Published: April 15th 2007April 15th 2007
altogether inappropriate attire for the South Pole
We have just survived throwing ourselves out of a plane from 15,000 feet over Lake Taupo (which is also an active volcano, as if skydiving wasn't dangerous enough anyway!) on New Zealand's North Island. For those of you that don't know, a skydive from 15,000 ft is the highest you can do and involves oxygen, a freefall of over a minute (10,000 ft) at 200km/hour which distorts your face in a various unsightly ways and a gentle parachute ride to the ground. Not every day in New Zealand has been quite so exciting..... but most have.
We arrived in Christchurch 3 weeks ago now and were shocked at how cold it was, so decided to get even colder by visiting the International Antarctic Centre to sample temperatures of minus 18 degrees, ride on a Hagglund vehicle and watch some penguins. We obviously hadn't acclimatised yet judging by our decision to wear shorts for this activity and frostbitten noses and knees were the order of the day!
It was our first night in New Zealand and we resolved to embrace the healthy culture by doing some exercise in our dorm. 100 sit-ups later Rosie was complaining of a bad
4:50 am start... the dolphins are much prettier than us!
back and was poo-pooed as a wimp by Becky until Becky spied blood creeping through Rosie's top. Yes, she had carpet burns down her spine! Becky found this hilarious until a few minutes later when she too began to feel pain in the form of a stinging sensation between her bum cheeks. Yes, she too had carpet burn, in an altogether less desirable and unsightly place. Suffice to say we gave up on dormitory exercise after that point and all scabs are now healed.
We then went for dinner with our Canadian roommate Clay and despite spending several hours of chat, eating and drinking with him, it wasn't until we witnessed him scantily clad that we realised he only had one arm - travelling is obviously making us far more observant and interested in our surroundings! The next day we started our Kiwi Experience and got the bus to Kaikoura (literally 'eat crayfish', which we unfortunately could not afford to do!). We continued our health kick with a speed walk to a seal colony and rewarded ourselves with scallops on toast. The next day our alarms were set for 4.45am for an early morning dolphin encounter. Becky swam with
In someone else's hat to fend off the torrential rain!
a pod of over 800 wild dusky dolphins while happy-snapper Rosie was content with taking photos from the boat in case a hungry shark was hiding amongst the dolphins. Both of us were over-awed, there were literally dolphins all around, jumping, dancing and occasionally mating - all for our viewing pleasure.
After a cheeky bit of lunchtime wine-tasting next stop was Nelson and the Prince Albert Hostel. We signed up to do a 2 day trek, camp and kayak trip in the Abel Tasman national park. Having been told we’d be in for 2 days of glorious sunshine, Rosie finally decided to invest in a waterproof, meanwhile Becky, ever the optimist, left hers with the rest of her stuff back at the hostel. On arrival in the national park, clouds descended and the heavens opened, leaving Becky with nothing but a sweaty kayaking jacket for protection. Nevertheless the walk was beautiful and we arrived safely at the campsite, along with the rest of our group, Jenna, Gemma, Ross and Valerie. We had a great night with a campfire (constructed by 2 crazy extreme kayakers that we met at the campsite), sausages and goon (lovely wine in a box) and
before the tidal wave...
luckily the rain held off…… at least until the next morning when there were storms aplenty for our full day kayaking! We set off rather unenthusiastically from the campsite, cold, wet and generally grumpy. Becky assumed her natural position as stroke of the boat while a very irate Rosie brought up the rear. The first 15 minutes did not bode well for the rest of the trip, there was aching, bleeding, dodgy rudderwork, blisters and seasickness. Fearing that Rosie might jump overboard, Becky decided to instigate a push for 10 to increase momentum within the kayak and morale within Rosie. Somehow it worked, and from this point on we found our rhythm and we were flying, leaving the other 4 miles behind as we sailed through the huge swells at lightning pace. Our smugness was short lived when after lunch the headwinds picked up, as did the rain and the size of the waves and we were completely physically exhausted, freezing cold and abusive towards each other and our instructor (who insisted on lying about how far we had left to go) by the time we finally reached the end! We later found out that Nelson (‘the sunniest place in
Bin Bag party at the Poo Bar! Championees!
New Zealand’) had received twice the average monthly rainfall in 2 hours while we were kayaking 18km. To add to our pain, while camping we had been bitten by numerous sandflies (like mosquitoes but less picky and far more evil) causing much itching - one of Becky’s bites swelled up so much it looked and felt as if she had badly sprained her ankle, nice!
The next day we got the bus to Westport and celebrated Rosie’s mum’s retirement with a hokey-pokey ice cream and a jet-boat ride (jet boats can travel at speeds of up to 100km/hour in 10cm of water and can rotate on their own axis). The jet boating was pretty fun, until they decided to propel a tidal wave into the boat, so that we ended up being up to our knees in water, ensuring that we had literally no dry or warm clothes left as the rest were still damp from kayaking, After drying out our smelly damp selves, we were keen for a big night out. Sadly Westport (Mulletville) does not lend itself to such activities as we know them, so we had one drink with the scary local inbreds and headed off
to bed. Little did we know our soon to be buddies were slapping the goon hard in the opposite side of the hostel while we were stuck in a room with 2 miserable Canadian girls and sickly Michelle, a very ill English girl who adopted us as shoulders to cry on, fun..…. so close but yet so far away….
