New Zealand – Nelson, Wanaka, Queenstown, Milford Sound

Christmas

I have just had some of the best and most exciting few weeks of my entire life. For Christmas, I headed up to Nelson from Franz Josef to join Rosemarie for a few days. I arrived on Christmas Eve and we set out to explore the town. It was so warm! We stopped for frozen yogurt and I tried boysenberry for the first time. Yum! On Christmas Day, we walked through the heat up to the “centre of New Zealand.” That afternoon, there was a potluck barbecue at the hostel and we had a feast (someone even made sushi!) We then biked down to the beautiful beach, swam in the warm sea water and lazed about. That night, we visited Rose’s friend at his apartment and we finally got to pull Christmas crackers, thereby making our day complete! On Boxing Day, Rose and I were invited to lunch by some of my extended family in Nelson, and they cooked us a fantastic meal. It was so lovely to meet them for the first time, and I appreciated their hospitality very much.

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Centre of New Zealand!
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Life is hard!
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Christmas crackers!

New Year’s Eve

I travelled back down to Franz Josef for two nights, then hopped on the bus again to head to Wanaka, where I thought it would be a grand idea to swim in the lake. It was freezing! But we swam all the way to the dock anyway. The best part of Wanaka by far for me was Puzzling World. There was this awesome room where you walked on an angle (like the Crazy Kitchen at the Science and Tech Museum in Ottawa), and dozens of optical illusions. There was a maze outside that we managed to finish (although the hardest part was getting out!).

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Puzzling World!
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Maze at Puzzling World
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Tilted 🙂

I arrived in Queenstown on December 30 and decided to do the Nevis Bungy. I had been mulling over the idea since arriving in New Zealand (it’s kind of the thing to do here…). As soon as I paid, I started freaking out, because that was when it became real. I decided to jump on New Year’s Eve to end the year in style. The entire bus ride to the site I was shaking. I couldn’t even hold the camera steady to take pictures! To get to the bungy, you climb in a rickety basket and travel across a gorge to a platform attached by what I believe is not nearly enough cables! I was one of the last to jump in our group, and it was torment waiting. I honestly thought I was going to pass out. The worst part was that the platform kept swaying back and forth in the wind. After what seemed like an eternity, they called my name. All of a sudden, an amazing feeling of calm and acceptance washed over me. As I sat in a chair getting attached to the carabiner (the only thing between me and death), my heart stopped racing and I started enjoying the experience. I then waddled up to the platform, and the only though going through my head was “this is awesome!!!!”, like when you are about to go over the first crest on a roller coaster. I did a quick pose for the folks at home, then dove into the abyss. I actually don’t physically remember jumping. I remember being on the platform, and then falling very, very fast. I don’t know if there are words to describe the feeling. After about eight long seconds, felt a tremendous tug on my harness and pinged back. On the second bounce (I had to count the bounces out loud!), I pulled the cord to right myself. The feeling of exhilaration was incredible, and I could not stop smiling the rest of the night! I had an awesome group jumping with me too, and great moral support. We were all so happy and high from the experience. I will never forget it as long as I live.

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Set to jump!
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Weee!!!!!
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So high!

New Year’s Eve in Queenstown is a gigantic party. There are hundreds of bars, and the streets were crowded with partiers. Our group headed out to a nice bar and had a few drinks before heading down to the lake to watch the fireworks at midnight. Unfortunately, it was raining pretty steadily at that point, but it didn’t dampen our fun!

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New Year’s Eve at the hostel in Queenstown

In Queenstown, I decided to try canyoning and river surfing. Canyoning was wicked! It had rained pretty steadily beforehand, so the guides said that a section of the canyon that was normally called the “green pool” was frothy white that day. I ziplined, abseiled down into the canyon, abseiled down a waterfall, jumped off cliffs and floated headfirst through rapids and narrow rock formations. The current was unbelievably strong, and we had to use ropes to pull our way across the canyon. I got banged up again, but as always, it was totally worth it!

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Jump!
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Splat!
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White water
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The current was ridiculous!
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Superman!

River surfing was incredible! I was actually good at it! The guide told me I was doing very well, and that I would have to slow down and wait for the others. This never happens to me when I try activities for the first time. I am usually the awkward, bumbling one! Basically, in river surfing, you hold on to a body board and float down the river while conquering rapids and whirlpools and performing barrel rolls. The section of the river was 5 km, and we got to go twice. The second time I tried more tricks, and managed to stay on the board the whole time.

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Set to go river surfing!
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So happy!
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So awesome!

I took a day tour out to Milford Sound, possibly the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Considering it rains two out of three days there, the fact we got a crystal clear day is nothing short of a miracle. The cliffs in Milford Sound rise right out of the water, and there are dozens of waterfalls, one of which our boat went almost right under. We even saw seals! The drive to Milford Sound was absolutely incredible as well. Best scenery in New Zealand, and that’s saying a lot!

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Mountains around Queenstown
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Drive to Milford Sound
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Amazing waterfall at Milford Sound
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Milford Sound boat trip
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Milford Sound iconic view

My friend arrived in Queenstown on the fifth, and on the sixth we decided to conquer the Ben Lomond Track, and climb up a 1,748 m mountain starting at the bottom of the hill in Queenstown (no gondola for us!) I can honestly say that it was the most physically challenging day hike so far. By the time we reached the summit, the wind was incredibly powerful. On our way down, we got pummeled by snow and hail. However, I had to finish off the day with a zumba class, which was so much fun! I’m still not sure how I made it through that class …

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Hike to Ben Lomond
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Ben Lomond summit

New Zealand is epic!

 

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