Friendships, Humidity and a Near Death Experience Black Water Rafting

25th – 29th Feb

Before I left for travelling, people would gasp in horror when they found out I was travelling by myself. “By yourself!? Wow you’re so brave!” This ginormous gasp confused me. I thought it was extremely common for an early twenty-something girl to go travelling by herself. The gasp also worried me – had I bitten off more than I could chew? Will I feel isolated and lonely? Will some situations be scary without a good friend or loved one by my side?

This last month has really tested my social skills. At home, I am lucky in that I have always found making friends quite an easy ride. However, travelling alone certainly isn’t the same as making friends during Freshers Week at university or at a new school. When travelling, you’re thousands of miles away. You can’t just pop home if you’ve had a bad day.

I realise I’m making it sound all doom and gloom; that wasn’t my intention. I just wanted to stress it’s not always easy. However, the brilliant thing about travelling is that when you step out of your comfort zone and start conversations with strangers, you may just hit the jack pot. I was sad to say goodbye to the friendship group I made in the South Island, but these past few days I’ve met some incredible people. My time in Paihia, Auckland and Hot Water Beach has been full of laughs, never ending conversations, cool coffee shops and art museums. There’s been nights out, pizza and lots of new names that I won’t forget.

Take Matt – my new big brother. Never will I forget him cutting some dude’s hair after a few too many pints. Matt wore a head torch.

In addition, it felt like I had been friends with Jack and Emily for years. And after a perfect coffee shop & museum kind of day in Auckland when the weather was disgustingly humid, Martin and I are planning to meet up again when we’re both in Melbourne.

I now need to go and face the downpour to purchase a lock and key for my backpack because my other one is broken so I had to get reception to cut it. Nice one Liv.

Ah, I really hope this sweaty stormy weather dies off soon. The hostel I’m in is an absolute poo-hole and the humidity is not helping. I had a cold shower but because the showers and loos are so revolting, I still feel dirty. And with my handy yet stupid travel towel, I never feel dry. To stress how stinky the hostel is (every room smells of sweat / sick / feet)… After my shower, two guys join me in the lift. One of them asks, “have you just had a shower?” (Yes). “Oh my God, you smell so clean, it’s amazing!” He edges closer, sniffs my hair and smiles.

***

Was glad to be moving on from Auckland. We stopped off at Cathedral Cove on the way to Hot Water Beach. Even though it’s cloudy and rainy, it’s still beautiful.

Speaking of beautiful, I met a couple of girls who are the most glamorous travellers I’ve ever seen. Judging them on their immaculate appearance, I didn’t think we’d have much in common. My no make-up, scruffy self truly admired their efforts though. They were on my bus, so it wasn’t long before we were chatting. And guess what? I get on with them like a house on fire. I know I’ve said that about a few people but I mean I really, really like these girls – I know I want to and will stay in touch. Looks mean nothing.

Speaking of looks, Hot Water Beach looked rather strange. Hundreds of people, digging their own shallow spa pools in the sand. Some patches were insanely warm – so hot you’ve got to be careful not to get burnt. You’ve also got to be careful not to die. That happens here.

***

1st March

Journey to Waitomo today. I’m not heavy enough to do the Black Water Rafting, damnit. But then Arias (the driver) rang up and they gave me the ok! They just said that they will look after me extra well and give me extra layers to help with the cold.

Initially, I wasn’t sure about spending so much money on caving, but I’m so glad I did. It was fantastic! Yes, I really did feel the cold and was numb and frantically shivering at points, but it was worth it.

We entered a tiny hole in the ground to a whole other world. Tubing underground with rubber rings through fast flowing water, in the dark, was ace. Jumping backwards off waterfalls into darkness was pretty cool too. They warned us at one point about ‘The Human Blender.’ You really don’t want to fall down there… You probably won’t come back up….

No word of a lie, when I was tip-toeing around The Human Blender, I slipped and fell. The guide caught me! He saved my life! I didn’t fancy him before then but now he’s my hero. He also gave me his wetsuit jacket when I got super cold. That’s true love right there.

