I’m finally writing about New Zealand…yes, I know…it took me a really long time. But I honestly have not had time to just sit down and write something non-school related in a while. Ok, so my trip to New Zealand was from April 12th to April 21st…and yes, New Zealand is as beautiful as everyone says it is. As you can tell from my pictures, the secenery sometimes looks like a painting, completely unreal. I arrived rather late the first day and went directly to my hotel in Auckland…all I did was go to bed because I had a really early day the next morning.
I woke up really early the next day because I was being picked up really early by a cab that would drive me to the bus station, where I had to get on a bus to Rotorua. I got on the bus and my New Zealand adventure began! The first stop on our way was a really small town for about 20 minutes. In this town was one of the most historic sites in New Zealand, the place where the battle of Rangiriri took place. After our small stop, we pressed on and finally got to the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. I had supposedly seen Glow Worms before in Australia, but nothing could have prepared me for these caves. The first part of the cave is like any other, full of beautiful rock formations, stalactites and stalacmites…and then you get into this one area that they call the Cathedral, which is a HUGE open space in the cave that apparently has such great acoustics that many important singers have given concerts there. Also, a lot of people like to get married there because it does very closely resemble a cathedral. There were some women in my tour group that had asked permission that day to sing in that part of the cave, they sang a prayer in their native language, it was outstanding. After that, you go down some more steps and then are instructed to get into a little boat that the tour guide manually guides through another part of the cave. It is pitch dark, but if you look up, there are millions of small specks of light in the roof of the cave. I had seen the post cards before we went in the cave, and I thought they were exaggerating, but they were not. I think the post cards did not even remotely embody the beauty of this cave…all those millions of little lights were glow worms. It was amazing, I have seen very few things as beautiful in my life. I could not take my eyes off the cealing of the cave. After this amazing experience, we got on the bus again and stopped for lunch at "The Big Apple Cafe" and then kept going until we got to Rotorua. Now, the first thing that hits you when you get to Rotorua is a very special smell….sulphur. Sulphur everywhere. I walked around the town that night….took some pictures of the buildings, but since it was after five I couldn’t go into the museum. Oh, and the sulphur? Rotorua is well-known for the geothermal activity in the area. There are a number of geysers and hot mud pools located in the city.
The next morning, after having an annoying fire alarm at the hotel at about 3 or 4 in the morning (yes, everyone in the hotel evacuated and the firemen came) I decided to go on a guided tour of Rotorua, because I really didn’t know how to get around on my own! It ended up being a great idea because I got to see a lot of things that I would not have gotten to see otherwise. The tour took us to the Te Puia Cultural Center where they showcase Maori culture, traditional villages, etc. The Te Whakarewarewa Therman Reserve is also located in this cultural center. It was also amazing…the thermal waters radiated so much heat…I saw active geysers and mud pools, which had mud bubbling like it does in cartoons. I thought it was amazing, I had never seen anything like it. The next stop in our tour was in Paradise Valley Springs, a park dedicated mainly to raising trout but they also had many other native NZ animals. I got to see a trout farm! Oh, and I also got to try water directly from one of the springs…it tasted like heaven. Now, I know water is supposed to be tasteless but after years of drinking New Orleans tap water, you learn to appreciate a good glass of water. I had two. The last stop of my day trip was the Agrodome, here, they basically show you every single kind of sheep there is and then they do this thing were a guy on a stage shears a sheep in front of you. It was pretty cool. Although I enjoyed the sheepdogs more than I did the sheep. The sheep were really pretty though, I had no idea so many different kinds existed! That night I was scheduled to go to the Tamaki Maori Village for a traditional Maori Hangi and Concert. When we got there, the men performed the traditional Wero Ceremony to welcome us into the village. Then there was a faux village set up, and at each "house" there were some people showcasing traditional Maori activities. We then moved into the meeting house were the family members that own the Tamaki Maori Village sang and performed. It was really beautiful. Then we moved to the Hangi, in a Hangi, the food is cooked in an outdoor pit oven. After eating, I went to some stores and exhibitions that they had set up outside. One of them was about traditional Maori tattoos, and I was fortunate enough to speak to a Maori man who still tattoed in the traditional way. He explained to me what the tattoos mean, and how one side of the face is reserved for the maternal side of the family and another for the paternal side, he explained that women also tattooed their whole faces at one point, and that it was common for people to tattoo their whole legs as well. It was incredibly interesting to speak to him. I got back to my hotel, happy, full and exhausted.
