Over the last 2 weeks, I’ve spent my time exploring the southern island of New Zealand, aka Te Wai Pounamu. It was so different from what I’m used to. The country was absolutely amazing, but so different from the United States. To start, there was more country side than cities! Their population is a little over 4 million and I think that’s awesome. Everywhere I went seemed to be in the middle of nowhere surrounded by stunning views and 100% nature. I loved it.
I began my journey leaving Christchurch to hop on the Tranz Alpine train that takes me to Greymouth, a small town on the northwest coast of the southern island. I was traveling on the TranzAlpine Back Paddock tour. The trip started off slow, as it was only 8am and we were about an hour away from anything significant. We were told there was a huge snowstorm in the mountains and that it would create the perfect winter wonderland. As I was finishing eating breakfast, I looked outside the window and stared in amazement at the Southern Alps. I’ve never seen mountains so big before! Slowly, the train started to
climb the mountains and we were able to jump out at some stations to take photos. It was cold, but totally worth capturing the views. The train is also where I met my new Irish friends for the trip, Brian and Emma, a newly wedded couple traveling on their honeymoon.
When I arrived in Greymouth, I met up with the tour bus and hopped on and began my journey south! We stopped at a pub/hostel for the night that was specifically opened for us. It was over 100 years old and full of traditions that we took part in all night. The owner was close to 90 years old and was hilarious. He hated the Government and had a funny way of expressing his opinions. Absolutely hilarious. As I was there, I had the chance to walk to the beach and a huge lake to take pictures. Overall, it was a very fun night.
The next stop was probably the best. I arrived in Fox to skydive and hike a glacier. I spent 2 days there and had a blast. As soon as I arrived, I went skydiving. I was persuaded to pay an extra $100 to jump 4,000ft higher at 16,000ft! Totally worth the extra money, as it is the ranked as the second best place to jump in the world! The entire experience of jumping was enjoyable. I wasn’t scared at all until the VERY small plane’s doors opened at 16,000ft ready for us to jump. I was first to go and just told myself I’m supposed to fall so don’t be scared lol. After I swung out the door, my instructor tapped my shoulder signaling to get in the jump position. We rocked back and then flew forward, flipping as we were free falling. The initial reaction of falling was the best thing I’ve ever experienced. I just remember seeing the bottom of the plane and getting blasted by a lot of wind! Five minutes later, we were on the ground celebrating a great jump! I was able to see over the Southern Alps and see Lake Wanaka and all the way down to the Milford Sound! EPIC!!
The next day I went to Fox Glacier guides to prepare for my all day hike. Brian and Emma surprised me and joined our hike. We had the best day. The climb began and we were instantly climbing up the side of the mountain, experiencing the hardest terrain of the day. Once we reached our highest point of the day, we started taking pictures of the view. You could see the entire glacier and all the surrounding mountains. 30 minutes later, we stepped on the glacier and began our ice adventure. The ice was so blue! Brian, Emma and I spent the entire day talking and having fun on the ice. We hiked all the way up to the ice falls and got into the crevasses and caves. I’m so happy I picked this specific hike. After the long day, we went into an old tavern to sit by the fire, drink hot chocolate, and to eat a well deserved meal. This was probably my favorite day of the entire trip.
On the fourth day, I spent the entire time on our bus traveling to Lake Wanaka to catch a shuttle to Queenstown. It was a lot of driving, but we had the chance to stop, eat and take a bunch of pictures. The drive to Wanaka was especially nice. On the left side we had the mountains and on the right we had the coast. Once I arrived in Wanaka, I jumped on a shuttle right away to Queenstown. I kind of wish I had more time to stay overnight with the group, but at the time, I had too many things planned in Queenstown to care!
Queenstown is a must see. The small winter town is so much fun! After fixing my hostel reservation mixup, I enjoyed walking around the town. I had the best cookie of my life at Cookie Time, a small popular store on their main street. In Queenstown, I took the gondola up to the top of the mountain, went snowboarding at Coronet’s Peak, and experienced their Nightlife! Oh yeah, I ate at Fergburger!!! BEST burger I’ve ever had. Snowboarding was so cool! I’ve never boarded in big mountains before. I turned my iPod on and just spent the afternoon carving it up!
I also met up with Brian and Emma on my last night. We ate at Furburger and then went to the Irish bar to warm up. After an hour, I took them to Cowboys, a very authentic country bar. An hour later, we decided to do our own pub crawl and hit up a few other bars before returning to Cowboys. It ended up being our favorite place of the night. We spent the entire night there playing shuffle board, pool and sitting by the fire. Sadly, I had to say goodbye to them that night as we walked out separate ways. I’m so happy I met them. They made my entire trip and shared some of my favorite memories of New Zealand. Hopefully things work out and I can travel to Ireland to see them again!
My second day in Queenstown, I actually took a day trip to Milford Sound. The weather was perfect and the fresh snow was everywhere! The trip and scenery alone was worth paying to go to Milford. We stopped at Mirror Lake to look at one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. The lake was 100% reflective and you could see the mountains in it. We drove through a huge tunnel that opened up into the Milford Sound. I couldn’t believe that the mountains went straight into the water. Huge glaciers carved out the fiord and left the space that would become Milford Sound. After thousands of years, the sea water rose and filled in the space. It was a sight to see. I recommend taking a day to see the Milford Sound if you’re in New Zealand.
Lastly, I traveled back to Christchurch, where I experienced my first earthquake that I actually felt. I was sleeping when he first quake hit and I woke up to my roommates jumping around yelling. I also saw our light swinging a lot. I laid back down and a few minutes later started shaking to the second quake! It might sound bad to say, but I was kind of excited to experience an earthquake. The next day, I spent a few hours walking around the city… or what’s left of it. Christchurch was destroyed from the Earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. They are taking down over 1,500 structures and anything that is over 10 stories tall. I spent the day learning about what happened during the quakes. It was pretty bad. I didn’t enjoy my time there at all. I just wanted to get on the plane and come back to Australia… or go back to Queenstown!
Overall, my trip was amazing. I’m so happy I did it. Every time I travel, I learn so much and meet new people. I want to continue traveling and experiencing new things. You should too! You only have one life to life, so live it up! Don’t make the mistake of living a boring life. Take risks and go for it!