The End of My Adventure on the South Island… Queenstown

I will preface this post by saying, it will be long, but I promise it is worth it! Queenstown was the last city that I was going to on the South Island and I had big plans per usual. However, I guess the weather in New Zealand is about as unpredictable as Colorado so my plans got all messed up (again).

After the 5 hour drive to Queenstown, we finally arrived just in time for me to pick up my ticket for my first great walk of the trip. Now, I mentioned earlier that I was supposed to do one of the great walks in Abel Tasman National Park,  but that ended up not working out. I should also mention that there are 9 great walks in New Zealand and I was supposed to do 2 out of the 9. So, I was very excited to do the Routeburn track which was a walk from just outside of Queenstown to “The Divide” which was located just outside of Milford sound. The master plan was to do the track starting on Christmas Day and end on the 26th, spend the night in Milford sound and do the Milford sound cruise on the 27th.

Christmas Eve was spent meeting up with someone I had met in Nelson. I met him at his hostel’s bar and eventually had a large group of people from a whole range of countries sitting with us (I love traveling for this reason). We ended up getting a bunch of beer and heading to the beach on Lake Wakatipu, the lake Queenstown is on (so pretty).

We ended up playing beer pong (teaching everyone this wonderful American drinking game).

In Queenstown, you are allowed to drink on the beach until 10 pm, which is awesomeeeee. We took full advatage of that and played beer pong until 10. Since it is the middle of summer here, the sun wasn’t fully down until about 10:30 pm.

After leaving the beach, everyone wanted to go to this place called world bar, but me and someone else hadn’t eaten, so went to get pizza and fries (or as they say in New Zealand, chips). Now this is where I tried French fries and Aiolo sauce for the first time… OMG it was amazing. I would highly suggest dipping your fries in it. You thought ranch was good, this is better. Anyways, after that I decided I needed to get some sleep since I was hiking the Routeburn Track the next day, so I went back to my hostel and went to bed.

Morning came way too fast. I packed a few last minute items and went to go catch my bus to the start of the track. By the time we got to the start, it was absolutely pouring rain (picture I posted when writing my last post). Well, in case you were on the edge of your seat wondering if I did the hike, I didn’t. I sat there for about 3 hours waiting for the bus to come back around and waiting for the weather to clear up. The rain finally cleared right when the bus was coming back around, but at that point, I had an 8 hour hike to do and I wasn’t about to start that at 2pm. So back to Queenstown went Kali.

It wasn’t raining in Queenstown luckily and I was able to get a last minute hostel. I ended up messaging one of the people I had met the night before and we had a wonderful Christmas dinner of Chinese food since that was the only thing open on Christmas Day. A restaurant was also the only place that you could actually buy alcohol on Christmas Day.

We walked around Queenstown after that. Long story short, we met up with some people my new friend had met previously and we wound up just restaurant hopping to have a few beers. The night ended fairly early as Christmas Day was the first day where I realized I had really injured my back skydiving. By the end of the night, I could barely breath, could barely move… It was not good.

Since my plans got messed up with the Routeburn track, I still needed to make it to Milford Sound the day of the 26th for my hosel booking and for the cruise on the 27th. One of the people I had met offered me a ride in that direction. He was like “Oh! You can just hitchhike the rest of the way.” I hesitantly said okay, but didn’t have a good feeling. We made it all the way to where he was catching his boat. And after about 2 hours of attempting to hitchhike the rest of the way in the hot sun, I gave up, switched sides and was able to get a ride back to the nearest town (Te Anau) in about 5 minutes. The hitchhiking here is usually pretty easy, but Milford sound is one of those places that is a bit out of the way. I spent the remainder of the afternoon in Te Anau, which was actually really amazing and absolutely gorgeous.

I booked a cheap bus and back to Queenstown went Kali (again). Booked the same last minute hostel, which did have a bar. When I got back, I checked in and went straight to the bar because after 2 mishap days, I needed a few beers.

This is where the fact that New Zealand is a small country comes into play. After those beers I was walking back up the hostel stairs when 2 guys walked right by me. I did a double take and just blurted out “did I go skydiving with you all in Fox Glacier?!?” Turns out it was the same guys. Seriously small world. We hung out the rest of the night and went out to some bars, got Kebabs at the end of the night (which is the best drunk food in the entire world).

