A Travellerspoint blog

Queenstown

Bungy, Bar Crawls, Hiking, Canyon Swings, Jet Boating... Just Being Extreme


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

On Sunday we arrived in Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world! and I planned to make some good use of my time here. Queenstown is very picturesque, but has loads of bars, shops, cafes, adventure companies and backpackers crammed into about 3 streets; like a busy Wanaka. Although it promises loads to do in the area, there is also a vague promise of Bankruptcy as everything is so expensive! luckily I haven't done too badly!

My first brush with adventure was courtesy of the Guernsey Psychology team, who gave me a Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump as my leaving present. So with half excitement/half terror the first activity I booked to do in the area was my jump. The company drives you out to the bungy site on the bus, where you can almost feel the tension of all the jumpers (everyone was a lot more psyched on the way back, due to being on a adrenalin high...I'm pretty convinced no one like jumping off bridges, they just like the feeling you get when you've done it!). Once we arrived it was surprisingly efficient, they weighed you and wrote your weight on your hand (so if your self conscious of your weight, bungy is not for you as it takes a day or two to come off) and then sent you out to the bridge. I was expecting a bit of a wait and a faff, so I wasn't entirely mentally prepared when I walked onto the bridge then got beckoned out to the edge straight away. I then got sat down where they wrapped a towel round my legs and a couple of straps (with me sat there trying desperately trying to avoid looking over the edge thinking "Is that it?!!". The guy tries to get you to chat whilst you get strapped in, but unfortunately i wasn't giving very sensible answers to his questions, because I was too damn scared. Then after far too short a time you have a hand held up in your face, you high five it, then you shuffle out towards the edge (after you have your "NO WAIT IM NOT READY" moment and a bit of encouragement) and then you jump into thin air (dont think about it too much, as you get your brain saying things like "there's something not right here...I'm sure your not meant to jump off a bridge...NO WAIT...stop...THIS ISN'T RIGHT) then the river is speeding towards you, then the bungy catches you, you bounce around a few times, and its over! Then you get lowered into the boat, untied and let off to attempt one of the hardest things; walking back up the stairs with your legs about to collapse from shaking because of all the adrenalin. Once you've got your photos and dvd and watched a few other terrified people jump off the bridge, the bus drives you home and you can feel awesome for the rest of the day.

3-2-1-Bungy!

3-2-1-Bungy!

The bar crawl of that evening is also worth a mention, not to bore you with the details (as a bar crawl in Queenstown is pretty similar to a bar crawl anywhere else, other than the fact your with 50 other people from a hostel, and you get to go to some cool places like the Ice Bar; a bar made entirely of ice, including the cups, where you are given coats, boots and gloves before you are allowed in) but it is important in the grand scheme of the story as half way through the crawl we were asked to play a game of fetch; the first to gather a bra, a pair of boxers and a condom would be the winner, and I won. One guy was randomly stripping off in the background because he was drunk, and I think was intending to swim, so I made full advantage of that, took his boxers, performed the bra trick every girl knows to take off your bra without taking off your clothes, got a condom off the nearest boy next to me, then ran to claim my prize. Subsequently I was given a $200 canyon swing as a prize, something I had mixed feelings about winning after I saw how scary it looked; 60m free fall (my bungy was 43m) and 200m arc, still it was free, so really I had no choice and attempted to muster up excitement rather than terror. more on that later.

Wrapped Up Warm In The Ice Bar

Wrapped Up Warm In The Ice Bar

The next day was a lot more chilled out with no real important activities to mention (which may have a little to do with being hungover) the main event of the day was wandering round the Queenstown Gardens, watching people play Frisbee golf and enjoying the beautiful views...

