On Saturday I flew into the little town of Queenstown, located on the South Island. I was all set to meet up with my friend Jenny (also from Albion) who studies at the University of Otago in Dunedin when I realized that I had no way of getting in touch with her. I caught a cab into town and managed to remember the name of the hostel we were staying at, and as luck would have it, Jenny and her friends walked out of the hostel exactly when my cab pulled up outside it. We got all checked in, and then went to explore the town for a bit. Queenstown is a beautiful city. It is located in a large valley surrounded by mountains on all sides, and the scenery is breathtaking. After hanging downtown for a bit, we met up with some more of the Otago gang, and we all went to a place called Fergburger for dinner. The burgers there were the size of my face, and oh so delicious.
The following day, we hiked up a small mountain on the edge of Queenstown. I rode the gondola back down, and the view was amazing. Later that afternoon, several of us headed out to the Nevis canyon to do the famed 134 metre bungy jump. I signed up for this on a whim, and didn’t realize what I was actually doing until I was hanging in a small cage from a cable several hundred metres above a tiny river. Yeah. Not the smartest idea after all. But, there I was, strapped in and ready to go. I couldn’t quit then, or I’d look like a fool in front of everyone. With a huge scream, I jumped headfirst off the platform, and for the next few seconds, I was flying. It was by far the scariest and most intense thing I have ever done, but I am glad I did it. I am slowly getting past this fear of heights I’ve had for so long, and I plan to continue pushing myself to fight it whenever I can.
Te Anau/Lake Manapouri
Tuesday morning the three of us got up nice and early and caught a bus to the town of Te Anau. From there, we had a 20 km hitchhike to the tiny town of Manapouri. We hiked for about 2.5 hrs, and we were finally picked up by a very nice guy who chatted with us the rest of the way there. When we got to the town, we had lunch, and then went to the kayak rental place to take the boats we had booked out for the remainder of the day. Unfortunately, our booking hadn’t been processed in time, so we were unable to go out until the next day. We found a lovely, rustic old campground to stay at for the night, and settled down for another early sleep.
We got up bright and early the next day and set out on Lake Manapouri for a gorgeous day of kayaking. The weather was sensational, and the scenery was equally excellent. We stopped at a small beach around noon for lunch and to stretch our legs a bit. After lunch, we kayaked around a small island on the lake, and then headed back to shore. We had a great time on the lake, but we were exhausted by the end of the day. I always forget how much energy a day’s worth of sun can take out of you. When we got back to town, we were less than excited for the journey ahead of us. Remember that 20 km hike into town from the day before? Well, in order to make our bus the following morning, we had to hike all the way BACK to Te Anau that night. Luckily, we hadn’t got five minutes out of town when a van pulled up and two nice young guys offered us a ride all the way to Te Anau. Needless to say, we were very relieved. We settled into a nice little campground for the night, and got a chance to shower and relax for a bit. We went to bed around 8 PM (this was a common theme on the trip, the earliest I have gone to bed in YEARS) and Jenny and I got up early the next morning to catch our bus to Dunedin.
After Jenny and I arrived in Dunedin, she gave me a tour of the University of Otago campus, which is where she is going to school this semester. It was a beautiful campus, and the city of Dunedin is unique in that there is a very good mix of nature and city life (an example being the natural river running right through the Otago Uni campus). It was a pretty sharp contrast to the Auckland Uni campus, which has a very urban feel to it. We ended the day with a walk through Dunedin’s beautiful botanical gardens, and then headed back to Jenny’s place for yet another early sleep. The next day we slept in (finally!) and around noon, we headed downtown, and visited the local flea market for a bit. We met a woman there who was selling jewelry, and she told us a story about one necklace in particular about how she was hitchhiking and ended up at the home of an old drunk Irishman who had carved the pendant by hand. It was a wonderful story, though I am not sure how much truth there was to it. :-) After the flea market, we headed over to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory for a tour of the facilities. It was really interesting seeing the inner workings of a chocolate factory (especially the huge chocolate waterfall—no joke), and we also got a bunch of free chocolate at the end of the tour. After the tour, we made a last-minute decision to try and hike to Baldwin Street before I had to make my bus to the airport that afternoon. When we did finally get to Baldwin, we saw why it holds the title of the World’s Steepest Street. The thing is ridiculous. I don’t understand how anyone could possibly drive up that thing in anything other than a tank.
I arrived back in Auckland later that night (Friday), and hit the hay, as I was exhausted from all my adventures. The following night, I went to see James Taylor and Carole King in concert down at the Vector Arena (the reason I came back a week before break was over). The concert was amazing, and James in particular was in top form. The man sounds as good, if not better than he did thirty years ago. He was an incredible performer, and he laughed and joked with the crowd throughout the show. All in all, it was a very enjoyable concert, and one I have been looking forward to for a long time. :-)
That’s all for now! Oh, I suppose there was one more event that occurred last week. Sunday the 11th was my 21st birthday. I spent it alone in my apartment, but it was enjoyable nonetheless, and I was thankful for the quiet alternative to MOST people’s 21st birthdays back home. ;-)
Till next time!
P.S. Once again, here are the links to my newest Facebook photo albums: