I'm back for my final update before Mr Mant will return after his long lay off. OK well we left off in Queenstown after our big night out! The next day we decided to partake in a relatively unknown sport that is river boarding. This is basically where you cruise down stream on a float whilst taking in the sights. Little did we know that this was way off the mark and would prove to be about the scariest thing we did whilst in NZ. Arriving at the "Mad Dog" river boarding centre we kitted up and headed down to the river for a briefing on how the day would go. After an insight and a lot of warnings that we ignored we entered the water for a practice in turning and kicking. Deciding to give it my all to impress the instructors I managed to complete the practice area before heading back to the bay. Steph and DSW also headed back in. Jake on the other hand by this point had made a little hash of his kicking and headed off towards the centre of the river where he could be dragged off downstream by the raging torrents. Being advised by one of the instructors labelling Mant as a "Drowner" he managed to get back into the bay and die alongside me whilst we exclaimed that this might actually be worth doing. We were given no time to rest however, and as the lead instructor started shouting instructions to the scared group, who were bunched around his arse so as to follow him tightly all the way down, he drifted off into the middle of the river and was gone in an instant. Panic set in and the group forgot all our 5 minutes training proceeding to kick wildly sending flippers into some people whilst propelling others into the middle of the river where they followed the lead guy. Trying to remain calm the group headed off down river to be greeted by a grade 3 rapid. Being dragged into another bay the 2nd instructor told me to "get off the f***ing rocks, start f***ing kicking, get a f***ing move on". When I got dragged round for a second time he dragged me into the river himself and off I went again. Emerging in a bay to find everyone else - all shattered - we were told that we had just completed the first rapid and we now be going into a grade 4!!! By this time I had my fill of being at the back and decided to get dirty in the race to stay with the lead guy. So elbows and flippers at the ready we headed into the middle again and once again we were sucked off down river, this time I managed to stay with the lead guy most of the way. Jakey by this time was heading into a massive rock and had to go round it the "wrong" way being dragged along with 2 others by the 2nd instructor. Next stop and one more rapid to go, Jake was told to stick with the lead guy this time to increase the chance of him making it out alive. Finally completing the first 800m we were relieved that the hardest part was done and we could now drift downstream, which was pretty much all we were good for be then. At the end of the 5K course we were treated to a water slide, a couple of jumps and swing, which many members thought to be the most fun parts of the whole day. That afternoon we chilled out and looked forward to starting the bottom bus, a freebie the guys brokered when booking the kiwi experience ticket.
Our first stop along the bottom bus was Dunedin and we booked in advance to secure ourselves a spot in the luxury resort that was Manor House - although this was still a backpacker spot the brochure teemed with elegance promising an open log fire, table tennis, and pool. En route to Manor House we took a stop off at the "Steepest Street" in the world (for all those non-believers check it out online) and once again the male bravado kicked in and as we approached the hill we decided that running up would not only look great to our female passengers but save some time too. Anyway halfway into the hill run and dying on our arses myself and Jake decided enough was enough and we would stumble up the remainder.. finding a new found respect for all those Gladiator contestants that managed the Travelator. Still, our prized Manor House would offer a relaxing atmosphere where we would be able to chill for the afternoon before taking part in our round-robin table tennis tournament. Waving bye to our ignorant co-passengers as they got out at various other backpackers we headed on and finally arrived at Manor House. Upon arrival our hopes of a grand house reminiscent of back home were dashed, instead we were greeted by a shabby driveway more befitting of a University residence. With the thought of hours of fun playing table tennis firm in our minds we marched on and even the news that the doors didn't have locks did nothing to dappen our spirits. After dumping our bags in a hurry and returning to reception we enquired into the location of said table and hurried off excitedly to a small shack out back. Upon arrival at the shack the group suddenly understood why so many other people were hanging around the house instead of chilling out here. Needless to say the table was a door which could be put on the pool table, which might have been possible if the resident rat didn't scare the s*** out of us. Even that was an obstacle that we could overcome if only the pingpong ball wasn't broken... much like our spirits. After dusting ourselves off we decided to go and explore the city of Dunedin and found that the city pretty much consisted of a couple of student bars, a supermarket and an octagon of shop, bars and restaurants. By this time the boys had decided that we were going to watch a Rugby game whilst in Dunedin and unfortunately that meant this was to be the last night with Steph. With that in mind we all headed back to "Manor House" to scrub up and put on our best rags and head out for a nice dinner followed by some alcoholic beverages. After some deliberation and reminded that last nights out could end up at a Fast-Food-joint aka Gem's last night, Steph settled on a nice restaurant in the Octagon. After a few beverages and a sumptuos meal the team decided to head to a bar and stumbled on a respectable establishment complete with live band. Having a few more drinks the team reminisced about Steph's time with us but the mood remained sombre throughout as we all knew that this was the end and loss of a major part of the team. Heading back to the s***house we promised Steph that we would all be up to say bye in the morning but just in case we didn't make the 7:00am rise we said our farewells then.
