Goodbye New Zealand, Hello Australia

10th March

Alarm goes off at 4am. There were big hugs with Julie at the airport (come with me!) I thought to myself.

I can’t believe how quickly the last 6 weeks have gone. I’ve seen the bluest lakes, the greenest hills. I’ve hiked over volcanoes, almost lost my voice watching the Rugby Sevens, done a bungy jump off a 400m platform, gone black water rafting, seen glow worms, baby dolphins, experienced some of the most beautiful running routes, seen the Haka performed by Maori, eaten food that’s been cooked under the ground, been in a helicopter over the mountains, hiked across a glacier, gone horse riding through rain forests and met loads of incredible people. Like I said in my last post, New Zealand has been all I had hoped for and more.

And she’s alone again: let’s go. The whole boarding process was quick and straightforward. I sat next to a nice lady on the plane who, by glancing over my shoulder at my itinerary, saw that I was going to Bali. She loves it there. But she warned me several times to be careful because of the past bombings and terrorist attacks. Cheerful lady. How exactly can you be careful about a bomb!? No matter how I act, if death and destruction is going to happen, then it will. If she wanted to scare me, she’s succeeded. Good work. She gasped in horror when I said I was travelling by myself. “Oh do be careful” she said for the 17th time.

Safely touched down in Melbourne. Going through security, a big banner overhead read “UK passport holders 16+” …Whilst waiting in line, a security guard approached me and said, “Excuse me, how old are you?” I cleared my throat and then confidently replied, “18.”

“Oh. You look younger,” he said.

My voice raised an octave higher. “Ha, actually I’m 21!!! Mind blank. Good lord, no idea why I said 18!!!”

Guard then looked at me as if I was an absolute psycho and he slowly edged away.

Thankfully, my head was screwed on enough to get me from the airport to South Yarra (bus and two trains). Here I met a couple of friends from my old school – Jess and George and their friend Rosie. What a treat to see their smiling faces!

Whilst waiting for them I popped into a little coffee shop. Melbourne is famous for its cafe culture and my oh my, it didn’t disappoint. Bold statement, but it was he best cappuccino I’ve ever had.

It doesn’t feel like I’m in Australia at the moment. It feels like London. It’s raining. I spent the afternoon chilling in the girls’ apartment, making myself at home. With a mug of tea on the arm of the sofa, and a bowl of cereal in my lap, I let out a storm of panic when Rosie got off the phone and shouted, “the landlord is coming up!” Act casual, act causal I thought. Pretend I’m just staying for the evening…

Without warning, Connie Thompson (one of my best friends from home) pops her head around the door. SURPRISE! I almost wept a tear of joy.

***

The next day saw me and Connie have an ace, speed tour of Melbourne. It’s such a cool city. It’s got a very arty, chilled, let’s go for brunch and drink coffee all day kind of vibe. Also, everyone is beautiful – they’re probably all famous on Instagram for being a beauty blogger or the ultimate foodie.

Firstly went with Con to a doctors appointment. We’d got the wrong address and we were accidentally sitting in the waiting room of a Plastic Surgery Clinic. Classic.

Then we explored the CBD and St Kildas and went into a travel shop to get my East Coast route sorted. Bye bye money.

Today has been fab. But you know what the best bit was? Organised Liv makes a spontaneous decision to leave the city centre TONIGHT and go with Connie to work on a stud farm for 10 days. WHAT IS LIFE!?

TO BE CONTINUED

Dreadlocks, Hygiene and farewell to New Zealand

3rd – 9th March

After Rotorua, we headed to Lake Tekapo again. I’m with a bus who haven’t visited before, so they have signed up to do the Tongariro a Crossing and such. I bigged it up massively so I hope they enjoy it… As for me, I’m going to chill by the lake and catch some rays and catch up on my diary writing (it’s a hard life).

Tekapo is buzzing because the Iron Man is on this weekend. And we all know what that means: my future husband is lurking around somewhere.

***

After a chilled couple of days in Tekapo, we headed to River Valley. The lodge where we are staying is literally in the middle of nowhere. It takes an hour drive to the nearest house / shop / get phone reception. The people that run the lodge are a little bit… How do I put it politely… Inbred. The guys have thick dreadlocks down to their waist and they’re a little bit too friendly: trying their luck with every girl in sight. Probably thinking, finally, someone who’s not my sister.

