Kia ora fellow bloggers!
This week has been one of the most awesome weeks I have had in a long time. Definitely a memorable one in the least. I could give a brief overview of everything that went down and all that, but I don’t think that is nearly as epic as me giving detailed accounts of each and every day. I will try not to make it too long, but bear in mind we did a LOT of things in the span of seven days on my tour, not to mention that my trip became extended by two extra days which were fun-filled and dedicated to seeing penguins!
Day 1: Friday, 3 June 2011
I departed for the airport in Palmerston North around 8:30PM. My flight was scheduled for 9:50, so this was plenty of time to get there, check my bag, and hop on a plane. I didn’t have class that day, so I slept in, talked to some friends and family from home, hung out with some people in the halls, finished packing, and I was on my way. At the airport, I learned my flight was to be delayed for two hours due to “electrical problems.” I figured they had to get another plane in, but the plane that we eventually boarded later than when we were supposed to land in Christchurch never moved until we had boarded. Freaky. I was actually concerned as we took off, not to mention we taxied down the entire runway, turned around, and then took off. But we made it to CHC with no problems! 🙂
I was picked up by the shuttle I had booked to be taken to my hotel, but I was the last person to be dropped off, so I got a mini tour of the city and some of the devastation from the earthquake that initially hit in February. I checked into my hotel and the guy at reception was sort of strange as he told me I couldn’t have my own key because there was only one key for the room that I was sharing with three other girls from the trip I was about to go on. He came with me to the room to knock on the door and I was freaked out that it would wake everyone up, but it was fine – two of them had just gotten there even though it was half past one. We chatted for a bit before going to sleep, but I had a hard time actually drifting off because I was SOOO excited!
Day 2: Saturday, 4 June 2011
Getting up around 7:30AM was difficult, but I was excited enough that it didn’t bother me too much. We all meandered over to breakfast and even though I wasn’t hungry, the food looked good enough for me to pile some eggs and sausage and bacon and ham and, yeah, there was a lot of food! And it actually tasted pretty good! 🙂 Our tour guide came in not long after we sat down and introduced himself and let us know we had to fill out a few sheets here and there before we could hop on the bus. People after people filed in as we ate and it seemed as if half of them knew each other already, but I didn’t think too much of it. Our bus driver introduced himself a little later as well and then we got on the bus a little after it seemed everyone was done eating to be on our way. I managed to get a seat in the second row with one of the girls I roomed with the night before, so I was happy because coach buses always seem to give me headaches if I sit farther than the third row back.
We drove a lot the first day, going through Arthur’s Pass, which is absolutely gorgeous!
Journey to Franz Josef
We also stopped at a jade factory, which was pretty awesome. I noticed one of the carvers on his own carving, so I talked to him for a bit and learned a whole bunch about the carving process and whatnot. It was pretty sweet until more people realized they could come over too and then it got crowded, so I meandered around the shop a bit more before we hopped back on the bus. We made our way into Franz Josef Glacier area as the sun set and went in hotpools before dinner, which was sooo nice as it was freezing outside. After a while, however, it got too hot and so we all walked back to our hotel to change and get ready for dinner. We had to choose what we were eating earlier, so we didn’t have to wait that long, but we had amazing soup and bread before our mains which was to die for. I coud literally live off of bread! 🙂 I love bread. I was in a room with two of the girls from the night before and another one, and we all seemed to get along well, so that was nice.
