about The Canyon Swing is that they let you jump any way you want. Forwards, backwards, sideways, running, backflips. You can slide down a slide or ride a trike off. They will Sparta kick you in the chest off, or if you fancy holding onto a rope until you cannot anymore you can do that.
I paid for 2 jumps. Again, I have no idea why.
As we made our way up to the tip top and got harnessed in I was as cool as a cucumber. Thinking I’ve sky dived and I’m not afraid of heights or nearly anything.
Not even death.
I can believe that comes from actually living through a few things that I was most definitely scared shitless of. Losing my mom, losing my sister and best friend and losing a love I thought was my forever. Those heartbreaks alone could kill a person.
So this couldn’t be THAAAAAT bad.
as I walked up to the edge after giggling and joking with the others, I looked over and saw a beautiful view. One that seemed so peaceful and fake. But was also 109m high that had sharp rock edges and where I would have a 60m free fall ten a 200m swing over the Shotover River
I decided I would just jump forward for my first go around. The two guys that worked there were hilarious. Their job is to basically talk shit to you and scare you and then laugh. And that’s exactly what they did to me.
As I stood on the ledge they made small talk and then asked if I wanted to take some pictures. So I got my toes on the edge and they leaned me out over the empty canyon. We took a few pics and then he had his fun. He would nearly let me go and I would shreik in absolute fear. He did it about ten times and it never stopped scaring me. They really found it funny.
Once they pulled me back and my calves were shaking from my moment of utter fear, they had me stand back on the edge for my actual jump.
Let me tell you. As a sane human, your mind and body tells you that it’s not right to jump off of a platform. As calm and confident as I was that I was harnessed in and nothing would happen. Fear is still there. Fear stayed there. I breathed and took a step… Then my knees buckled and I basically collapses off the edge.
The free fall was terrifying. But oh my gosh was it good! Then the cable tightens and you swing into the open air over the most beautiful light blue River. My heart was beating out of my chest and I had the biggest smile on my face. They tow you back up where you get to enjoy the pure beauty.
I decided I would go backwards this time. So we chatted and did the whole take some pictures as they held me over the edge. This time while in mid sentence, drunk Jesus just let me go. (Men are always letting me go) I was extremely unprepared and started to free fall. What an amazing feeling.
Watch the video here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B0Gzq51ZmLmyUndhMFVEcURDcUU
Literally everything in your body is saying, no don’t do this, don’t jump. But when you do, when you actually cut the rope or take that step outside your comfort zone, it turns into the most beautiful thing.
Isn’t that what life is about? That’s what this adventure has been all about.
The pictures and videos are hilarious and if you ever come to Queenstown, do the Canyon Swing.
After that high I spent the day walking through town. Me and the girls took the tram back up to see the city views during the day! What a beauty of a town.
The next morning we we had to say bye to a few more of people on the tour and then headed to Dunedin, which is a Scottish settlement. It has the only whiskey distillery and castle in New Zealand. The drive took most of the day so we had an included activity of the Speights Brewery tour. The tour was absolutely horrible. I had zero idea what our guide was saying but it ended with free booze for 45 min. So that made everything okay.
Tuesday morning came and we jumped on the coach for another beautiful all day drive to Lake Ohau
Along the way we had the chance to run or walk up the Worlds Steepest street. Of course, I ran it and came in 3rd a boy that weighed 120 pounds and a girl that weight like 90 beat me. It pissed me off. Haha
This was our final night on tour (saaaaaaaaad) but this place was the perfect place to end. The pure simplicity of just a log cabin with a view of the beautiful glacier lake was everything I needed. I took a walk to the lake and took in the sunset.
We had a great lasagna dinner and then sat by the fireplace, drank tea and chatted.
As we traveled on our last day on the bus and tour we stopped at Lake Pukaki where we could see Mt. Cook in the distance. Mt. Cook is the tallest mountain in New Zealand standing at 3724m high.
I couldn’t have imagined a more beautiful place than this country. Holy shit. It is magnificent. I am so glad my travels led me here and I am so sad to leave. 20 days went too fast and I cannot wait to return.
I met so many wonderful people on this tour, I now have 4 places to stay in England and if they keep their promise I’ll have some crazy English girls in New Mexico.
What a life changing adventure.
Thank you for your hospitality New Zealand and for making me fall in love with you.
You are pure magic.
“She asked, “you’re in love, what does that look like?” In which I replied, “like everything I’ve ever lost coming back to me.””