The scenery is stunning. An emerald lake is surrounded by rolling golden hills. The weather is hot so perfect for a dip. I had great childish fun jumping off the zip wire and high rocks with the ‘lads.’

When the weather cooled down, I went on a run with the lovely Lou. We came across a beautiful dun horse. He wandered over and let me stroke him. Ah, I’m feeling very content with life right now.

During dinner, I was speaking to a rather simple boy from Essex. As lovely as he was, within 2 minutes of conversation he tells me that he tried a banana for the FIRST time in his LIFE last month. WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL. Is this the new Joey Essex? He dunno why he’d never tried it before. Innit though.

I had a great last night with the Kiwi Experience. When I finally crashed into bed I was very thankful I was in a bunk-bed room, rather than the ONE bed that sleeps 32, known as ‘the orgy pit.’ Yes, that’s an actual thing. Welcome to River Valley.

***

It was a long, painful journey to Wellington with tonnes of traffic. After saying goodbye to my lovely Kiwi peeps, I trekked up the hill and then HELLO Julie and Brett! Had a great time telling them all about my North Island adventures – seeing baby dolphins, black water rafting, Maori experience and making tonnes of new, very special friends.

HURRAH for a proper shower! Feeling clean has never felt so good and never have I been more excited to get my laundry done.

***

The last few days in Wellington have really felt like home. I’ve been on runs, baked cakes, I’ve even met up with a friend from my old school! (Leah). It was so bizarre to see her her and great to compare our New Zealand adventures.

I thought I’d be super prepared and organised and get out some Australian dollars here. Mad to think I’ll be in Australia tomorrow. I finally found the recommended ‘TravelEx’ after walking up and down Lampton Quay about 900 times. When asking to purchase some Australian dollars, the man behind the counter said, “Sorry. We’re out.” I actually thought he was being funny. It seemed funny that a money shop would run out of money. He wasn’t kidding. “We’ll have more in tomorrow afternoon.” Yeah, I’ll be in Australia then, pal. No worries, I’ll get some at the airport, just may have to queue a bit.

Julie and Brett took me to an amazing Surf n’Turf restaurant for my last night. It was mouth-wateringly-good. I was so full it hurt. How on earth do I thank them for their kind generosity? Flowers / wine / a thank you card all seem a bit pathetic for how overwhelmingly kind they have been to me these past 6 weeks. They have helped make my New Zealand adventure so special and comfortable. Shout out to J & B: you’re the best!

I’m shattered but too nervous / excited to go to sleep because then it will be tomorrow: the next leg of the adventure begins. New Zealand has been everything I had hoped for and more.

Eggs, Sticks and Crazy Hat Lady

2nd March

Rotorua smells of eggs. Not the “Mmmm eggs & bacon & buttery toast” kind of smell, but the rotten eggs kind of smell. This sulphur city is pretty stinky due to all the hot mud pools and thermal activity.

Today is a big day. It’s the Maori experience. We learnt lots, ate lots and then we ate some more. Before we entered the village, we had to elect a chief. We voted old Paul. Old Paul and the Maori chief greeted in the traditional way: touching noses twice, saying “Kia Ora” and then giving a short speech about why we are here. Old Paul almost went in for a third nose touch. Damn it Paul, making us look bad. Keep focused! Our feet walking on their land was a big moment. Women had to walk behind the men, and when we entered the sleeping rooms, no shoes were allowed.

These people take tradition very seriously. You can’t laugh. But with man-boobs jiggling and their eyes bulging, I had to bite my tongue a little.

We learnt about the carvings on the walls – the different Gods, influences and morals.

“Does anyone have any questions?”

Crazy hat lady raises her hand. “Can you remind me where the bathroom is?”

Crazy hat lady always asks irrelevant questions.

Time for cake. Unlimited cake. The banana bread was unreal. Deep fried scones with jam and cream was then followed by leaning Maori songs and dances and playing traditional games with sticks. The sticks were big – human height.

Crazy hat lady did not listen to the rules and threw her stick at the wrong time and almost took Jess’ eye out.

