After lots of contemplating of whether or not to visit NZ before I left Australia, I finally made the decision (with the help of my parents) to take one last trip to the South Island from Christchurch to Queenstown. My mom made a good point in saying that I probably won’t be on that side of the world ever again or if I do it will be in a very long time, so I might as well take advantage of being so close to such a breathtaking country. And so I did…and it was amazing (not that the word “amazing” can actually do my trip and all the scenery justice), but I’ll do my best to describe and show you what I so gratefully saw and did on my trip:
The first day of my New Zealand trip I boarded my plane to Christchurch at 8:55am. The flight went smoothly and when I landed I took a shuttle to the YHA hostel where I was planning on staying for the night. Turns out that I would be staying there two nights because there was road problems due to weather and the bus I was supposed to take couldn’t get through to Queenstown. With the extra day in Christchurch, my roommate Amy and I got a manicure at the local mall, went shopping around the few stores that were open, and went to the Canterbury museum which was located directly across from the hostel in which we were staying at. The museum was a pleasant surprise with artifacts from all over the world. I especially enjoyed the dinosaur skeletons, the preserved mummy, and the paua shell house. The house contained over 1,100 shells on the wall! It was quite the sight. Also, the old-school video that played to describe what we were looking at in the house within the museum gave us a good laugh. The couple who owned the house were quite interesting to say very least. To each his own, I guess. The shells aren’t within my style for my own home at all, but I certainly enjoyed looking at them for entertainment. We ended the night with homemade tacos and hot chocolate. Yum.
The next day we woke up early in hopes of catching the next bus to our first choice, Queenstown, or our second choice, Dunedin. We were in no luck to take the bus in which we had originally planned to either location. Luckily, after a lot of research and frustration, we found a bus that would at least take us to Dunedin at 2pm (we had been up since 6am trying to figure things out). We made our way to the bus stop and it was a utter relief when the bus actually pulled up to pick us up, unlike our planned company that we had booked through. We got on the bus and made our way to Dunedin, with a short stop to get food or drinks if we wanted them. Five hours later, we arrived! Knowing we had a new town to explore was a good feeling. I was ecstatic! Christchurch definitely had potential to be a cute town, but the earthquake two years ago definitely took a toll on it’s “cuteness”. It was certainly a shame.
When we arrived at the YHA in Dunedin at 8pm, we put our stuff into our room and headed to George St. for some Chinese take away and drinks. I got some spicy chicken and vegetable over rice and tried a New Zealand made beer and apple cider. We were tired after dinner, so we went to sleep shortly after.
The next day I woke up early, ate the complimentary brekkie at the hostel, got a butterscotch latte at McDonalds (yes, there are nice cafes within some McDonalds in Australia and New Zealand). Pretty cool… and odd for Americans haha. After coffee, my roommate, my friend from my program, and I decided to make our way to Queenstown via taxi, the most time and money efficient way after having horrible trouble with our original bus company.
Driving up to Queenstown gave me a taste of what I expected from NZ. White snow capped mountains and beautiful lakes welcomed me. When I arrived in Queenstown, we took a look at Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains right in the backyard of the hostel in which we were staying (YHA Queenstown Central). This was the moment I was waiting for. Words nor pictures can do the scenery justice. It was unreal. I even felt numb, but that may have been from the freezing cold haha. The cold didn’t matter though. The view had my full attention. It was like the most beautiful postcard on steroids. I wish everyone could experience it.
After taking photos and enjoying the view, we bought some groceries to make a big salad for dinner with a chips and salsa for an appetizer. Next we did a bit of shopping, relaxed in our room, and decided what we wanted to do for the next couple days. We decided we wanted to extend our stay in Queenstown and chop a day off of the end our Christchurch stay.