Next stop was the legendary Pu Pub. The rain was too heavy for any walks but we stopped to check out Punakaiki (Pancake) Rocks. The rest of the day was devoted to preparing our costumes for that evening. We put our Oxford education in fancy dress to good use and transformed bin-bags into wonderful outfits, while the boys had to dress in drag. Becky the bin-bag-bumble- bee and Rosie (aka Batgirl) both made it to the final of the competition, with Rosie’s batflight actions enabling her to walk away with the prize of a complimentary canyon-swing in Queenstown (more about that later…). The night came to an abrupt end when Becky found a half-naked posh girl covered in her own sick in the toilet. On our way to bed we were accosted by a Danish drink-thief and three Stowe School
Gap Year Kids who refused to believe having conversed with us for a few minutes that we could possibly be Oxford Graduates. In fact, they questioned the very existence of the legendary Jesus College. After an exhausting argument which consisted of an economics test to verify our claim to be graduates, we retired to bed still wearing our costumes.
Heavy headed, the next morning we continued on our journey around the beautiful west coast of New Zealand ending up in Franz Josef- a scenic tourist town bordering a glacier. For the first time in 2.5 months (70+ days!!!), we had to sleep in separate rooms as we were at the back of the check-in queue (sicky Michelle’s fault). Every cloud has a silver lining, however and this separation led to the cementing of various new friendships as Becky had to share a dorm with Grant, Ella, (nice not sicky) Michelle, Vim, Alps, George and Jonny, who were to become our traveling companions for the rest of our time in New Zealand. The next day we spent a full day hiking on the Franz Josef Glacier, complete with crampons and ice axes and got the chance to take in the
scenery, see the blue ice and crawl through ice caves and crevasses.
The next day we ended up in the scenic town of Wanaka and decided to celebrate by heading straight to ‘Have a Shot’ where we did just that, having a shot at clay pigeon shooting and the driving range. We both perfected our golf swings but Becky put Rosie to shame in the shooting, ‘killing’ 5/10 (one is still being disputed, it may have been shot by someone else) as opposed to Rosie’s pitiful 1/10 (apparently she was only this bad as the gun recoil hurt her so much so she couldn’t bring herself to pull the trigger. Nothing to do with bad technique.). The next morning we went to Puzzling World, a strange place full of mazes, optical illusions and mind games. Thoroughly befuddled, we continued our journey to Queenstown….
Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of the world and so we decided to get straight into the action. We went lugeing, which, much to Rosie’s delight, Becky found terrifying and Rosie raced around with the others while Becky brought up the rear, bringing with her the smell of burning rubber due to excessive
Clay pigeon Shooting
Can you see the tears in my eyes? Agony!
braking. That night marked the end of the ‘Nancy Bus’. It was the final day of driving with our horribly creepy and sleazy, yet impressively efficient and cringeworthily entertaining driver who had a penchant for all things Scottish (watch out Rosie!) called Scotty (as he was apparently Scottish) or Nancy (as he wouldn’t do a bungy jump). This celebration involved everyone from the bus going out and drinking cocktails from teapots which is much more fun (and dangerous!) than it sounds! The next day the canyon swing came back to haunt us. Rosie was far too scared and hungover to even lift her head that morning, let alone jump off an 100metre canyon and freefall for 60m. Ever the trooper, Becky stepped up to take her place. Unfortunately, the ticket was non-transferable so Becky had to be Rosie Quinn for the day and was not very encouraged by the screams of “Go on Rosie” and “You can do it Rosie” as she jumped to her certain death. After a few seconds of giving up hope, Becky/Rosie finally stopped falling and began swinging around in the canyon, much to her delight, before being winched back up to safety, though it was
a good half an hour before she stopped shaking!
The morning after, Rosie’s hangover finally passed and she came back to the land of the living, whilst Becky’s shakes had also ended. We were up bright and early to head to Milford Sound with the rest of the gang. Funnily enough, it rained. All day long. So, we drove for 5 hours in the rain and arrived in Milford to get on a boat in the rain. Milford was spectacular, but it was so wet, that even the dolphins didn’t come out to play. We did enjoy a highly entertaining game of wink murder, however, during which Grant proved himself to be a master of deception, until Becky finally foiled his evil plan. So, fun and frolicks in Milford over, we drove for 5 hours home along one of the 10 most dangerous roads in the world in the pouring rain.
The highlight of the next day was watching the Highlanders take on the Chiefs in the Super 14s rugby championship. The match was unlike anything you have ever seen. There was no stadium as such, just a natural crater between mountains where NZers of every age pitched
up with beers and picnic mats, and as the match was being played, jumbo jets were constantly taking off and landing in the immediate background, and helicopters constantly flying overhead. Don’t ask us the score… we were there for the experience, and the beers! (only kidding, the Highlanders, who we were ‘supporting’ lost 38-34. Essentially, it was a very poor defensive game, but the wingers were on fine form and effectively carried their respective sides. We heard boys say this.) Fun for all the family!
From Queenstown, we travlled back to Christchurch, much to our annoyance, where we indulged in some Mexican food and hung out with the local celebs (Brendan Cole of Strictly Come Dancing/ Natasha Kaplinsky fame) before rapidly moving on to Kaikoura (for a second time). The sun was shining for the first time in weeks, so we desperately tried topping up our tan, even though it was pretty chilly. From here we made the ferry crossing to the North Island and New Zealand’s capital, Wellington where we, with our companion, Michelle, intended to paint the town red, and we did just that. Several times. We did take in a bit of culture, visiting the national
museum of New Zealand, Te Papa. On our last night, the gang was briefly reunited and we slapped the goon for a few too many hours before partaking in some impromptu karaoke in a Welsh bar, and an effective ‘club crawl’ which ended at 4am with us being kicked out of Burger King. One and a half hours sleep is not enough, we have discovered. Especially when one has an 8 hour drive on a very windy road ahead of them. The bus journey to Taupo was not an altogether pleasant one, punctuated by puking and very undignified sleeping positions. We have once again resolved never to drink again.
Taupo is all about the skydive, which we have now done. After three years of Duncan psyching Rosie up, the deed has been done… and it was ‘Sweet As’!
There are more photos below