Walking Through Queenstown Gardens, Enjoying The View Out Towards The Lake

Walking Through Queenstown Gardens, Enjoying The View Out Towards The Lake

After having such a chilled day, the next day I felt like I needed to do something more active. So when Heather and Katie (my two American friends from the hostel) asked me to come on a 5 hour hike with them up a steep peak I agreed. The three of us set out, joined by a guy called Daniel, a friend of Katie and headed towards the gondola. We took the gondola up the first section of hill (with beautiful views of Queenstown), headed past all the commercial stuff (Paragliding, Bungy Jumping, a Luge, Mountain Biking) and started on the Ben Lomond track. 3 grueling uphill hours later we arrived at the top of the peak feeling pretty proud of ourselves, and another 2 hours of almost equally grueling downhill later we arrived back at the Gondola, on the brink of collapse. It was a pretty awesome walk with beautiful views of Queenstown and the Lake on one side, and a Mountain range on the other, plus because it was so hard we felt a sense of achievement on completion. The only negative bit (other than the sore legs) was the fact we ALL ran out of water at the top of the peak, so had to do the two hour walk back in the sun with no water, which was pretty difficult (though water had never tasted so good when we finally arrived back at the gondola, especially after you sprint down the hill jumping down decorative rocks to get to it). So a good day, but knackered! leading to an exciting early night, in preparation for tomorrows adventures (the Canyon Swing!)

Pleased To Have Finally Made It To The Top Of The Ben Lomond Track

Pleased To Have Finally Made It To The Top Of The Ben Lomond Track

I Started off the next day feeling a little nervous, and it only got worse; I got the bus to the Canyon around 11.30 and my composure steadily declined. For the Bungy I was pretty scared, but luckily I didn't get out of hand scared as it was over before I had a chance to think about it too much. Unluckily for the canyon swing I stood there close to the edge watching 3 other sets of people go first and steadily made it worse and worse for myself. I blew the whole thing out of proportion in my head and got into a panic state (I knew it was safe, I just felt friggin terrified!) and was close to giving up and walking away. In the end with A LOT of coaxing (and a short bout of terrified crying on my part) I was convinced out onto the edge, and step by step suspended out over the side. After that I sat contemplating life and maybe coming back in, but the guy pulling my rip cord had other plans, and let me go without warning (probably best). Obviously it wasn't as bad as I built up in my head, and felt really pleased that I had done it afterwards. I even managed to convince myself to go again in a tandem with another girl (we went much faster with two of us, and although it was scary, I hadn't been panicking like before so i enjoyed it a lot more!). A good experience I think, but DEFINITELY done with scaring myself half to death for a while!

Looking Deceptively Calm At My Canyon Swing

Looking Deceptively Calm At My Canyon Swing

In the afternoon that day I had also planned to do Jet Boating, which was enjoyable, and even though they did there best to make it exciting (lots of 360 degree spins and speeding super close to trees/shore line), for once I wasn't the slightest bit scared (In fact I have been much more scared sitting in my family's tiny boat in choppy water on the way to Herm, at least it the Jet boat I got to sit on a seat) so that was a nice break! That, combined with the plan of getting a Fergburger and hitting the town for the night, wraps up the excitement filled week in Queenstown! It's been emotional.

Posted by Laura Mitchell 20:28 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Wanaka

Lake Matherson, Puzzles, Climbing, Canyoning and Car Key Faff


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

Next stop after Franz Josef was Wanaka, A really picturesque town right on the edge of Lake Wanaka (Suprisingly). The drive down was really nice through mountains and past lakes and also included some nice stop offs; Lake Matherson (Where we joined quite a lot of other tourists on a pleasant hour walk to go get the famous picture of Mount Cook reflected in the lake), Fox Glacier (Where we hopped out the car for about 2 seconds, took a picture, then hopped back in again. Fox Glacier, Tick) and Haast (Not sure we made it into actual Haast as there was nothing around other than the place we stopped to have lunch, which was FULL of antlers hung on the roof beams randomly). In summary a really sunny day and a beautiful drive! (The further south you go in New Zealand the more picturesque it seems to get)

Mt Cook Reflected in Lake Matherson

Mt Cook Reflected in Lake Matherson

Once we arrived in Wanaka, I had to go find a separate hostel to Tracey and Emma, as they had cleverly booked, where as I had not. Luckily it worked out well however as when I arrived in my room I spied a climbing rope tucked under the bunks so I instantly corned everyone I saw asking “Is That Your Rope??”. So that way I found a climbing buddy (Tuan) and therefore spent a couple of my days in Wanaka doing some routes (though nothing too challenging as we were teaching someone new). The rock was pretty good (a nice change from Paynes Ford slopers) and both days went by with minimal faff (though we had some standard leading panic and had some comic shouting, especially when one climb had very well hidden chains, but two rusty bolts in plan view, leading to the assumption of being very high up with no way to get down.

