After a good night sleep in Wanaka we got back into the bus and made our way across to Puzzling World where we would be spending the next couple of hours. Puzzling World is an attraction full of illusion rooms and installations to trick the mind. It’s all a little cheesy but a good way to pass some time.
All puzzled out we got back on the bus and started the long journey down to Queenstown. The scenery on this particular drive was completely stunning. I think most of us had cameras in our hands the entire time. We’re lucky to be travelling at this time of the year as the mountain ranges are now starting to be dusted in snow at their peaks which makes the view so magical – particularly when the scenes are reflected against the glistening lakes.
We made a little stop off at Mrs Jones Fruit Stall in the town of Cromwell which was perhaps the cutest little shop I have been in. There was a tasting table at the back of the shop which, as a group of poor and hungry backpackers, we certainly made the most of. That was until we were told to stop. Actually to stop.
Full up on free fruit we got back on the bus and made the rest of the journey down to Queenstown. We stopped off at AJ Hackett’s Kawarau Bridge 47m bungee – the world’s first commercial bungee jump just outside of the township. A couple of our friends on the bus decided to take the plunge – including Brea who decided to go down backwards! The loon! It was so much fun cheering them on – even if it did make me feel a bit ill to watch.
After everyone was finished throwing themselves off bridges we made our way into the town which I instantly fell in love with. Queenstown is a quintessential ski village surrounded by towering mountains and bordering a huge glistening lake – it’s stunning. Picture perfect stunning.
Unfortunately when we checked into Nomads, our home for the next 5 days, we didn’t have too much time to explore as Brea and I were jetting off to the Fox Canyon to throw ourselves off the world’s highest cliff jump. Yep. The world’s highest.
We made our way to the offices where we were briefed about the jump. We then got in a mini bus and were driven the 15 minutes or so out of town to the jump site – I was petrified!
The canyon swing is a 60m free fall which then hooks into a swing that catapults you 200m across the valley. You have over 70 options as to how you want to fall – these range from pin drop jumps to backflips, slides, tricycles etc. You can even go down with a bin on your head (the aptly named ‘bin laden’). The possibilities are endless.
I decided to do two of the ‘scarier’ options (God knows why) – so I fell of the ledge backwards on a garden chair the first time and slid down a slide on the first. Funnily enough the slide was actually the scarier of the two as you went down forward so saw everything below you. I have the video of both my falls which are hilarious. I literally screamed the entire time. I did the jumps with Brea and she said she couldn’t breath laughing at how scared I was. What makes it worse was that the guys operating the jumps are complete wind up merchants and did everything in their power to make me as scared as possible (which didn’t take much). It was great fun but I’m not sure I would do it again..
After recovering from the trauma of the jumps we made our way back into town and got ready for our first night out in the party capital of Queenstown. Our driver Guy had organised a group dinner and bar crawl which as expected turned into a very messy night. We had dinner at Redrock bar with live music playing in the background.
We then made our way into town and had drinks and drinks at Loco before spending the rest of the evening dancing away in World Bar until the wee small hours.
As is the sign of a good night, the night ended with a colossal burger in Devil Burger. I said ‘with a burger’ – what I mean actually is I bought myself a burger, had one bite and then Guy demolished it..!
That night I crawled into bed at around 5.30 am which was not a good plan as I had to be on the bus down to Milford Sound at 7am. The struggle was real.
Our driver down to Milford Sound was Diesel who had driven us around much of North Island so it was nice to see a familiar face.
Bounded by steep cliffs and dense rainforest, Milford Sound is by far the best known of all of the fiords in New Zealand, and the only one that can be accessed by road. Not only this, it is one of the natural wonders of the world. At the pinnacle of Milford Sound is the iconic Mitre Peak – standing a proud 1,692 metres above sea level, it is certainly an impressive sight to behold.
The bus drive to Milford Sound was roughly 5 hours one way so it definitely a day spent mostly on the bus. Diesel did however stop of at some pretty cool places on way down for us to admire including beautiful mirror lakes (Lake Gunn), tumbling waterfalls and wonderful mountainous ranges with snow capped peaks (Monkey Creek).
