On Friday 13th July we got up very early in the freezing cold for an 8 hour glacier walk. Armed with our well-prepared packed lunch, we headed to the glacier centre to hire our warm clothing to cover the 4 layers we were already wearing! After getting off the bus we walked towards the fastest moving glacier in the world. Just before we reached the ice, we stopped to clip on spikes to the bottom of our boots to help walk on the ice and then made our way up the steed entry to the glacier. For 8 hours we climbed up, ducked through and squeezed between ice, witnessing beautiful views over Franz Josef. After a long and testing day, we headed back to the hotel for a much needed hot tub! Bangers and mash for dinner before having a few drinks with our old lads from the bus who had caught us up and arrived that day. Then bed.
Saturday morning was yet another early one, leaving Franz Josef at 8.30am. We stopped for a full English breakfast at a quaint cafe at Lake Matheson, the reflective lake. We then went for a mini-hike, stopping for the typical Kiwi experience Kodak moment. We got back on the bus and headed for Wanaka, stopping on route at a waterfall. We arrived at Wanaka at 4pm in the freeeeezing cold and had a wander around the town. Tonight we were staying in the classy (ish) "Wanaka Hotel", where J managed to find himself a piano. A few drinks in the hotel before heading across the road to Red Rock bar for a suitably large burger and some All Blacks vs. South Africa rugby action. After J had a brief run-in with an American fella who decided to be an ambassador for his nation by acting like a complete p**** he proceeded to play pool with Liam and Irish Rob. The following day we all went to Puzzling World for an $11 bacon butty/puzzle combo. This was a really cool place with extremely weird stuff like pool tables that slope downwards, but the balls roll upwards and a room which makes you look either really big or really small depending on which end of the room you stand. After a mediocre maze, we jumped back on the bus with GP and headed to the Kawarau Gorge to watch the 40m bungee-ees do their stuff. Also included was a 'Secrets of Bungy' tour, explaining how it all doesn't kill you. Very nice. We celebrated our arrival into Queenstown, the adventure capital of NZ, with a cheesy group picture overlooking a typically beautiful lake before checking into Discovery Lodge, where we met up once more with Nick, Nick and Craig! For dinner we had our first encounter with the renowned 'Fergburger', boasting the best burgers in Queenstown (and possibly the world)! After probably the best burgers of our lives we headed out for a big, big night before saying farewell to the boys until blighty.
Monday didn't have a real morning, but at 2pm J left for the Nevis Highwire bungy jump, the tallest in the southern hemisphere at 134m tall! The journey there was pretty scary, edging along the side of a mountain to get to the bunjy site, a pod suspended in the middle of a canyon. After getting harnessed up, we were sent off in a rickety cable car across the canyon to the pod. To say this was scary, J suggests is an understatement. This was nothing short of petrifying, waiting for your name to be called out to sit in the dreaded chair to be attached to the bungy cord. You then had to shuffle your way to the edge?. "5,4,3,2?" and J was gone! After experiencing the best and most enthralling thing he'd ever done, J arrived back in Queenstown at around 6pm and met Dan and the other guys from the bus in the bar. A few drinks in the bar with everyone, a quick repeated rendition of "500 miles" at karaoke and then J left, leaving Dan and some of the other lads to form the group "Take Phat", who's stirring performance of "Mandy" left the girls in tears and the judges in ecstasy as they deemed it worthy of free drinks all round and a place in the final.
