Saturday, May 14, 2011

New Zealand

New Zealand
Most of you think I lead a pretty exciting life in Melbourne.  How is this for exciting:  It is Friday night at 9PM and I am sitting on the couch in my sweats writing this blog and watching the Notebook (yep I moved to Australia for this!).  In my defense, I am recovering from probably the worst case of tonsillitis I have ever had, it’s cold and rainy out, and I am resting up for a Yarra Valley wine tour with the newbies tomorrow.
Enough about that, I am here to update you on my recent escapades around parts of the Southern Hemisphere.  Way too much has happened since my last post so I’m going to focus on New Zealand for this post and hopefully it won’t take me too long to get to the rest.
Kelly and I flew to New Zealand on April 17 (its only a short 3.5 hour flight – I am definitely going back soon).  The best part of the trip happened just after we got through the slowest-moving customs line known to man………we were reunited with our long lost Minnesota friends!!!  Our week in New Zealand was the beginning of a 3 week vacation for our friends Rachelle (RK), Heather (HK), Dave (DK), and Sara O (I am currently searching for a guy with a last name starting with ‘K’ for Sara to marry so she fits in with the rest of the group.  Anyone who is interested please send me an email at  When I saw them, I may have jumped up and down and ran through the airport with two backpacks on (is it still called a backpack when I was carrying it on my front?).  It has been 6 months since I left Minnesota so it was so great to see them!
We travelled the South Island of New Zealand from Sunday to Saturday.  It was much too short of a trip.  I now understand why everyone told me we weren’t spending enough time in New Zealand.  Luckily it’s close to Australia so I definitely want to return (at least once more) while I am still living in Australia.  New Zealand was honestly too amazing for words, but I’ll give it a try.  Here is a very brief recap of our days in NZ:
 We made our way from the airport to our hostel in Queenstown. We could see right away why everyone who had been there had such great things to say – Queenstown is beautiful!  The mountains, the lake, the autumn colors – all of it was beautiful.  Even the view from our $20/night hostel was unbeatable.  Check it out:

Our first meal in Queenstown came highly recommended – Fergburger.  It did not disappoint!

We had an early start on Monday as we boarded a bus for Milford Sound at 6:30 a.m.  As we got closer to Milford Sound the views became even more spectacular (I am struggling to find different ways to say beautiful when describing the New Zealand scenery).  Luckily there were plenty of opportunities to stop and take pictures.   After a 5 hour drive to Milford Sound we boarded a boat for a 2 hour boat ride on Milford Sound.  I won’t even try to describe it – just check out these pictures:

On the way to Milford Sound

Time for some extreme activities!  We started the day white water rafting – a first for DK, RK, HK, and Kelly.  Even though my feet were frozen from sitting in a puddle of water, the experience was well worth it.  Rachelle broke her oar when she didn’t pull it in far enough when we had to get down in the raft.  Luckily our guide chief had an extra.  Then we nearly lost all of our oars when we got stuck on a rock and then capsized.  We all tumbled into the water except Kelly.  The whole thing lasted only about 45 seconds however, it felt much longer.  I will never forgot the look of terror on Rachelle’s face and she was stuck in the water trying to free her legs from the raft.  Good news – we all survived and the experience led to many great laughs throughout the rest of the trip.
The only pictures we have from the rafting are actual photos and I don’t have a scanner.   But you can check out our video.  The video also has lots of generic footage.  Fast forward to 4:30  (the tunnel).  Once the music changes and speeds up you’ll see us coming towards the rapid….and then getting stuck on the rack. Keep watching – it’s so good they actually show it twice!
Quote of the day (Sara to our guide, Chief): “What’s a Sheep Shagger?”
There was no time to recover from the rafting adrenaline rush before Sara and I were on to the next adventure – the world’s tallest tandem canyon swing.  The others signed up for skydiving, but I have decided that skydiving is not in the cards for me as I have tried to go skydiving 3 times and God has stopped me every time.   A girl would be insane not to listen to a sign like that!  Luckily Sara thought she would be safer doing the canyon swing so I had someone to share the experience with.
In one word, the canyon swing was TERRIFYING!  For those of you who don’t know what it is, its very similar to bungee jumping except you are in a full harness instead of just a strap around your legs and after your free fall the cord does not stretch and then bounce back.  It’s just a nice leisurely swing.
A video would probably help you understand better.  Check out this video of our jump:
The canyon swing workers really were horrible, horrible people.  They filled our heads with stories of people jumping into rocks, the cords not being able to support the weight of two people,  etc.  And they would not stop.  Even when I asked them in a very nice, high pitched frightened voice. 
I think I am done with extreme activities.

RK, DK, HK, and Kelly couldn’t skydive on Tuesday due to the weather so they went skydiving on Wednesday morning while Sara and I went to pick up the rental car - my first time driving on the left side of the road.  And it actually felt pretty natural!
We left Queenstown for Franz Josef.   Although the road was steep and curvier it really was not as scary as I thought (it must have been Dave’s great navigational skills or his constant “Tawnya, you are too close to the edge” comments).  The view was again AMAZING and we could have stopped a hundred times to explore (and take pictures) but we had a glacier to climb in Franz Josef!
Quote of the day (Kelly while playing catch phrase):  “San Francisco has this!…..Wait, I mean McDonald’s has these!” (answer:  Golden Arches)
Glacier hike day!  We opted for the pricey, but highly recommended helihike.  We took a short helicopter ride to the middle of the glacier where we did a 2 hour hike.  Again…..Beautiful.  I’ll stop talking now and let the photos speak for themselves.

We left Franz Josef and drove to Greymouth where we caught the Tranz Alpine train to Christchurch.  Before the trip I read online that this was supposed to be the most scenic railway in the world.  I guess it might be the most scenic railway but it didn’t compare to the drive from Queenstown to Franz Josef.  So we opted for reading some Chelsea Handler instead.  Chelsea Handler reminds me a lot of Kelly.  I hope Kelly gets her own talk show and becomes a New York Times Bestseller.  I hope she does not refer to me as “Dumb Dumb” like Chelsea refers to one of her former roommates.
Reading Chelsea Handler on the train

Nothing to report here – Kelly and I were up at 4:30 a.m. to get to the airport for our flight to Sydney.  But that’s a tale for another day.
The pictures of New Zealand truly are amazing (have I said that enough yet).  If you want to check out more you can visit the share site we set up:
There are over 1000 pictures on the website so I hope you have a lot of free time.
After I finished writing all of this, blogspot will not let me post anything.  I had to explain this so you didn’t think I was a liar when I post it later and it is really not 9PM on a Friday night J

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