Day 3: Sunday, 5 June 2011
We had to wake up extremely early this morning, as our bags had to be on the coach before we ate breakfast. This especially annoyed me because I wasn’t planning on having breakfast and sleeping in since I hardly eat breakfast ever anyway, but since I had to be up, I figured I would head over there anyway – even though it was an ungodly hour. There were pancakes and toast, so I was happy with my food selection after I dropped off my bag and soon after we were on our way to Fox Glacier. Our guide was almost certain all the glacier activities were going to be cancelled as it was raining terribly, but we had to make our way out there for the company itself to cancel it rather than him or our driver saying it was cancelled. As we drove, I was praying desperately for the weather to at least semi-clear so that we could at least hike on the glacier. Closer to the place, the rain did fizzle out a bit, but our guide told us not to get our hopes up. As we waited for the bus to be fueled, our guide went to check the status of the glacier hike. I had really wanted to do a brief ride on a helicopter halfway up the glacier and then a hike from there to the top, but had decided to only do a hike as the ride with the chopper was extremely expensive, so I was somewhat glad that when our guide came back, all helicopter rides were cancelled, but the hike was still a go! 🙂
I might have to say that the glacier hike was my favorite part of the trip. Even though it was rainy and not the greatest of weather, it
was really awesome to be standing on a glacier! Everyone on the tour went and we were given wool socks, waterproof boots, waterproof pants to throw over our own, and jackets. They even gave us backpacks if we wanted them, so I grabbed one to throw my bag in. It was a drive to a carpark and then a bit of a hike to get to the actual glacier, going through streams here and there, which was only fun because my boots were very much waterproof. Some people did not seem to be so fortunate. I took a LOT of pictures, but I couldn’t help it: everything was so amazing and my camera simply couldn’t do it justice. On the actual glacier, we saw mulans, which are mini streams that find paths through the ice and form neat looking holes (that are consequently relatively dangerous), but really awesome to see. Plus the sun decided to attempt to come out, so it was much brighter even though the clouds never parted than when we initially hiked out and it stopped raining for our group photos and whatnot. On the way back down, it began to rain again, but it was still awesome. My group was the first to get back down to the carpark to wait for the bus to bring us back, so I definitely had some time to zone into my own world of being amazed as I looked out at the awesomenesss of nature.
After unwinding a little, we made our way to Queenstown. The sun came out halfway there, so we were able to get some really awesome photos of the water and mountains. Our guide continued to tell us that we did not need to go on a Lord of the Rings tour because everything was LOTR area. Once in Queenstown, we were assigned rooms in threes and designated a time for dinner at the Skyline Buffet. I was convinced the people I was sharing a room with were less than happy to have me in their room as they were both friends from long ago and that same morning I had gone to sit in the second row again, but someone else had already placed their bag on the window seat. When I got there, I put mine next to it in the aisle seat and didn’t think much of it, but when everyone got on the bus a little later, I was given a look from said person who I could only assume was the owner of the aforementioned bag as if to say she was about to kill me if I sat next to her. I convinced myself that I wasn’t really on this trip to stay in my room so I wasn’t going to care, but in the long run the two of them turned out to be fun people.
Dinner was alright. A bit on the expensive side for the food, but I did try crazy new things such as scallops, mussels, salmon, and lamb – OK, the last two I have tried before and established I didn’t like them, but I tried them again. Yeah. I am awesome and amazing. And let’s not forget hokey pokey ice cream! SO DELICIOUS! 🙂 We took the gondola that goes up there back down, although I would not have minded walking and then made our way to an ice bar. It was overpriced just to get in, but a cool experience. We were there for the maximum amount of time, but that allowed for plenty of people to go crazy. We went across the street for a bit after that to warm up and then I headed back to the rooms to get some shut-eye.
Day 4: Monday, 6 June 2011
This morning was a later start than the first two, but the view was completely worth getting up for breakfast again. We had gotten into Queenstown when it was getting dark the previous night, so we hadn’t really seen the majestic mountains and lakes that happened to be rightnext to our hotel. Our view was gorgeous, even if it did mean I had to wear my sunglasses while I was eating. Clouds were strewn across the lake as well, making it look that much more amazing.
