A Travellerspoint blog

The Start of Easter Break - Back in Christchurch

Thursday, April 21, Liz and I took the early bus to Christchurch to see some of our friends back in Ilam before we were traveling to the North Island for break. When arriving in Christchurch, we were completely lost in the city since the bus could not drop us off at the normal stop due to earthquake reconstruction. We walked down the street to Hagley Park and from there caught the free shuttle to the opposite side of the park. The other side was full of people and had and old bus being used as the makeshift bus exchange since it was destroyed during the earthquake. From here, we were able to catch a bus to Ilam and then ran to Sophie’s flat! We were greeted by Sophie, Aleesha, and Shelley and K149 was finally all together again. Sophie was not feeling too well so she went to take a nap while Aleesha, Liz and I went to coffee culture to talk about life after the earthquake. We ended up chatting for about two hours until it was time for Aleesha to get back to Ilam and get ready to leave for her flight. Together, we walked Aleesha to the bus stop and waited until the Christchurch airport bus arrived. This was one of the saddest goodbyes because we are unsure if we will ever see Aleesha again. K149 made a pact that in three years, Aleesha and Sophie will travel to the US and we will all spend a couple of days in New York City together (since that is where they are most excited to go). 2014 will be great! Anyway, after we said goodbye to Aleesha we all hung around and continued talking about our new lives at our new schools. One of our old friends was having a small party with just Ilam people so when Dan joined us, we all went over to his apartment until around midnight. At midnight, Shelley, Adam, Dan and I returned to Sophie’s flat and were talking in the common room until we were joined by Peter, Mike and Tim. We were all still excited to be together and kept talking until Sophie’s flatmate got very angry and caused somewhat of a scene. I understand her being mad at us for being loud, but if she had just said something instead of slamming doors/ shutting off the lights while we were talking, and calling Sophie, we may have responded differently and understood. Let’s just say it was a VERY long night.

The next day, Liz, Peter, Mike, Tim and I wanted to go see the destruction that had been done by the earthquake in the epicenter and how it was being handled. We walked around town for a while and spent some time basking in the sun in the Botanical Gardens. After playing on the elephant tree for a while, we decided we needed a new destination. The crew walked back to the Temporary Bus Exchange and waited for a bus to New Brighton Beach since three of us had never had to chance to see it. The bus ride was about a half hour and we grabbed an early dinner when we got to the beach. Nobody was swimming because it was a little too cold but it was nice to walk around and just see the beach. I think it would’ve been really fun to have gone there on a regular basis - people were throwing a frisbee, playing in the sand and flying kites. The bus ride back to Riccarton Mall was a lot more relaxed. We walked back to Ilam and moved back into our semi-abandoned K149 flat for the night. There was one girl living there but she said she understood our situation and had no problem letting us spend the night! It was really understanding of her and we were all grateful. We showered and spent the night watching Family Guy and Forrest Gump all huddled together. It was one of those days where anything went and we were just constantly laughing. I wish we had stayed in Canterbury just for more days like these. It’s funny to say that because we all attend the University of Otago together. It is simply that the setup of Otago does not facilitate our group because we are all placed in different directions among the campus. Ilam was easier for gatherings because everyone you needed was within a two minute walk. In addition, to be completely honest, I think the individuals in Christchurch were more friendly because we were all looking to meet new people whereas the people attending Otago already have their own groups of friends. It’s interesting how a change of scenery can change the way people act.

Posted by topspin98 18:04 Comments (0)

Overdue Skydiving

I apologize for the lateness of this post! When I returned home from this weekend, I had two tests and a paper due and then we were leaving immediately for Easter Break (which I promise to write about this week as well!). This weekend was mostly just sightseeing in Wanaka, Lake Tekapo, Mt. Cook, Moreaki Boulders, and Omaru but I did go skydiving in Wanaka and it was amazing!
Here's the play-by-play:

We woke up on Saturday morning and our skydiving adventure was booked for 11 am so Caitlin and I walked around Wanaka for a while with Katie and her mom. The river was absolutely beautiful and the sky was as clear as could be. Caitlin and I kept looking up and freaking out about skydiving but at the same time, we could not wait. At around 10.45 the shuttle picked us up from the I-Site and we were off to Skydive Wanaka. In the car, we watched a short informational video and then started to sign our lives away. We chose our pictures and videos option (promise to show everyone the video when I return home) and then we put into the skydive jumpsuits. Because Caitlin is so tall, the suit didn't reach her ankles whereas the jumpsuit was way too long on me. Perfect pair right? We wrote on our hands - Go Big or Go Home on mine and This is Life on Caitlin's - and then we met our cameramen. They were both really nice and seemed cool. Eventually, our "beautiful stranger" (the logo of the company) came to greet us and ask us our feelings and such. My instructor asked if I get motion sickness and without thinking, I responded honestly and said no. We boarded the plane and had about a 20 minute ride until we reached the 15,000 feet jumping mark. In the plane, we were given oxygen, a hat, gloves, and instructions on how to jump. I watched Caitlin jump first and my stomach then immediately turned into a knot. I was still excited, and I obviously still wanted to jump, I had just been planning this for so long and couldn't believe that it was actually happening. We slowly made our way to the edge of the plane and my guide told me to wrap my legs around his, grab the harness, and lean my head back. At this point, I had no control. The guide pushes you out of the plane and we did a small little rock back and forth before dropping upside down into the sky. You won't believe me when I say this but all I could feel was relief. Nerves had faded and I was flying through the air. Then, once my guide saw that I was loving it, he let me release my arms and we started to do spirals while we were free-falling. This was his reason behind asking me if I got motion sickness. It was the most amazing feeling ever and the views over Lake Wanaka were absolutely breathtaking. I will never in my life have a more beautiful sight than that one. After 60 seconds of literally flying, my guide pulled the parachute and we were tugged back up into the sky a little as it opened. From there, we had a nice journey down while he explained a little about the Wanaka terrain. For landing, we both lifted our legs as if we were getting ready to sit in a chair with our legs sticking straight out and we peacefully slide onto the grass. It took me a second to get up and realize what had actually just happened but I loved every minute of it. Any chance that I get to go skydiving again, I would in a heartbeat. If you ever have the chance, you really should take it. The fear fades but the memories will last forever and it really was one of the greatest times in my life!

Posted by topspin98 21:53 Comments (1)

Tunnel Beach and the weekend in Dunedin

On Tuesday, I woke up to a phone call, text and fb post from Liz saying "please tell me you don't have class after 1:00." It looked like a beautiful day outside and I got back to her immediately saying that I didn't have class at all that day. She had wanted to go to Tunnel Beach and asked me to join since we hadn't seen each other all weekend. Around 3:00, although it had started to lightly rain, we trekked to Tunnel Beach. It was a half hour bus ride and a twenty minute walk but it was well worth the trip. Tunnel Beach is not your typical beach. There are huge rocks along the cost and even when you climb down the bottom to the tunnel. We climbed each rock and took tons of pictures. It was absolutely beautiful and watching the waves crash against the rocks was amazing. Liz and I were joined by two of her flatmates and we all took turns climbing through the tunnels and helping each other along the rocks. After about an hour of exploring (it wasn't a huge beach by any means), we walked back to the bus stop. We waited for about twenty five minutes before catching the bus back to the Otagon. On our walk back from the Octagon, we explored some of the shops that the city has to offer. All in all it was a fun afternoon.

Friday, Liz and I went back to exploring the town a little bit. We went to the Art Gallery in town and bought postcards and posters for our room. We went in and out of all the little shops and just laughed about everything along the way. That night, Caitlin, Katie, Sutroopa and I watched Stick It before heading to bed early. Saturday morning, a group from my flat + Liz went to the farmers market. It is held every Saturday morning from 8-1230 but since we are usually away, we have yet to make it. This was a fun little trip and it was a really cute market with nice vendors. From there, Liz and I traveled to the train station to have a look around. The train station in Dunedin is the most photographed building in New Zealand! Interesting right? It is very beautiful though! We split after this and did work during the day. That night, Liz came over for a BBQ with my flat and our kiwi host had also invited his football aka soccer team over for the night. We had a great time interacting with the kiwis before going out in Dunedin.

It was a great weekend and now we are trying to plan this coming weekend! Caitlin and I are possibly thinking about heading over to Wanaka for skydiving because it is supposed to be absolutely beautiful which would be perfect! Also, we are starting to plan our Easter break! I've been calling it spring break this entire time until the other day when I said it my kiwi friend said "hahaha spring break - SO AMERICAN" and then I realized it isn't spring here. Well that took long enough!

