Welcome to coooold New Zealand! My god did we get a shock to the system when we landed from hot, sunny Fiji! But we did fall in love with the place as soon as it came into view from the plane. The landscapes are beautiful, with rolling mountains and turquoise lakes (in the North Island). We landed in Auckland on Friday 22nd May and even though it was raining, we liked the city straight away. We went straight to Daves house- James' housemate from university in Oxford who is now working in a really nice bar in Auckland for a few months- and we spent the week sleeping on his floor in his living room! (thanks Dave!!) We had a couple of good nights out, the 1st night we did a bit of a bar crawl and ended up in a nightclub called Cassette, where we drank cocktails from teapots! That is also the night that James (being the gentleman he is!) pushed Em home about 2 miles in a trolley! No further comment!! We stocked up on warm coats and jumpers and set about exploring the city. There are a few quite hippy areas in the city, where the shopping was brilliant but Em did hold back a lot! One night we had dinner up the Sky Tower, which is a replica of the Stratosphere Tower Hotel we stayed at in Vegas last year, and the food was excellent- 3 courses for 20pounds and all we could eat, heaven!! After a week of just hanging out with Dave and his housemates, we then boarded the plane to Christchurch in the South Island, to finally meet up with Soph and Jack (Em's best friend from school and her boyfriend). Soph was waiting at the gate for us with her banner saying 'Jamana'! We'd been planning and talking about this week in South Island together for so long, we were so excited to be finally doing it! We picked up our camper van from Jucy rentals, and learned how to put on the snow chains, make our beds and empty the loo! We were to sleep in the camper but Soph and Jack were 'flashpacking' as we backpackers say, and staying in nice chalets at each stop! Although we didn't complain because it meant we got nice hot showers every morning! Once Em finally got the hang of where her feet were supposed to go on an automatic pedal set up (!), our first stop was Hokitika, which was half way to Franz Josef. SophJack's chalet was right on the beach (not that we were going swimming!) and really nice. It seemed like a bit of a ghost town as it was a sunday, so we had an earlyish night ready for our hike up Franz Josef Glacier on the Monday. We woke up early, had a quick look at the beach and set off to the next stop. We did the 4 hour hike which we found plenty enough as it was so cold, and we got to see some awesome ice caves and the glacier. Tuesday was a pretty eventful day, as it was finally time to do the long anticipated sky dive! The video probably shows best what we experienced, no words can describe how scary it was, for Em and Soph anyway! James loved it of course, and wanted to go again, but once was enough for the girls! Soph and Em went up 1st as it was only 2 people at a time, and seeing Soph fall out of the plane was probably the worst bit for Em! The scenery was spectacular, it is the 2nd best place to do it in the world after the Himalayas so you can imagine how breathtaking it was. It was quite emotional as it was in Abbo's memory, and being so free and up high in the sky really brought home what had happened in the last few months. We would love to tell him all about it, but we know he was there watching over us the whole time.
After all that adrenaline rush, there was no rest for the wicked and we set off to Queenstown to stay for a couple of nights. SophJack had a lovely studio room, but we had to make do with the side of the road!! The 1st night we were woken up at 5am by a lady from the council and told to 'move on or get a fine'! So we shifted up the road and went back to sleep again! We played a few games of minigolf- probably the best indoor minigolf course in the world where you get lollipops on the last hole! We also sampled the famous 'Fergbergers' a few times (yum!!!) and had more teapot cocktails in World Bar! We also checked out the casino, where Em won $60 on roulette! She was very proud to say she quit while she was ahead and wasn't tempted to keep going! It was Jack's lucky night the next night, when he entered a pool tournament for $10 and came first, winning $170!! James and Soph have yet to score the money prizes yet!! Last night we left Queenstown and stayed in Te Anua to then go to Milford Sound today. Wow, what a stunning place! It is where Lord of the Rings was filmed, and it really is something else. The photo's will show it better! So now we are back in Queenstown (Friday) and very sad that it's our last night altogether! We're going to have our final pool tournament (yes, SophJack are beating us by 3-1 but we plan to clear that one up tonight!) Tomorrow we'll drop them at the airport and bid a sad farewell to our temporary travel buddies. Then we have got the camper for 2 more days so we can make our way up the west coast back to Christchurch to get our flight to sunny Sydney!
2 days later....
We said a very teary farewell to SophJack, (the tears were James' and Jacks of course!) and we went on our way to a town called Oamarau, AKA 'penguin town' on the west coast. We arrived to find a pretty deserted town, despite it being saturday afternoon, so we went to see the penguin colony then left for Christchurch, after having cheesey beans on bread in the van! 8 hours of driving and we were pretty tired so we stopped just outside Christchurch and settled down for the night. The next morning we drove into Christchurch and parked the van in quite a random little car park where throughout the day we were the only ones parked there, but the Jucy van survived so must've been ok! We spent the day in Christchurch, and we honestly fell in love with the place! So much so, that if the wages had been a bit higher in New Zealand then we would've stayed, but after doing the figures we wouldv'e been about 600pounds down each month, so we couldn't justify it!! But it really is a pretty town, with lots of old buildings and culture, something that all other towns in NZ lack. It has some beautiful botanical gardens, an actually interesting museum (!) and great bars and resaturants which we both said we would love to work in! But it isn't to be, as our flight is today and Sydney is waiting for us! We had dinner at the Casino buffet (we've realised that if a casino has a buffet, it's going to be good as they keep it cheap but good quality to keep the gamblers in!) and we are now just making the most of our last hours in NZ!