View from where we ate breakfast
A friend and I made our way into the main part of town to explore and get lunch after we ate. The best way to describe it is as being quaint. I really liked it there. There was a really nice walking path surrounding the lake and everything was very clean and all the views are simply spectacular. I wanted to hike up to where we had taken the gondola the night before on the recommendation of my parents, but there wasn’t enough time, so my friend and I settled for a burger from Fergburger. I am not by any means all that adventurous when it comes to food. I like things simple and plain so when my friend suggested getting an “exciting” burger to split, I was extremely hesitant. I still cringe at the idea that there were pineapples and mayonnaise on said burger, but it actually was AMAZING! SO GOOD! The fries dipped in aioli sauce (yes, I tried that too) was also quite tasty! We meandered around a bit more before going off to our respective activities for the afternoon. For me, that was the canyon swing.
The canyon swing was awesome. I ended up going twice since it was only a few dollars extra to do so and the money went to help with earthquake damage in Christchurch. I went first and I was planning on just running off, but ended up jumping off backwards by the guys running all the ropes. Oh man! Was I freaking out! That was more terrifying than bungy jumping! But awesomeness. Then the second time, I had one of the guys throw me off. That was epic. Not as scary, but so much fun! After our canyoning adventures, we headed off to dinner. A large amount of the group was going to get Thai food, but knowing that everything in there has chili powder, I ventured off with a friend to see what else was around. We ended up getting fish and chips and an assorted basket which had the best shrimp I have had in quite some time. Afterwards we met up at some place with karaoke, but they never called any of us up except our tour guide, so after about an hour we left. Some people really shouldn’t sing. Especially classic songs. It just destroys all hope of things. Then we made our way to a few more places, ending at The World Bar. It was a good night and fun times, except my bag went missing. Of course I don’t carry a bag all that often so I didn’t even realize it until the next morning. Sadness. 😦 Especially because my kindle and iPod and jacket and sunglasses and journal and video from my canyon swings and yeah, a lot of stuff was in there. But oh well. This is another reason why I should continue to never carry bags! It would have been a lot worse, but luckily I had my camera, wallet, and passport on me – I learned that from the last time when our car was broken into when we were in Rome!
Day 5: Tuesday, 7 June 2011
This was the day we went on our full day hike along the Routeburn Trail. There were only eight or nine of us, so it was pretty nice.
Our guide was amusing and we did some scenic drives out to the trail, including a stop in Glenorchy where the library is smaller than my room in my apartment in NY and open one hour a week. Sick. The actual hike was epic. Everything is so beautiful there. I know there are a lot of amazing places in the States and the rest of the world, but man. I really love the South Island. 🙂 We stopped for lunch much later than I would have liked, but the view was awesome and the way the sun was shining and everything made it all worth it. On the way back, we stopped for some epic photos, especially ones from where Isengard and the Misty Mountains were for you LOTR people. Our guide for the day also showed off some of his epic rock skipping skills that had us all in awe. It was impressive. We got back not much earlier than dinner, but I did have enough time to hop in the shower before we headed off to this gourmet pizza place. Pretty good pizza, but again, I am easy to please when it comes to food and the whole idea that people need to make things fancy or whatever sometimes ruins a good meal, making me extremely difficult to please, if that makes any sense. For example, we had pizza with a whole bunch of toppings on it, which was alright, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with simply having cheese pizza! I like cheese pizza. In fact, it is my favorite kind of pizza and quite frankly having more than cheese and sauce and dough is completely unneccessary!
