03.03.2008 - 09.03.2008 22 °C
We drove back to Queenstown on a beautiful morning and managed to take in some of the wonderful heritage sites on the way.
We planned to stay in Queenstown for four nights with E-J's friend Emily, who had three days off from work and had arranged a few days of adrenalin packed activities.
Emily, now renamed team leader had organised for both E-J and herself to do a paraglide in the morning of the first day and E-J not the best at flying in a plane (like her father) was dreading it. This was not helped by Sam repeatedly saying, I'll still love you even if something does happen to you and things similar like, "it was great knowing you". The guides also took it upon themselves to join in, saying that E-J's pilot had only just passed his test the day before...
It was a beautiful crisp day and E-J and Emily were jumping from Coronet's Peak, which is about 3000m above sea level. E-J, knowing that her nerves were getting worse decided to go first and before she had time to think was told to run as fast as she could off the side of the cliff.
Suddenly, she was off with her guide paragliding along the mountain edge and above the tops of thousands of alpine trees.
The views were incredible and she found herself absolutely loving it, although her hands were freezing too. The guide then asked her to hold onto the the two cords to steer the paraglide, but it wasn't long before she handed them back to him. EJ (always knowing best) also managed to tell the guide that she thought they were heading for the mountain edge! Her guide, one of the best paragliders in the world, reassured her that he knew what he was doing! As they landed, E-J's screams of terror could be heard echoing for miles as the guide sharply turned the paraglide around and down, adding a bit of a thrill to the end. E-J's landing was perfect and very smooth and as she sat comfortably on the grass she happily called out, "I'm alive!". Emily's landing wasn't quite so smooth and the poor girl could be seen tumbling on the floor as her guide tripped over her on landing.
The next part of the day was a wine tour. This was arranged with a group of other people. The guide took an immediate dislike to E-J, after E-J questioned her about something she was unsure about. From then on, whatever E-J said the guide would completely disagree, to the point that everyone started noticed. The vineyards we went to were ok, but not of the same quality that we had experienced in Mendoza and this made us realise just how spoiled we had been in South America. Also, there was no actual vineyard tour or explanation about the wineary and how it was produced. We were simply taken to one place, poured four tiny thimbles of wine to sample and then moved onto the next place. We did stop at one place to have a meal, but the portions were so small. The guide helped herself to a susbtantial amount of salmon, then made a point that everyone was only to have one piece as she saw E-J taking a second measly piece that had been left.
Despite the guides strange ways, we had a fun time during the tour and enjoyed taking in all the stunning views around us.
When the guide finally dropped us back in Queenstown, she said to Sam, 'hopefully, you'll be rid of that one soon and I hope to see you again'. Sam wasn't quite sure how to respond...
That evening, Emily had organised for us to do a tour on an old vintage steamship called the Earnslaw, along the Lake Wakatipu from one end to the other. This gave us a fantastic view of the mountain range, The Remarkables.
This was good fun with plenty more wine and on the way back E-J discovered the pianoist at the back of the boat and took it upon herself to accompany him on vocals. We're not sure if he actually appreciated it, but the rest of the boat seemed to find it rather amusing; particulary the Canadian toursist who zoomed his camera in on E-J singing away! Sam decided he felt more comfortable out on deck!
The following morning we woke to pouring rain. Emily had arranged for us to go river surfing, which involved dressing in a wetsuit and helmet and going down the river in grade 3 and 4 rapids on a body board. Madness really! On seeing the weather, Emily said she wasn't so keen to repeat it again, but E-J having not experienced anything like this before, was still determined to try it. Sam, also had to back out as his mosquito bite was starting to hurt again and he was worried that it may become infected.
The river itself was the Shotover river, but a different section to where people get taken in a speed boat. In fact in this section, you pass under the Kawarau bridge where you can see people bungy jumping off the original bungy site.
The water was freezing and after a brief paddle E-J found herself being thrown into grade 3 rapids, which felt like she was being thrown around inside a washing machine. After a minute or so the rapids died down. The guides' controll of the group was incredibly professional and they took great care in making sure that everyone stuck together and if anyone needed any help or support they were there to give it to them. In another section of rapids the group was
then told to surf the rapids, which meant you had to approach the rapids backwards and then paddle like mad to reach the crest of the rapid. Once you had caught the surf, you stayed in one place not moving forward or back, just simply bouncing up and down over the swell of it. It was a very strange experience and E-J along with three others were the only ones who were able to catch the surf, out of the group of twelve.
By the time the group reached the final rapid, E-J felt as though her lips were turning blue and having already swallowed a gallon of water asked the guide if he would help her down the last part. This made the experience far more enjoyable as she was able to sit back and enjoy the ride, while the guide found the perfect line to take her through, so that she wouldn't be pulled under and thrown around by the grade 4 rapids. It was a most exhiliarating experience.
After the tour was over, the group gathered in a pub back in Queenstown to enjoy a hot dog and a few drinks, while watching the photos of the day. Sam was bitterly disappointed to have missed out on something that looked so much fun, so decided that instead he would do a bungy jump before we left Queenstown.
The next day Emily was back in charge of the tours and we started the day early with a bus ride over to Glenorchy where we would have a jet boat ride along the Dart river, followed by a kayak back down the river. This would be organised through Emily's employer who ran the tours. Sam, again was concerned about getting his foot wet, so was only able to join us on the jet boat before he headed back to Queenstown.