Tuesday 17th July was our first day of skiing! Dan and Irish chum Deirdre went off to learn to ski, taking advantage of the lessons on offer, whilst J skiied with Mauricio the Mexican and Matt the Canadian Brit. The ski resort was a little small but the views were nothing short of sensational. Dan, in his group of 23 learners started the day well but tailed off towards the end, relishing tomorrows challenge of learning how to turn and stop - the essence of skiing. We caught the 4.30pm bus back to Queenstown and again made pasta with tomato sauce for dinner! Another great night followed; started off in Altitude, where J left Dan with some Australian gash, and ended in Chico's where plentiful $2 pints were consumed. The next day was our second day of skiing, being joined by legends such as ze Germans Nina and Drashka, Alison, Peachy, Matt and Dave Essex. Great day had by all, with Dan really picking up some technique after some much improved lessons. After another full day of skiing we headed back to town. That night we went out for dinner with the original (and best) bus to the 'Pig and Whistle' gastro pub, where J had another burger and Dan preferred the pea pie pud. A good live band played us through dinner and we had a nice cotch at the bar before heading back to the hostel. The following morning we had to check out of Discovery Lodge as it was full - missions! We still made it on to the 8.20am bus for the third day in a row to get up to Coronet Peak. Today was a wicked last day skiing; J attempted numerous jumps and Dan had picked it up well enough to challenge himself to the higher blue slopes up the chairlift and so we managed to ski together in the afternoon for the first time! It was certainly sad to leave the slopes that day, after what undoubtedly was some of the best 3 days of our travels so far. Dan certainly has the skiing bug and would like to inform his parents to get saving so that he can attend numerous skiing holidays in the future. When we got back into town that evening, we had the arduous task of moving hostels. Alongside Mark and JP, we trekked it down to the YHA in the freezing cold! Met a nice little Irish fella in our room (they really are everywhere), who introduced us to extreme monopoly, before we met Matt and Dave Essex in Fergburger for dinner. Another relatively massive night followed, busting it to World Bar for some teapots, before having to walk back to the YHA in the -6 degrees for bed.
Friday morning, all 3 of us (including Irish fella) were chucked out of our room at 10.30am, exceeding our 10am check out time. We definitely could not be arsed to walk the 10mins back to Discovery Lodge so we jumped into our first taxi in New Zealand and checked back in. After a brief Maccy D's we left for our Canyon Swing! Meeting up with Deirdre, we got on the bus and headed out to the site. The swing involves a 60m bungy type thing before swinging out over the canyon 104m! Lovely! Dan went first, opting for 'Gimp boy goes to Hollywood', an interesting flex involving hanging upside down and then being released once the guys holding the ropes had f***ed with your head enough. J went for the backwards dive option. Was a great laugh, yet not quite as extreme as the Nevis. We returned to the hostel and had our final Fergburger for dinner, going all out for the biggest burgers available, those laden with ½ pound of beef, bacon, egg, cheese, beetroot, alioli and some onion rings on the side. By night, we once again hit the town. As it was our last night in Queenstown we did the big 4 bars again: Altitude, Chicos, Winnies and World Bar. Very sad to leave Queenstown and the great guys on our bus, but was an awesome place!
Saturday morning, bright and early, we left with new driver Querro for Christchurch. Stopped for a Kiwi steak and onion pie and apple Danish for breakfast before ploughing on with our 8 hour drive up the centre of the south island. We stopped at Lake Tekapo for lunch before visiting a church and saying our prayers in the middle of nowhere! Carried on through the Canterbury plains for another few hours before arriving in Christchurch at 5pm. We checked into our penthouse, equipped with a kitchen, 2 TV's, playstation and bath, giving us no reason whatsoever to leave the room for the next 2 days. Well worth the extra $4 a night! Watched the All Blacks beat Australia to win the tri-nations and had muchos fun playing Fifa on the playstation. Sunday 22nd July was a seriously cotched day (much needed after the intensive activity and drinking times in Queenstown)! We booked all our accommodation and boats for Fiji before a nice walk around a very English-like city, visiting the church and a few shops before heading back to the penthouse for some beans on toast.
The next day (Mon 23rd July), we got up early and drove with our new bus driver Jamie for Kaikoura. After only a couple of hours of scenic driving, we stopped at the town's peninsula overlooking the sea to view a close-up seal colony in the wild. We then made our way into town to our hostel, 'The Lazy Shag', which was run by a wacky oriental woman. A surprisingly nice hostel, lying amongst beautiful scenery. That afternoon, we taxied it to the local golf course for a lovely round of golf, set amongst a background of the sea and mountains. Dan shot 96, a decent effort. Fish and chips (for J) for dinner before poo-pooing the subzero temperature and opting for an ice-cream for our journey home! We returned to the hostel and watched 'Spy Game' (a really good film by the way) before going back to our double French with Dutch sauce flavoured dorm. Unsurprisingly, we were once again up early on Tuesday to board the bus to Picton for our ferry back to the north island. We ate Subway for lunch at the ferry port and although the Cook Strait in between the north and south islands is supposed to be one of the most turbulent channels of sea, the crossing was surprisingly pleasant.We arrived in Wellington a few hours later and checked into yet another Base backpackers. Kebab for dinner and then busted it to the cinema with new-found friend and room mate Liz, the Unitarian Manc. We saw 'Knocked Up', an exceedingly joyful and funny movie before we went back to the hotel bar for a beer and some more pool - Dan winning again to increase his pool lead to 31-15.
