3-2-1-BUNGY!

Ever since I've been a kid, I've always been adventurous. My dad and I would always try to sneak me on the big kid roller coasters even though I was still slightly too short. When my travel buddy, Viktor, said the #1 thing he wanted to do in New Zealand is bungy jump, at first I brushed it off.

I already went skydiving at over 10,000 feet with a 50-second free fall--bungy jumping should be nothing comparatively. The Nevus Bungy is the largest bungy jump in New Zealand. It used to be the biggest in the world until a bigger one was built in Macau, China. Even so, at 134 meters (440 feet) with 8.5 seconds of free fall, I thought it still couldn't compare to skydiving.

However, since a couple of my excursions in Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier were cancelled, I had some money left over and decided to go for it. 

Queenstown is the home of the first commercial bungy jump in the world.  If I was going to bungy anywhere, it should be there. 

After meeting at the bungy office in Queenstown, I was weighed and signed some "I won't sue you if I die" papers. We were driven about 40 minutes out to a canyon that, apparently, we were going to jump into.

Yeah, that white thing on the top left? That's the gondola I jumped out of.

Yeah, that white thing on the top left? That's the gondola I jumped out of.

The Nevus Bungy team was great. They paid a lot of attention to us, our harnesses, and our questions. Finally, we headed out to the canyon. There was a cable wire connected to both sides of the canyon with a seemingly small gondola in the middle which hung about 350 meters above the river.

While waiting for the mini gondola to bring us to the big, stationary gondola in the middle of the canyon, we got to watch a couple jumpers. They fell so much farther than I expected they would. From that angle, you could really see how much the bungy stretched once the jumper got toward the bottom.

It was pretty scary to watch but I was excited! Viktor has been talking since the day I met him about how afraid he was and how big of a deal it was. Well, it was obvious as we looked over the canyon, that that feeling didn't go away. 

We took the little gondola to the stationary gondola in the middle of the canyon. It was a very small and open gondola. Only about four or five people fit in it and we could feel the wind sway us back and forth.

Fun fact that we found out when arriving to the stationary gondola: IT HAD GLASS FLOORS!! That was something we were not expecting.

When we got to the stationary gondola, there was loud pump up music playing. I'm guessing it was supposed to get us PUMPED UP to jump into a canyon! A woman that I met on the Milford Sound cruise, and knew was bungy jumping that same day, was all set up and being coaxed to jump by one of the workers. Apparently, the pump up music wasn't working for her because she must have been up there for 15 minutes.Her husband video recorded every second of the coaxing to make sure he didn't miss her bungy. He didn't.

The gondola roared with applause as she jumped and when she was brought back up. She was so happy when she noticed we were behind her the whole time. I had to ask, "What did they tell you to get you to jump?"

She smiled a quivering smile and said, "The guy finally asked me, 'Other than fear, what is preventing you from doing one of the coolest things you can do on this planet?'"

It made sense to her then. After she thought about her kids and how proud they would be of her when she jumped, she bluntly replied, "Nothing," and jumped!

We were all so proud of her!

Viktor was next. I'm surprised he didn't piss his pants. He kept repeating how terrified he was. I told him that if he keeps talking it up to himself it'll only make it worse! To be honest, I think it was more fun for him to make himself as afraid as possible. Makes sense, I guess. 

Viktor jumped with his GoPro in hand and then it was my turn. Well, here it is in photos. 

Getting strapped up while Viktor is brought up.

Getting strapped up while Viktor is brought up.

See ya!

See ya!

Disclaimer: Bungy jumping is more scary than (tandem) skydiving.

It was amazing. It was truly an out-of-body experience. As they were setting me up in the chair, there was a big gust of wind that shook the gondola. They are very careful about high winds so I had to wait a few seconds before they gave me the OK. 

The guy took be by the back of my harness and basically walked me off the plank. When I got to the edge, they dropped my bungy cord which gave my ankles a small, yet terrifying, pull. It was time.

3 - 2 - 1 - BUNGY!

I didn't jump. My body did. At least, that's how it felt. It was amazing. I free fell for a total of 8 seconds, which was plenty of time to comprehend what I just did. Unlike tandem skydiving, I did all of this myself. I shuffled my way to the edge of the gondola basically by myself, I looked down, and I had total control. With tandem skydiving, you really don't have a choice. You have very little control where with bungy jumping, I stared at the river 488 feet below me and just went for it. Yeah, I might have had a thought or two that jumping would result in whip lash or a broken bungy cord, but I'd have a pretty boring life if I don't scare and surprise myself sometimes.

Bungy jumping 440 feet didn't leave me in pain like I thought it would. The only thing that was a bit uncomfortable, and totally wicked, was that it was hard to breathe for a bit mid-jump. It's weird because I don't remember that feeling when skydiving. I couldn't have had that much trouble breathing while skydiving, though, because I free fell for almost a full 60 seconds. 

Long story short, bungy jumping is incredible. It is a must-do when visiting Queenstown. 

See the full video below!

Cheers,

Shelly

TranzAlpine Train

The whole reason I went to Christchurch was to take the TranzAlpine Train across the middle of the south island. I didn't hear about this incredible train until I met Viktor (typical). 

