Queenstown, New Zealand…the place we drew out of a hat for our next adventure. As we descended into the small airport we knew we had made the right choice. Snow-capped mountains already towered all around us with great green meadows stretching for miles. My doe-like eyes were quickly brought into check when I reached the customs counter. The guy was grilling me as if I was an Israelite crossing into Palestine or something. When I finally get through Kyle has a “What the hell was that?” look and we quickly make it into town. We check into the Flaming Kiwi hostel which was a cozy, fun hostel situated on the upper part of town giving us a cool view.
We waste no time in exploring this new city and felt our jaws drop the whole time. Mountains surrounded the big, clear Lake Wakatipu, beautiful evergreens lined the city and surrounding forests and the climate was a refreshingly cool break from the hot Cairns weather.
We were surprised by how many Americans we met in our hostel as they have been a rarity thus far. We quickly make friends with everyone and begin our night adventures downtown. An American dude named Connor takes us over to Paradise Valley and Glenorchy in his campervan and we check out some spots filmed in LOTR.
Right near Isengard. Didn’t look anything like the movies.
We walked through a trail and came across a jet boat race. About a dozen went by and was trailed by a helicopter. They were really loud and were flying down the river.
This is the river Arwen calls up in Fellowship.
One day we decide to make the trek across the lake and climb the mountain that has been staring at us the past week. As we walk along the sparkling lake we begin to strategize how we were going to climb it. There were barbed fences literally everywhere and upon talking to a walker, come to find out the mountain is closed to the public. “Old man Magoo” owns it and was apparently a crazy old man that was armed and does not take kindly to trespassers. “But if ya sneak yourselves around those trees and hug the property lines he may not see ya” says the local. We weigh our options and decide to do it. We go over about a dozen fences (one being electrical, guess who tested it to see if it was on), lots of water, thorny bushes, and some steep hills. I must have said “Come on, we’re almost there, we can’t quit now!” at least five times. The top was well worth the climb. With views of all of Queenstown and the other side of the mountain, we revel in the late afternoon sun at the gorgeous views below.
There were tons of deer on the farm which explains why we saw venison in so many restaurants.
We change hostels and check into the more party themed Nomads. We meet some German girls and check out the bingo night at a local pub and enjoy a few free drinks. If you call out bingo and don’t have it, punishment is a half shot of liquor and half Tabasco sauce. We don’t stay out too late because we are going to the must-see Milford Sound in the morning.
Eating at Ferburger, one of the top rated burger places in the world. The “Big Al”- “double serving of prime NZ beef (0.5lbs), lashings of bacon, whole lotta cheese, 2 eggs, beetroot, lettuce, tomato, red onion, relish, and a big wad of aioli.” I wobbled home after eating it in one sitting.
The bus ride there couldn’t have been more beautiful. Known as one of the best drives in New Zealand, we were not let down. We make several stops for pictures and we arrive at harbor and board the ship. Although the pictures may look like a cloudy day, we caught it great as this is one of the wettest places on earth, sometimes receiving 10 meters of rain in a year! “If you can see the tops of the mountains it’s a great day” says the captain. We also lucked out in seeing some crested penguins along the shore as well as sea lions. I kicked myself for not bringing the telephoto lens, not the best quality.
When we return Kyle and I head out for the bars and find ourselves in more games. We don’t win any (came close) but we impressed one of the girls working there and she gives us a free trip for diving the Great Barrier Reef. Well we’ve already done that so we ended up getting it swapped out at the booking place for a buy one get one for Fraser Island and Mojo surf camp saving us hundreds.
We take a short bus ride over to Arrowtown, one of the first towns settled in the area and which greatly reminded me of Blowing Rock, just much more beautiful. We hike one of the trails that run along the river and enjoy the good weather and scenery. The town itself was old but nice. We climb a large “hill” in the middle of town and are rewarded with spectacular views of the town and the surrounding valleys and fields.
Some wild mountain goats.
I decide to do the Nevis Bungee jump, the highest bungee in Australasia by myself. After getting suited up you take a railcar over a big canyon and get in this little shack looking structure in the middle. This was another beast compared to skydiving. After you are strapped in, you inch your way over to the tiny ledge which was by far the worst part. They count down from 3 and you jump. With a “Wolfpack babyyy” I jump over the edge thinking “oh what the hell just do it” and I plummet to the bottom with my GoPro strapped to my wrist. It was an amazing experience and my heart was pumping all the way back up to the car.
We check into Absoloot hostel right on the lake where a few of the British girls we met on Milford Sound were staying. We go out as a big group with the Brits and Scots playfully talking shit about America and how crazy we are (for example that America has the most deaths by toilet in the world) and I all I could retaliate with was “We’re the best at everything!” After one particular heavy night out, Ludwig, one of the cool Finnish guys we met there, invites us to play an “unsportsmanlike game of Monopoly” the next morning. It lasted five hours. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the people in Flaming Kiwi and Absoloot and had some interesting conversations.
It was time for us to leave and we pick up the huge campervan we rented for $5/day to take to Christchurch. The weather overall while we were there can be described as “four seasons in one day.” It was always changing and hardly ever constant. But the days we went hiking and took road trips it always seemed to be sunny which was quite lucky. The trip to Christchurch was surreal. We go halfway and stop by Mt. Cook, the largest mountain in Australasia. We spend the night there and luck out the next morning as we awake to a fresh layer of snow on the ground, complimenting the already-grandiose mountains that rose before us. We hike Hooker Trail which took around 2 hours and got our feet soaking wet in the snow and water but enjoyed the cool, sunny walk. We continue our way to Christchurch but not before I chase some sheep in the meadows.
We arrive to Christchurch and just as we were warned, was a desolate and gloomy place. Two years ago the city was rocked by a large earthquake, killing over 100 people and destroying much of the city. We go out Halloween night with me dressed as a tourist and Kyle as the Coca-Cola commercial and was completely dead.
The only nice thing in the city was the botanical gardens…oh joy.
I’ve always had some sort of laid out plan in my life. When I was a kid, my wonderful parents handled that for me. When I was in high school, it was make good grades, do the extracurriculars and get into a great college. In college, it was major in something relevant that I would enjoy, study for good grades and apply myself so I can find a good job. When I was working, it was to save up money and make it up the ladder to some day support and raise a family. We barely had a plan for this year. We came up with a rough draft of what to do but so far have been wayy off. Well, Cody got his passport stolen so an early Southeast Asia trip didn’t happen while we were up north, stayed in Cairns twice as long as expected, never got around to buying a camper van, booked a trip to New Zealand AFTER DRAWING FROM A FREAKING HAT, have been walking the streets for random hostels to live in and now find ourselves in Sydney instead of going back up to do the Gold Coast. This spontaneous lifestyle has led to some amazing adventures, new friends and a complete sense of freedom. It feels awesome not knowing what we will be doing or where we will be next week or even the next day. Living on a college budget has prepared us for the expenses we face and have been content with pasta and pb&j diets and finding all the deals possible. Just like finding a job back home, networking has proved to be of significant importance in deciding what/where to go, the “must-dos” and just meeting other people like us. We arrive to Sydney and meet up with our friends from the dive trip and look ahead to finding jobs…
Here is the video I put together of the trip… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiK6kIH-wWM