A Travellerspoint blog

Jumping Off Perfectly Good Bridges

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.

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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.

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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.

New_Zealand_291.jpgThe not so terrifying chair lift to the Queenstown luge

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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.

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Getting ready to jump with the cord firmly attached... can you see the apprehension?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Seriously, do you see the amounts of stuff we shoved in the trunk?

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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?

Posted by court_7 05:36 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Adventures at Mt. Cook

Climbing, trekking and more climbing

In order to maximize the daylight hours we could enjoy, we decided, much to Bree's despise, to leave Christchurch at 6:45 am and make our way leisurely towards Queenstown. As our plans are flexible our drive was littered with many stops. Our first stopover was in the town of Tekapo. Here we stopped to see Lake Tekapo (shocking name choice, eh?). The weather was absolutely beautiful, and the reflections on the lake were amazing. As usual, pictures do not even begin to do justice, but here are some of our futile efforts...

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A few pictures of Lake Tekapo, again, my futile attempts at National Geographic photography are a struggle and it really was much better in person

Along with its gorgeous lake, Tekapo is also famous for the Church of the Good Shepard. This is a small church that was built in the early 1900's and overlooks the lake. It is a picturesque setting and beautiful against the lake.

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The Church of the Good Shepard

And of course, what town is complete without a sheep dog monument? While I am not really sure what the monument is for, in true tourist style we snapped photos anyway.

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Sheep Dog monument, I really wanted to ride the sheep dog, but decided it may be offensive to the reason of the monument and decided against it. How mature am I?

Following our church and sheep dog experiences, we continued on our journey to the base of Mt. Cook. Mt. Cook is the tallest mountain in New Zealand, reaching 3764 m.

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Mt Cook through the brush

Because of its height, 1/3 of the mountain is covered in snow all year, and its summit is not easily accessible to much anything other than helicopters, and perhaps rock hard mountain men. Because I am not a gear head and recently misplaced the keys to my personal helicopter, we had to settle for a trek up a neighboring mountain in the Southern Alps chain.

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The trek we took led us initially along a boardwalk through a grassy field directly to the mountain range. We hiked up to a lookout point where we could see crater pools and other volcanic and glacier formations.

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Though not Mt Cook, this is right next to it, I don't know its name, but cool reflection eh?

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All of us at the lookout, how precious!

The lakes in this region of New Zealand are unique in their coloring as they contain rock flour, which is essentially the rock dust created when the glacier slowly moves over the mountains and then melts into the streams, which in turn feed the lakes, causing a very bright and strong blue coloration for the water.

After our short trek to the lookout we decided to embark on a more difficult track. This track was a route heading straight up the mountain (1.2 km elevation increase) ending at a hut designed for hikers to camp in and then head further into the mountain the next day.

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Can you sense the oblivious enthusiasm?

Initially this trek was similar to those we had done before- challenging but not horribly difficult. It was at this point that we reached the base of the actual hike. As we were heading up the mountain, we met 2 hikers coming down. Being a bit hesitant on the difficulty of the hike ahead of us, we asked the hikers if we were going in the right way, as it seemed to us to be heading straight up the mountain through huge rocks and boulders. The hikers assured us we were correct, and that the summit was a solid 2 hour hike up and that we had better hoof it if we were going to make it down before dark.

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Me climbing, Brooke attempting to thwart my efforts

Not to be outdone by old New Zealand hikers, we started the journey up the rocks and boulders. The sheer difficulty of the track we were treading was very funny to us and being the tourists that we are, we decided to take pictures to document how 'hard core' aka stupid we were.

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Where's Waldo... amongst boulders.

These photos do not really do justice to what we were climbing. It was straight up and over huge rocks and boulders. While we were taking photos and debating whether we could hack this difficult of a climb (again the pride was setting in, as we did not want to be shown up by an old man with a walking stick) I noticed a trail indicator, pointing not in the direction we were heading (straight up the mountain), but barely off to the left, with a track, though still difficult, not directly in the avalanche and rock debris path.

Realizing we were on the wrong path (thankfully, as we would have probably attempted to climb up the mountain... no wonder tourists get hurt, we as a general rule are not very bright) we back tracked down and started up the correct trail. If you are thinking the actual trail was easy you would be gravely mistaken.