Viktor and I got up early and had the YMCA Hostel call us a taxi to get to the rail station. When we made our reservations, we requested to be seated on the right side of the train. My mom, an avid TripAdvisor searcher, found a comment saying that if you sit on the right side of the train when going from Christchurch to Greymouth and the left side of the train when going the other way, you don't even have to leave your seat to get the best views. 

Let's just say, even though I took Mama Max's advice (thanks, Mom), I was on the windowless observation deck 60% of the time. 

(See why below)

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We passed a couple little "villages" that only had a few cottages like this one. This was the whole village excluding the small train station.

We passed a couple little "villages" that only had a few cottages like this one. This was the whole village excluding the small train station.

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The whole price of the TranzAlpine Train was about NZ$140. It is a bit pricey just for transportation. However, I've come to find that transportation, whether it's by bus or train, is also an excursion. The views you get by traveling on the ground in this country are incredible, especially on the south island.

Don't just fly. Take 2 short months out of your life and really experience New Zealand. Rent a car or campervan! Buy an Intercity Flexi Pass! Take the TranzAlpine Train! Anything that'll keep you on the ground while exploring.

 

Cheers,  

Shelly

Christchurch

Four years ago, Christchurch had an earthquake that destroyed most of the city. Today, you can still see the destruction. I stayed in the YMCA Hostel in Christchurch for only one night but just from walking to the grocery store and back, I could very much see how much the earthquake affected the city. 

There was so much construction and road detours going on. In addition, they had to quickly replace the damaged buildings. For example, after the quake, a cardboard church was created down the street from the damaged one. The new church was built to seat 700 people and is held up by a concrete foundation and cardboard tubes.  

I also passed a make-shift mall made out of cargo shipping boxes.  

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There isn't really much to see in Christchurch, to be honest. However, it was interesting to see how much an earthquake can affect a city 4 years later.

Viktor and I also made our first real meal in a hostel.  We had chicken, broccoli, and baked potatoes. Yum!

I went to bed early because my TranzAlpine train left early the next morning. It was beautiful so make sure you read my next post! 

 

Cheers, 

Shelly

Abel Tasman Coastal Track

I left early morning on Friday 10/9 to get a bus up to Marahau to start the trek. I left most of my stuff at the hostel (I was coming back in a few days) but I was able to pack everything I needed in my big backpack. Along with my clothes and food that would last me a few days, my tent and sleeping bag fit inside my backpack. I had to strap the sleeping mat to the outisde of my bag. I brought almost all of my warm clothes because I knew it was going to be cold at night. Each day I decided to wear 3/4 length leggings with a tank top and my chambray shirt to protect me from the sun and sandflies as much as possible.

Day 1 Trek to Bark Bay 

On the first day we walked 16 miles along the coast of the north part of the south island. We started our walk at around 9:45am and arrived at our campsite, Bark Bay, at 5:30pm. It was a gorgeous, but tough, hike. I was probably carrying about 35-40 pounds on my back. On the first day, there were a few big hills, but the trek was mainly up in the mountains; it didn't go down to sea level often. 

Cleopatra's Pool

Cleopatra's Pool

For lunch, we took a 20 minute detour to Cleopatra's Pool. It looked so pristine and untouched. Even though the Abel Tasman Coastal Trek is the most popular overnight trek in New Zealand, everyone here respects it so much. You won't find any trash cans along the way, for example, you have to take all your 'rubbish' with you. When we got to the pool, there were a bunch of high school boys playing in the water. The water was much too cold for me so I just watched and soaked my sore feet. The water flowed from upstream down a big rock face and made a slide right underneath. All the kids were going down it. I happily watched them play and shiver as I warmly ate my chicken and vegetable pie on a big rock.  

The rest of the trek was just as beautiful. There were these huge ferns that looked like palm trees that made the forest look like a tropical wilderness. A couple times we walked down to the beach and through caves to take a short, interesting detour break.

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We passed a town that, I'm pretty sure, is impossible to get to without a boat at high tide. I have never seen tides so dramatic than at Nelson and Abel Tasman. When the tide goes out, you can just see tens of boats standed on the water, anchors still down.  It looks like a desert with big puddles here and there. You can't even see the ocean or bay.

Example of the extreme tides of Abel Tasman coastline

Example of the extreme tides of Abel Tasman coastline

Andy and I finally arrived to Bark Bay and I immediately spotted where I was going to set up my tent. It was right next to the beach, overlooking the water. I knew that it would be the perfect position to watch the sun rise over the water the next morning. With just a little help, I put up my tent and organized myself. I changed out of my sweaty clothes and put on comfy, warm ones. The sandflies in the south island are awful and they only get worse the more south you go along the west coast. I had my ankles exposed for no longer than 7 seconds and they were torn up by the sandflies. Sandflies look like big gnats that just surround you. Before I left, I bought a can of Bushman insect/sandfly repellent--it really works! Once I sprayed that on my skin and clothes, you'd see the sandflies fly around you but never actually land on your skin. There was also a few sandflies that got in my tent and congregated into one corner. Before bed I sprayed them and was delighted to watch them die. Sorry, that was morbid. 