Other than climbing I also had an exciting day at puzzling world with Tracy, Emma, Jon (another Irish recruit) and Amy (A girl from out hostel). We started off in the “Illusion Rooms” where Emma was particularly comical trying to walk around a room designed to throw you off balance and we checked out some other illusions including the Ames Room and a room filled with faces with seem to follow you. The main event however was the maze. Some of our crowd were a bit dubious to begin with, however the competive streak got the better of everyone and we were soon running around, pushing children out the way (not really) racing to finish first. I came first (and was rewarded by having to sit by myself for 10 minutes), Tracey came second, Amy and Emma finished third together (looking thoroughly surprised to have not come last seeing as they were considerably less competitive about it than the rest of us) and Jon came last looking a bit angry and muttering to himself about the novelty having worn off. After that we competed with millions of Asian people trying to get the standard photos of holding up the leaning tower (though lots of people didn’t seem to quite understand the concept of perspective so couldn’t get their photos to work) and then headed home. Later in the evening we all met up again (minus Amy who had got the bus to Queenstown) and went to the cinema; where you can sit on sofas, drink wine, eat popcorn and get a fresh baked cookies in the interval. Much better than the Mallard.

Pleased to have made it out the maze at Puzzling World

Pleased to have made it out the maze at Puzzling World

My final exciting activity in Wanaka was a day Canyoning. I went on the “Leaping Burn Max” trip which was a trip for “The extremely fit with previous experience” which really meant you have to walk up a pretty steep hill to get there and you musnt be a complete idiot with abseiling (as none of us had previous experience with canyoning but we were fine). So the day started at 8.30am with us all standing in the street getting odd looks whilst we tried to work out which wetsuits would fit us. We then drove to the Canyon, got changed into shorts and thermal t-shirts provided for us, then quickly overheated in them whilst we struggled up the steep hill (using fixed ropes to haul ourselves up sections and fighting our way through prickly bushes on questionable paths, all the while being encouraged by the guide saying things like “I think I’ve taken you the wrong way, oh no I think we’re alright”). Eventually we made it to the canyon, had a 5 minute lesson on using a figure of eight device to abseil, and changed into our wetsuits.

Making the steep walk/climb up to the start of the canyon

Making the steep walk/climb up to the start of the canyon

The next few hours we spent negotiating our way down, starting off with a 8m jump into the canyon itself (into water obviously) and continuing with loads of different abseils (through waterfalls, In waterfalls, next to waterfalls), going head first down a slide enclosed in rock (when they tell you to slide down it head first you look down the steepish drop into darkness and think “really?”), more jumps, floating down the river, hanging off ledges over steep drops whilst you wait for the ropes to be set up and generally being a bit dangerous (a nice change in a guided tour). All this activity was broken up with crazy dancing to try keep warm (we all started off quite reserved worrying about looking mildly rediculous, but eventually caution got thrown to the wind when we all got too cold to care about how silly you look manic dancing in a wetsuit to no music) and a gormet lunch of chocolate biscuits and Salami wrapped around cheese. Eventually we made it to the end where we had to abseil down a 100m waterfall and had an optional 15m jump (I chickened out and carried on abseiling), then drove back to base (where we got more blocks of cheese in eat in the car on the way back as we didn’t have time to make sandwiches). By the time I had got my photo CD and was back in the hostel it was 8pm, a mere 3.5 hours later than it said in the leaflet…

One of many waterfall abseils

One of many waterfall abseils

Overall a pretty active stay in Wanaka, now im heading to Queenstown to catch up with Tracey and Emma (who went there for St.Patricks day). So far I reckon Wanaka has been my favourite spot, and I wish I could stay a bit longer, but I’m also quite excited to go to Queenstown to do my bungy jump! (well half excited, half terrified).

The only bad part of my stay here was when I threw all my stuff into the boot of my car, slammed the boot shut and realised my car key was in the pile of stuff…and the car doors were locked. I then had to pay $60 to get it back, which took the locksmith about 20 seconds of work. Sigh.