My favourite part of the adventure was when we all lay back in a line, holding onto the person’s feet behind us (like a caterpillar). We all turned off our head torches: complete darkness. Looking up, the rocks were speckled with glow worms – millions of them. I think it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. This wasn’t a manmade theme park ride. This was real. I’m underground, flowing through water on my back, admiring the sparkling-star-like glow worms above me. I’ve never taken drugs, but I imagine this is what the hardcore stuff feels like. SO TRIPPY! It was probably the most surreal, most enchanting thing I have ever done.

Unreal Scenery and the Ultimate Adrenaline Rush

Franz Josef > Wanaka > Queenstown

8/9 Feb

Done some beautiful hikes in Wanaka. One lead us to a stunning mirror lake that created the most perfect reflection. Another hike was on a day that I had so much energy it was overwhelming. Josh was convinced that I had taken a short cut, but I hadn’t, just bossed it.

Unfortunately my energy faded away after only 3 hours sleep last night due to dinosaur snoring. Ah, hostel life.

Cranky Liv’s mood picked up though with a honeycomb Magnum. Definitely recommend.

A few more restless nights sleep lead me to start missing the comforts of home. I don’t want to go as far as saying I’m homesick… But my own bed would be nice. And a decent cup of tea. And maybe a cuddle? No, it’s not that bad. Let’s toughen up. All I need to do is step outside and be blown away by the turquoise lakes and mountains so perfect, they look like a film set. My photos aren’t edited I promise. This is real life! I soon forget about my crazy craving for a Yorkshire brew. I didn’t forget about Mummy Mulligan and Papa M though – gave them a little Skype. Top tip: if your hostel doesn’t have wifi, go chill out in another hostel and use theirs. Us travellers all look the same.

As I say goodbye to the beautiful Wanaka (a tiny town with an après ski kinda feel), we make the journey to Queenstown. We had heard great things about Queenstown, so our expectations were high…

10 – 13 Feb

QT did not disappoint. It was better than I imagined. It’s a place that anyone could fall in love with. It’s insanely good if you wanna do extreme sports / hike / party & get smashed / relax & sunbathe by the lake… There’s something for everyone.

It was so good, the fact I was sharing a room with a couple of crack-heads didn’t put a downer on the experience. Instead it makes me smile and think – oh Queenstown, you crazy, crazy place. Angela & Martin stumble in at 4 in the morning, acting barely human. Angela comes in naked and then starts crying. Martin, after dancing around the room like a gorilla, eyes bulging, can’t be arsed with Angela’s sobbing and so clambers onto the top bunk and puts his headphones in, his music on full blast. When we all woke up that morning, we had to discuss – did that even happen? Yes. Yes it did.

Crack-heads aside, I had my own crazy experience bungy jumping. I had signed up to do the Nevis (biggest drop in Australasia at 134m). My stomach was doing acrobatics just thinking about it. I was SO excited and SO scared. I’d run it over in my head, trying to imagine the feeling of jumping off. My heart would start to race. I love that feeling.

***

Today’s the day. Filled up with toast n’jam. Had about 10 nervous pee trips and then was ready to sign in. I was going with the awesome Georgia and Brit – also on the Kiwi experience.

Breathe. Breathe. I handed over my pass, then did the medical questionnaire: all ok. The final thing before getting on the bus was hopping on the scales…

“I’m really sorry but you’re not heavy enough.”

“Ha. You’re kidding right?”

“No. I’m really sorry.”

“Are you joking?” I had to ask again. I couldn’t believe it. My whole chest sank and felt deflated. I was gutted. All the build up – for nothing. Then my thoughts changed. Shit! The $250 is non refundable! Luckily, I got it back. And although I couldn’t do the Nevis, I could do the bridge bungy or the ledge freestyle bungy. I was drawn to the freestyle one because it has the highest jump off point – a mighty 400m! It’s a real shame about Nevis, but I guess I can’t regret not doing it because unfortunately, the weight restrictions are beyond my control.