Day 6: Wednesday, 8 June 2011
We were leaving Queenstown to head off to Milford Sound, but not before half of us jumped off the Kawarau Bridge – the home and
original site of bungy jumping. I did not go as I thought it was way overpriced, but it was fun to watch people. We then made our way down the long and extremely winding roads to Milford Sound for our overnight cruise. It was gorgeous and amazing to see everything, especially because it was very sunny. As we got closer, our tour guide was saying it rains every 2 out of 3 days, so we were extremely lucky. The ride would have been about 20 minutes had the roads been straight, but it took a total of two hours to get to the docks, not to mention the LONG and one way tunnel for coach buses. That was fun and only slightly scary as there was no way to know if cars had entered from the other side until you got halfway through the tunnel. But our driver was awesome, so it was all good. We hopped on board the boat we would be staying on until the following morning and set off into the fiords not long after. Again, the scenery was spectacular. Words and pictures cannot do it any justice. Three dolphins decided to swim alongside our boat for a bit, which was also pretty neat. We watched the sun set and then waited for dinner, passing the tie by playing Uno. I hadn’t played that game in over a decade, but man it was fun. The evil sides of people definitely came out as well. Good times. Food was good and desert was amazing. We then watched a slide show about some of the history and animals and all that fun stuff before playing more Uno and other card games. We called it an early night again, as breakfast was at 7AM.
Day 7: Thursday, 9 June 2011
Breakfast was alright, but the activities following were so awesome. It was freezing, but we went kayaking in the bay we had stopped in for the night and watched as the sun’s rays bounced off the mountains and everything. Absolutely gorgeous and so peaceful. We saw a seal sleeping on a rock as well. I was disappointed that it was still too early in the season to see penguins, but it was really neat nonetheless. After our kayaking, we made our way back into port and headed through to Arrowtown, which was also a quaint little place. I didn’t have service for most of the time coming out of the fiord, but a little before noon, when we had stopped for lunch I did, so I was able to call Dad to wish him a happy birthday. I caught the family eating dinner, but they didn’t seem to mind! It was good to talk to them, as it had been a while since I had last had contact with anyone really. We did a lot more driving this day and ended up at Lake Ohau after dark. We went down this extremely long, sketchy road in the middle of nowhere to get there. I wasn’t exactly sure why we went there since we didn’t see much, but oh well.
The food was pretty good although there was definitely something in the homemade bread I was allergic to which was such a bummer because I had saved it for last to savor and enjoy. Then there was the toga party which I chose not to participate in due to the beckoning call of the hot tub right outside. Me and a friend hid from everyone until it was safe and then hogged the jacuzzi. What an awesome invention jacuzzis are! 🙂 The night was perfect and there were a huge amount of stars in the sky, so I was happy. Some of the toga people decided to join us about an hour later, but it was all good fun.
Day 8: Friday, 10 June 2011
We left relatively early for having plenty of time on our hands to get back to Christchurch, which slightly annoyed me, mostly because it was cold and raining outside and nice and warm and comfortable in my bed. We couldn’t really see any of the lake or ski slopes that they are supposedly famous for, but oh well. As we drove, the day cleared slightly for some photo stops, but not much. I did get some good photos at Lake Tekapo though, as well as at The Church of the Good Shepard and all. We got back to Christchurch when it was still raining and depressing, so it was a pretty disorganized scurry to stay out of the rain and get rooms. I crashed with one of my friends at a hotel down the road from where the tour ended, so we only had to a wait a little bit for them to pick us up since we didn’t feel like walking there in the rain. We ditched our stuff and the weather decided to clear up a bit, so we went for a walk around the town. It’s really depressing because pretty much everything that made up Christchurch is completely closed off to the public. There had been another quake with a magnitude of 5.5 the Monday we had left which no one was injured in, but you can clearly see the devastation they have to deal with. Plus, nothing can get cleaned up because there are still too many aftershocks and whatnot that make the buildings all unstable.
After our meanderings and short trip inside a casino, we made our way over to where the tour ended for dinner with almost everyone one last time. The ribs. OH. MY. GOSH! AMAZING! So amazing! Almost as awesome as the ribs from Casey’s in Mont Tremblant (Canada). And that is saying something. Wow. I would so go back just for those ribs. YUM! 🙂 We spent a lot of time eating that night and then went to someone’s rooms for some stories and whatnot before heading back to our hotel we were staying in.