Posted by Laura Mitchell 23:36 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Hokitika "Wild Foods" Festival and Franz Josef Ice Climbing

Drag Queens, Eating HuHu Grubs, Collapsed Tents, Glaciers and Ice Climbing


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

At the weekend I headed to the town of Hokitika, which is normally pretty quiet and used as a stop off to check out the Jade shops, but the second weekend of March the population jumps from 3,000 to 15,000 when people gather for the Wild Foods Festival. The weekend involved quite a variety of entertainment, including a Ukulele band, NZ Army band, Some tribute acts (Johnny Cash and The Doors), a fair bit of country music, and the main attraction...The Divine Drag Divas, four men dressed up in amazingly sparkly costumes lead by a 120kg drag queen called Miss Ribena (who were suprisingly graceful jumping round in massive high heels).

One Of The "Divine Drag Divas" Doing A Twirl

One Of The "Divine Drag Divas" Doing A Twirl

Other than the music as a form of entertainment, there was also an amazing selection of foods to be had (really it was a day filled with eating, spaced out with some music whilst you made space for more eating). My selection of foods included HuHu Grub, Shark, Whitebait Fritter, Honey Comb, Smoked Eel, Ostrich Pie, Some kind of rare duck I dont remember the name of, Moonshine (which tasted suspiciously like mouthwash), Honey mead and ice cream (well it cant all be adventurous). The festival also had the added benefits of a market in town, and my campsite was a mere 5 minutes walk from main area. It was an enjoyable weekend, with alot of colourful costumes and interesting food/entertainment, with the only downside being coming back to my tent late at night in the rain and finding it collapsed (then having to deal with the drunk people who tried to help me put it back up, who were effectively following me round the tent undoing the work I had done already with the intention of being "helpful")

Tasty Looking HuHu Grub at The Wild Foods Festival

Tasty Looking HuHu Grub at The Wild Foods Festival

The following day (once I faced the rain and bundled up a wet tent into the back of my car, always a joy) I made the drive down to Franz Josef Glacier where I spent the afternoon being thoroughly lazy whilst it poured with rain outside, preparing for a full day of ice climbing the next day (apparently it was due to clear up, which was hard to believe at the time)

Sure enough it did clear up the next day and the trip did go ahead (even though "cleared up" meant grey drizzle and occasional rain) however although we all got wet, we were pretty well prepared (they supplied coats, boots and water proof trousers) and the majority of the day it stayed dry and relatively clear, The sun did make an appearance for the last 10 minutes whilst we were walking out and actually I think we made a lucky escape as it was absolutely boiling, which wouldnt have been too fantastic for climbing.

Me Standing In Front Of Franz Josef Glacier

Me Standing In Front Of Franz Josef Glacier

Anyway once we were all kitted up, the day started with a 45minute walk to the glacier, where we then had to do kitting up stage 2 (crampons, harnesses and helmets) and then got out on the ice. We then had about a 10 minute walk over the glacier (Guides cut out steps with pickaxes and shovels) to the wall we were going to climb. After some quick instuction (stick your axes into the ice, kick your feet into the ice, go upwards) we were off. the first climbs werent hard (though having rock climbing experience definitely helped) though I had the added challenge on the first wall of having one of my axes taken away from me on the easier climbs to make it "more of a challenge".

Ready To Start Climbing

Ready To Start Climbing

Throughout the day, those of us who wanted to, got to go on some harder overhanging things, which involved quite a few undignified slips, a bit of power grunting and some hanging on the ropes, but at least I made it to the top of everything!

Starting Off On Something A Little Bit Harder

Starting Off On Something A Little Bit Harder

So we all had a really good (though pretty knackering) day, and all returned in one piece at about 5pm (I came away with the only minor injury of the day when one of the girls decided to flail her legs in frustrated helplessness when she was climbing whilst I was walking past and I got a crampon kick to the back. luckily I had been belaying in a cold patch of the day and had about 3 million layers on, so only came away with a couple of tiny scratches and a bit of a bruise!). I would definitly reccomend ice climbing as it was a great day and there is just something satisfying about holding a couple of ice axes and going to town on some ice.