After more playful activities and learning about tattoos, carvings, fitness and fighting, it was time for the feast. Our little backpacker bellies were over the moon to digest mountains of roasted veggies, salads, fillets of fish, every meat you can imagine and the biggest, juiciest mussels on the planet. All meats are cooked underground for hours on end, to ensure tasty, tender goodness. Dessert didn’t disappoint either. Toffee sponge, custards, fruits and passion fruit pavlovas.

Our bloated bellies then got semi naked in bikinis and we got in the hot tubs and hit the bar. Then around midnight we gathered around a ginormous fire, roasted marshmallows and listened to Maori stories.

We stumbled into our beautiful tent room that might as well be a hotel and, quote Matt: “I think this was the best day of my life.”

***

Crazy hat lady wakes up before 5am, waking up innocent fellow travellers (ME).

Crazy hat lady unpacks her backpack and viciously rustles plastic bags.

Crazy hat lady gives a loud, running commentary: “I’m opening up my bag now…”

“I’m folding my clothes now…”

“I’m putting on my socks now…”

Crazy hat lady then irons every item of clothing with her hair straighteners.

What is life.

***

Breakfast was fit for a king.

Apart from my disturbed sleep, the Maori experience has been amazing. I’m relaxed, well fed, but most of all, I now have SO much respect for their culture and history.

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.

Volcanoes, Dolphins and a Minor Mental Breakdown

19 Feb

Had some sweet as transport today: on the back of Brett’s stunning vintage motorbike. Unbelievable how smooth and comfy it was. My last memory of being on the back of a bike was when I was about six and Dad zoomed down to the cricket field in the village. I cried.

Brett on the other hand was a lovely, safe driver. He loves his facts and told me lots about the south coast of Wellington through the helmet inter-com as we cruised around the picturesque bays.

20th Feb

Up and out the door by 7.30 with all my gear, plus a little Tupperware box with my lunch in. Ah, it’s been rather blissful these last couple of days. Being on the move constantly is exhausting and so I’ve been very lucky to stay at Julie’s IN MY OWN ROOM these last couple of nights. What luxury.

Hurrah! Veronica is on my bus (we thought we’d said goodbye for good about a week ago). We chatted for ages about anything and everything.

Driver is called Dave. He seems chirpy.

Arrived at the ginormous lake Taupo about 3pm. It’s cool, but in my opinion, not as pretty as lake Tekapo in the south. The whole scenery is a lot different here. In the south, the scenery was UNREAL with all of the breathtaking mountains and turquoise lakes. However, so far, the North is like England on steroids. So still very cool, but not quite as OH MY.

21st Feb

Alarm went off before 5 this morning. Me and my new friend Fran are going to tackle the Tongariro Crossing (a 20k hike through volcanoes, zig zagging around emerald lakes).

At 5.20 I rushed back into the room to find Fran fast asleep. Come on Fran! Bus leaves in 10 minutes!

Let’s do this. Others that had already done the crossing and had also got to know me joked that I would probably run it. At some points I wanted to go a little quicker, but I didn’t want to leave Fran – I was enjoying her company too much. She’s a fabulous human. Because I was so comfortable, I was tempted to do the add on 3 hours up Mount Doom. But then sensible Liv said no. I was wearing shorts and trainers. It was extremely steep, slippy and sharp. Others were returning with slashed legs, muddy blood trickling down to their ankles. Maybe not… Instead I did the Tongariro summit (an extra hour or so). Fran waited at the bottom to have some recovery time whilst I marched on into the sun. I’m glad I did it. The views were incredible. I picked up Fran again at the bottom and we saw the Emerald lakes. Stunning!!! I take back what I said about the North being a bit more ‘meh.’ The views were crazy. It all felt pre-historic with clouded smoke rising from the ground.

The long, steep downhill towards the lakes was really tricky, but also fun. We were sliding all over the place! I cut myself a tiny bit on my hand as I saved myself from a tumble. The last few hours were long but I still felt pretty energised. I wish I had captured Fran’s happy face when we finally reached the car park. They say the crossing should take 6-8 hours. We took 6.10 (but that’s with me doing the summit as well), so we did the normal route in 5.10. Not bad!