Posted by topspin98 01:42 Comments (0)

Queenstown, Bungy Jumping, and the Nevis Swing

I'm sorry it has been so long since I've updated this blog! During the week life is busy mostly with work and on the weekends it's obviously all fun and games! Two weekends ago, the group went to Queenstown. There were nine of us and we took Kevin's car and also rented a car. I went down in Kevin's car and, unfortunately, we got lost along the way. It was still a nice drive but we had to add about an extra hour to our travels. By the time we reached Queenstown, it was pouring rain and the other car had already unsuccessfully searched for campsites. All campsites were around $20 per night whereas staying at the Base X hostel was only $25. We decided to keep dry and stay there. This hostel holds about 150 kids so we had to share a room with two other people that we didn't know. We all walked around for the night just trying to get a sense of where we were and exploring some of the Queenstown nightlife. Around midnight, we went to sleep because we KNEW Saturday was going to be long. Everyone was planning on bungy jumping and we were waking up at 730 to meet at the travel place by eight to book our jumps! I could barely sleep that night just thinking about jumping but, surprisingly, it wasn't really fear. I was more excited for the thrill of it all than scared of actually jumping!

Finally, Saturday morning rolled around and we all assembled downstairs with all of our overnight bags. We walked to the cars to put our bags away before heading to the A.J. Hackett Booking Agency to try and get on the first bungy of the day. Six of us did the Nevis Bungy - the highest in NZ and third highest i the world (440 ft) - and the other two did the Kawaru Bungy - only 134 ft and you are jumping off of a bridge. I had decided that if I was going to jump, I wanted to do the biggest I could. It's go big or go home right? We traveled on a bus for about twenty minutes before dropping off all of the bridge jumpers. When they all got off, there were seven of us heading to Nevis (six in our group and one other male). We had to transfer to a smaller shuttle after another ten minutes and then took a ten minute ride up to our jump. Along the way I started to get a little more nervous but I wasn't letting my mind focus on it. As soon as we got there we were harnessed in and on our way out to the jump site. We had to take a small sort of cable car to get to the platform that was suspended between the mountains. One of the workers was informing us about how after the second bounce, we were going to be pulling a cord that would release our feet and allow us to be brought back up face up (like normal - we would just be harnessed by the waist). She said this was much more pleasant than coming up upside down (for those of you who have seen the video, you know the end result - for those that haven't read on if it isn't obvious yet!). Each jumper only took about five minutes for the entire process to be completed. After what felt like mere seconds, it was my turn to jump. I sat in a chair while the workers connected me to the bungy and informed me more about the cord to pull on my left side. They made sure the harnesses were tight, told me to say goodbye to the cameras and then helped me make my way out to the ledge. This was it - the moment of truth. I knew I was going to look down and be afraid but I was not leaving that platform without jumping. I really wanted to do this. I waved goodbye to my friends and then the guy behind me started to countdown. Instinctively, when he reached one, I jumped without even thinking for more than a quarter of a second. Then, after screaming for a second while thinking "what did I just do?" I realized that it was fun and I loved the thrill of it all. It was only eight seconds of freefall but it felt so much longer. The scariest part for me before I jumped was reaching the bottom and popping back up - I was unsure and uneasy about this feeling. After the first pop up, I was satisfied and thoroughly enjoying myself. After the second, I tried to pull the lever and it wasn't releasing my legs. I tried and tried (again for those of you who have seen the video you can see me physically curling my body up to try and yank at it) but I didn't have the strength to release them. Eventually, I gave in to the fact that I would be brought up upside and just decided to enjoy the view as best I could. When they pulled me up, I was in shock that I had actually done it but I felt great!

While we were waiting for others to finish up, my friend Caitlin looks at me and says "do the swing with me." This swing is called the Nevis Arc and it is the largest swing in the world starting at 646ft above the ground. You could go backwards, upside, forwards, side to side, individually, or with another person. She really wanted to do it but not alone. I told her I couldn't; I had had enough of a thrill for one day. But then she said those words that seem to change everything - "we're in New Zealand, come on" and of course, I was sold. We waited for like an hour and then got harnessed in for the swing. Caitlin wanted to go upside down and backwards but I could not handle both so we just planned on going backwards (for those who have seen pictures or watched the video, you know we did end up unintentionally going upside down and I can tell you that was one of the scariest moments in my life thus far). The guy running the swing was joking around with us before we went and after telling us to say goodbye to the cameras he said "so do you guys want a countdown or did you want a surprise" and with the word surprise, he dropped us. Caitlin and I were both taken so offguard that we screamed our heads off as we flipped over while flying down. Once that first drop was over, it was really great to just swing back and forth and take in more of the scenery. (We also kept pointing saying how much we hated that guy for doing that but, all in all, it adds to the excitement and the story.) For those of you who haven't seen the pictures or the videos, I strongly recommend that you watch them! They are unbelievable and I am working on trying to get them in an email for anyone that does not have a facebook!

