Greetings from the land of blinding beauty....otherwise known as New Zealand!
Am loving it here and a month is just not long enough! Am already planning my return!!
There is soooo much to fill you in on that I dont even know where to start.... so am just going to do a really quick message with some of the highlights of my trip so far!
Am travelling around using the stray bus which is a small little bus that takes you from place to place with some activities included which is quite good. I started in Christchurch nearly 2 weeks ago now and from there moved on to a place called Kaikoura which is a small little town famous for Whale watching, skiing and dolphin swimming... we just passed through here though as am going this way again when i head to the north island...so on my second trip im thinking of swimming with dolphins as some people ive met have said its amazing.
Spent a couple of days in the Abel Tasman national park after this which was beautiful - sleeping in these little cabins on 'Old Macdonalds Farm' - was sooo cute! Did sea kayaking which proved to be rather stressful as i was in the back of the kayak doing the stearing...but being such a munchkin i couldnt reach the steering pedals and had to lean right back in the boat. As a result me and Rachel had to switch partners half way through the trip in the middle of the water... I wasnt overly happy about this - and the kayak instructor got a bit of an earful from me and poor guy was lucky not to be twatted round the head with my oar to be honest!! Any how ...being in the front of the boat proved to be much better and we were doing ok until it got a little too choppy and started pissing it down with rain! After the kayaking we were supposed to be being picked up and spending the afternoon sailing around the national park but because of the change in the weather it got cancelled, so we got picked up in a speed boat instead. Was absolutely fantastic...everyone was screaming and we got to see so much more than if we'd been on the sailing boat as it was a smaller boat and could get nearer to the seal colony's.
We stopped at a random place called Barrytown (or Baz Vegas!) after Abel Tasman which was in the middle of absolute nowhere...that night was fancy dress night - soooo funny! We all got rather trollied and rustled around in the rather bazaar fancy dress selection! I was quite attached to my outfit - was very difficult to part with the shocking pink wig the day after!! The next morning we did bone carving, Mauori people wear bone carved necklaces which are said to protect you in different ways depending on what carving you choose. It took us about 3 hours to do the carving, and me being the impatient, highly unartistic person that I am got a little stroppy on more than one occasion but by the end of it I got a pretty decent necklace out of what started off as a bit of cow bone!
After Barrytown we stopped at the Franz Josef glacier which is breathtaking. Me, Ava and Nick and a few others from the bus booked on to do the full day glacier hike the next day. What a day... woke up and it was absolutely winging it down with rain! We went off to the glacier centre and got kitted up in our rather fetching trek outfits and started the some 3km trek to the glacier itself. Once we got to the glacier we had to put crampons onto our boots, which enable your boots to grip into the ice. We also got ice pics to help us with the climb. The whole climb was about 13km and took the best part of the day! It was difficult and the weather conditions werent the best ...with the whole of the glacier engulfed in a cloud at one point! But it was still one of the most amazing things ive ever done. When i came down off the glacier i remember looking back and not believing that we had just walked it! Unfortunately....some bad news people.... Camera number 3 did not make it! .... Camera number 3 being barely out of its box and only bought some 3 weeks prior. It was in a waterproof case so it should have been ok, the experts think it may be a manufacturing fault ...but i cant afford to wait some 6wks-2months to find out...so ola to camera number quatro! ....Sad times people (especially for my credit card!) I have decided that I think Canon should sponsor my travels as i appear to be keeping them in business!
Anyway - after Franz Josef we went to Makaroua...another little place in the middle of nowhere - population of 60! We stayed in these tiny little triangular huts against a backdrop of snowcovered mountains. It was gorgeous! We were only there overnight though, Karaoke night! Were us girls basically monopolised the bar and irritated the poor barman with our renditions of S Club 7's - Reach for the Stars, and Carly Simons - Your so Vain. Well...we entertained ourselves if noone else!
last Thursday we arrived in a little place called Wanaka which has been one of my favourite places so far - again beautifull little skiing town built aside lake Wanaka and flanked by snow covered mountains. We decided to stay here for 3 days as some of the guys wanted to go Skiing. We just chilled out in Wanaka, did a few walks and enjoyed the town. They have a cinema there - cinema paradiso which is fantastic. They have 1 screen and you sit on old sofa's (or you can sit in an old beatle car!), and they have an interval in which they serve homemade cookies warm from the oven with milk. We went to see Mamma Mia again and had a bit of a sing along...was good! The next night i decided to cook mine and Dawn the prawns infamous aromatic curry...which has served me well during my travels...thanks dawnie! So was cooking it for 10 including 1 veggie.... so obviously was a little stressed! Counteracted this stress with muchos wine consumption and then apparently fell asleep on the table in the middle of a drinking game and started to snore (highly attractive!) .... everyone tried to wake me up but to no avail! So my party evening ended there! God ...sersiously cant handle this party party lifestyle anymore...what the hells going to happen to me when i hit 27!!
