Updated: Feb 26
So I absolutely LOVE New Zealand. Everything about it. The people, the scenery, the relaxed lifestyle and culture, it has stolen my heart. I am at the end of my 23 day tour around both the North and South Islands and to be honest, I haven't had time to properly look for a computer since I last wrote a blog piece. Tonight is our penultimate night and we are staying in Kaikoura but I have so much to write about that I've done on the South Island.
The first place we properly visited here was Abel Tasman National Park, named after the first European to discover the Island, but he didn't actually set foot on land. We stayed for 2 nights on Old Macdonalds Farm (it's actual name) and did a 14km hike around the National Park and saw some of the best views from a hike that I have ever seen (even better than the Yorkshire Dales). We then spent a night in Westport before heading to Franz Josef where we spent 2 night.
Franz Josef is famous for its glacier and so we walked as close as we could to it - 750 metres away (2008 you could walk onto the glacier yourself, from 2012 the only way you can now access it is via helicopter). The second activity I chose to do was to a horse trek in the outback of the glacier and this is where I had my first near death experience and probably funniest (in hindsight) experience of my trip so far. SO, myself, Lotte, Layla, Robin and Amy chose to do the 1.5 hour horse trek and when we arrived we grabbed our helmets and got assigned our horses. Me and Lotte had to pick between the two biggest horses, I chose my horse Ned because Lotte's horse needed a whip incase he decided to just stop walking (the guide told us he's so lazy he sometimes pretends to be lame so that he doesn't have to do a trek) and as I have ridden a horse maybe twice in my life I didn't want the responsibility of holding a whip. I was told that Ned was the best trekking horse and that made me feel way more comfortable because it turns out horses are huge (as an adult I've not really been around horses) and you are really far off the ground when you're sat on them, but I was glad that he was a good horse to have. So we set off on our trek, Layla on her horse called Flash who was following the guide and I was behind Layla. It was all going really well, the views were beautiful and I was super relaxed, we had western styled saddles so I was loosely holding the reigns and holding on to the saddle. We turned in to a forest track and it was on the way out of the trees that the wind picked up a small blade of grass which just happened to spook the shit out of Ned. Next thing I know he is bucking forward, sprinting off and throwing me over the saddle, my feet completely out the stirrups. There I was with my arms and legs gripped round his neck for dear life (pretty sure I was also screaming but it's a blurr) Robyn, who was behind me, could just see my bum in the air as I was trying my best not to fall off. The guide managed to get Ned to stop and I was just hanging there, first thing she said to me was how she could not believe I had managed to stay on the horse - clearly I have thighs of STEEL. Anyway, I calmed down, got back on and we just about carried on the trek. Halfway round we stopped for some photos and then turned down into a really open path. At this point the trek went to complete shit. Robyn's horse was a retired race horse who doesn't like other horses going behind and past him so he bucks them. I ended up a bit too close to his back legs and he half bucked Ned which sent Ned mad and he took off, me clinging on again but managing to stay in the saddle. This set the other horses off and even Lotte's horse who never runs set off into a canter. Then the wind picked up and blew some paper across the path and they all went nuts again, flying off. In the end Amy and Robyn got off their horses and me Layla and Lotte had a super tense trek back with Ned being so naughty and me praying to god I could control the reigns. It was actually so scary but I was so proud of how I handled it and I refused to get off the horse unless the guide felt it was unsafe, and she didn't. She remained calm throughout the whole thing but when we got back to the stables she admitted she had never seen all the horses behave like that before and if it had been that windy when we arrived we would not have done the trek. But I was so happy she was there with us! So after that near death experience I had a vodka or two and the next day we drove to Queenstown.
Queenstown has been my favourite place in New Zealand so far. It is a great city with so much to see and do, and everywhere you look you can see the mountains and it is just beautiful. We went there via Wanaka which was also beautiful and somewhere I could live but Queenstown has more to do. It is somewhere I will never forget, purely because it is the city where I did my bungy jump. Me and Lotte did the 134 metre Nevis Bungy with AJ Hackett and it was incredible. Don't get me wrong I was absolutely terrified. Lotte went first and I watched her disappear off the edge before they started strapping my feet together but they give you no time to get into full panic mode. The strap you up, tell you to smile at the camera, then you do this hilarious shuffle to the edge of the platform and they say 'wave at that camera, wave at the other camera, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1' and then you jump on 1, Naturally I screamed 'AHHH WHAT" before I just flung my arms out and pushed my legs into a dive off the board screaming so loudly. In the first few seconds of the freefall my body was like WHAT HAVE YOU DONE' because I have never jumped/fallen further than 10 metres without being attached to something or someone and it feels soooo mad. Then when I reached the bottom and started bouncing up my adrenaline rush just hit me and I started giggling uncontrollably and talking to myself about how nice the views are from upside down. On the second or third rebound you are meant to reach up to your feet and pull a chord which separates your feet and moves you into a seated position so you don't get pulled back up upside down. Of course I struggled with this, and just accepted that I was going up feet first until the guy at the top wiggled the bungy rope and I manage to separate my feet. It was the best feeling. Me and Lotte then did a tandem swing which is just next door to the bungy. We chose to do it upside and backwards and it was terrifying. It was a 300 metre arc swing and we both screamed for probably the entire 300 metres. both our legs swung to the left and Lotte swung right into my bum it was so funny. We just laughed the entire time I'm so glad we did it together. We were soooo giddy afterward.
We had heard Queenstown was a great night out so we went out as a group and had such a good night. Unfortunately we were meant to go to Milford Sound after Queenstown but the weather so bad around there that we couldn't access it and so we had to cancel that part of the trip. I was so disappointed because I really wanted to see it - just means I will have to come back...Our final destination before we finish back in Wellington is Kaikoura. And today I piloted a Cessna 172 aeroplane, I controlled the take off and flew it for about 20 minutes before the instructor landed it. It was an incredible experience. We flew it around the peninsula, through some cloud and up to the top of the mountains which was an incredible view. Only 3 of us did it, Me Char and Emma and the instructor, 20 year old Jack, was so impressed with our control of the plane. We are all considering a new career as Pilots. He even told me I did a perfect turn (more than once) so proud. It was such a different experience. I was initially going to swim with dolphins but on a whim I decided to randomly pilot a plane and log some minutes towards getting my wings...and I am so happy with my decision. If nothing else it means I don't have to leave the hostel tomorrow morning at 5.30am and I get a lie in. But it was so so much fun, way easier than my first driving lesson - no other traffic and Jack was just the dream instructor. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a different experience.
I am so sad to that the tour ends tomorrow because it has been the BEST experience, but I get to see Abbie on Friday and start our road trip up the east coast of the North Island and I am so excited. I will be doing everything I wanted to do there that wasn't included on the tour and I get to chat with Abbie about how much we both love this country. Tomorrow is a full day of travel before we finally arrive in Wellington for a our final meal and night together. Our last night in Wellington was eventful to say the least so I expect tomorrow will be a lot of fun.