The next morning I had a flight to Christchurch, the view from the plane was wonderful! When I got there I decided to go downtown and walk around a bit. I saw the cathedral, which was very beautiful and the Cathedral Square. I went to the Canterbury Museum, which was wonderful. They had an area of the museum that was set up like old Christchurch, I loved it. I also went to the Southern Encounter Aquarium and Kiwi House…where I got to see, yes, you guessed it! KIWIS!! Now, one of my favorite books as a kid was "Kiwi" by Carmen de Posadas from the Barco de Vapor series…so needless to say, I was happy that I finally got to see one. It made me happy. After all my kiwi excitement, I got on the tram and just checked out the city. In the Christchurch Arts Center, I got my palm read. She told me that I would be very succesful, I chose to believe that part. hahaha..it was interesting. I also walked around the Botanical Gardens for a little bit. I could see myself living in Christchurch, it really was a beautiful city. Impeccable. Too bad it is so far away from my loved ones.
I had an early morning…AGAIN…this time it was to get on the TranzAlpine rail journey from Christchurch to Greymouth. I sat with an Irish guy who was reading "The Alchemist" by Paulo Cohelo and swore to me that it had changed his life. He said he would give it to me when he finished it, but he never did…haha…we talked a lot about our lives and what not. Then I slept….it was a looooong train ride! I did take a lot of pictures though, the scenery was wonderful! When we got to Greymouth, I got on a bus that would take me to Franz Josef Glacier. I met some girls, fellow travelers like me, on the bus and we had a good time in one of our stops at Hokitika where we went to see the Greenstone and Glass blowing factory. We finally got to Franz Josef, but sadly, it was too late for me to go see the glacier up close…so I had to conform with talking around town, which took…and I’m not kidding…10 minutes and I was done…so I went to bed.
Sadly, I didn’t get to spend much time in Franz Josef, I had a bus pick up early the next morning that would take me to Queenstown. I took tons of photos on our way to Queenstown. I also took pictures of one of the stops because I had never seen autum colors like the ones I saw there…I had also never seen an apple orchard, so I was very excited. Then I finally got to Queenstown…and the first thing I did was pick up skydiving flyers from the front desk of the hotel. I was determined. You can’t go to Queenstown, New Zealand and not do some kind of extreme sport. Also, I had said that skydiving was something I needed to do before I died…and what better place to do it? So I called and made a reservation. Yes, I was scared. To give myself time to absorb what I had just done, I did what I always do to calm myself down, I called my mom :). Ofcourse, I didn’t tell her what I had just done…but it was still good to talk to her. I walked around Queenstown, went to some souvenier shops and got most of my gifts for people and then went to bed knowing that in two days I would be jumping out of a plane 9000 ft in the air.
The next day I woke up early again because I had a tour to Milford Sound. It took hours to get there…and on the bus there was an entire family…2 kids and dad, who had motion sickness…they puked the whole way there, and the whole way back…enough said. On our way there, the funniest thing happened…something that would only happen in New Zealand….our bus had to stop because there was a herd of sheep crossing the road. Yes, sheep…and LOTS of them…We stopped at a town called Te Anau where I decided to buy some motion sickness medication in case I got sick on the boat…I did not want to end up like the family on the bus! We also stopped at these lakes appropriately named "The Mirror Lakes". The water is always so clam that the lakes act as a perfect mirror…in some of my pictures you can’t tell what is real and what is a reflection. We also stopped at The Chasm, which are some amazing rock formations that have been formed naturally. It was a thousand times more amazing than what the pictures reflect. FINALLY, we got to Milford Sound, which is actually a fjord. The difference between a sound and a fjord is that a sound, according to wikipedia is "a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, wider than a fjord, or it may identify a narrow sea or ocean channel between two bodies of land" a fjord however is "is a narrow inlet of the sea between cliffs or steep slopes, which results from marine inundation of a glaciated valley ". So yeah, I went to Milford Fjord. On the boat we basically went around, it was really pretty but the day was really overcast, so I think I didn’t get the best experience I could have had. However, I did get to see the Tasman Sea and some fur seals chilling on a rock, which was pretty amazing. I got back to Queenstown and decided it was better for me just to go to bed…my nerves were starting up. I had what I like to call "buak" hahaha…Diego will understand what I’m talking about.
