My trip to New Zealand was filled with a bunch of firsts for me. For starters, on my way to the airport I took my first train. Once I made it on the plane I had my first bad experience on a flight. My ears caused me a lot of pain. I had a nasty head cold and I just found out that you aren't supposed to fly right after scuba diving. After severe discomfort I made it through the flight and all was well, I was just hard of hearing for a few days. We arrived in Christchurch late at night and everything was dead. There was definitely an eerie feeling to the town with the Easter holiday and the cool weather. It felt like fall at home. For the first time I also got lost in a taxi. Luckily we were practically at our doorstep, but it was interesting to see a taxi driver flustered like that. When we arrived at our accommodation, Addington City Motel, our room was unlocked and we were able to walk right in. With no other option for food we walked down to the local gas station to get some food in our stomachs and I ate chicken flavored chips for the first time. After getting food we were all shot and so we went to bed. Amber and I could not believe how amazing the beds were. It was like sleeping on clouds. We literally fell asleep the second we crawled into bed.
The next morning we got our rental cars and met up with everybody to make 17 of us. Our first stop was at Lake Tekapo which had hills and snowcapped mountains as a backdrop. All of the lakes were turquoise in color, but this one was very distinct. I guess it is turquoise due to 'rock flour' which is finely ground particles of rock held in suspension in the glacial melt water. On this night we camped at the base of Mount Cook. Mount Cook is the highest peak in Australasia reaching 3755 meters. The sight was absolutely breathtaking, but we soon had some miserable weather coming. It ended up raining the entire night and it got below 40 degrees! Let's just say we were all caught by surprise and hadn't packed warm enough. We were able to hear an avalanche from Mount Cook though, so that was pretty neat.
On Tuesday morning we headed to Queenstown for one thrill seeking experience. On the way to Queenstown we were able to get an adapter so we could use Kasper's MP3 player. There are literally no radio stations in New Zealand and driving in the silence was killing us. Once we made it to Queenstown we found a hostile. It was definitely a little dingy, but we made by with what we could find at short notice. We went shopping for a bit and then we all went out and played pool for the night at The World Bar.
On Wednesday we found out why Queenstown is called the adventure capital of the world. After much deliberation Kasper, Amber, and I decided to go with a day package that included a jet boat ride down the Shotover River Canyons, a helicopter flight over Skippers Canyon, and whitewater rafting down the Shotover River. The driver of our jet boat was crazy. He tried scaring us by telling us it was only his third day on the job. I didn't know what to think of it right away. I thought I was going to get thrown out of the boat at any second and smashed into one of the canyon walls. He also spun the boat in complete circles at least a dozen times. After the jet boat ride I took my first helicopter flight. I was able to sit in front with the pilot and so I got one amazing view. Our whitewater rafting experience was pretty cool. Unfortunately we weren't able to take any pictures, but we have the memories which are unforgettable. I am just glad I came out of this day in one piece. So many people were thrown out of their rafts during this trip and injured! It is a good thing that I wasn't one of them because we had to make a stop at the hospital on our way out for some people to get stitched up and what not. When we got back to town we set up camp and headed out for the night. It was pretty cool to meet up with the rest of the group and share our experiences from the day because we all did a variety of different things while we were there that ranged from sky diving to four wheeling. To start the night out we all tried Absinth. It wasn't all it was cracked up to be and it tasted horrible! We went to Minus 5 and The Buffalo Bar on this night. We had to make reservations at Minus 5. What it is is a bar made completely out of ice. You go in for about half an hour with parkas and gloves that are provided for you and have a drink out of a glass made of ice. It was pretty neat. There were really cool ice sculptures and the drinks were nothing to complain about. On our way back to our campsite we made a quick stop at The Buffalo Bar. They played dance club style music, but when you walked in there was a fire going. Our second night of camping was much more enjoyable. We went shopping and I got a mat to sleep on and that is what made the difference. I slept like a million bucks in my cocoon style sleeping bag. All you could see of me was the slits of my eyes.
Early Thursday Kasper, Amber, and I separated from the rest of the group and headed to Arrowtown. Arrowtown is a preserved gold mining village. It was pretty cool. I definitely felt like I had stepped back in time. We only stayed in Arrowtown long enough to go to the candy store and then we booted town. We did a lot of driving on this day. We drove threw Mount Aspiring National Park where we were able to see the Fantail and Thunder Creek Waterfalls. We also stopped at Knights Point which was an amazing sight, like the rest of New Zealand. Once we reached Fox Glacier we booked a room at a "Budget Accommodation." For the first time I had to use a skeleton key to get into my room. On this night we ate at one heck of a place called Café Neve. It was the best food I have had in ages. The town was really small, but it had a nice atmosphere.
Friday morning we went for breakfast at Café Lake Matheson, "the Café with the million dollar view." The weather was perfect and so we were able to see Mount Cook and Mount Tasman clearly. Had we felt more energetic we could have walked to the lake where a perfect reflection of the mountains could be seen in the water. We did a lot of driving on this day too. We stopped at the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Franz Josef was definitely the better of the two. We drove all the way to Hanmer Springs where we stayed in a decent hostile and visited the thermal reserve. It wasn't all it was cracked up to be and we were definitely disappointed by what we arrived to. Let's just say that their website was a bit misleading.
On our last day we drove to Kaikoura. I got carsick for the first time on this drive. Whatever you do, don't play electronic solitaire while on the road in New Zealand! In Kaikoura Amber and Kasper did a dolphin swim while I did some quality shopping. We then went to go see some New Zealand Fur Seals and then we took the last stretch of our drive back to Christchurch. We made sure we booked the same hotel room at the Addington City Motel. We were definitely looking forward to those beds!
All in all it was a good trip. New Zealand is so pristine and beautiful. All of the scenery we saw could have been straight off of a postcard. We also saw a lot of Lord of the Rings things while we were there. Their memorabilia was all over the place and we were told left and right that scenes were shot at the very point we were visiting. Another thing that made this trip nice was running into other students visiting from the University of the Sunshine Coast. I would have much rather ran into one of you guys from home, but it was nice to see some familiar faces as I was extremely homesick at the time. This shows just how small New Zealand really is.
Most of the trip was spent driving which Kasper did all of. We didn't keep track of the mileage, but Kasper guessed that we drove about 2,000 kilometers while we were there. I didn't mind the drive at all. It all went by so fast because everything was so lovely to look at. Practically all of the bridges are only one lane and some of them even had train tracks on them to top it all of. I did spend a good part of the trip reading our lonely planet guide and navigating with our numerous maps. I can't say I did a lot of studying for my International Marketing mid-term, but I did get some rich knowledge of New Zealand. If I have any complaints from this trip it would be that we didn't have enough time. According to Lonely Planet you are recommended to allow at least six weeks for a visit to New Zealand. There are a lot of things I wish I could have seen with the north island being the first thing. I have a healthy list of things from the south island that I wish I could have seen, but I will just have to hope that I'll be able to revisit this spectacular country.
It took 14 hours to get from the hotel back to our rooms here at UniCentral, but we made it back and boy does it feel good.