Sat waiting for the bus to leave, Fran realised her sports bra was on back to front. Her boobs were poking out the back hole that was accidentally in the front, and the front bit on her back was all baggy. “I thought they weren’t very supported.”

24/02

Came through Auckland yesterday and now in the beautiful Paihia (bay of Islands, at the top of the North Island).

Mental breakdown: bank card is blocked.

I have $6.

Damnit it. I have $5. Shouldn’t have bought that banana.

It was a stressful 6 hours but by that evening, it was all up and going again. Thank goodness! Had a celebratory salted caramel and cashew nut gelato.

Now to enjoy this beautiful little paradise… Cruise on a boat and come by a pod of 20 dolphins? Why not. I don’t know how else to describe it other than saying it was ‘magical.’ They all seemed so happy. They were extremely playful but also had such a peaceful manner about them. The male and female would jump side by side, perfectly in sync whilst the youngster showed off by the boat.

On the way back, I sat right at the front of the boat and stripped down to my bikini – attempting to fix my hideous tan lines.

Earthquakes, Windy Welly and a Confident Male

16th Feb

Just sat in Christchurch botanical gardens, hoping that there isn’t another earthquake (they had a 5.7 two days ago). It’s gorgeously sunny and I’ve just been for a cheeky 9K around the picturesque park.

We’ve got an awful bus driver on this leg of the journey: Scotty. If I ever have heaps of free-time, I’m definitely going to give him a bad review. The idea of the Kiwi Experience is if you’re staying at nearby accommodation, the drivers ought to pick you up. Last night my motel was EN ROUTE and he still said “nah mate.” So it was a 20-30 min walk for me with my big pack at stupid o’clock in the morning. And it’s not just me – the whole bus thinks he’s a miserable sod and he’s always stressed. Thing is, he’s actually quite funny. But we all hate him too much to laugh at his jokes.

***

Went around the awesome ‘Spectrum’ street art exhibition. It’s inspired by the devastating effects of the earthquake a few years ago. There were lots of childhood references, which to me, refers to the innocence in it all – so many innocent people’s lives, ruined.

It was an ace exhibition; so glad we found it (no thanks to Scotty). “Christchurch is a bit of a shit hole to be honest.”

I disagree. All the pop-up shops, bars and restaurants give the city tonnes of character, and it was all quite enchanting.

Memorable moment: I was serving up some smoked salmon and missed the plate entirely. Instead, a big helping of the oily flesh plopped onto Hannah’s pristine Ray Bans, which were resting on the table. Awkward laughs and gasps all round…

***

17th Feb

Arrived safely in Kaikura (a little beach town famous for whale watching and swimming with dolphins). I’ve decided to save a dolphin swim for the Bay of Islands, and I’m glad I did! We’ve been lucky with the weather so far but today it has been GRIM. Insane winds and pelting it down with rain.

***

18th Feb

Time to say farewell to the South Island and head up North! The three and a half hour ferry journey felt like days but I’m finally here. I’m staying with the lovely Julie and Brett again and it was great fun telling them all about my adventures so far. It was also great fun watching Brett be sick in his mouth a little bit as we watched some weird birthing documentary, and the camera focused a little too long on some gammy placenta.

***

Good lord. Now I know why they nickname Wellington, windy welly. I’ve never known gales like it! I’ve been pushed into the road several times… You open your mouth to talk and spit flies in every direction. Maybe I didn’t pick the best day to hang my washing out… When taking the pegs off, the wind swallowed my towel. It vanished in less than a second – my eyes weren’t quick enough to trace its direction. I ran upstairs to the balcony to try and get a better view of where it might have gone. Sprinting like hell; focused, frantic Liv did not see the big glass door… I now have a bruised forehead. Man, I wish I had that on film. Would get on ‘You’ve Been Framed’ EASILY.

My sore head made my Te Papa museum visit a bit of a struggle. It’s a museum of such high standards though, so I hope I can visit again one time.

In the evening I went to meet Annie, Mike and Hannah for dinner & drinkys. On the way, some guy stopped me…

He began with, “Excuse me, you were on the ferry yesterday….” (bit creepy). He then proceeded to ask, “what are you doing tonight?” No way! Chatted up on the street! Does that even happen these days!?