The next day we had to wake up at 5:30am to catch the bus for our wildness tour from Queenstown to Lake Wanaka to a beautiful national park with blue pools, waterfalls, and more views of the mountains and plains. I had never seen water that color before. It was very neat. Our last stop ended with jetboating on the Haast River. It was a fairly short ride, but the views were absolutely beautiful. After a long day of bush walking (hiking) and jetboating, we made our way back to Queenstown. On the way back we made a stop at a fruit market where I tried my first persimmon and nashi pear. I liked them so much that I had to buy at least one of them. I decided on the pear. It was 80 cents NZ or 62 American cents. It was the size of a large apple and was beyond juicy and flavorful. I decided that I would have to buy both fruits when I get back to the States (if I could find them). After making a quick stop to our rooms, we got in the short line but long wait for a nice juicy burger at Fergburger for a late dinner. I tried the “southern swine”, a NZ beef burger with bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion, aioli, and tomato relish (they ran out of the avocado that was also supposed to be on it, but it was all good). Amy and I also shared a fries and I ordered extra sweet chili dipping sauce. It was my favorite meal thus far in NZ and one of the best burgers that I have ever had! I would recommend anyone to go there. It’s definitely worth the wait.
We called it yet another early night because we had been up so early. The next day would be jammed packed with activities once again and we wanted our rest! Photography of our surroundings, in-town shopping, and horseback riding to see some scenery from The Lord of the Rings awaited. I didn’t think that the previous day could be topped, but it certainly was.
Amy and I were picked up near our hostel to be driven to Dart Stables. With one quick stop to take some photos at a nearby reflective lake, we arrived at the stables to get our helmets and gumboots required to ride. We pet some of the horses and took some photos of them, with them, and the surroundings. Next, we took another short bus ride to our final destination of Paradise…literally. The town was actually named Paradise and man, did it own up to its name. I felt like I was on a other planet.
Amy and I were assigned horses soon after we arrived. She was assigned Chester and I was assigned Sullivan. Sullivan was actually a personality star on a tv show at one point in his life and he was 21 years old just like me! He had three white socks and a long mane covering his eyes which made him look like he had emo hair. He was also HUGE–the largest horse of the bunch (and I wasn’t the largest person to be assigned a horse either). I thought he was perfect for me to ride though. I later found out that he had a very distinct personality and I fell in love with him. He was large and in charge but also a big teddy-bear.
Now, back to the scenery. Beautiful mountains with snow capped peaks, a braided river (the Dart River), mossy woods, and hills and valleys surrounded me. Horses filled the valleys, two of which were horses of Rohan (a Lord of the Rings reference). They looked even more majestic with the sun starting to slowly set behind the mountains. The ride lasted an hour and a half and kept getting better and better each turn or hill.
On a side note for The Lord of the Rings fans, I saw some scenery from some key scenes in The LOTR movies. I saw valleys of Isengard; where Gimli had been breathing heavy and was spotted by elves; where the dam between the mountains was created for Saruman’s tower and surrounding area was flooded; where Boromir was killed by four arrows; random shots of the scenery (specifically a beam of light that naturally casts upon a large tree in the movie); where uruk-hai ran down the hill in the woods to try to capture Frodo; and where Saruman’s tower stood at only four feet tall in reality. It was unreal to see the scenery from the movies in addition to seeing how Peter Jackson played with the landscape of beautiful Paradise.
The next day we headed back to Christchurch with beautiful scenery all along the way. We made quick stops to view our surroundings, my favorite stop being Lake Tekapo. This is where I decided to purchase an iced coffee, despite the snow-capped mountains, so I could stay awake to see what the rest of NZ’s South Island had to offer. The day ended with a delicious meal at a pub in Christchurch. Most interestingly, the pub contained postage stamp wallpaper and weird rabbit/bunny photographs framed on the wall, some with cat faces Photoshopped onto what would be their typical rabbit/bunny faces. On a more normal note, the pub was an old building, with small rooms, low ceilings, fireplaces, live music, lots of locals, and great food. I got a open steak sandwich and a hot hard cider to keep me warm. It was a perfect dinner to end my trip.
We left Christchurch horribly early the next morning to catch our 6:55am flight, where I slept and reflected on my wonderful experiences in New Zealand. I was so fortunate to be able to visit a country in which I will probably never come close to ever again. I would recommend visiting NZ to just about anyone (as long as you can handle the cold), especially Queenstown, Paradise, and Queenstown’s surrounding areas in general. Although the scenery and memories created are well-worth dealing with a little cold weather.