Most of the drive down to Milford Sound is via Highway 94 which is deemed to be one of the most dangerous roads in the world due to the large amounts of avalanches which occur in the area. If the road is open there is a no stopping zone for half an hour which is a bit scary – it makes you wonder what you would do if you suddenly heard a rumble.
Soon we arrived at Milford Sound and boarded the boat which would be taking us through the fjords for the next couple of hours – we could not have been luckier with the weather.
Maori are believed to have discovered Milford Sound more than 1,000 years ago, returning seasonally to the fiord to collect precious pounamu (also known as greenstone or jade). These treks from the east used traditional pathways across passes such as MacKinnon Pass on the Milford Track (the Milford Track is currently believed to be the number one walk in the world). In Maori legend, Milford Sound was formed by Tu-te-raki-whanoa, an atua (godly figure) who shaped the Fiordland coast. Chanting a powerful karakia (prayer), he carved the towering rock walls with his adze. The Maori name for Milford Sound is Piopiotahi and refers to the piopio, a long-extinct native bird said to have flown here in mourning at the death of legendary hero Maui.
I’ll let the photos of Milford Sound do the talking – it’s easy to see why this place is so famous. It is beautiful.
After another 5 hours in the bus we arrived back in Queenstown at around 7.40 that evening and, with no rest for the wicked, we went straight back out and hit the town. A group of us decided we would head to the famous Fergburger for dinner. Fergburger is an absolute Queenstown institution – it’s said that you cannot come to Queenstown and not try one of their monstrous burgers. I went for the tropical swine and all I can say is wow. It completely lived up to the hype.
We practically had to roll out of the restaurant and headed to London Bar where we met some more of our group and got right back on it. Guy strolled in a little later (he obviously couldn’t handle an evening without us) and we partied again until around 4am. Argh.
The next morning we leisurely woke up still feeling a little blurry eyed from the night before. It was probably a bit of a blessing in disguise not really being with it in the morning as today was the day I had been dreading since we arrived in Queenstown – today was Bungy jump day! When I booked to come to New Zealand there were certain activities that I definitely wanted to do such as a skydive – the thought of jumping out of a plane didn’t really scare me, I just found the idea exciting. I think it has something to do with being strapped to someone. But the Bungy jump, that was a whole different kettle of fish, the thought of it literally made me feel sick.
The Nevis Bungy jump in Queenstown is the highest in Australasia and the third highest in the world at 134m tall. The last thing I wanted to do was leave New Zealand and regret not doing the Bungy so one afternoon I decided just to book it! The fee was non refundable and at $250 that alone was motivation enough to at least go to the jump site.
At around about 1.30, Brea and I (my daredevil partner in crime) headed to the Bungy HQ. We were weighed and prepped for the jump before all piling on a minibus and beginning the 45 minute drive to the canyon.
This drive was probably the longest 45 minutes of my life – to say I was terrified would be a complete understatement. The driver told us all that we were to sit back and relax and that we were not to talk about the Bungy. This non-jokey environment was a world away from the canyon swing and actually made me even more nervous – they took it so seriously.
When we arrived at the canyon the driver gave me a big hug before getting us all harnessed up. Bless him.
I literally spent the entire time thinking that I was going to get to the ledge, look down and physically not be able to jump over. Because this Bungy is so high you can’t just walk off or jump feet first – you have to do a proper head first dive otherwise you can get whiplash. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make myself do it. Argh.
Once we were in our harnesses we made our way out to the canyon. I made the conscious decision not to look at my surroundings – there was no way I wanted to freak myself out before I even got to the jump pad.
Before I knew it my name was called and I shuffled out to the chair where the Bungy was attached to my feet – at this point I was still completely in denial.
The guy told me the dive procedure and explained that when I bounced up a second time I had to pull hard on the rope attached to my harness. This releases your legs and means you get pulled up back up to the hut in a sitting position rather than upside down like a fish which can be bad for your head and eyes. Sounded straight forward enough…
Once I was bungyed up the guy shuffled me across to the ledge and dropped the Bungy beneath my feet – ‘you might feel a bit of a pull’ he said – argh! Brea was standing behind me cheering me on, bless her. She had my camera to take a video of my jump.