We took the buses back down and met our friends for lunch by the pier. There was a small market going on so we looked around while enjoying the beautiful day and still getting over the shakiness that had overtaken our bodies from the adrenalin. Some of the group members went to go check out a campsite for the night while Caitlin and I rode the gondola to the top of the Skyline. From here, we could see over all of Queenstown and it was absolutely spectacular. After a while of gazing and browsing the tourist shop they have at the top, we hiked down one of the trails and walked back to the beach. We hung out here for a while before deciding to go explore. On our exploration, we climbed huge rocks, went on regular swings (which we both decided weren't as fun as the Nevis Arc), and walked around the edges of the beach. Finally, our group was back in town and we met them for dinner and to take pictures near the beach at night. We walked around for a while and explored a little more of the Queenstown nightlife before driving back to our campsite and hanging out a bonfire before bed. A couple of us sat around the bonfire talking until about midnight before going to sleep.

The next morning, we woke up around seven to try and make the sunrise. Although we made it, the day was much too cloudy to really see anything but it was still good to get an early start on the drive back. Tyler, Caitlin, and I slept mostly the entire way while Katie and Alex talked in the front seats. When we returned back to 61 Duke, we all unpacked, skyped with our parents about our bungy experience, and took long overdue naps. It was then time to do work and let the week take its normal path.

Posted by topspin98 01:14 Comments (1)

The Catlins

Before I start talking about my weekend, I want to say that I hope all of my family is doing alright and I wish that I could be with you all at this time! When I received the news on Thursday I was upset like everyone else but, it is something that I needed to know. I talked to my parents and some very good friends here and am feeling better and miss you all so much!

