29.05.2007 - 01.06.2007
Keeping with tradition, we woke early to drive the remainder of the way into Queenstown. We had stayed in a town called Wanaka, about 100 km outside of Queenstown and were anxious to get to Queenstown to experience some more adventures. Our speedy departure was thwarted however as Franklin (our stellar Nissan), had the unfortunate experience of getting a flat tire. I, being the mechanical engineer that I am, set to work on removing the tire and replacing it with the donut.
How handy am I?
The first accomplishment was to get the donut out from under our masses of bags and food in the trunk. From a previous Manhattan flat tire experience (seriously I am beginning to believe I am cursed when it comes to tires) I knew not to rip the jack out of the trunk and we soon had the jack placed and the lug nuts ready to be loosened. After an unfortunate experience involving the removal of a plastic decorative lug-nut via Brooke's Herculean strength, we removed the plastic hub cabs (Franklin is rollin' in style). As has been my experience with previous flat tires, I was unable to remove the actual lug nuts as they were on much too tight for my 'massive' muscles to handle. Luckily for us, a friendly New Zealand farmer (I know Dad, all farmers are fabulous eh?) came to our rescue and with what appeared to be minimal effort removed our tire and replaced it with the donut and sent us on our way back to Wanaka to the garage to get our tire looked at.
Turns out I am not as handy as we'd hoped, but our wonderful farmer friend rescued us, deftly removing and replacing our tire.
Fortunately, the tire was repairable and what could have been a very expensive detour turned out to be a minimal cost and yet another car issue to ad to our experience. With newly filled tires, we continued our journey into Queenstown. Queenstown is a bustling tourist city. It is populated with 15,000 locals, but during the busy tourist seasons the population is quadrupled with an addition of 45,000 tourists. With that being said, Queenstown is as you would expect, flashy, over priced and full of fabulous things to do, if you're willing to front the bill anyways. Since we were all a bit sore from the previous days trekking, we opted for a more laid back day filled with tourist meandering and shopping. Brooke and Bree chose to hike up the massive hill outside of Queenstown to do the luge ride. After a grueling 50 minute hike (of course they were too cheap to pay the 20 $NZ fee to take the easy way with the gondola), Bree and Brooke enjoyed the luge ride.
The not so terrifying chair lift to the Queenstown luge
As you can see by the look on Bree's face, the luge is really fast. There is no way this would fly in the States. Way too many lawsuits. (On a side note, this picture, unlike many of our previous scared photos is not staged, Bree was just cruisin!)
After the luge hiking experience, we decided to do a less strenuous, but just as adrenaline producing activity- bungy jumping. Bree opted to do the 47 m running leap version of the bungy, while Brooke and I insanely chose the 134 m Nevis high wire bungy (yeah, that is 440 ft).
To access our jump site, Brooke and I took a 45 minute bumpy bus ride out to the huge gorge we would be jumping over.
See our sweet harnesses? Not the most comfortable experience anyway. Also, see the guy jumping? Hearing him scream like a little girl? Also not so good for the nerves...
To access the jumping platform, we had to take a trolley/tram out to the middle of the canyon. The best part of the platform was the insanely loud music, as to block out the terrifying screams of the jumpers as they plunged over the platform into the gorge below.
Adding to my apprehension was the glass floor of the platform, allowing the jumpers to watch the current jumpers go. After watching a few jumps I had to focus on something else, as my stomach was not doing so hot to say the least.
Because of the height of our jump, we were attached to the bungy cord both by our harness and at our feet. The idea was to jump out head first and fall down 134 m over 8.4 s. For those of you thinking that is quick, let me tell you it is a long time. Once you fall the initial height you bounce back up and fall again. At this point, you pull the cord, releasing your feet from the bungy cord, putting you upright to enjoy the remainder of the bounces and retrieval back to the platform.
Getting ready to jump with the cord firmly attached... can you see the apprehension?
Brooke taking her leap... down, down, down...
The most shocking part of the bungy was how comfortable it was (minus the whole jumping off a perfectly stable platform part). The actual jump didn't hurt a bit and was absolutely brilliant. While I am not completely cured of my fear of heights, I can say that I am much less apprehensive about heights to say the least.
I survived! Believe me, I felt like it was touch and go for a while walking out to the edge.
Not to be outdone, Bree also bungeed, a 47 m leap from a platform above Queenstown. Luckily for her, the jump included a Gondola ride and she did not have to hike up the hill two days in a row. A cool thing about Bree's jump is that it involved a running leap off of the platform. Being a bit apprehensive, Bree had to have some coaxing to jump off the platform, including the worker dragging her part way over the edge.
With a bungy jump each under our belts, and bad weather in Queenstown, we decided to drive in attempts to escape the rain and view the glaciers in Franz Josef. Unfortunately for us, bad weather followed us the entire way. At Franz Josef, the rain was so hard that most of the glacier tours were cancelled or greatly reduced.
Check the rain... intense.
As we had a lot of ground to cover we chose to do a walk out to see a bit of the glaciers.
There are glaciers in these shots, in between the rain and our wonderful faces...
Brooke and I continued on in the downpour to see a reflection pool, which is apparently rad on a clear day, but of course had no reflections as it was raining buckets upon buckets.
Peter's reflectionless pool, apparently you can see the glacier in the pool on a clear day.
After the reflectionless pool experience, Brooke and I went for another run, ending at a really cool suspension bridge over the river, raging due to the large amounts of rain.
Suspension bridge, apparently with a 5 person maximum allowance.
Completely soaked, we returned to our hostel to dry our clothes and pick up 2 fellow Americans we had felt sorry for earlier when we saw them trying to hitch in the rain. A large feet of engineering/Tetris was accomplished here: fitting 5 large backpacker’s packs in Franklin's trunk. Apparently we have a Mary Poppins trunk, as somehow we were able to fit nearly all of our gear in the trunk, amazing really considering how much gear our hitchers had.
Seriously, do you see the amounts of stuff we shoved in the trunk?
Think they were comfy back there? Think again.
With all the gear in, Franklin was so back heavy that nearly everyone thought we were flashing our brights, and continually and very angrily flashed there's at us in return. Not the most pleasant experience on windy roads in blinding rain. Needless to say, over the next 8 hours we were able to safely maneuver through a constant downpour around windy roads over one lane bridges to get to Picton in time to catch the 10 pm evening ferry back into Wellington and the North Island. Our arrival in Wellington met us with even more downpours. Tomorrow we head for National Park and the Tongariro Crossing. Currently we are going on 48 hours of straight torrential downpours, so hopefully the weather will be on our side and stop raining so we can do the crossing in the next few days?