Last week, we had Easter break, so headed off to New Zealand with two of my friends studying in Melbourne!
New Zealand was absolutely incredible. Everywhere you look, there is some sort of beautiful mountains, beach, rainforest or glaciers. Everybody told me that it is not worth going unless you have at least a full week, and they were right. Even in 8 days, it was hard to fit a lot in. We only got to do a few parts of the South Island.
We arrived in Christchurch late on Thursday night really did not get to see that much because our bus left for Queenstown at 9am the next morning. The ride to Queenstown was an all day adventure from 9am to 6:30pm, but our bus made a bunch of stops along the way for lunch and bathroom breaks.
That night in Queenstown, my friends and I headed to Chabad to celebrate the Jewish holiday, Passover. There, we ran into a bunch of study abroad students from Australia and New Zealand in addition to tons of Israelis! After the seder, we settled in at our hostel which was very nice and only about 18 months old. Each room was labeled with a name like “Brendan’s Room” or “Josh’s Room” to give it more of a home-y feel, and the owners host a hostel dinner every Wednesday and Sunday night. That particular Sunday night happened to be Easter, so we got to have Easter dinner with practically the whole hostel!
The next day, we walked around shops in Queenstown and had brunch at the Wharf by the water where there was also a crafts market to explore. Then we did an hour-long hike up a mountain and had a gorgeous view from the top. From there, we took a gondola ride back down and found dinner in town. On Sunday, we took an all day trip to Millford Sound where we got to do a boat cruise and see dolphins and some beautiful waterfalls and scenery. There was even a rainbow!
On Monday after a bus time mix-up, we ended up renting a carfor the next four days. This actually worked out much better than our original plan because it gave us a ton of flexibility to make stops along our trip and leave at convenient times. Originally, we were nervous about driving on the left side of the road, but we adjusted pretty quickly. In Franz Joseph, our full-day glacier tour was switched to a half-day tour because of rain. We took advantage of the morning by stopping in at the Franz Joseph Wildlife Center where we got to see Kiwi birds and learn a little bit about the glacier before the hike. On the hike, our tour guide was telling us that part of the glacier we hiked on was going to collapse sometime in the next few months, so our tour was actually one of the last groups that would get to walk on that particular trail for the next 30 or so years! After the hike, we got free hot chocolate and passes to the nearby hot pools where we spent the rest of our night relaxing.
The next day, our skydiving appointment was cancelled because the plane was getting repairs in Mount Cook where it was snowing. Although they told us we may be able to re-book for the next morning, the plane never made it back in time. Instead of Skydive, we decided to do a 10.5 mile hike up one of the mountains. Unfortunately, it was a very foggy day, so we didn’t really get to see a view from the tops, but it felt good to accomplish something that day after the disappointment of skydiving. That night, we watched the Lord of the Rings with a bunch of other people fromour hostel. It felt appropriate since Lord of the Rings was all filmed in New Zealand!
The next morning, we drove back to Christchurch and stopped along the way in a little town called Hokitika for lunch. In Christchurch, we went to the Maori Culture Center where we got to see Traditional Maori dances. They even made us go up on stage and learn some too! The next morning, I flew back into Sydney, a little sad that I had to say goodbye to break and New Zealand!