That being said, I was hesitant about still heading to the Catlins this weekend but I decided that it might be a good idea to help try and take my mind off of everything. The group consisted of me, Katie, Caitlin, Sutroopa, Alex and Steve. We rented a car from Rent-A-Dent and then were off to the start of our adventure. It took us until about seven to reach the Catlins and we thought our first stop should be Nugget Point since it was along the way. We thought we could watch the sunset there and then head to our campsite. Unfortunately, when we arrived at Nugget Point, it started to downpour and the gates were closed. On that note, we decided to try and find the campsite that was recommended by the Recreation Coordinator at our school. This campsite was SUPPOSED to be located in Paptowai and I say it that way because, as you might of guessed, the campsite was no longer open (we found this out the next day). So after looking for about an hour, we saw a sign that said public toilets and picnic area and decided to camp out here for the night. Although it is not looked upon highly in New Zealand, it is not against the law to camp anywhere as long as there isn't a sign saying otherwise. We set up our tents in the pouring rain and dragged all of our gear inside. Everyone was freezing and the guys tent was right next to ours. We all just tried to sleep in our clothes because it was too cold to change and our sleeping bags would hopefully be able to draw out the moisture. At around eleven, we realized that our tent was leaking on Sutroopa. She decided to go sleep in the van and since I didn't want her sleeping there alone, I followed. She had the middle seat and I had the back seat and we spent the night tossing and turning until 7:45 finally rolled around. While the sun was rising, we were able to see a small beach located at our campsite and we took pictures of the sunrise while taking the tents apart and repacking the van. The group decided that it would be a good idea to find the campsite now so that we would have a better understanding of what we were looking for tonight. Eventually, we pulled over at a beach and we asked a man who was taking a surfboard out of his truck. He informed us that the Papatowai campsite had been shut down about a year ago due to plumbing issues. No wonder we couldn't find it! From here, we decided to head to Cathedral Caves since you could only go inside of them at low tide. At this point, it was about 9:30 in the morning and it started to pour again. The head of the caves came to our car and informed us that if we wanted to go down, we had to leave now because it was a fifteen minute walk to the caves and because of the rain, the tide was already getting higher. We sprinted down and spent a good amount of time admiring the caves. They were absolutely huge and connected through the back. We all found it amusing to keep running away when the water was rushing through! After, we spent a little time on the beach outside of the caves before taking the hike back up. The caves were the farthest point that we wanted to reach on this trip so we decided to work our way backwards and hope that we found a campsite whenever the day was over. The caves were the first thing I wanted to see on my list and after that, I was really, really excited for the waterfalls! We went to Parakanui Falls, Matai Falls, and Horseshoe Falls. The plan was to go swimming but the water was a brown color and instead we decided just to admire them beacuse they truly were beautiful. From Horseshoe Falls, we traveled to Jack's Blowhole to see what we could find. The walk from where we parked to the actual Blowhole was absolutely gorgeous and, even though we didn't get to see the Blowhole spout, it was still worth it. We had a picnic at the beach located next to Jack's Blowhole and then traveled through Owaka to Surat Bay. During low tide on Surat Bay, seals will just hang out on the beach. When we were there, the tide was going down but unfortunately, we didn't see anything. It was still fun to play around on the beach and then walk through the wild grass. From Surat Bay, we traveled to Cannibal Bay which was awesome. Cannibal Bay had a ton of rough rocks located on the left and all were different heights. The goal was to try and make it all the way to the end without getting wet. Steve and I played this for a while - watching the wave come in and then fall back, running to the top of the next rock, waiting again and so on. It was fun and we got pretty far but after a while, I decided to turn around and go back to the others while steve climbed up the side of the mountain. We were taking pictures on the beach when all of a sudden we hear Steve yelling at us from above! He slowly climbed down and joined us but it was really cool that he had made it all the way to the top. From Surat Bay we contemplated whether we should head for Nugget Point or try to find a campsite. We didn't want to have to set up in the rain again especially since we had no idea where we were going. We decided to try and find a campsite but the road we were on eventually led us to Nugget Point so we decided why not. We followed the trail all the way to the poin - which is a lighthouse - and we watched the sunset from here. It is called Nugget Point because below the lighthouse there are many small rocks that look like little nuggets. Sitting on these nuggets, we were able to see tons of seals! We watched the seals and goofed around for a while until deciding we really had to leave. About five meters down the road was Roaring Bay so we all jumped out, took a quick look/picture, and then jumped back in the car. Around Kaka Point, we started seeing some signs of a campsite and we stopped off to get dinner and ask. The campsite was right up the road from where we were! The van arrived at the campsite around eight o'clock and we were able to properly set up our tent while we could all see/still feel our fingers. After having the tent set up, we washed up in the bathroom before talking and going to sleep. Alarms were set for 7am on Sunday morning.

At seven am, we all grumpily woke up. I say grumpily because we were still tired from not sleeping all that well but as we started putting away our tents and getting ready, we knew it would be worth it. The van started down the hill to Kaka Point and we got a glimpse of the sunrise we had all woken up to see. By this point, we were energized and ready. We watched the sunrise from the beach and it was the most spectacular view I have ever seen in my life. For anyone who has had a chance to look at my pictures, it was one hundred times better than those even look. I can't describe the true beauty but it was amazing. When the sun had finally been lost behind a cloud, we all took our positions in the van and drove back to 61 Duke. Now it was about ten am and we were all exhausted. After showering, it was time for a much needed nap. Sunday night consisted of work and hanging out with the crew.

Monday wasn't anything special either. I went to my Econ class, hung out with Liz at the library, and then went to my psychology research study. We are examining the effects of whether a sign saying 'take the stairs' has an actual impact on people. We have to sit in the hallway of one of the schools buildings for four weeks to collect the data. I sat next to one of my group members named Brodie and we talked while we took down the information. Needless to say, I wasn't bored. Later that night, Shir was going for a walk through the Botanical Gardens so I went with her. We left at around 7:45 and walked and talked until 9:15. Not knowing that the park gates closed at 8:30, we were trapped inside! We had to climb over the first gate (which was located on a bridge so that was somewhat sketchy) and then climbed over the fence leading out to the street through the park's parking lot. Upon arriving home, we found out that the group was waiting for us to talk about this weekend's trip. We have a group of about ten people and we are all going to Queenstown! This weekend will consist of tramping, seeing the town, and, finally, BUNGY JUMPING! We are doing the Nevis Bungy (the tallest in NZ - 440ft) and I am so excited to go!

Posted by topspin98 23:03 Comments (2)

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