***

LET’S GO. Got some free stuff too because my Nevis disappointment face worked a charm (free Gondola trip, free photos and free spectator trip for Nevis). Because of the whole Chinese New Year malarkey, the gondola queue was MASSIVE. Disaster! I wasn’t going to make it in time. However, I explained the situation to one of the security people, tried to look adorable and got escorted to front of queue. From what started out as a very disappointing day, things were going ever so well! Let’s hope death / paralysis by bungy doesn’t put a dampener on this sunny Thursday.

As soon as I arrived at the ledge I was pumped. Fear vanished and I just wanted to jump. I couldn’t wait to feel the rush. Because it was freestyle, I decided to sprint off and dive. THREE, TWO, ONE, BUNGY!

What a feeling. When you release your feet from the edge, it feels like everything goes in slow motion. Your stomach rises, and as you fall, nothing else matters. Your body is in shock but you feel invincible. It uses up more emotions than sky-diving. Don’t get me wrong, tandem sky-diving is great, but in my opinion, it’s not scary, just epic good fun. With a bungy it’s all you – it’s all in your head. YOU have to jump. Therefore the feeling afterwards of accomplishment is much higher.

Anyone who is thinking about doing a bungy… Do it.

Seriously do it.

Quote from Queenstown (from Annie): “I’m scared that when I go back home, I’ll never be this happy again.”

Rugby Sevens, The Jumping Platform and Sunburnt Eyelids

31 January – what a day.
Enclosed in the cake tin – Westpac Stadium for about 10 hours of excitement and sunburn.

NZ All Blacks won the cup final which meant it was a phenomenal atmosphere. No one likes the Australians here and so there was lots of booing and name-calling. Two Aussie old men were sat by us and took it so well. They were hilarious and despite all the bullying, they were having a brilliant day.

I realise I have forgotten an introduction. When I say ‘us,’ I am referring to being with Julie and Brett (who I am staying with this week in Wellington). Julie is my cousin, Brett is her husband. Even though Julie and I had never met before, we are getting on like a house on fire. They’re both so lovely and I feel very lucky to be staying in their beautiful home and being shown around the local area.

Even luckier to be at THE RUGBY SEVENS (sorry Dad). I got a selfie with All Blacks Sevens Captain DJ Forbes and the beautiful Liam Messam.

Unfortunately they didn’t have veggie hotdogs. The woman serving me just took the sausage out. What a joker. Luckily I found a veggie curry stand so all was well (Plus, the bread bun minus sausage was also quite tasty).

What a truly fantastic day. Now got sunburnt hands, wrists, front of neck and eyelids. It was worth it though.

1 Feb
Had a dip in the not-quite-scream-cold-but-deep-breathe-in-cold-sea today. Then it was time to make our way over to the jumping platform into the harbour. I had seen some people doing it the other day, which made me want a little adrenaline rush too. One woman was fannying around up there for over 30 minutes, then eventually turned away and walked down. How frustrating for the crowds. I had no sympathy for her whatsoever. She was just being a drama queen and giving girls a bad name. ‘Right. On Monday I’m doing it’ I told Julie.

So, here is Monday. Time to do the deed.

I was surprisingly nervous when walking over. Good nervous though – I like feeling like that. There was a little crowd of about 30 at the bottom. I stripped down to my swimming costume, Julie had the video camera at the ready. Let’s go.

‘More steps than I remember’ I thought to myself.

I told Julie over coffee that the trick is not to look down.

My bad – I looked down.

Then something happened to me that had never happened before. I froze. My whole body suddenly said no. I turned around and looked over a further three times, trying to step off and then freezing. My brain was swearing at myself like a mad man. Nothing frustrates me more than a wimp and that’s exactly what you’re being, a ******* wimp. Just jump off you little ****, it’s not going to kill you.

I shouted to the crowd ‘will you gimme a count-down?’ FIVE, FOUR, THREE, TWO, ONE! And I was off. Easy peasy. Loads of fun.

Climbing up the ladder out of the water I thought – who on earth was that? It certainly wasn’t let’s sky dive and barely feel a thing Liv. Is this what ‘adulthood’ does to you?

I’m going to do it again, I told Julie. That was so embarrassing. Giving myself a pep talk on the way up the stairs, this time was much more straight forward. Woohoo!

What a fun day for a Monday.