After Wanaka we headed to Queenstown, love it here too. Its a bigger place than anywhere we've stopped so far (except perhaps Christchurch) but its nicer than Christchurch and its a lot livelier too. As i've met such good friends in New Zealand who wanted to do a sky dive i decided to do a sky dive with them in Queenstown as they weren't going to Taupo (in the north island where most people do the jump!) We impulsively booked it yesterday (Monday) for that afternoon. It was a boiling hot day which was suprising as it had been freezing and a bit rainy the days prior. We went back to the hostel and were psyching ourselves up for it when we were told it was cancelled due to bad weather. We were gutted...so much so that we went and changed our jump to one that jumped nearer to Queenstown and who were still going that day. This one was from 12,000 ft and not 15,000 ft though. Im sooooo glad we did the jump though as the weather is bloody awful now and is supposed to get worse this week!
So, the jump itself! Hands down the most scary but amazing thing I have ever done in my life. I cannot put it into words what the experience felt like, and its a little bit of a blur now. But i recommend everyone to do one!
When we got to the field and met our tandem instructors, I saw the teeny tiny plane we were going to jump in and then that was it I was a gonner! It was the tiniest plane in the world i swear! It fitted 4 jumpers in (and their instructors) and then the camera man. There were no seats, everyone just sat on the floor in the plane, pretty much on top of each other. I was right near the door and could see absolitely everything so got really scared. Not sure if its the fact that I dont like heights, dont really like planes or the fact that im a bit claustrophobic bit there were a few tears! One girl jumped out at 9,000 ft and then I was the first of me Ava and Jenna to jump the 12,000 ft. The door opened and Volker (the guy jumping with me) swang me over the ledge of the plane and i just remember thinking i was about to die. When you're that high though i dont think your brain can comprehend what you're doing as I as soon as we started to fall I couldnt take everything in. I just felt the air against my face and I couldnt breath as I was screaming sooooo much! They teach you before the jump what position your body needs to be in (like a banana) and what to do with your arms and face.... I just forgot it all, and as you can see on the video I am all over the place!!! You are supposed to smile with some demonic grin on your face so your facial muscles stay taught, but i didnt and as a result i resemble a creature comfort character with very scary cheeks full of air! .... oh well hey! If you cant laugh at yourself!! After 45 seconds of free fall the chute goes up and then your floating and its amazing you feel like you're weightless and you can see everything, it almost doesnt look real! Volker was speaking to me about what to do when we landed but to be honest I wasnt really listening as I was trying to take everything in. The rest of the afternoon me and the girls felt like we didnt know what to do with ourselves, we felt a bit spaced out and a bit drunk almost... it was such a high after the jump! I definitely want to do it again!
So... if you want to see me sky dive I've put the short version of the DVD on facebook (wouldnt go on this site) and couldnt fit the large version on (basically cuts out the build up and goes straight for the cheeks flapping in the wind stuff!) Go easy on the laughs people.... have you hurtled yourself out of a plane from 12,000ft?!?!...well have you! If not...well you'll have to wait until i get home to see the full thing!
We went to the Milford Sound on Thursday, what is supposed to be one of the most beautiful landscapes in New Zealand, well the scenery didnt dissapoint, it was just a shame we had to travel 5 hours on a coach there and then 5 hours back, on what was pretty much a senior citizen tour with the most annoying man named Carl as our tour guide who basically just loved the sound of his own voice! Im sure we'll look back on it one day and laugh, but right now were still somewhat traumatised by the whole experience!!
Headed back to Christchurch yesterday and went out for a Mexican with Ava and Jenna as it was their last night. We had a nice night with Margerita cocktails and wine! Yum!! This morning ...few tears and I left for the bus by myself! Really sad as loved them 2 to bits! And now have to start again as no noone on the bus...sad times!! Am now in Kaikoura for a second time, couldnt swim with Dolphins as the weather was too bad unfortunately! Tommorrow i head up to Wellington in the North Island to start travelling there. Not long there, as fly to S.America on 27.....eeeeek!! So need to get a move on!!
Right - what was supposed to be a short blog has turned into the usual 'War and Peace epic' as my dad likes to call them! And I've barely scratched the surface on what i've been up to!
Miss you all as usual. I wont be able to contact you from now until I get home on my mobile phone really, so send me some love via email or travel blog,.... and please do as I miss you all!
Much Love - Hannah Sophie Benson .... now a sky diver baby...WOOOOOOOOOOO WOOOOOO!!!