After some awkward small talk, I politely rejected him. I admire his confidence though. He wasn’t even a looker!

I shook my head in disbelief as I continued to walk into the centre to meet my lovely Kiwi peeps.

My jungle curry way delicious! Hannah, on the other hand has become a true traveller. Ordering no food at dinner, she instead orders an alcoholic beverage and asks the waiter for the wifi code.

It could have been a great love story

Happy valentines day! Running on very little sleep at the moment. Last night the Danish were being SO loud and SO drunk. Then whoever was on the bunk above me was snoring like a pig.

It was an emotional goodbye saying farewell to the girls as I made my way to Lake Tekapo. I’ll see Annie and Hannah again in a couple of days, but it was a sad farewell to Rachel, Jade and Sophia. Travelling is like an emotional rollercoaster. You become so close to people in such a short space of time and then before you know it, one of you hops on a bus / flight / ferry and that’s it – they’re just a memory. We’ll all keep in contact via Facebook though, and we hope to meet again as a group at some point back in England.

I’m staying in Lake Tekapo for 2 nights but have no accommodation for tomorrow night. Apparently there is NOTHING available. Oops. But hey, panicky Liv isn’t that panicky. “It’ll work out.” I tell myself.

Hurrah! It did. Someone cancelled their reservation in a nearby motel 10 minutes ago so BAM, that bed has my name all over it.

The late afternoon was spent lazing by the blue beyond blue lake.

I’ve just written a really, really long paragraph and then deleted it all because it made me sound so lame. Long story short: got talking to a beautiful man on the beach. He was hitchhiking around New Zealand. I was really enjoying his company…So much so that this panicked me and so I said goodbye. Why Liv, why.

The next day, on my little backpack trek to the motel, who am I following but beautiful man from the beach yesterday!!! I don’t believe in fate – but if I did, this would be it. I could have said hi and then we could have hitchhiked together (sod my own travel plans). We could have gone around the world together and then eventually buy a house in England, get a cute dog and live happily ever after.

Instead, I turned into a cafe to buy a coffee and a muffin before heading onto the motel. I am the worst kind of person.

***

Survived my lonely motel experience. Actually really enjoyed it! Finally had a great night’s sleep. Did a mighty solo hike up Mount John (accidentally went the extra long route) but that made it feel even better when I finally reached the summit.

Hannah, Mike & Annie have now arrived! After a chilled night in Tekapo cooking dinner together, tomorrow we will venture to Christchurch. Fingers crossed there isn’t another earthquake. 2 days ago they had a 5.7 and aftershocks are quite likely…

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.”

Possums, Glaciers and a Little Knob

6th Feb

Now got an ace group of pals and feeling oh so content with life. We’re at a real party hostel tonight. It’s New Zealand’s birthday today and we’re going to a Kiwi-themed fancy dress party. I’m either gonna go as an All Blacks player or a possum. Do possums have visible ears? I hope so. That would be cute.

Me and the girls are in a room with a 40 something year old. She has a heart of gold but my god, she needs an off switch. STOP. TALKING.

For party gossip, please see handwritten diary. Sorry.

***

7th Feb

Inhaled the free breakfast this morning.

Arrived in the beautiful Franz Josef about 1.30pm. It has a bit of a Mammoth Lakes feel about it (see California diary, 2015). Snow-capped mountains surrounding a tiny little mountain village, which luckily, in our case, was gloriously sunny. How idyllic.

I’ve put my name down to do the glacier hike tomorrow. It’s very expensive ($319) but a once in a lifetime opportunity. My whole feel for this trip is even if I want to do something a little bit – do it. Come back to England without any regrets.

The woman that checked us in at the hostel was the most irritating lump of a human that you can imagine. “I hear you had a big night last night?… Lots of wine?” (She then holds up a glass of wine). “Do you all remember what wine is?” She then got all stressy when we were trying to pay – telling us off, telling us she can’t multitask and that she can’t process things quickly… (What NOT to say in a job interview).

There’s a great hike here, but it’s a long one and we don’t have time today. It’s 6-8 hours and called something Knob (not actually ‘something’ I just can’t remember the name). So instead we decided to do the ‘little’ knob hike. Ha, brilliant.