The next day was a lazy day. I woke up, checked into the new hostel, and napped and napped and napped. I had planned to meet this girl I had met in Nelson, but slept right through the time I was supposed to meet her (Ooops). I did end up meeting her, just a bit later. We laid on the beach a while, got some delicious ice cream, jumped into the freezing cold water, looked at some cute baby ducks…

… and hit the hay very early after making some dinner. Made some dope grilled cheese and tomato soup with my new friend that I met in Nelson, who’s name is Hannah by the way.

The following day, I finally got the chance to go to Milford sound, which is said to be the 8th wonder of the wold. Needless to say, I was so excited especially after all my bad luck the last few days. Luckily I was able to get a full refund on the other cruise and book an even cheaper one for the 28th (worked out in my favor in the end). It was a longggggggggggggg day though. The bus out to Milford was 5 hours, the cruise was only 2 and then a 5 hour bus ride back to Queenstown. However, it was so worth it. The beauty of this place was unreal. I thought to myself many times, that this actually cannot be real. Here are some pics of Milford Sound. It was hard to choose just a few honestly and you will see why.

The pictures don’t even do the place justice. If you ever find yourself here, you absolutely must go. I was so tired when I got back that I just made dinner and went to bed. besides I had to be up early the next day for another bucket list item… BUNGY JUMPING!!!!!

The bungy was scheduled for 8am, but had to be there to check in at 7:30am. They bussed us out to the jump site, and got us all harnessed up. I should mention that this is the highest bungy in New Zealand at 134 meters (or 440 feet), so really high. We had to get in a cable car to get out to the bungy platform.

Before I knew it, it was my turn to jump. The key is to not hesitate…

1, 2, 3… JUMP!

I keep doing this where I do an epic adrenaline thing at the beginning of the day, then nothing else will live up to it the rest of the day.

I ended up meeting up with the girl I had met hiking in Abel Tasman National Park. She had just gotten to Queenstown. We had some food and drank some beer and just took it easy that afternoon (the night was a different story).

I did seriously have plans to do nothing my last night and just pack and get to bed early for my 7am flight to Auckland the following day.

However, that did not happen. I will save everyone the details of the drunken mess of the night. The important thing is, I made my flight. I also came across a sign that I thought is very fitting for New Zealand.

If I didn’t mention it before, I will mention it now. New Zealand is obsessed with 2 things… Subway and KFC and this sign was just so perfectly fitting with that.

I did leave my phone in the taxi that morning after getting dropped off at the airport. Again, the important thing is, I got it back. So in summary, I made my flight and I got my phone back. That is all that needs to be said about that night. That and Scottish people can seriously drink.

Next adventure…. Raglan, where I get to see 2 of my favorite people from Colorado. After being so sick for the beginning of my trip and all the mishaps, seeing familiar faces will be awesome.

Bye South Island, you will be missed.

Cheers.

That Time I Ended Up in Fox Glacier

I currently have some down time to write about Fox Glacier. I am sitting at the Routeburn shelter right now where the track starts that I was supposed to do over Christmas. However… it is pissing rain and I do not have a rain coat (only a shitty poncho). That mixed with how badly my back has been hurting, does not make for a great start to this hike. Luckily the bus driver will be back around about 2:00 pm should I decide to bail on this hike (which is looking like I will). Long story short, I have 3 and a half hours of doing nothing while I wait for the bus.

It’s a little hard to tell, but its literally pouring rain in this picture

So this is the story of how I randomly ended up in Fox Glacier…

I have to start this part of my adventure back in Marahau. I caught the bus from there back to Nelson. I was literally the only person on the bus and there were 2 bus drivers. One of them decided to come back and talk to me and ask me about my travels, asking me where I was off to next. I told him that I was taking the bus from Nelson the following day back to Christchurch for one day then onto Queenstown for the holidays. To which he replied, “why are you going through Queenstown?” He then said “No! You have to go along the West Coast instead and go through Fox Glacier. I called the bus company and they had no problem changing my ticket for me, I booked the hostel the bus driver told me to book and the next day I was off to Fox Glacier. It was a long ass bus ride there. The bus left at 7:30am from Nelson and we got to Fox Glacier around 6:30 pm. The ride was absolutely beautiful though, it was along the coast and it was gorgeous.