Day 10: Saturday, 11 June 2011
We got up a little after eight and then waited for the shuttle to take us to get the rental car we booked the night before. Yes, I found someone as psychotic as me and we rented the car to drive what we thought was about 5 hours to see… Wait for it. Yes, you guessed it, PENGUINS! 🙂 She wasn’t nearly as excited as me about the idea of penguins, but she was up for the trip anyway. We made great time down to Omarau, where there was a blue penguin colony that we wanted to check out. Once there, the people who worked there informed us that we should also check out the yellow eyed penguin area not far from them, but were completely wild. We said we would return and then headed off to see about these yellow penguins. Along the fences that lined the cliffs and whatnot were signs to be off the beaches by 3PM so that the penguins could return to their nests and whatnot without freaking out about humans. Since it was a good two hours earlier, we went down to the beach only to find we were in the company of a seal! He was so cute and let us get pretty close, which I was surprised about, but happy nonetheless. We drove around a bit more after that, had some lunch, and then went back to see the yellow eyed penguins come ashore.
There was a local guy there with a pair of binoculars that was extremely awesome at spotting these little guys in the water and
whatnot and even told us some of the places where the penguins would actually come up to. I was watching three penguins walking out of the water when he tapped me on the shoulder to point out one of them no more than a hundred feet away! He (or she) was so cute! I want one so badly! We watched a few more and then headed back to the Blue Penguin Colony to see them come back from the sea around dusk. They are also so cute! And they have such adorable calls and, and, and, MAN I WANT A PENGUIN!! So I adopted one! 🙂 As well as bought half the store! Hello, my name is Lauren and I have a penguin addiction. There was also a seal chilling on the rocks nearby where the penguins were walking up to their nests, so that was slightly amusing to watch. The penguins would get really freaked out anytime the seal decided to shift a bit, so they would run (or fall) back down to a lower part of the rock to “hide.” I still want one! After spending much time (we won’t even discuss the money part) in the shop, we made our way back to Christchurch. A day dedicated to penguins! How could a day be any better really?!
Day 11: Sunday, 12 June 2011
We had to get the rental back by nine, so we filled up on gas, drove briefly through a park, got lost on the way to the airport (I failed to mention to my friend that I have skills in getting people lost while navigating in vehicles), and arrived at 9:30. But they didn’t seem to mind too much. Then one of them dropped us off at the Antarctic Center and took off. This was terrible planning on our behalf because the airport was literally in walking distance of this place and we had no way to get back to our hotel where, yes, our bags still were. We spent most of the morning attempting to get back into the city, but since the buses weren’t running all that frequently and whatnot it was very slow and frustrating. My friend had an international flight, so she decided it would be best to skip on the Antarctic Center and just go to the airport, while I went back with my bag to see the penguins and what life was like in the Antarctic. The place was pretty sweet since they even had lockers for your luggage sized bags (again, within walking distance of the airport).
I saw more little blue penguins, but these were ones that wouldn’t survive in the wild due to blindness or paralysis or missing
flippers or other horrible things. Then I experienced a “real Antarctic Storm” which was basically them making a huge fridge really cold by blowing fans everywhere (I must say I wasn’t too impressed with this if you couldn’t tell because I have been in worse storms in NY, but anyway, still a cool idea). Then watched a 4D movie about going to Antarctica – which I really would like to do even more now, FYI. I adventured around in the exhibits for a bit before doing a backstage tour to see the penguins up close! We got pretty close to them, saw the filtration/water system and how that worked, and then was about a foot away from one of the penguins that was in the clinic, but we weren’t allowed to touch her. Sadness. But still really cool! 🙂 After the tour, I followed the tracks that were leading to the Center from the airport so that I could catch my flight.
This trip was something really awesome. I really would have liked to get over to Australia and/or Fiji, but I am extremely glad I decided to see the South Island more. And now I have friends to visit in Australia, so always a benefit! Hope you enjoyed reading my travels and everything! More another day – I must now return to reality and the fact that is I have final exams in two days that I haven’t even started studying for!
Gorgeous sunset in Omarau