‘1-2-3’ shouted the guy behind me. I’m not sure what got into to me but I just lept! I didn’t even think about it; I just jumped straight off. Funnily enough Brea didn’t manage to press go on my camera as I jumped too fast for her! It was probably the best way to do it though – I didn’t have time to think about it or get scared.
Nerves aside, the jump was completely amazing! I loved it! Unfortunately however my rope didn’t work so I got dragged all the way back to the hut like an upside down fish on a line.
It was completely amazing and I loved watching all the other girls in our group go when I was back up in the safety of the hut.
Funnily enough Rose really wanted to do a bungy but chose not to as she heard that it can break blood vessels in your eye and in worst case scenarios rip your retina. I literally laughed at her when she was telling me about it. Turns out – jokes on me. When I got pulled up from the bungee I had mascara all down my face but it wasn’t until the next day that the full force of the jump showed itself.
Annoyingly I burst some of the blood vessels in my right eye so have been sporting a very unattractive bright red blood shot eye ever since! I should have listened to Rose after all!
After the bungys were all finished we made our way back to the minibus and set back into town. This drive in comparison to the first was a complete breeze – we were so proud of ourselves – and dying for a strong g&t.
That evening it was one of the girls on our buses birthday, lovely Lesley, so a big night out was on the cards. It was also our last day with Jade and Corrine who I personally have been with since day one! We decided to mark the occasion with a dinner out however we swiftly realised we couldn’t afford Queenstown restaurant prices and ended up eating Fergburgers on our bedroom floor – classy birds!
After a brief ‘I hate myself I ate too much moment’ we got ourselves up from the floor and got ready for the night ahead.
We went to Cowboys bar followed by Loco and World Bar. Of course we were met by Guy and had a crazy evening.
A couple of the girls, Guy and I clearly weren’t finished for the evening at 3.30am so made our way to Bungalow club. Whilst in the queue for the ladies I bumped into Fi – a girl from Reigate who now lives in Queenstown. It was crazy! Such a small world!
We soon made our way back to the room and after a period of thinking we lost Corrine (we found her) we went swiftly to sleep at about 6am.
The next morning we woke up and said an emotional farewell to Jade and Corrine – it was only about 8am so I think we may have all still been a little drunk. The four of us remaining girls swiftly got back into bed until a much more sociable hour.
Once we’d woken up we took a walk around the beautiful lake and enjoyed a very hungover lunch of all the noodles.
That afternoon we headed up towards the town’s gondola and purchased our tickets for the mountains luge track. The views from gondola were absolutely stunning, as was the view out across Queenstown from the viewing platform.
Lugeing is very similar to go karting – you pelt along the track at really fast speeds and try and navigate the hairpin corners – it was so much fun!
We paid for four loops of the circuit but after two decided to pop back to the restaurant to grab a drink to warm us up before finishing off our final two rounds. As does everything in. Queenstown, our warm drink soon escalated into cocktails and we ended up missing our final two luges as the circuit closed. Oops.
We soon boarded the gondola and made our way down to the hostel. We met up with some of the guys from our bus and all headed to loco for dinner and drinks. Most people were having a quiet night in that evening, but not us – we still weren’t done with Queenstown fun. Rose, Brea and I headed to Cowboys where we met up with Guy and one of the other drivers. We soon made our way to Worldbar (where Rose ditched us for bed) and, after a slightly questionable after party and walk home, rolled into bed at about 5.30.
The next day I didn’t wake up until the afternoon. Oops. The fun of Queenstown has obviously caught up with me. I spent the afternoon getting on with admin bits such as sorting out my Australian Visa and accommodation for when I arrive in Cairns.
Mia and Tabitha had been in Milford Sound for the day so when they arrived back we went out and grabbed some pizza a cheeky icecream at the Fergbakery.
Unfortunately that was the end of our stay in Queenstown as we would be leaving early the next morning for Lake Tekapo. Before I came to NZ everyone raved about Queenstown and said how we would all fall in love with it. I completely get it now – it’s the most beautiful city where you can do any activity you want. It’s so much fun and I would live there in an instant!