This past week the University of Queensland kicked us kids off campus and told us to go relax for a week on mid-semester break. Few of us argued. In fact, some of us even decided to relax in a different country! Seven friends and I hopped on a plane over to New Zealand for the week to see if we could find ourselves a good time.
Note: I’m really happy to be keeping a blog throughout my travels, but I’ve struggled to figure out how to accurately put in words how gorgeous this trip was. Where I have to apologize in advance for the simple fact that I won’t be able to convey 100% of the true beauty and wonder of this trip, I’m glad that there is some record of this trip and that I’m able to share it with you.
The trip began in Christchurch, a town struck by a massive earthquake a few years ago and riddled with aftershocks ever since. Our stay was brief, we stayed one night after arriving fairly late and departed the next morning towards the West Coast, but it was probably where I had my closest call with any significant danger. We had decided that we wanted to save money and rent a car as a group. We were only able, as insurance ruled, to designate three drivers. I was one of them and volunteered to take the first leg. I got the whole driving-on-the-left thing down after only fifteen circles around the parking lot and decided I was ready for the road. After about thirty seconds after I got on the road towards the West Coast I entered a roundabout successfully and exited rather unsuccessfully, cutting off a fairly large car who didn’t hesitate to lay on the horn for a solid ten seconds. No one in the car said anything, but the tension in the air was tangible. Needless to say I checked my blindspots’ blindspots from there on in.
The drive to the West Coast was stunning. This is where words won’t do the beauty justice. I’ll leave it at that.
The main city on the West Coast is Greysmouth, but since I was travelling with two other students from my home town in the states, Westport, Connecticut, we took a northern detour and stayed the night in Westport, New Zealand, about an hour north of Greysmouth. The day in Westport consisted of a gorgeous walk through a rainforest which led to the mouth of the cave. We entered the cave and after about 30 minutes of crawling and climbing and staring in awe we came to a natural tavern full of glow worms. When we all turned our headlamps off it was like we were able to see the night sky from within the cave. Again, stunning.
The next day we made our way to Franz Josef where we booked a guided tour to the Franz Josef Glacier through the valley it created years ago. The valley was marvellous but probably the most amazing thing were two things that the guide informed the group of: 1) there are two splinter type faults that branch off from the main intercontinental fault that runs along the West Coast and one of those splinter faults crossed right through the valley we stood within, scary stuff. 2) I was under the impression that all glaciers move at a glacial pace, metaphorically speaking. It turns out that this glacier is not only receding noticeably even on a scale of only a few years, but also it grows from within at a relatively rapid rate as well. If I remember correctly it was one of the quickest glaciers out there.
Our plan was to drive the night after the glacier tour down to Te Aneu through Queenstown arriving around 11, then wake up and Sea Kayak Milford Sound the next day. Unfortunately, the only road that accesses Te Aneu, the road we were going to drive 6 hours on, closes every night and we wouldn’t be able to make it. Long story short, we cancelled plans, rescheduled things, fought, yelled, hugged, laughed, made toasts to one another, and pushed everything back a day. All’s well that ends well.
We made it to Te Aneu the next night, and woke up around four hours later to drive to Milford for a gorgeous sea kayaking trip in the fjord of Milford Sound. The weather was cold and wet but made for incredible ethereal cloud formations looming all around us as well as cascades and water falls covering each rock face. The snow-capped mountains that surrounded the fjord are incredibly large. I remember picking a reference point on the water, say a buoy or something, and using it to gauge how far I had to go until I reached a rock face. I had thought that buoy was right up against the rock face, but when I reached and passed it, the mounting appeared just as far away as it had seemed initially, these things were big.
Our brief yet very damp car ride took us back to Queenstown where we actually bumped into many familiar faces while exploring downtown. Our first night there we just relaxed and geared up for the next day. Said next day was crazy. Of course since we were in Queenstown we had to bungee jump. We decided to jump off the Kawarau Bridge outside of the town. I had previously gone Sky Diving in a speedo and decided to keep the theme going. Not only was the thrill different from anything I’ve felt but the setting was amazing. Surrounded by blue skies, crystal blue water, and a wild assortment of fall colored trees, it felt like something out of a dream. That night we hopped on a bar crawl. Not much is to be said about that. I wasn’t let into one of the bars and I’m still bitter about it. But you know what, the effort was there, and that’s all that counts… right?
The next morning in Queenstown a few of us went shopping while the rest of us took a gondola up to see a spectacular overlook of the city below. It was a great way to cap off what was an amazing trip full of gorgeous things.
I feel as though this is the first blog post where I’m summarizing things as opposed to talking about how I experienced these things, but there’s a reason for that. Sometimes, after telling someone a failed joke, the comedian will say, “You had to be there”. Where it is probably an excuse for a lame joke, there is usually some truth to the fact that you had to be there. In addition, there is a part of me that knows that there could in fact be a huge lesson or takeaway from this trip, one that could be a perfect last sentence to a well written blog post, but I just can’t see to put a finger on it. Surprisingly, I’m ok with that. This trip was something that happened. It was a great experience that, with memories and pictures, I can look back on for the rest of my life, but I don’t have anything life altering to say about it. Sure it changed me, and we all grew, but I have no idea how, so I just wanted to remember the events as they happened, listed above, and let my subconscious fill in the rest whenever I look back on it. For you all reading it, maybe you won’t get the same satisfaction as I will, but at least you get to imagine me in a speedo.