I woke up…what the hell am I doing? I thought to myself….but I went downtown and into the NZone office. "What jump will you be doing?" said the nice girl who checked me in…and I though to myself, rather out loud actually, I can’t do 9000ft that is just being waaaay to chicken…but then again 15000ft is just a little too extreme…so I decided to go ahead and do 12000ft…which is roughly 3.7 Km or 2.28 miles…yep then the girl asked if I wanted pictures…and I said "are you kidding me?? I want pictures, and video and anything else you can give me! I am documenting this experience!!!"…then I signed my life away, literally. And before I even got to watch the informational video I was called and put on a bus. When we got to the place where the planes took off, me and the British couple that I would be sharing the airplane with got a mini session on what to do when we were out of the plane, etc etc. Then we each met the people that we would be attached to, my guy was really funny and nice. Then we got in the plane…a tiny plane I must add…gosh, just writing about this gives me butterflies!…there were seriously about 10 people crammed into that plane…I was sitting in front of the guy I was jumping out with….and then I felt him start to hook me up to him…and I looked out the tiny window and could see everything getting smaller…and us getting higher and higher up in the air…and then, those fateful words…"ok, time to go" the british guy went first…then…I felt my guy start to slide towards the door….then I was out the door…looking at the sky…then…he said "ready?" and before I could say "NO!! I AM NOT READY!! PUT ME BACK IN THE PLANE RIGHT NOW!!!" which was exactly what I was thinking, I was out the door and looking down at the world 12000ft below me….PANIC…absolut PANIC for a few seconds…and then it hit me…I was skydiving…I was free falling 12000ft up in the air at 200kms/h…I tried to scream but absolutely no sound would come out of my mouth…the free falling lasted only 45 seconds and then a small parachute went up…to tell you the truth I didn’t feel a difference…and then he said "Ok…hang on!" and he pulled the rope…all of a sudden we were liften up and then it hit me…motion sickness…we started parachuting down, which is actually a really nice feeling…you are just gliding in the air…slowly making your way down…really nice…only the guy kept making these circling motions and I felt like I was going to throw up…I kept thinking "where will my puke go if I throw up now?" funny I know…but I asked him to stop the circling and he did…and then we just…glided down…ever so nicely….and then I saw it…land approaching…FAST….fortunately I was able to land perfectly and not fall flat on my butt…and when the guy with the camera asked me how it was all that came out of my mouth was "…good…it was….good" my heart was racing a mile a minute and my adrenaline rush lasted all day…it was amazing….it was…wow…thinking about it makes me smile…it makes me smile and it also makes me feel proud of myself. I did it. I jumped out of a plane! (granted, I was attached to someone else, but it’s a start!). The first thing I did was tell my dad on msn, skype my mom and Diego and tell them all about it…my parents were glad I didn’t tell them beforehand, but they were proud…and so was Diego…he was also a little jealous, but I told him we will do it together sometime. That night, I sent Megan and my sister (who never thought I would do it) postcards with me on the front, skydiving!!!!
After such an exciting morning, I needed a much more chill afternoon. So I decided to go to Arrowtown which is a historic gold mining town. On the way there we stopped for some amazing shots, the pictures look like paintings…I fell in love. The town was really quaint, it was very small and pretty. I went to the museum and got some candy at the Remarkable Sweet Shop…and then just walked around, enjoying the beauty of the place. I got back and remembered I had a pass to the Skyline Gondola…now, as you may recall from my gondola experience with my sister in Cairns, I am not that fond of them…they freak me out…but the pass was free and I had gone skydiving that morning…so I decided to put my fear aside and go. I did and it wasn’t that bad…i took some great pictures from the top. Then I went back down and finished my souveier shopping and walked around some more…by the end of the day I was literally exhausted so I went to bed…nearing the end of my wonderful trip.
The next morning I was picked up to go back to Christchurch from where I would leave to go back to Australia the next day. The bus made a quick stop at Mt. Cook, which is another glacier, and had lunch at a hotel there. We also made a quick stop at a small town called Geraldine…and after having some bus troubles, we almost got stranded because the bus refused to start, I was safely at my hotel in Christchurch. That marked the end of my trip. I went to bed and caught a shuttle to the airport at 4 am. It was honestly one of the best things I have ever done in my whole life. I never thought I would be able to travel by myself, but I did…and I also faced my fears…New Zealand will always hold a special place in my heart. I will never forget my (hopefully) first trip there.