Wednesday morning was in short, a fiasco. Christchurch travel agent Kylie managed to completely f*** up our Fiji booking, throwing our plans to stay at the Octopus resort into turmoil. Eventually we booked Manta Ray resort and coupled with our compensation and discount, we ended up $50 better off, despite the fact that Manta Ray was $142 more expensive! Don't ask... we didn't! Once that was sorted we had a cultural afternoon at the 'Te Papa' National Museum. This was a very modern and Maori-orientated museum (we can both now enlighten you with the Maori creation story in some depth) and we partook in two simulators - one back in time and one in the future - for a combined fee of $9. The future one was pretty cool and clearly built before the past one, as this was s***e! We then headed to the 4th level of the museum where there was a KID'S murder mystery adventure. For some reason, 9 year old kids were finding this much easier than us t*** and so we ended up copying their answers. After solving this awful crime, detectives Garsin and Noar headed downstairs, getting hooked on a touch-screen alien game, looking at which species of animal would help us survive on a desert island. Long story! We then had a wander round the rest of the museum before heading to the supermarket for an impulsive shopping spree, grabbing classics such as chocolate cake, carrot cake, houmous and pitta bread. Back to the hostel for a serious munch whilst watching Mrs Doubtfire before hunger struck again - Domino's (notice the healthy eating) followed for dinner. We then headed to a comedy club/tiny room with Nina German and newbies Charlotte and French Jane. Some of the evening was moderately funny, which wasn't bad for free comedy - 2 Canadian guys and the improvised comedy were particularly funny. We all then headed to 'The Establishment' for drinks, where we met up with other European heroes in Maud and Drashka for a mini bop.
Thursday morning we were met by new bus driver Bodhi for our trip back up north to Taupo. We watched a legendary movie on the bus, 'World's Fastest Indian' with Anthony Hopkins, and finally arrived at 'Urban Retreat' in Taupo at 3pm. A nice walk around the town followed before heading back to the hostel for a peanut butter and toast dinner. Like the previous night out in Taupo (on the way south some weeks ago), a spot of karaoke occurred, this time busting classics like 'Let it be', 'Sorry seems to be the hardest word' and 'Love me for a reason' before heading on to Mulligans to find Bodhi (our DRIVER) pissed off his face. Friday, our final day on the Kiwi Experience was another long day of travelling back to Auckland. Today's movie was 'Blood Diamond', a great prelude to the safety of Africa! We stopped at Huka falls for a spot of rugby before continuing onto Auckland to be met by heroes of our time, Bev and Ron. It was quite weird to be seeing them again and going back to the house where we started, but it was great nonetheless to have clean clothes and a computer! We had a slap-up roast chicken and potatoes for dinner and made full use of our free computer, backing up all our photos and DVD's. Then off to an electric-blanket heated comfy bed!
Saturday we got up late (obviously) to a stunning pancake and maple syrup breakfast! We were then taken on a second guided tour of Auckland, driving to Mount Wellington, One Tree Hill and other favourites to the sound of Ron's kind-hearted comments about the 'browns' and the 'bloody maori's'. Classic! Dinner (5.45) was amazing again; lamb chops and sausages with a gorgeous apple strudel for desert. Highlights of NZ are difficult to say. We can safely agree that Queenstown is the best place - skiing, bungy, canyon wing and Fergburger! Having said that, black and white water rafting were incredible and Zorbing was a good laugh too. Best beer: Export Gold, Speights or Lion Red; best food: tied between Fergburger and Bev's; best hike: Mt Doom walk or glacier hike! All in all, NZ was an absolutely awesome adventure packed month! Now we cannot wait for a chilled out cotch in the paradise islands of Fiji.