zaterdag 15 januari 2011

Nearing the End...

New Zealand can be defined in many ways, but I think one of the best is “suicidal”. It seems that those who live here are descendants of mad Brits, Scots and Irish who spend their free time watching rugby, going to the pub and then inventing insanely manic activities that involve laughing in the face of death or severe injury. For example, a more recent addition to the list of crazy fun here is climbing into a huge inflatable ball and then being pushed down a hill, simulating something that could only be described as a snowball. I have never wondered what it would be like to be a snowball, and I can remember that when rolling down a hill, the novelty wears off real fast (mainly as stopping isn’t really an option). However, some chancer out there decided it would be great fun, and low and behold- others pay good money to find out.
We picked a more traditional Kiwi activity to balance out our skydiving adventure, something the Lonely Planet described as the ‘decaf’ of adrenaline rushes (multiple bungy jumps and canyon swings being the ‘espresso’ version): the Jet Boat. The Jet Boat was invented by some dude in Twizel, and it is a boat that has no propellor- it works like a jetski, sucking in water and spitting it out, while moving REALLY fast (like 80 km/h on water fast). We’d seen them cruising around the lake at Queenstown and up gorges around the South Island, with screaming tourists and splashes of water, but hadn’t really grasped the concept. After a few minutes of jetboating with our pilot Brady, we got the screaming (good screams)- these drivers are particularly well-known for their tricks in these highly receptive boats, like heading straight for rockfaces and dodging at the last minute (really, the very last minute), or spinning at really high speeds. It was sooooooo much fun!
After our blood-rushing interlude we realized we were almost at Christchurch, and so we headed on in to the suburbs for our very last night in the camper. We ended up at a campsite resembling a trailer park, with lots of white trash neighbors to keep us entertained (and remind us to stay in school)... Maybe not the most idyllic place to end our camping adventure, but memorable it was. Having said goodbye to the van (so sad... like losing a family member), we are now sitting pretty in our last hostel in NZ- a historic jailhouse, where we are staying in a cell!

woensdag 12 januari 2011

Queenstown, Milford Sound and Mt Cook

AAAAAAAAAAND we're back!

About 20 minutes after we wrote the last entry, we were getting ready to get in a bus that would take us out near Queenstown airport where we would be gearing up for a freaking SKYDIVE. Yes, that's right- while all of you were sound asleep, we were plummeting at 200 km p/h towards the ground from 9000 feet (that's just under 3km). We had both wanted to do it for so long, and when we hit Queenstown, City of the Death Wish, we knew we had reached the point in our lives where we would just HAVE to book a life threatening activity of choice. And so we signed our lives away (literally- I didn't want to read the small print once I saw the word 'death') at the NZone kiosk downtown and were then left sitting in a room with other terror-stricken faces, trying not to allow our imagination to get too grim. Once at the diving center, my nerves calmed ever so slightly as I watched others leap to uncertainty and then billow down in parachutes, ecsatic as they landed. It was most likely a distractive tactic, for as I was suited up and escorted towards the plane by 'my guy' Colin, my heart was somewhere near my throat and my stomach was not where it was supposed to be either. Up in the air, I was in the midst of the most beautiful scenery- we flew over mountains, and I could almost touch the summits of them. It was a crystal clear day, and we could see for miles. Then the door opened... And I have most likely never been that scared in my life. Things were suddenly going really fast, as one by one the twos in front of me in the plane started jumping out.. I told Colin that I was now sufficiently scared shitless, which he thought was good, we're inching towards the door, I see Daniel disappearing out of the door.... And then suddenly I was at the door, and my legs were suspended above New Zealand, and then we were upside down looking at where I was just sitting, and then we were hurtling high speed towards the ground.... I have no idea what I screamed, I couldn't hear it because of all the rushing air in my ear, but I screamed bloody murder while having the biggest RUSH in my life. Suddenly my entire body was caught by the harnass around me, and it was just me and Colin, suspended above the world, in silence. It was amazing. We coasted down, chatting away, like it was just another day at the office- flying over lakes, fields and mountains, hanging from a parachute. Having expected to have been petrified for most of the dive, I was surprised not to be at all- both Daniel and I weren't. It was the most incredible experience, and due to that- the fact that it was impossible to comprehend what we had just done- it seemed more like a dream than something that had actually happened. A surreal, adrenaline-rush of a dream. One I would recommend to EVERYONE!!!
So, what do you do after you've just out your life on the line and have seen the world from a bird's eye view?
Well, you leave for Milford Sound, one of the most beautiful parts of NZ. The drive to it is an experience in itself, being pretty hairy at times, and then we took a boat ride up the sound (which is actually a fjord) which was wonderful. Gushing waterfalls (and one we actually boated into which was hilarious), stunning rockfaces, rocks of sea lions asleep like teenagers after a long party. Gorgeous and dwarfing surroundings to be in. After being chased out of the park by bloody $%#@ing sandflies (carniverous midges) the next morning, we blasted through Queenstown again where we hooked up with my friend Wieteke who has been living there for 4 years (it's pretty crazy seeing someone familiar on the other side of the world..) before heading out to Mt Cook National Park, where we camped under the most spectacular view of glaciers and mountains and took a beautiful walk over suspended swing bridges into the Hooker Valley where we were able to get up close and personal with Mt Cook (highest mountain in NZ- bloody spectacular), the Hooker Glacier and the lake at its foot which has icebergs floating in it. This morning, after a COLD night (we used the hot water bottles we laughed at when we got the car... Not so funny now), we warmed up by walking uphill to see a pristine view of the Tasman Glacier and MT Cook in crystal clear blue skies and bright sunshine. What a way to wake up!
We're now at Lake Tekapo, having a lazy day- we're off to some hot springs later on, but for now we're haging out, enjoying the beating sunshine and gorgeous lake. We're kind of pooped from almost 2 months of travelling constantly, so we're taking it easy up to Christchurch. We've discovered our budgeting it going REALLY well, so we're going to treat ourselves to so more gut-wrenching adrenaline in a jet boat on our way there... Got to keep that blood flowing, eh?