After finally arriving to my hostel, I was ready to just have a relaxing night of doing nothing. The guy working at the front desk was super friendly and was telling me all the things to do in Fox Glacier including sky diving. He told me that, the views from the skydive at Fox Glacier are ranked number 1 in the world. Naturally I had to do it… he booked me right there for 9:00am the next morning. Now I had never gone skydiving before, but for anyone who knows me, you know it’s been on my bucket list for literally ever. I could barely contain my excitement. I had an easy rest of the night which included eating dinner, going on a small walk to see the glow worms, and eventually going to sleep.

Of course, I had no troubles waking up the next day for skydiving. I arrived at the place nice and early. It was only about a 3 minute walk from my hostel (this town is literally one street). The airstrip was one runway and the only plane that takes off and lands there is the skydiving plane.

They briefed us, got us suited up and then we waited our turn. They honestly had this down to an exact art. The plane took the first 3 people up, came back, landed, someone put fuel in the plane, the next people got in. You sit in the compartment on your tandem instructor’s lap, where they hook you to them and give you a bit of a briefing. We enjoyed the most beautiful views of the Tasman sea and the glaciers while on the way up.

 

Before I knew it the door was sliding open and the first jumper was gone. And then we were next! It honestly happened so fast, we scootched up to the door and then just like that we were free falling. It was amazing!!! I had never had so much fun. We free fell 8,000 ft before we pulled the chute. The free fall was the best part, the views were spectacular and the adrenaline rush was pretty epic. There is a reason this is rated number 1 in the world.

After the instructor pulled the chute, we just coasted down and really got to take in all the views. He let me steer for a bit and down we went.

The landing was funny because you land on your butts, and there was a van waiting for us to take us back to the landing strip.

Okay, but for real, this was seriously the most epic way to see the glaciers. You can also see them via a helicopter tour, but this is way BETTER!

I took a sec to take in what I had just done and immediately wanted to go again (next time). I waited for my pics and walked back to the hostel.

The people working at the sky diving place honestly have the best jobs. Almost every single guy working there was not from New Zealand. These people literally travel the world and get jobs at different sky diving places for a few months a year. How cool would that be?!?

The rest of the day was alright, but honestly how could it live up the the skydiving? I took a long run up to the glacier lookout where you actually cannot see the glacier anymore because it’s receded so much. You can see a pretty waterfall though.

I rented a bike after that and went to dinner. Now I will say how good I have done saving money by grocery shopping in the cities and cooking in the hostels. That being said tonight was the night to splurge ad eat out. I had wine and steak and even ordered desert and a coffee. I really can’t make a habit of it or my money will run out in a week, but it was so good and well deserved in my opinion.

I met this Swedish and French guy in my hostel room that day as well and we decided to go out for a drink that night. Well 1 drink of course turns into many many more. Funny side note, when I met the French guy he told me my American accent was so strong and his exact words were “you sound like from the movies”. I thought was was pretty funny.  Really unsure whether he meant that as an insult or a compliment, but I don’t think I really want to know. The bar we went to was literally next door to our hostel. We had a few beers and met some cool people, including these 3 Scottish guys who were staying in our hostel. And after we got back to the hostel, they brought out some rum and more beers. Before we knew it, it was 4:30 in the morning and we all really needed to sleep.

The next morning, I hitched a ride with the Scottish guys to Queenstown (where they lived). It was a bit crammed and hot in the car, but it was worth it because we stopped at a lot of view points along the way that were absolutely spectacular. I could not have gotten those views on the bus.

Random Waterfall

Blue Pools

That about raps up my time at Fox Glacier. I would not have gone there if it weren’t for the bus driver, so special shout out to him for telling me to change my plans.

The highlight of my time there was of course the skydiving.

The next adventure… Queenstown.

Cheers.

Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park/Marahau:

I have about 2 and a half hours before my bus gets here to leave Abel Tasman National Park. This was my first real start to this great adventure. I caught a very early bus from Nelson into Marahau (the town just outside the National Park) on December 19th (December 18th for everyone reading from the US). The Bus dropped off right at the edge of Marahau and right at the beginning of the National Park. I was starting at this place called “The Barn”, which is a hostel and a campground which a kitchen, plugs and WiFi (which did not work for me at all).

They had little dorms, little private rooms and a campground to pitch your own tent, which is what I did.

My plans got a little messed up due to being sick for so long in Christchurch. Originally, I was supposed to arrive in Nelson on Saturday, December 16th, catch a bus into Marahau on December 17th and do the Abel Tasman Coast track for 3 days. The Coast track is this 55 km track that goes all the way through the National Park along the coast. You reserve campsites and can stop and swim at all the beaches along the way. Unfortunately, I ended up having to cancel my campsites and forfeit my deposit for them. But… I made the most out of it. Instead I ended up staying in Nelson for 3 nights, which turned out to be good because as I said, I had a lot of stuff that needed to be done. I ended up catching the bus into Marahau on December 19th.

I arrived (to my surprise alive) and checked into the Barn. I feel the need to say that I arrived “alive” because we were driving in this very large bus up this windy, narrow road, with rocks protruding into the road and the bus taking up both lanes. Oh, but do not worry it was so curvy, the the cars coming down cannot see the busses (taking up both lanes) coming up the road. So, when I say I arrived alive, I was relieved. I then proceeded to pitch my tent, and figure out what I was going to do for the day. It was not a particularly warm day, a bit overcast and a little chilly. I asked the very nice guy working at the reception what he suggested I do that day. He asked if I liked to Kayak and I said “Yes!”. He said “great! We will get you signed up; the bus leaves in 30 minutes”. I then had to very quickly get my crap together to go. I hopped on the bus which met up with the water taxis. I just need to take a minute to comment on how funny I thought these water taxis were. First of all they are on land to start out with. You literally get in the boat at the water taxi office which is on a trailer with a tractor pulling it. The tractor then drives you to the ramp into the water and backs you into the water. The tractor driver is the boat driver as well, so he then gets out of the tractor, gets into the boat, where then another guy working at the ramp releases the boat into the water and proceeds to drive the tractor back up the ramp and park it. It was so funny to witness. It also took a long while to get into the water because there were so many boats, to which the boat driver commented “rush hour in Marahau”.

The water taxi took me to one of the beaches called “Observation Bay”, where I met my Kayak guide. It was me, a couple on their honey moon, and an older couple who is just living life traveling the world and living in Greece (I aspire to be them when I am 70). Of course, since I am traveling alone, I get paired in a 2 person kayak with the guide, which ended up being a lot of fun. We kayaked along the coast and across to this Island called Adele Island, where it had a seal colony. Yes, I got to see 1 week old seals and they were the cutest things I had ever seen. Sadly, I could not get pictures because I did not want to take out my phone out in the middle of the ocean on a kayak. We took a small break at one of the other beaches on the way back to Marahau; our guide made us cappuccinos (yum).

But… that small break gave the wind a change to pick up making the ocean very choppy. Leave it to me to have my adventures turn very sketchy. The winds were getting so bad, that that water taxis were stopping at all the kayaks on the ocean to make sure they were okay. We got going and we had a direct headwind back to Marahau, so bad that if we stopped paddling we actually went backwards. To add to this, the older couple was getting very tired and the man’s back was hurting bad, they were unable to make any forward progress. Well… since I was paired with the guide, we obviously had to make sure they were okay. Our guide ended up having to attach the tow line to their kayak and we towed them against the wind all the way back to Marahau. We got back, my arms were noodles, my fleece was soaked from the waves splashing me, I had swallowed so much salt water and I could barely see out of my sunglasses. It was so much fun. I love those kinds of adventures because even though there were a few hiccups, it was amazing.

That night I showered, ate, read a lot of my book and went to the park cafe and had a well deserved (very expensive) beer. I will say, it has been a long time since I have had any time to myself to just read and relax… I forgot how nice it is. I kicked off my shoes, tried to get situated to read in one of the hammocks they had set up, then fell out of the hammock, then eventually got to read. Leave it to me to fall out of the hammock (I do not think anyone saw though).