Next stop is Wanaka with some added new passengers for Ron (Emma and Tracey, two Irish girls I met in Greymouth) where one of the high up things on the to-do list is to visit puzzleworld...exciting stuff.

Posted by Laura Mitchell 02:35 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Greymouth

Beautiful Coastline, Exploring Gold Mines, Being Attacked By A Cave Weta, Making Weapons, Drinking Beer


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

After Westport I made the picturesque drive down the west coast, with slightly hazardous driving as I kept trying to look over my shoulder to check out the view. I made the mandatory stop at Pancake rocks and joined the droves of other tourists to go round the short walkway to check out the blowholes and other cool rock formations (well if you can call rock formations cool, probably the wrong choice of words...). After that I made the final driving stint to Greymouth, where I planned to stop off for a five days to chill out and wait for the weekend (as I have tickets for the "Wild Foods Festival" in a Hokitika, a small town 30mins drive South away)

Pancake Rocks

Pancake Rocks

Picture Taken When I Decided to Stop and Look At The View Rather Than Taking The Odd Hazard Glance Over My Shoulder

Picture Taken When I Decided to Stop and Look At The View Rather Than Taking The Odd Hazard Glance Over My Shoulder

The hostel im staying at, Global Village, is pretty awesome and good for chilling out reading and watching movies. However when your travelling you obliged to always seem to be doing something, so I dutifully scouted the leaflets board for things to do for five days.

Among my activities included walking at Woods Creek, a short walk near some Gold Mines, where I braved the tunnels with my head torch (trying not to think of cave in's, rock falls, getting lost or my torch cutting out) In the end it was a cave Weta (A bug they get in New Zealand, google it) which I thought might have jumped onto me which scared me into legging it out of the mine.

My next noteworthy activity was making a knife in a nearby place called Barrytown. An all day actvity, we had to put our steel in a fire, hit it with a hammer lots of times, sand it down, stick some wood to it, sand that down, put some filler on it (then go away for lunch and return with our work looking remarkably more knife like than when we left them) do alot more sanding and polishing, stain the handles, and your left with a knife, easy as that (probably not that easy if you dont have someone doing the difficult bits, but letting you do just enough to make you feel like you made it all by yourself). The day was also filled with other random activities including taking some ponies for a walk, throwing axes at a wooden board, being hauled up on a giant swing and watching the resident fox terrier dog stand on its hind legs and jump around begging for your food. We also got to enjoy a glass of "Champagne" at the end of the day (which the owners admitted was actually the cheapest white wine you can buy put through a kitchen appliance called a SodaStream which carbonates it).

The guy who runs the tour also told us not to mess with him, as apparently he has 17,000 friends, and they all have knives.

Starting Out On My Knife

Starting Out On My Knife

The Raw Materials At The Top, The Finished Products At The Bottom (Mine Is The Furthest Left)

The Raw Materials At The Top, The Finished Products At The Bottom (Mine Is The Furthest Left)

My Knife Making Group, Showing Off Our New Weapons

My Knife Making Group, Showing Off Our New Weapons

After some more time spent relaxing in the hostel, with a coastal walk along Point Elizabeth to break up the laziness, the next stop on the to-do list of Greymouth was the Monteiths Brewery tour. After arrviving at the brewery at 6pm, we spent 15 minutes watching a DVD of how beer is made in the brewery (all the while thinking "when do we get to drink the beer") however the "educational" section of the tour was relatively painless and short, and soon we were allowed into the bar section, where we were plied with beer after beer. After trying 8 beers and 1 cider, we were given free reign of the bar and it became a race against time to see how much we could drink before we got asked to leave the tour (to get our money's worth). We did pretty well. As a bonus we then went for a meal afterwards where we got to try more beer whilst we were blindfolded to try and identify what it was (a game in which we were all winners, due to the fact we were drinking free beer). All in all a fun night, and a good end to my stay in Greymouth. Tomorrow I am heading to Hokitika where I will be sampling new food and music at the "Wild Foods Festival"

Getting Behind The Bar To Make The Most Of The Free Beer (Or Cider In My Case)

Getting Behind The Bar To Make The Most Of The Free Beer (Or Cider In My Case)