Over the next couple of days we mourned the loss of Steph and spent the rest of the time in our new hostel that had a pool hall, playing a few frames and generally waiting for the Rugby. Finally game day came round and we were picked up and whisked off to the House of Pain for the Highlanders v The Reds. On our way to the game we stopped off at a student hangout and were reminded of days gone by. Partaking in a few jugs of beer we met Sean, a Suchley look-a-like, got our face painted, had a few photo's with the team mascot and were invited upstairs to grab a free t-shirt and shield. Taking a quick toilet stop before hand myself and Jake hurried upstairs to be told that we were late by our driver. Arriving upstairs a group of 50 Japanese people clearly waiting for someone's arrival had formed the Guard Of Honour and believing that myself and Jake where what they had been waiting for, proceeded to go crazy. Without hesitation Jake ran straight down the middle slapping all hands on the way, I followed in much the same manner claiming to Jake that this was the best moment of my life. For the rest of the evening they took numerous photo's of all of us and the night was capped off by the Highlanders trouncing The Reds.
Our next stop after Dunedin was Invercargill which is commonly referred to as the Arsewhole of the World mainly because it's the bottom most city in NZ but also because it's quite dull. A brief stop at McCracken's rest provided a good photo opportunity for Jake and DSW before heading into the city for one night. Our next stop was Te Anau a very quiet city that offered us a gateway to Milford Sound. After a pleasant afternoon walking around Te Anau the team headed to bed for a big sleep before our big day ahead. The next day our bus departed at 9:00am and headed for Milford which is an area of outstanding natural beauty and has been awarded the status of World Heritage Site. However, you have to earn your chance to see this area as the road into Milford is one of the most dangerous in the world. So with the risk of landslides and avalanches team triangle (as we had now become known) headed with apprehension into the unknown. With little incident on the way we proceeded to board the boat and cruise out into Milford Sound, the bay was stunning and a must see for anyone going to NZ. Apart from having some banter on the top deck of the boat due to some crazy winds (please see the photos!) we were fascinated to see a waterfall going up when it got to the cliff edge!! (also in the photos). After our 2 hours on the water we headed back to the safety of the bus and onto Queenstown for our 2nd stint at the adventure capital of NZ.
Arriving back in Queenstown we deciced that we would use the Canyon Swing that we had won when dressing up as the gimps. However, by this time DSW's wallet was empty and decided that if he could seek employment whilst in Queenstown he would stay there for a month and head onto Auckland last minute to maximise his spending potential in South America. That being said it was with abject fear that Jake and I headed off to do the Canyon Swing. Well Jake like always seemed pretty chilled out but I was crapping my pants after seeing this activity done on the TV show Jack Osbourne Adrenaline Junkie!!! Arriving at the jump centre we were subjected to some stats including: the leadge we would be jumping from was 109M above the canyon floor below, there would be a 60M freefall, followed by a 200M arc, reaching speeds of 150kph. Anyway after scaring us as much as possible we braced for our jumps, deciding to go for the forward, which is how you jump for a Bungy I nervously peered over the edge - proclaiming to myself that I had to do this even if it was against reason and a seemingly never ending time up on the ledge I managed to hurl myself off. It was an amazing rush to overcome fear like that and arriving back on the ledge I found myself shaking from the adrenaline. Jake on the other hand was pretty chilled out and went for the "Gimp goes to Hollywood", in respect of how the prize was won. This is where you are hung upside down on the line whilst the guys on the platform mess with your head as much as possible and let you go at the least expected time.
Arriving back into Queenstown still buzzing we were quickly brought back down to earth with the news that DSW had found a job and would spend the next 5 weeks working. Losing 2 members in the space of a week was a massive blow for the team and we decided to have a "large one" that night going out with everyone that we had met in our room and meeting various others throughout the night. Finishing up in World Bar we got back on the Teapots and said some heartfelt goodbye's to DSW and ended up heading home in the early hours.
The next day Jake and myself headed off on the bus to Christchurch. This was our biggest single journey so far and so we spent the evening in Christchurch having a couple of drinks whilst listening to some live music along the waterfront. The next day we got on the Kiwi Experience bus for our second stint at Kaikoura. Arriving in the seaside town I decided to chance the Whale spotting trip even though there were warnings of severe sea-sickness. We got very lucky on the trip and after 30 minutes we spotted our first Sperm Whale. After about 5 minutes on the surface he headed back into the depths and we headed on for another sighting. Again we only spent about 10 minutes looking and saw another Whale. Due to our luck we had time to go and see some Dolphins and Seals which only added to the value of this little excursion. That afternoon we chilled out in the sun and got ready to head off to the North Island where our first stop would be Wellington.
OK guys at this point I'm going to give you a rest and hand you over to Jake who will fill you in on the rest of our NZ adventures. Tomorrow I head off to Fiji and then back home via Singapore so look forward to catching up with you all soon.