***

8th Feb

Glacier hike day! Felt like such a boss being in the front seat of the helicopter with all the head gear on. The views were truly spectacular and the take off and landing was so smooth, you felt like you were in a little bubble, floating over the mountain tops. Skies were gloriously blue so got some fab photos. It was fun wearing the mountain boots with spikes and going through the narrow gaps in the ice. I was in my element and felt like such a little explorer.

***

Still loving Franz and wanted to run in the beautiful scenery. “Eugh, how do you have the effort to run?” they groan. For me, it is an effort NOT to run. I was merrily cruising along, then out of nowhere, without warning, 8 wolf dogs sprung out of the bushes, barking viciously and jumping up at me. “This is the end.” I thought. What good is a rape alarm in this situation!? Frozen like a statue for what felt like at least 20 long seconds, 3 women then appeared through the hedges too. “Don’t jump up at the lady!” One of them called. “Don’t worry sweetie, they’re real friendly.” Sure, those fangs look harmless. But I live to tell the tale and come away scratch-free. All is well.

***

Now hyperventilating with excitement and fear. Just signed up to do the Nevis bungy jump.

To be continued…

Horses, hippies and a homeless man

5th Feb

Sorry dorm-mates. Woke up at 6.45 for a run around the picturesque Kaiteriteri. I think I was pretty quiet though as I was so conscious of disturbing people. SO conscious that I slept in my running shorts and sports bra so I could just get up and go. However, I guess I didn’t think it through so well… I had slept in my retainers so still needed to rummage around in my toiletries bag to take those cool kids out.

Ran up some mountain on the road. About 20 mins in, the first car went passed and I realised I was in the middle of freakin’ no where. Even though I had my emergency alarm with me – who would hear me? Swiftly turned around and ran back at a quicker pace (due to fear and the fact it was now downhill). I wish I could run in the wilderness by myself for hours on end… But unfortunately, the fact that there are some horrid people in the world and the fact that no one knows where I have gone… It’s probably not the best idea. Life is just too precious. (Be proud Mum and Dad, be proud).

Had a nice shower after my run – but you know who didn’t? The guy I was sitting next to on the bus to Westport. Apparently I ordered several mouthfuls of B.O. with my lunch. Not OK.

There were stunning views on the road – surrounded by rainforest and the mighty Lake Buller. Population is pretty tiny here and has the whole hill-billy, inbred vibe. That aside, the west coast is remote and beautiful. What a perfect place to horse trek though…

Me & Annie were the only advanced riders, the other 4 were beginners. This meant it was all a very slow place except at the end when us two got to have a good gallop. Man, that felt good. My trusty steed was Leroy – a handsome chestnut gelding about 15.2. He was a grumpy old sod with tonnes of character. He looked a right misery guts when we arrived and I whispered to Annie, I bet he’s mine. Classic.

Most of the ride was through water which was fun. Other bits included open fields surrounded by mountains, or narrow paths within rainforest foliage – the greenest of greens, dotted with fluorescent red flowers and the piercing sound of bugs.

Fun time over – I’m in a dorm with a couple of crazies. They’re known on the bus as ‘the hippy girls.’ They are nice girls and they mean no harm but they sing a lot, laugh a lot and walk around the room naked. Are you ready for a genuine quote?

(American accent): “so I was in Fiji 3 weeks ago and I met the love of my life so I thought what the heck. I married him.”

Crazy hippy girl number 1 was in Fiji for 2 weeks and married a native Fijian.

Even though she now has another half, she still passionately kisses her best girlfriend on a regular base. Meanwhile… I’m there, sat on my bed, eating my muesli bar and trying to watch an episode of BBC’s War & Peace that I downloaded on my iPad, thinking: what even is this. Please, for the love of God, put some clothes on.

Things get stranger the next day when I to for a run. Conveniently, there was an athletics track opposite the hostel. As I did my laps I was followed by a little homeless man, who had his life in a plastic bag. As I changed from clockwise to anti clockwise, so did he. Lovely. Bearing in mind I did 45 min session, he did a fair few laps of that track…

Peace out Westport, you’ve been interesting.