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Posted by Laura Mitchell 01:12 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Nelson, Abel Tasman, Takaka, Paynes Ford

Raining in the "Sunniest City in New Zealand", Kayaking/Walking Abel Tasman, A Town Full of Hippies, A Campsite Full of Climbers, Alot of Danish People


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

So after a realtively pain free ferry crossing, I have now moved on to the South Island. Our first stop was Nelson, the "Sunniest City in New Zealand" (I read this fact from the lonely planet whilst I was sheltering in my car from the worst rain so far on the trip, quietly laughing to myself) other than a brief wander round town and a walk to the"Centre of New Zealand" (Which isnt actually the centre of New Zealand, they are a bunch of liars in Nelson) I didnt achieve much, other than to spend a realtively sleepless night in my tent during a storm (exciting stuff waiting to see if your tent will pop back up again after flattening on top of you in a strong gust of wind).

After Nelson I made my way to Abel Tasman National Park, where I was dreading another walk in pouring rain. However luckily the weather decided to sort itself out for a few days so I had a really nice trip, half a day kayaking and half a day walking. I had good company (A couple of Germans, standard, and a canadian) The sea was dead calm and the walking was quite easy, so all in all pretty painless, other than having to protect my lunch time muffin from a swarm of wasps (it was a muffin worth protecting though).

Kayaking In Abel Tasman

Kayaking In Abel Tasman

Walking In Abel Tasman

Walking In Abel Tasman

Next stop was over the hill to Takaka, where I wandered round the town completely full of hippies (dreadlocks, tie-dye and bare feet everywhere) and the next day I spent third wheeling with a couple staying at my hostel, where we borrowed the free bikes at the hostel (after faffing for about an hour trying to find the least crap ones, which was no easy feat) and cycled to the Pupu Springs (clearest water in the world apparently), Labyrinth Rocks (A natural maze of rocks randomly full of plastic toys, mostly from McDonalds, where we mocked the fact there were maps at the beginning, didnt take one, then promptly got lost) and then drove to Farewell Spit (we'd had enough of the crappy bikes by then).

Pupu Springs

Pupu Springs

Having exhausted most of the things to do in Takaka, the next day I relocated to Paynes Ford five minutes down the road, where I stayed at a place called Hangdog; a camp full of climbing bums (including Nathan). After initially being distracted by the toilet walls full of writing (mainly focussed around how to lose and gain "Hippie Points") I headed to the crag (conveniently close to the campsite) and cornered some people to climb with. I spent the next four days climbing in Paynes and the near-by sea cliffs in the varying weather (bit of sun, bit of rain, bit of muggy overcast, bit of freezing cold). I had some good days leading and other not so good days (the day spent on the sea cliffs involved getting stuck forever on the first climb, getting rained on mid climb, sweeping a whole ledge of dust directly into my eye and getting super scared over nothing) but all in all Paynes Ford was pretty awesome. A mixture of bad weather forcast and wanting to carry on travelling made me leave, but I will definitely be heading back.

Climbing in Paynes Ford

Climbing in Paynes Ford

Nathan Coming Down Off 1080, A Pretty Epic Overhang

Nathan Coming Down Off 1080, A Pretty Epic Overhang

From Paynes I drove to Westport; nothing overly notable happened other than Ron struggling severely on some hills and having a couple of stop offs, one at Harwoods Hole (a big hole) and one at New Zealands biggest Swing bridge (which seemed surprisingly treacherous in the rain) just to stretch my legs. Soon enough I arrived at Westport at the exact same time as the Kiwi Experience Bus (nooooo a bus full of people to compete with to check in) but got a nice suprise when three of the Danish people we met in Australia Multiple times stepped off the bus (it really is a small world). They were in a group of 7 other Danish People, so I spent the evening being thoroughly confused by all the Danish being spoken. luckily however enjoying lesagna, drinking cider and playing Jenga can be done in any language.

Now after having an exciting day in Westport, filled with thrilling things like doing laudry and going on a coastal walk near a seal colony (conclusion; seals are dull) I am ready to continue my road trip down the West Coast. Sandflies here I come.

Posted by Laura Mitchell 19:56 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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