The jet boat ride was good fun as we went zooming along the river and then by a signal of the drivers hand, we would suddenly be hurled around at 360 degrees, leaving our stomachs behind.
It was brilliant fun, though Sam ended up getting completely soaked by sitting on the side, much to the E-J's and Emily's amusement!
After this part of the tour, Emily and E-J said goodbye to Sam and proceeded to blow up an inflatable kayak. Once set, E-J took the front position of paddling, while Emily sat in the back steering. It wasn't long before Emily worked out that E-J was pretty useless at paddling and if she wanted to get anywhere she would have to steer and paddle.
The kayaking was great fun and at lunch time we stopped at the side and had a fantastic picnic of lots of delicious foods, while looking out at the incredible views around us. After lunch, we then got the opportunity to kayak inside some caves, which were fascinating and the water inside seemed to look like a glowing aquamarine.
When we were almost at the end of the kayaking trip, when our guide heard on the radio that all the jet boat drivers were determined to splash their work colleague, Emily.
Seeing the speed at which they went and the power of their splash, worried both Emily and E-J, so that each time a jet boat was on its way round, Emily and E-J would paddle like crazy to the side of the bank, get out of the boat as fast as they could and run out of the way of the spray. E-J and Emily were particularly pleased they did this, when on a final attempt to get them, one of the jet boats got so close to the kayak that the spray literally blasted the boat out of the river!
After this, we headed back to Emily's to shower and refresh ourselves, before we ended the evening by the lake with fish and chips from a local bar.
The next day Emily was off to work, so we planned to move on from Queenstown, but before doing so E-J wanted to do one last adrenalin filled expericence and that was The Canyon Swing. The Canyon Swing, is a massive swing that sits within a canyon on the Shotover river and has a 60m free fall drop before a 300 metre swing, begins.
As we headed there, the guide started to make a few jokes and Sam, being as calm as ever, indulged in the banter. E-J just kept incredibly quite and petrified about what she was about to do.
There were six of us in our group and after the other four had gone, it was E-J's go. It took her forever to gain the courage to walk to the end of the platform and as she looked down at the canyon below, she realised just how far down it was. After several minutes of persuasion, the guide managed to coax E-J into stepping off the platform. He kindly told E-J that he would hold on to her before droping her. However, as soon as she stepped off, she suddenly found herself freefalling down and before she knew it, it was over!
Sam, on the other hand not at all phased by anything, took only a second before he confidently jumped feet first off the platform. This style of jumping was suppose to create maximum thrill.
Both of us thoroughly enjoyed this and were tempted to do another, however, already stretching the budget we decided that once was enough.
The next thing we planned to do was collect our van from the Queenstown carpark and then drive to the bungy site for Sam to do his bungy before heading on. When we got to the car, we found it had a dead battery and not believing our luck, we had to take it to the garage down the road. The garage told us it wouldn't be ready until 5pm, so with no time for Sam to do his bungy, and make another rugby game in Dunedin we would have to stay another night.
The next morning, we were at the Kawarau Bridge at 9am, so that we could be on the road straight after Sam's jump. It was another beautiful, crisp day and E-J felt more nervous than Sam. The next few minutes all happened so quickly, as Sam was weighed, filled in the appropriate forms (the usual signing away of your life) and then made his way to the bridge.
Before E-J had a minute to blink, Sam jumped and all E-J could do was scream!
After this, E-J started to wonder whether she wanted to try this experience too, but Sam persuaded her that she would hate it, so we headed off towards Doubtful Sound in the hope of either doing a tour that day or the following.
When we reached the tour company for Doubtful Sound, we were shocked by how expensive it was. It was almost three times more than Milford Sound and after much consideration, decided to call it a miss as we really couldn't justify the money. Instead, we headed to Taupai, where we found a pub to enjoy a few drinks. Sam watched the 1st test match between England and New Zealand and E-J sat outside reading Cosmopolitan!
The evening was spent on a glow worm tour at one of the local caves. It was quite interesting to see the glow worms sparkling away in the pitch black of the cave, but having seen and done so many wonderful things, it didn't hit us with as much impact as we had hoped.
Also, having seen Sam do the bungy, E-J just couldn't stop talking about it and trying to understand his experience, much to Sam's annoyance. The more E-J talked about it, the more she was intrigued to do it.
The next day, Sam exhausted by E-J's constant questions about the bungy, asked her if she really wanted to do it and if so he would drive her back, cutting out the rest of the south of the South Island to head back up towards Queenstown. E-J being E-J, was desperate to do it by now, but wanted Sam to do a tandem with her. Sam decided there was absolutely no way he would do a tandem bungy with E-J. So, she would have to do it on her own (not quite how she had planned)!
Similar to Sam's experience, within seconds E-J found herself being weighed, filling in the necessary paper work and then waiting at the top of the bridge to jump.
The bungy seemed a lot more terrifying than The Canyon Swing, especially since one had to go head first, but without thinking E-J moved onto the top of the platform and dived off the bridge as though diving into a swimming pool. Her blood curdling scream was very loud!
After the jump, we then spent the rest of the day in Queenstown before heading back up the East coast towards Mount Cook.
Sam's comments: A flat battery on the campervan really sums up our trip here. Disapointed to miss out on a trip to watch the rugby in Dunedin. However have experianced some challanges that I won't be in a hurry to do again!
E-J's comments: The last few days in Queenstown have been incredibly exhilarating. I think I've turned into an adrenalin junkie! It has been so much fun catching up with Emily and she has made our time in New Zealand simply brilliant!