Lake Wanaka

•December 13, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Lake MathesonAs we continued our journey towards Queenstown, the place where it’s all happening, we had a stopover by Lake Wanaka. The drive to Wanaka was very scenic, and we first stopped off at Lake Matheson, an absolutely breathtaking Mirror Lake. We did a short 40 minute walk to and from the Lake and I swear it was the coldest temperature I’ve ever experienced before.

After our short walk, we waited in the cafe for Matt & Paul to return from their skydiving. We watched their dvds in the bus, Paul aka Pigeon’s was hilarious as it was close up on his face, and you could see his cheeks flapping about during the freefall… mental note – don’t buy the dvd if the camera is attached to your instructor’s wrist… it’s just embarassing!
We stopped off at a couple more places of interest, including a beach where we saw dolphins swimming, and some waterfalls and mountains. Then we arrived in Wanaka and I was reunited with Becky & George after having been apart for around 10 days which was really nice.


Glacier Hike, Franz Josef

•December 13, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Ice HoleDown at the Hiking Centre first thing in the morning, we were given out kit for the day. This included a waterproof jacket and boots complete with crampons. Although we were told that it would be warm on top of the glacier (go figure?!), I wasn’t taking any chances, so I had come dressed in about 7 layers. Turns out it was pretty warm on top the glacier, so I had to lug around my layers all day!  We started our trek to the bottom of the glcaier, which took an hour alone to reach. Then we split up into groups of around 10 – 15 and we were each given one guide. I was in a group with some of the girls: Sam, Roxan & Emma and some others who weren’t on Kiwi Experience. The hardest part of the hike was the first section, where we had to climb about a million steps which had been created previously by our guides. As we reached the tops 0f the stairs, we began to see ice holes tunnels, made by sun melting away at the ice. Around 12pm we stopped for lunch, Sam and I discovered that we had blisters at the back of our feet caused by the boots, so we had to plaster ourselves up before heading onwards. We went a little further uphill, and by 2pm Sam & I were so ready to turn back down again as we were in so much pain from our feet. We only trekked for another hour or two before beginning our descent, which was luckily a lot easier on our feet. However it did take us another hour or two to make it back to the bus and I think if I was to do another glacier hike again, I would opt for the half-day hike as we did not see an awful lot more on the full-day hike.

That evening, we had a quiet one in the hostel bar. Another Kiwi bus joined us that evening, s0 Matt, Liam & I went for a few drinks with a couple of the girls. We didn’t make it a late one as Matt was off skydiving again the next morning and had to be up at 6am.

West Coast South Island

•November 18, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Franz JosefSorry everyone, I have been meaning to update my blog for sooooooo long, I had this slavedriver for a boss and she was making me work crazy, CRAZY hours. I didn’t get to my bed till 6am some nights, she’s a nightmare… tell you about that at a later date though!

So, back to New Zealand and the West Coast….

We arrived at Lake Mahinapua late afternoon, and with not a lot to do there before our fancy dress party, we headed off to the beach with a few bottles of vino. We headed back for dinner, which was prepared for us by the hotel owner, the lovely Les and our bus driver, Dodgy. We had a huge backpacker’s feast for only 10 bucks, with steak, potatoes, pasta, bread, veg, it was amazing! After dinner we changed into our costumes. The theme of our fancy dress party was ‘The Sea’, which was soooo difficult to do! I had decided to dress up as a Mermaid, which went terribly wrong. As a tail I had decided to wrap tin foil around my legs, with the help of my dorm buddies Roxan & Paul. Roxan did an absolutely fantastic job in making my tail. Unfortunately I could hardly move. I had to do a funny jump thing to walk, getting down stairs was impossible and I could not even sit down. So my costume stayed on for approximately half an hour before changing into normal clothes. We sat around playing cards, drinking beer and listening to possibly the worse jukebox ever! By 1am everyone was drifting off to bed. Then someone suggested going out to the Lake (as we hadn’t actually seen it yet and it was meant to be stunning), so 4 of us decided to talk a 10 minute walk in the pitch black to try to find the lake. It was bloody terrifying!! You couldn’t see a thing in front of you!

The next morning we set off for Franz Josef, where we were spending 2 nights. We stopped of for a quick walk to see the Glacier from afar. What was supposed to be a quick 20 minute walk and back actually turned into an hour for Matt & I, as we kept walking wen we should have turned back. The Kiwi bus left without us, and we had to (rather embarrassingly) hitch a lift from one of the Glacier Hike Tour Guides back to meet the other guys!

That evening after grabbing a bite to eat in the very nice hostel bar, I headed to bed at an early hour with a migraine. The next day we were doing a full day hike of the Glacier so I wanted to be fresh in the morning for the long day ahead of me.

Nelson & Westport

•September 13, 2008 • Leave a Comment
Nelson Lakes National Park

Nelson Lakes National Park

Upon leaving Nelson, we first stopped for a walk in Nelson Parks National Park which was absolutely beautiful, just like a postcard picture. The landscape was perfectly mirrored in the sparkling lake. A couple fo the lads decided it would be fun to take a dip (bearing in mind how cold it gets in a New Zealand winter!), which was rather amusing for the rest of us. They literally jumped into the water and back out again! Once we arrived in Wesport, most the bus went jetboating while a select few stayed in the hostel and chilled out by watching a movie. That evening we all went to the local pub, and, as per usual, watched to boys play pool (I have seen more pool games in New Zealand than I have the whole of my life!), had a couple fo drinks and back to the hostel for an earlyish night for our early start the next day. En route to Lake Mahinapua we stopped off at some what would be lovely scenery if it hadn’t been raining, including Cape Foulwind (where we saw a seal colony), and then Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes. Then we had an hour to buy our fancy dress costumes for the legendary Poo Party at the Lake Mahinapua Hotel happening that night.

Skydiving, Nelson

•August 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment
My Skydive
My Skydive

On arrival in the South Island, our first stop was a winery. As I was feeling pretty rough from our night out in Wellington, I didn’t even go in. Next stop was our hostel, where me, Matt & Leticia and Becca quickly checked in, then headed out to Abel Tasman to go skydiving! I had been thinking of skydiving ever since I first got on the Kiwi bus, so many people were talking about how amazing it was and they eventually talked me into it! Originally I had wanted to do it at Franz Josef, but with only a 35% chance of having good enough weather for it, I thought maybe Nelson would be the perfect opportunity. However, our bus driver had said we would have been able to do it the next day (hangover free), so I was pretty surprised when he said he had booked us in for that afternoon, but at least I didn’t have any time to think about it! The worst part was going up in the plane, it took us about 15 minutes to reach 13,000 feet and even halfway looked really high. My camera man went out first, and climbed onto the side of the plane to make way for me and my instructor. Then I went with my tandem partner, Stuart, and we did a 50 second freefall before he let the parachute up. I was completely in shock for the 50 seconds and don’t really remember falling, Matt & Leticia kept asking me questions after and I was like ‘I don’t know, I don’t remember!’. Once the parachute went up, we floated down for about 4-5 minutes, taking in the amazing scenery of the Abel Tasman National Park. It was totally awesome, I definately want to do another one, maybe at 15,000 feet this time and without a hangover!

Windy Wellington

•August 22, 2008 • Leave a Comment

We arrived in Wellington about 2pm and as I had decided to leave my bus and stay on here for 3 nights I took it easy in the afternoon. After dinner, Claudia & I headed down to the hostel bar to meet some of the others, although we were on the coke’s as we were still feeling rough after ‘The Ring of Fire’. We didn’t stay out too late, the others all headed onto a club so I said my goodbyes the guys and Claudia & I headed to bed. It was strange waking up in an empty room again after being constantly surrounded by people since Auckland, but it was so nice not having to get up at stupid o’clock to catch the Kiwi bus! When I eventually got up (after about 12 hours of sleep!), it was a really sunny day, the first I’d seen since the States, so I went for a walk around the city. First impression was it was more like a European holiday destination than a city in New Zealand with apartments on a hill overlooking the harbour. Wellington was definately a nicer city than Auckland, with more shops, cafes & restaurants and a bigger city centre. I was able to do some shopping for warmer clothes, New Zealand was a lot colder than I expected and I knew the South Island would definately be even colder! The weather in Wellington didn’t stay nice for long, it began to rain and get mega windy so after grabbing a bite for lunch I went to the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa. There was a small exhibtion on how the Scots came to settle on the islands which was quite interesting and included some videos showing the Kiwi’s celebrating Burns Night and St Andrews Day with traditional Scottish dance and food. That evening I stayed in my dorm (which I had all to myself!), and started reading my new book ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’. It was so nice to relax and not have to be anywhere for a change. The next morning I went out for a walk along the harbour (in the wind!), and then set about doing some boring stuff like replying to emails and doing my laundry. Around half 2 another Kiwi Experience bus arrived, with my mate Matt who’d stayed on in River Valley to try to do the rafting, so we went to the Museum so he could have a look, and then met up with Chris & Justine, a couple who’d been on our bus since Mercury Bay and were staying with friends in Wellington. We stupidly stayed out till about 2am, even though me & Matt were up at 6am the next morning to catch the ferry to the South Island, but as it was out last night with Chris & Justine, we wanted to make it a good one! Getting up in the morning was hard work, I wasn’t very well and Matt almost slept in, but we made it and tried to catch some kip aboard the ferry!

