From the lazy hammocks of Fiji, we come to the outdoor adventure capital that is New Zealand. We began in the north island in the city of Auckland to pursue our first extreme sport of birthday marathon drinking for Mak's 25th. He received the greatest present of all: a hot shower and an English breakfast. After a few hours we'd shed our basic Fijian lifestyle, and stepped straight back into cosmopolitan life with seafood platters and $110 champagne. If it wasn't for a smoking ban, the King Edwards would have followed!
The next day reality hit hard. We discovered our Fijian t-shirt and short combination couldn't stand up to the Arctic winds, or funny looks. Time to buy some clothes!
After picking up our 2/friendly 3 birth campervan, we hit the road in true Max and Paddy style, i.e. we didn't know where we were going! We made our way to Mercury Bay and discovered hot water beach, where you can dig your own hot spring in the sand. Some of the water was too hot for us, but not for the random Dutch guy who lapped up the volcanic banter!
From there it was off to Rotorua, as we made our way south. We realised it was time to step onto the extreme sports ladder, with grade 5 white-water rafting (including a 7m waterfall drop), sky swing, luging (downhill go-karting) and entering a lion's den! With Fiji still in our minds we rounded this off with a hot water spa (extreme!). The white-water rafting has to be number one. However, stroking a lion has to be the most bizarre. We should also give a special mention to the luging, where you can pick up excessive speeds on a tray with wheels. Needless to say, carnage was to be dealt, including Paul nearly losing a leg from a cheap shot from behind by Crust. Crust wasavenging a similar cheap shot dealt to Mak. Crust realised the price on his head and took off down the mountain as quick as the tray would go!
Without wanting to tempt fate too much, we headed to Waitomo, home of black-water rafting. This consisted of journeying into the Waitomo caves, 65m below ground level. We floated leisurely along various underground streams on a black rubber ring with only our head torches to light our path. Although, after half way our guide told us to turn out all of the lights to reveal a star-like display of glow worms, who produce a glowing blue light to attract pray. Like 3 wise pals, we followed the light back to the surface.
Continuing south to Wellington, it seemed to be going too well, until Paul put his foot on the accelerator with minimal results. The sea of power the campervan once had no longer flowed through it's cylinders- we had broken down!
After one unscheduled stop and one new van we eventually arrived in the capital, Wellington. With little to see and bad weather, we booked on an early ferry to take us to the south island. After the 4-hour stormy crossing, much to the delight of old sea-legs Crust, we arrived. We hit the road again to even more impressive mountain scenery and hair-pin turns to the dismay of the unlucky one in the middle seat. The middle seat being an uncomfortable box on top of the engine, a foot higher than the other seats, adding to the humiliation. Although, this didn't stop the van reaching an excess of 110 kph to secure a speeding fine for Paul, we must have been going downhill, officer! With an 80 dollar hole in the pocket, we continued at a leisurely 97 kph to Franz Josef Glacier.
From Franz Josef we did the glacier walk, but only made a small dent on the huge glacier after a few hours of trekking. But, all agreed, it was well worth it, as hopefully you can see from the pictures. From numerous recommendations, we nervously picked up the phone and booked ourselves a sky dive at Fox Glacier, 30 minutes drive from Franz Josef. The next morning we arrived at Fox Glacier airport. With sleep still in our eyes, we were bombarded with safety procedures, strapped into jump suits and pushed into a plane ready for the off! At 6,000 feet, above the mountains we soon woke up to the knowledge that we were only half way up, and we actually had to jump out. Having jumped out at 12,000 feet and reaching speeds of 200 kph, the rest was a bit of a blur!
Still dazed from the dive, we drove to Wanaka, a small bustling ski village. One of the days here we hit the slopes of Cardrona. After a few hours and a few lessons, Mak took it on himself to follow Paul and Crust down some steeper slopes, however, with an impaired ability to turn, he dropped off the mountain side with a yelp. Crust, hearing the yelp, turned around to see an empty slope and a sharp cliff-side drop. Throwing off his skis in a panic, he sprinted back up the slope to find Mak had somehow found a soft snowy ledge. Stick to sky diving, it's safer!
After all the excitement, it was time to leave for Queenstown, the party capital, to do what we do best: right hand drinking, left hand boxing. The next 10 days are pretty much a blur, but we did manage to fit in a day of sight-seeing at Milford Sound regarded as a natural wonder of the World.
After the drunken mischief of Queenstown, we headed to Christchurch to drop off the campervan and depart for Sydney.