There was a dutch couple at our campsite as well as the group of boys from Cleopatra's Pool. The boys were on the trek participating in Duke of Edinburgh. Apparently, it's this program that started in the UK that looks great on a resume because it shows you can commit to something and be very resourceful. Basically, you just go on all of these outdoorsy adventures and gain degrees (bronze, silver, gold) and some important person from the UK presents your metal to you after you complete a certain number of tasks. The boys were great because they were excited to make a fire for the whole campsite. We all huddled around the campfire for a bit once it got dark before bed. 

 

Day 2 Trek to Totaranui

The night was quite cold and quite uncomfortable. The inside of my tent was damp from the dew and I didn't have much of a pillow, but I was proud I did it. I got up the next morning around 6:30am to watch the sunrise. Then, I had some apple and peanut butter for breakfast, filled up my water bottles with the treated water, and packed up all of my stuff for the next leg of my trek.

View of the sunrise over the bay from my tent.

View of the sunrise over the bay from my tent.

Andy slept in his hammock which was much more comfortable than the ground. I was thinking about getting one but a hammock would have been much more expensive than the gear I bought.  

Brave dutch couple who took a morning dip.

Brave dutch couple who took a morning dip.

A few parts of my hike on day 2 wad walking along the sandy shorelines. Of course I had to take off my boots and stretch out my sore feet.

A few parts of my hike on day 2 wad walking along the sandy shorelines. Of course I had to take off my boots and stretch out my sore feet.

On day 2, Andy and I walked another 16 miles to Totaranui. This trek was much more diverse and steep. For a bit we walked along or on the beach then we would hike up the mountains and walk along the cliff looking over the ocean. Then, of course, we'd make more treks down to the beach and up in the mountains again. It would have been a moderate trek without a 40 lb backpack, but I wasn't used to carrying so much weight. Even though it was tough, we kept a good pace. 

We hit the Awaroa Inlet about half way to our destination. We approahed a sign that said "Lodge and Cafe This Way." What?!? We are in the wilderness. Granted, it would have taken us about an hour out of our way which we couldn't risk. You want to make sure you get to the campsite much before sunset. Actually, 6:30pm is a great time to arrive because it's still light out and there aren't many sandflies left at that time.  

The Awaroa Inlet is one of the most important crossings you have to time and plan correctly. There are only about 3.5 hours during the day where it is safe to cross because it is very low tide. We got there in plenty of time and decided to take a break. Andy and I grabbed a snack and took a mini nap on the dry sand that only hours before was the sea shore. 

Usually, I hate sand. But at this point, I was just so dirty and sweaty that it didn't even matter if I or any of my things got more dirty.  

Crystal clear waters of New Zealand

Crystal clear waters of New Zealand

dried up shark friend

dried up shark friend

Through the inlet we had to cross pools of water flowing out to sea that came up to our knees. My water shoes might have come in handy at this point because there were so many shells and crabs at our feet. It took us about 45 minutes to cross the inlet and dry ourselves off.

We walked a bit more and when we hit one of our last beach stretches of the day, Andy and I decided to look for mussels since it was low tide. We found 10 or 12 and carried them to our next campsite, Totaranui, where we could let them soak in fresh water for a couple hours. 

Andy and I set up our site and had some dinner. Hummus, peanut butter and crackers for me! Then later that night the boys from Duke of Edinburgh and Andy got lots of driftwood from the beach (and two huge logs for us to sit on) and made a fire. We placed the mussels on a 2x4 over the fire to cook them. Some we just put in the embers. The ones that opened we ate and they were delicious! They also had a smokey flavor that you don't normally find.  

Day 3 Lazy Beach Day 

On day 3 I had my water taxi booked to take me from Totaranui back to Marahau at 3:15pm. We were planning on doing a small loop trek but I had a couple blisters and we were more in the mood for a beach day. After watching the sunrise, I lie on the beach all day. It was glorious. 

The Dutch couple joined us. The girl had an internship in Hamilton (which she advised me not to go to because it's so boring) and her boyfriend was visiting for a few weeks. 

Andy was planning to just hike a bit further that day and hitchhike down the coast but we could see very few roads on the map. He decided to go on the water taxi instead.  Our water taxi showed up and took us around to some seal colonies. 

seal!

seal!

It was such service! Our water taxi driver pulled right up to shore on the trailer of a tractor then got off the boat and drove the tractor, with us still in the boat attached, all the way up to a cafe in town. I was craving so many different kinds of foods so I bought sea salt and vinegar chips and a Snickers bar.   

We got the bus back to Nelson and it dropped me right off at Paradiso, my hostel. Andy got dropped off in town so he could get a Burger King burger, which he was craving.

That night I met Viktor. We found out we were flying out of Queenstown the same day. I really didn't plan my route (I've rarely planned things on this trip) but Viktor had basically the next couple weeks all planned day by day. I wrote down his route and decided to go for it. I figured, I only have a short amount of time left and I want to see so much. By this point, I'm going to have to plan a little bit (or, at least, let Viktor plan for me). Thanks, V! 

 

Cheers, 

Shelly