After 13 long weeks, Sydney Uni gives students a study week in order to begin preparing for finals. Instead, I used the week off to explore New Zealand. I went with a tour group called Kiwi Experience, which is a hop on/hop off bus system.
Day 1: Christchurch –> Kaikoura
I didn’t really know what to expect when I got on the big KiwiE bus but as I got on, it turned out there were only 8 of us on the bus. We drove a few hours to a town called Kaikoura, which means “to eat crayfish.” It’s on the east coast of New Zealand and the next closest country across the Pacific Ocean is Chile. We stopped the bus at a few different spots. One was the look out point:
The other was at a seal colony. Here, the seals are protected but you can get really close to them, up to 10 meters! I met a girl from Germany who was keen to explore with me and we ended up on a 11.6 mile hike around the Kaikoura peninsula. By the end, I was exhausted!
When I got back to the hostel, I met a lot of really nice girls who had been on the tour before me. They told me what activities I definitely had to do, the low down on different tour guides, and the tour gossip. Since it was Halloween and we were all exhausted, we watched a scary movie, Hannibal Lecture (shout out to the Renner family).
Day 2: Kaikoura –> Kaiteriteri
The following day we dropped 2 girls off in Picton where there is a ferry that goes to the North Island. From there, we picked up about 30 people. We stopped in Malborough, which had some really amazing wines. We did a wine tasting and explored the vineyard.
Later we went on to Kaiteriteri, which means “to eat food quickly.” I met a few girls from the new bus and we went down to the beach to look at shells and dip our toes in the water. The scenery was beautiful.
Day 3: Kaiteriteri –> Westport
In the morning, I went kayaking. It was my first time ever using a spray skirt, which keeps water from dripping into your seat. We saw different rock formations along the coast and heard different native stories about the formations.
My kayak buddy was named Jessica and she’s from Canada. She took a year off of uni to figure out what she wanted to do with her life which I’m finding is actually pretty common here and around the world.
We left in the late morning and went to Nelson Lake. Our bus driver challenged us to try and recreate a photo that KiwiE uses in a lot of it’s promotional material so of course I jumped. I didn’t know anyone on the bus so when I heard a few girls talking about it, we quickly grouped together. This is our version of the picture:
The water was absolutely freezing and it turns out, the dock we were on had huge eels underneath it. When I was trying to get out of the water. I was freaking out because I definitely kicked one by mistake.
As we continued driving, our bus driver had a few giveaways to hand out. To make it a fair completion, she made a bunch of circles on the passenger side windshield and we all had to put our initials in it. Whoever got the first bug splatter in their circle won. I didn’t win but I couldn’t keep my eyes off the window the whole drive.
Later when I was picking rooms, I ended up with the girls I jumped with as well as their group of friends. We all got dinner and then just stayed up chatting.
Day 4: Westport –> Franz Joseph
On our way we stopped for the Cape Fowler walk which was supposed to take about 45 minutes and be a beautiful walk. It poured halfway through and we all just about ran to the end. By the time we all reached the bus, we were soaked and miserable.
Franz Joseph is one of 3 glaciers of its kind in the world. It’s the fastest moving glacier moving as much as 5 meters a day. Unfortunately, it poured down rain all night so I didn’t actually get to see the glacier.
Instead, my group from the previous night all hung out and chatted. The hostel we stayed at had a bar and so there were fun games all night like
Day 5: Franz Joseph –> Wanaka
We left Franz Joseph to go to a town called Fox where the Fox Glacier is. I almost saw the entire thing but of course there was a cloud in the way, just my luck! We went to a viewing area on Lake Matheson where the water is filled with tannin in order to keep the water dark to reflect the light and the mountains better.
On the way to Wanaka we saw two lakes, which at one point were joined: Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. Lake Wanaka is the 4th largest lake in the country and has no current so it’s often used for deep-sea training. Lake Hawea is used for irrigation and hydroelectric power. Usually it sits at a higher sea level but it hasn’t rained recently so it’s a little lower than usual.
Once we got to our hostel, our bus driver told us that to go check out this hike that leads to a 360 degree view of Wanaka. He challenged us to try to beat his best time getting to the top: 17 minutes. The recommended time according to the sign was 45 minutes so I’m calling BS. However, the view was gorgeous!
Day 6: Wanaka –> Queenstown
Before we left Wanaka, we went to see Puzzle World and before you make fun of me, it was so much fun!!! It had a huge maze that reminded me of a corn maze back at home and even though it might not have been as big, it was hard. You had to make it to all 4 towers in the corner and then to the garden in the middle. But don’t worry we finished.
Then there were a few different illusion rooms.
As our bus driver warned us, Queenstown was Wanaka on steroids but it was absolutely gorgeous.
I went jetboating with my firend jade where this boat goes down a river really quickly and does 360 turns really close to rocks. I was sitting in the front and I was absolutely terrified, you should have seen my face. In the gift shop, there’s a wall of famous people who have gone on the same jet boat and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge went did it in April, right before me!
Day 7: Queenstown
This is the day that I bungy jumped. This was too awesome of a moment for me to just put at the bottom of a blog post so I will make a separate post soon about my experience!
When I got back from my adventure, I ran into my friends from earlier in the trip and I was so excited to see them! We went to a pub and just sat around chatting. Since we were from all over, we looked at each other’s passports, which was a really cool experience.
Day 8: Queenstown –> Lake Tekapo
This day was mostly driving. We went to Lake Pukaki which is a manmade lake which is used to create hydroelectric power.
Day 9: Lake Tekapo –> Christchurch
Today was another big day of driving but we finally made it full circle back to Christchurch. The city was hit by a huge earthquake in 2011 and the city has been absolutely destroyed. Luckily, no one died because there had been a flower festival in an open area so a lot of people took refuge there. In the after shock in February 2011 however, 185 people died.
Day 10: Christchurch
On my final day in New Zealand, I had the day all to myself to relax. I mapped out what I wanted to see and headed out to see the damage and rebuilding in the city. There are a bunch of painted giraffes around town because it’s a reminder to the people of Christchurch to stand tall and stay strong.
I explored a few open areas because they were really artsy and cool like the sound garden. Here, debris from around the city was gathered to create instruments.
Then I went to the cardboard cathedral, which was essentially decorated with tubes of cardboard. My bus driver said that it was hard to build because whenever it rained, all the cardboard would get wet.
Then I went to the 185 chairs monument. There are 185 chairs painted all painted white but with different styles to represent the different personalities affected by the earthquake. It was a very meaningful.
I just really loved Christchurch because it was such a metaphor for life. It’s amazing how something so broken can continue to survive. You adapt. You find new solutions to deal with problems. You just figure it out as you go.