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This is why stupid tourists get hurt eh?

This path, while not as littered with huge boulders, still went mostly straight up the mountain face, and had many medium sized rocks you had to step around and over. Brooke and I hiked this trail for approximately 45 minutes reaching nearly half way to the summit and base camp when we rightly decided to turn back as the sun had all but set and it soon would be dark and we would have trouble finding our way down the mountain with all the rocks and holes.

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Look mom, we are being responsible... even though we wanted to hike to the snow line, ah well, another time.

Even with the wrong turn, and having to turn back early due to lack of sunlight, our treks were fabulous and memorable to say the least. If I ever return to New Zealand, I would love to complete this trek and stay in the huts along the circuit, but I will definitely come during summer, and avoid the frigid temperatures of the winter.

Posted by court_7 04:59 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Ferry Madness

sunny

In attempts to maximize our time spent exploring New Zealand and minimize time spent traveling, we opted for the 7:30 am Wellington ferry crossing.

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Driving onto the ferry, just as the sun was rising for the day.

The Interislander is a huge ferry ship that transports passenger vehicles as well as large freighters across the Cook Straight from the North to South island. All in all the journey takes 3.5 hours and travels 92 km. The ferry is quite elaborate with all sorts of activities (including but not limited to a full size movie theatre and a child's play gym) and cafes to conjure even more money than the initial passenger and vehicle booking fees.

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Not to shabby eh?

While I have been told the trip is beautiful and am sure the overpriced pastries are delicious, I was more interested in catching up on some much needed sleep, as this ferry was leaving at 7:30 am. Luckily for us, we were all able to commandeer our own private couches located in the coffee lounge and enjoy a 3 hour long nap.

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But not until we had taken ample photos from the boat deck of course...

After our nap and arrival in Picton on the South island, we began our journey to Christchurch. As luck would have it, the weather was absolutely beautiful (albeit cold) and the drive was lovely and filled with beautiful scenery, all of which was unable to be caught on film due to the very narrow roads in New Zealand, but I'm sure you can imagine the grandeur right?

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Doesn't even come close to doing the views justice, but we tried...

Following our drive, and unsuccessful attempts to make purchases at a local 'Funk & Junk' shop (I for one was disappointed the shop was not open), we arrived in Christchurch to Brooke's friend of a friends Farrah's place. Upon arrival we were informed it was time to head out and due to our limited wardrobes, pieced together interesting outfits and hit the town.

Christchurch, like Wellington, is a beautiful city. On the eastern coast of the Southern island, it is a decent sized town with Universities and sights galor. Farrah took us to Godly Head, a lookout over Christchurch that was originally used as a lookout and armory to protect the harbor against invaders.

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Shot taken on the drive up to Godly Head.

At Godly Head we enjoyed a short 30 minute walk to the coastal lookout, where you could see the entire harbor and ocean for miles.

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Overlooking the ocean.

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Apparently I have a problem with authority, but come on, the view was so much better on the roof.

Following our trek, the remainder of the day was spent exploring Christchurch, its markets, gardens and shops. Overall, Christchurch was a great city. We ended up spending an extra day here and would love to go back, we'll see how the remainder of the trip goes eh? Tomorrow, Mt. Cook...

Posted by court_7 01:21 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Upsetting the weather fairy

Disappointing weather in Taupo followed by beautiful days in Wellington

Lake Taupo: a beautiful Lake in the middle of the northern island, surrounded by loads of things to do. When we first arrived, we had dreams of exciting outdoor adventures including hiking Tongarirro Crossing (aka Mt Doom) and sky diving over the lake. The weather had other plans for us however and forced us to call off our plans of jumping from planes until the rain cleared and fog lifted.

Unfortunate weather was the story of our brief stint in Taupo, pouring rain prevented us again from sky diving the following day and because the Tongarirro crossing would be closed for the next few days we decided to cut our losses and head down to Wellington, hoping to hit the crossing and skydiving with better weather on our way back up next week.

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Overlooking the river leading to Huka Falls, outside of Taupo.

