After spending ten whole days experiencing the South Island of New Zealand (or N Zed, as it’s nicknamed) I can finally say I’ve had the experience of a lifetime. A friend and I flew over to Christchurch together, managed to make it through customs by the hair of our teeth, and start our journey with a group of about 50 other students and one Kiwi tour guide attempting to corral us on a daily basis. We toured in a charter bus together for ten days, driving south as far as Milford Sound and Te Anau, seeing everything from cheeky endangered Kea birds, Fiordland penguins, glaciers, filming places for Lord of the Rings, and permanently snow covered mountains surrounding us on either side, plus so much more. We spent a few days driving along the coast to make it to Queenstown, NZ, the largest city on the south island, and also lovingly the “adventure capitol of the world.” And believe me, we did plenty of adventurous things.
Our first day in Queenstown we spent in the Shotover River, riding Shotover jetboats and pulling 360 spins within inches of the canyon walls. Then we got suited up for white water rafting, and took a helicopter ride (SO incredible, 100% would recommend it for the amazing views and excitement), then spent the afternoon floating through the icy river rapids and bonding with our Kiwi tour guide.
Day 2, we rode up the Skyline gondolas up to the lodge and saw the most beautiful views of Lake Wakatipu (literally translated in Maori to “sleeping giant,” as it looks like a giant asleep in a fetal position and is the longest lake in NZ). We played on the luge rides and rode down the hill on the scenic track, then decided to bungee jump off a ledge only attached to a big rubber band, essentially. The adrenaline rush was wild, as well as was the view while being hoisted back up and staring down into the city of Queenstown. That night we had a pub crawl as a group and went to the Ice Bar, one of the few in the world, where everything — including the glass you drink out of! — is made from pure ice.
Day 3 a friend and I decided we weren’t done with the adrenaline, and went out to be dropped into a canyon by metal strings on the Nevis Swing, the world’s largest swing! Much, much higher up than the bungee jump was, and therefore much scarier to me, yet it was fantastic bonding with my new friend; the employees also love to mess around with you while they gear you up, like pretending to push you or making jokes that they haven’t hooked you in correctly. Abso-posi-lutely terrifying, but great fun.
For the rest of the days on our trip, we spent touring glow worm caves, visiting farms and seeing sheep shearing, eating fish and chips in pubs, stopping to view gorgeous scenery — which is essentially the ENTIRETY of NZ, because everywhere you look is a new snow capped mountain range to gawk at — and chatting it up with our wonderful Kiwi tour guide, who taught us a lot about Kiwi humor all throughout the week. There is not one second of the trip that I didn’t love, and there are so many amazing places we saw and things we did that were once in a lifetime experiences with people that I will remember forever. None of the pictures do the beauty of New Zealand any justice, but the only advice I can give is to make it a bucket list requirement in life. The country has “Pure New Zealand” written on every locally made product, store, restaurant, water bottle, etc., and I can guarantee that everything definitely fits into that ideal, and will stay close to my heart forever.