Back on the bus at Franz Josef, we then kept heading south towards Wanaka via the beautiful sights of Lake Matheson and the towering Mount Cook. The weather wasn’t too favourable unfortunately which meant the serine view of both was disappointingly overshadowed.
Just before we reached the huge Lake Wanaka, we stopped off to check out Lake Havea and yet another stunning viewing point.
At Wanaka, Poncey organised a game of touch rugby which was enjoyed by all, and the evening was then spent watching Sherlock Holmes in one of the best cinemas I’ve ever been to! The auditorium was like your front room, with loads of comfy sofas and chairs to lounge in. Strangely, it even had a Morris Minor car which you could sit in too! Homemade cookies, hot chocolate and tea in proper mugs made it even more homely.
As we continued further south, we then hit the mad party town of Queenstown for 3 days. It almost also felt like we were about to reach the peak of our New Zealand visit, with the most enjoyable parts spent here in terms of general partying. The guys really had a chance to take stop and get to know each other even better, so much so it felt like we’d known each other for years. To me again, even amongst some of the most beautiful parts of the world, the people really made this experience come true.
Queenstown itself is built in a stunning setting of lakes and mountains, and was a town built around the majority of adventure activities and partying. The nucleus of people who live in Queenstown seemed to be those who worked in season – the rest were just there to enjoy what the town had to offer.
Just outside town, a few of the guys decided to hurl themselves off the world famous bungee jumping spot – the place where it all began. I was far too cowardly to even attempt hurling myself towards the ground on a piece of rope.
On the first night after some decent lugging fun up in the Queenstown hills, the guys hung out in the Nomads hotel for a traditional game of “Kings” – a card drinking game that always gets you into the swing of things. From there, we headed to one of the main bars called Altitude down the main high street to meet up with the rest of the guys off the buses, before moving onto the famous World Bar for some proper drinking and dancing. This also introduced us to the Tea Pot which became a consistent feature of our stay in Queenstown – this is simply some spirit concoction served in a tea pot. The second and third nights pretty much stuck to the same routines, although in all honesty, the sandwiched second one was a much quieter affair following licking our wounds from the night before. We also managed to over-indulge ourselves in what was probably one of the tastiest burger joints in the world – the Fergburger. Not only were these fresh homemade burgers a juicy affair, but they were only slightly more than paying for a Burger King.
In between the night life, Pauric, Quay and I joined in on some Canyoning. It took some huge effort to drag ourselves out of bed, but as soon as we zipped ourselves up in the diving suits, the hangover was immediately eradicated as we plunged ourselves of the edges of cliffs into dark, cold pools of water beneath us. Not only that, but we zip lined our way around the canyons like a jungle jim, abseiled down some rock faces and also slid down rock faces from one canyon jump to the next. The highest jump was around 8 metres, which doesn’t seem too high – but when the instructor tells you that you need to hit a spot the size of 2 men to avoid injury from a standing jump, this added a little more fear to it…
On the last day, we were meant to take a visit to the Milford Sounds just outside Queenstown, but the weather had decided to spoil our plans by sending in some fog and rain that meant we had to turn around when we were half way there.
For me, as I was due to fly out of Auckland for South America in a weeks’ time, I had to keep moving on toward the North Island after the three days in Queenstown. The others had the opportunity to stay for another couple of days to try and get to Milford Sounds which they decided to take, which meant that the final night of partying in Queenstown was my swan song with the majority of them. Only Team Israel and Michaela headed onwards with me. The rain continued throughout the day which meant that Poncey just kept his foot down until we ended up back at Christchurch a few hours later which gave me the chance to recharge some batteries before setting off for my second visit to Kaikoura. Team Israel and Michaela were due to fly to Australia from Christchurch, so at this point I completely said goodbye to everybody. For me, it was all about South America from here on in, although there were a couple of more sites to check out en route to Auckland.
From Kaikoura, we headed back up to Picton and took the ferry across the cook strait to the university town of Wellington on the southernmost tip of the North Island. This took up most of the day which meant I really only had the one night in Wellington to enjoy – having said that, most people commented that this was enough really, as there isn’t much to do there. I met a new guy called Try who I stuck with all the way to Auckland, and in the evening we headed down to a student bar to teach them a lesson or two at pool billiards.
From Wellington, we then headed up to Taupo. En route, we stopped off for lunch at an intriguing town called “Bull”. The town was themed with all the shops and local conveniences named using “Bull”. So, there was “Inform-a-Bull” for the tourist information office, “Relieve-a-Bull” for public toilets, “Socia-Bull” for the local pubs and “Read-a-Bull” for bookstores. They even had “Const-a-Bull” for the Police Station!
The bus then continued onto Taupo, passing through the Central Plateau which was the location for the filming of the Lord of the Rings and the famous Mount Doom. At Taupo, we headed straight for the Skydiving centre. I had been quite apprehensive about jumping out of a plane all the way through the trip, especially with the financial cost that came with it. But a lot of the guys had taken the plunge at Franz Josef – the second best location in the world after the Himalayas – as well as Wanaka, with everybody trying to convince me to do it. So, I’d mustered some guts to finally do it at Taupo which is also one of the best places in the world for it. But someone else was telling me I shouldn’t be doing it. As we arrived, the heavens opened up which meant all dives were cancelled for the evening. We had to wait until morning to do it. And this would be my last chance. The next morning, I woke up at 5am to the same scenes. My chances of skydiving ended.
Slightly deflated, I jumped back onto the bus for the final length up to Auckland. En route, we passed through the small town of Little Hobbiton which was the place where Peter Jackson bought his first plot of land for filming the Lord of the Rings before stopping off at Rotarua to check out the atmospheric bubbling mud pools.
Auckland itself was very similar to Melbourne in its layout and feel. The streets were built on grids, with shops on either side. There were little lanes in between where all the main drinking holes were located. It didn’t really open my eyes to anything new with very little to offer in terms of new experiences.
Apart from the excitement of the impending South America, what was also important to me on the second day here was that my sister was going into labour to give birth to my first nephew! This was all very mentality strange for me being on the other side of the world whilst this change of life was happening back home, especially with my sister whom I’m very close to.
Whilst she was preparing to give birth, I was preparing for a 2-day transit to Ecuador…
Lake Wanaka Guide
Unforget-a-Bull – Bull Town
Lake Taupo Guide
More Photography :
“The Photography Collection” by Antematters