River Valley

•August 20, 2008 • Leave a Comment
Me & Chesnut

Me & Chesnut

We set off early from Taupo to head to the middle of nowhere, River Valley. The weather had hit here too, the bus before us had not been able to get through and had to divert into Wellington. When we arrived there were fallen trees all over the roads as a result of the storm. Here we had the option of doing white water rafting in a Grade 5 river, but as the rain had upped the water levels it was unsafe for rafting. Me, Becki and George decided to go for a horse trek in the Rangitikei district, taking in beautiful scenery of the valley. My horse, Chesnut, was a lazy boy and wasn’t up for much trekking but after some encouragement from our guide he finally started to move. That evening after dinner the 2 Chris’s, Justine, Claudia, Dan & I decided to play a drinking game called ‘The Ring of Fire’. A deck of cards is laid out in a circle and each person in turn picks up a card, each card having a different meaning. We played with 2 decks of cards so the game lasted a good few hours and by bedtime we were all very merry, especially me!

Rain, rain, rain!

•August 18, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Our next stop in the North Island was Taupo, where we would spend 2 nights so our bus driver could have a day off. The weather was ok-ish when we first arrived in Taupo but not quite good enough for those wanting to skydive. A few people had decided they wanted to bungy, so we headed to Taupo Bungy, which overlooks Waikato River Valley, a really beautiful stop for a bungy jump. After we watched them fall, we headed to our hostel in central Taupo. That’s when the rain started, and I don’t think it stopped till we left 2 days later! That evening we went to an Irish pub to take part in a pub quiz and then had a few drinks in the hostel bar. The following day, we were supposed to walk the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, supposedly one of the best best 1 day walks in the world, but due to the awful rain and wind, this had been cancelled. With the weather being so bad, Taupo did not really have a lot to offer. We were bored senseless all day. We watched a movie, went for a coffee, went shopping for thermals, went to the supermarket, checked our emails. And even then we still had hours of the day left! Again that night, we went for a few in the hostel bar, but with another early rise the following day we didn’t make it a very late one.


•August 17, 2008 • Leave a Comment
Black Water Rafting

Black Water Rafting

En route to Waitomo from Rotorua, we stopped off at Te Puia, a thermal park with geysers, hot pools and bubbling mud. We even sat on some rocks which were hot from the geothermal activity, and very pleasing in the freezing cold weather! As the weather was pretty miserable, our driver decided to give us a laugh by stopping at ‘The Shearing Shed’, so we could witness an Angora Rabbit being shaved. These German rabbits are especially breeded to grow very long hair, and they have to be sheared every few months, failure to do so would cause death. The rabbits are strapped to a machine and turned upside down to allow the easy shearing of their hair. And no, I’m not joking! Our evening was a pretty quiet one, we went to a local bar for a barbecue with MASSIVE steaks and sausages, had a few drinks whilst the boys played pool and then headed to our beds in preparation for an early start the next again day for Black Water Rafting in the Waitomo Caves.

Black Water Rafting is also known as cave tubing. We all were given black rubber tubes for us to use whilst we jumped down waterfalls and floated along the caves, in search of gloworms on the cave ceiling. It was kind of scary being in the pitch black with only our head torches for any light, and we had to all squueze through some tight spaces, but we all had a great time, even at the last stretch where we glided through the water with our torches off! Afterwards we set off for Taupo, stopping off for a few people to do the bungee before checking into our hostel for the night.

Mercury Bay & Rotorua

•August 7, 2008 • Leave a Comment
Geyser in Rotorua

Geyser in Rotorua

On our departure from Auckland, we firstly stopped off Mount Eden, one of many dormant volcano’s in New Zealand for some great views of the city. It was only from here that I could appreciated the complete vastness of the city. Luckily we had a dry day so we were able to see all around, to both the Harbours, One Tree Hill and the Financial District. We then made our way to Whitianga and the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula to spend the afternoon at Cathedral Cove. A few of us went kayaking around the Cove and to ‘Stingray Bay’ where we actually saw stingray’s in the water below us. As you can imagine with my fear of fish, I was slightly freaked out, but it was still pretty cool! Some of them were absolutely massive though. The next day we headed on to Rotorua, New Zealand’s centre for geothermal activity. It was a really wet day so on our arrival a few of us decided to head for the Polynesian Spa, a thermal spa overlooking Lake Rotorua. We relaxed in the outdoor hot pools for a couple of hours in the rain which was really relaxing. I didn’t want to leave but that evening we were going to a Maori cultural evening Tamaki Maori Village so it was out of the hot pools and back into the cold rain again! At the village we witnessed tribal songs and dances, including the ‘Haka’, the dance which the New Zealand All Blacks perform before their games. On our second day in Rotorua we went luging, which basically is speeding down a concrete track on a kind of sledge with wheels and handles, great fun! We had good views over Rotorua too, as we had to take a gondola ride all the way to the top of the hill. After lunch we went for a walk round the city to look at the natural thermal pools and lake. That evening we headed to the Lava Bar for a bite to eat, and after talking to the barman we discovered that if we dressed up in togas we would get plenty of free drinks! So we did and we all had a fantastic night out with lots of dancing and lots of drinking! We all had sore heads the next again day though!