For my 2nd and last full day in the park, I decided to do a long hike. I figured since I couldn’t hike the entire Coastal Track, that I needed to hike a portion of it. I took the water taxi out to one of the beaches called Torrent Bay. Where I got right on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track and started the walk back to Marahau. Now, this seems a good of time as any to mention the tides here. Apparently, the tides in New Zealand are some of the largest tides in the world. The difference in the low tide and high tides are crazy, so much so that the Coastal Track has to have a low tide route and a high tide route, otherwise you couldn’t make it to some of the bays. I started in Torrent bay at high tide, so had to take the high tide route to Anchorage Bay. The high tide route was about 3 miles where the low tide route is about 1/2 mile (to give you an idea of how insane these tides are here). I took a little detour off the track to Cleopatra’s pools, which I had a heard was a must see and it was. It was this beautiful fresh water little pond and waterfall.

It also had this “water slide” which was this little chute that was covered in algae where the water came into and you could actually slide down it… it was so much fun.

After laying in the sun and having some fun at the pools, it was time to move on. My next stop was Anchorage Bay where I stopped, took off my hikers and walked along the water for a bit. I sat on this log to put my hikers back on where I struck up a conversation with 2 girls also putting back on their shoes. It turns out they were both staying at The Barn and were hiking back to Marahau like me. We all just then hiked together. One was from New York and the other was from The Netherlands. This is honestly one of the things I love most about traveling by myself. Normally I would never strike up a conversation with 2 random strangers, but it is different traveling. And pretty soon, you are acting like you have known each other for years. We all stopped to lay on the beach at Apple Tree Bay and took a dip in the beautiful blue water. We started talking to these 2 guys and they asked us how we all know each other and we laughed and responded that we only met about 2 hours ago. Funny how that happens. It was about 3pm and was time to get going because We still had probably a 3 mile walk back.

View from the last 3 miles of the hike

We finally made it back to The Barn and took an hour or so to shower and change. I then went to dinner with the girl from New York and we ate sooooooooo much food. My hike ended up being 11.5 miles in total, so needless to say I was starving. The beer I drank with dinner mixed with the hike made me very sleepy, so I went back to my tent after dinner and passed out (it was only about 8:30pm).

Which brings me to today… the day I am supposed to go back to Nelson. Sitting here enjoying a coffee on the beautiful sunny day in Marahau. Not ready to leave, but so excited to see where my next adventure takes me.

Some final thoughts on Abel Tasman National park and New Zealand in general:

1. I have had 2 “Oh Shit” moments where a view has taken my breath away. The first was in Washington State at the Gorge Amphitheater. The second was here at Abel Tasman National Park. It was after the first day of kayaking, the sun was going down, I was having a beer outside looking over the Ocean and the National Park. It was probably one of the most spectacular sites I have seen. I tried to take a picture, but the picture just does not capture the beauty of this view.

2. I am still very unsure of which direction to look when I cross the street, this cars on the other side of the road thing is very confusing.

3. I guess you do not have to wear shoes in public here, I have seen many people in grocery stores (in the cities) not wearing shoes…

4. It does not feel like the holidays. I have never experiences Christmas time in the summer, but it is weird (I love it). Like I would never guess that Christmas is in 4 days.

Next adventure… unknown.

Cheers.

The Adventure Officially (Almost) Begins…

Nelson: 

I arrived in Nelson after spending I think 4 miserable days in a motel room with the flu in Christchurch. However, the weather was miserable and there was not much to see there, so out of all cities to be stuck with the flu in that was the one. I finally was feeling well enough to plan my trip and on December 16th, I hopped on a bus to Nelson. Now, there were many things I had to do in Nelson like get a SIM card for my phone since I was too sick to do literally anything in Christchurch. However, nothing in Nelson was open until Monday so I had a few days to “explore” and when I say “explore”, I went to the beach twice (one of he times I ran since it is about 6 miles round trip) and walked around the city a bit, got coffee, and… that is about it. After I got everything that I needed to done, on December 19th, I jumped on another bus into Marahua (the city just outside Abel Tasman National Park).

Next adventure… Abel Tasman National Park.

Cheers.