Before we left however, we had a brief stop at Huka falls. Here we enjoyed a run along the river, resulting in Brooke taking a wrong turn and running for nearly an hour before she realized she was not on a loop around the Falls. Luckily, she found some fellow backpackers that were heading back down to the mouth of the Falls and she was able to hitch a ride back to the car.

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Talk about a pristine running trail eh?

The next morning, after a LONG drive in the pouring, and often near blinding rain, we enjoyed a leisurely day in Wellington with sites, a museum, a cable car ride, and of course, more good food.

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Bree has made it her quest to eat curry in every country she visits, so far so good.

The Te Papau museum was huge and best of all free. We looked at only one floor, specializing in Maori history, where along with learning about history aspects, we were able to enjoy the displays, and further everyone's impressions of Americans as being obnoxious.

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I think Bree may have found her dream hut. Take note boys.

Along with playing in and around the Maori displays, we also found our calling as being thugs. Check our super cool display of thug-ness.

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Oh yes, we are flashing CA gang signs in New Zealand.

Wellington is a fabulous city. Though much smaller than American cities, it feels very metropolitan and is quite trendy. We had a good time shopping at the various stores around town and enjoyed the Botanic Garden in the city. My personal favorite in the gardens was the tire swing contraption in the childs play area. If only it had not been so dark and we had had one more person, we could have had a great time.

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Good thing this child's play area did not have a height restriction, not that I would have paid attention, but anyway.

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Wellington Pier
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Wellington Harbor

For more pictures from New Zealand, click HERE.

Posted by court_7 22:04 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Rotorua...

...it doesn't smell like roses.

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Upon arrival in Rotorua one thing was immediately prevalent, the overwhelming smell of sulphur protruding from the hot pots all around. It was an amazing site, driving around and seeing the steam escaping from the ground everywhere.

Bree was very hungry and therefore slightly deranged as she thought the sulphur smell was enjoyable and that it 'smelled like cheerios.' Because this was definitely not the case we made it a point to feed the poor child and then she too realized how unpleasant the sulphur smell really was.

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See the steam? Yeah, not a cheerio-eche smell...sorry Bree.

After a good night's rest, we set out to find the natural (and best of all *FREE*) hot and cold pools just outside of Rotorua. This is a pool that has two streams leading into it, one hot and one cold (slightly obvious from the name eh?). The pool was fabulous, and while we were initially apprehensive, we soon found the hot section to be very relaxing and all in all quite fabulous.

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While enjoying the hot pool we were joined by a naked local who enlightened us on the exfoliating properties of the lava rock surrounding the pools. Being gullible Americans as we are, we proceeded to smear the volcanic ash on our skin and then pose for pictures.

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Here I was going for the rugby look,

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While Brooke was working on her glamour shots for next months edition of Vogue.

After the ash mud mixture had dried we proceeded to rub it off, and luckily for us and our already dry and travelled hides, the crazy local was not as crazy as we had initially believed. The mixture worked wonders as an exfolient and left our skin silky and smooth... a wonderful natural scrub, and we didn't even have to pay loads to use it, shocking really.

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Looks like an ad campaign for the ash... coming to a drug store near you!

Upon leaving the hot pool, we realized that for the first time since our arrival in New Zealand, we were not cold. As our new found friend explained, the hot pools warmed even your bones and we enjoyed our new found warmth for the remainder of the day.

Following our hot pool experience, we went to see another naturally phenomenon in Rotorua, the boiling mud. This was brilliant; the molten mud bubbled and popped from the volcanic activity beneath the surface, providing a fantastic show.

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After experiencing some of the natural wonders of Rotorua, we went on to take part in some commercial scams as well. Zorbing. A New Zealand phenomenon where you are put in a very large blow up ball filled with warm soapy water and then sent rolling down a hill.

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The Zorb making its way down the zigzag path

Though a bit expensive, this is a must do for the young and young at heart. All three of us piled into the zorb and went flying down the hill like hamsters in their running balls. When we reached the bottom, we were a bit disoriented, but found the soapy water to be the perfect chaser to our earlier sulphur baths.

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Can't you see how clean we are?

If you happen to be in Rotorua and decided to try Zorbing, I recommend the wet single Zorb on the zigzag track, or the 3 person Zorb down the straight track. Either way you will have a good time, and come out dizzy and nice and clean.

Posted by court_7 02:53 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

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