New Zealand

Wellington, Queenstown and Wanaka

After months of luxury and homely comforts Shannon and I have finally become the typical backpacker stereotype, as we’ve frantically moved from place to place whilst carrying all our worldly possessions on our backs. And this backpacker life has taught us a number of things: the first being that we hate 10 bed hostel rooms (the noise, the snoring, the disrupted sleep); secondly that we would have been much better off bringing suitcases instead of backpacks (they’re so heavy, ffs), and finally that you never say no to a free meal.

But let me go back to where my last post left off.

Two and a half weeks ago Shannon and I arrived in Wellington. We were WWOOF-ing, again, and hopeful that this experience would be better than our last. And it was. The accommodation was nothing like our previous host, where we had our own studio etc, as the house had only recently been bought by our new host and was due some serious renovation. Our room had one double bed and a single mattress on the floor. The walls were thin, paint peeling and cracked, and there were cobwebs decorating every corner. It was far from perfect but we felt at home. And our host, Frank, was exactly as we’d hoped – relaxed, independent and hardly at home.

Frank had picked us up from Wellington train station early on the Monday morning, and told us from the get-go that he wanted us to fully absorb ourselves into this vibrant city. After finishing a couple of chores each day – either a bit of gardening, painting or cleaning – Frank would encourage us to get out and explore.

So we went to Zealandia, and discovered the importance of plant and animal conversation within New Zealand; we went to Te Papa with my Scottish friend Stephen and immersed ourselves in the history of New Zealand’s wars (featuring the Gallipoli exhibit which was sensational); we treated ourselves to a Lord of the Rings tour that brought us up Mount Victoria and into the Weta Workshop for special effects. And of course we had to sample the great variety of bars and restaurants that Wellington is so well known for.

We limited ourselves to two nights out in Wellington. The first was a little excessive. After making our Great Escape from Te Horo, and booking ourselves into the Nomad’s hostel, we felt we deserved a bottle of vodka and few Sambuca’s as a little ‘well done for surviving the last two weeks’ present. So we pre-drank, in our ‘no-drinking’ hostel (oops), before heading to the hostel bar with our new friend Leonard. And next thing I know we were dancing and taking shots and singing and, oh, there’s another shot. And we had a great night – although the shots didn’t quite taste the same the next day… But our second night out in Wellington was so much fun, as we ended our night in front of live country music at a bar called Dakota’s. You know you’ve had a successful evening when you’re singing along to the ‘Hoedown Throwdown’, by Miley Cyrus, performed by a very attractive (!) Live band, with a cowboy hat on your head.4

We loved Wellington. It’s the perfect little city with everything you could want and need, all within walking distance. And after 10 days we were sad, but excited, to be moving on to our next little hot spot.


We had booked our two day trip in Queenstown whilst we were still in Hawkes Bay, so by the time the 19th May rolled around we were raring to go. We got the bus to the airport, hopped on a little plane to Christchurch and then hopped on another little plane to Queenstown. The views from the plane were great but the turbulence meant that Shan and I were too focused on not throwing up on ourselves to care about the pretty mountains and lakes and trees.1

But we landed, and took the shuttle bus to our hostel (another Nomad’s). We’d booked into a 10 bed hostel, which upon reflection was a terrible idea. Our roomies were wonderful – in particularly a young man named Will who had brought not one, not two but THREE waistcoats with him backpacking. And matching bow ties. Yep.

For our first evening we had booked a table at the Skyline restaurant. Situated at the top of the mountain, the restaurant has views over the whole of Queenstown, and has a buffet style restaurant enabling you to eat everything. So we took a gondola up to the top and shared a bottle of wine whilst eating sushi and Chinese. It was rather romantic really, but we sort’ve ruined the ambiance with our giggling and snorting.

After a somewhat disrupted sleep – our roomies had returned one by one throughout the night from their partying – we were up early for our fun-filled day. We’d booked the Shot over Jet for 9 am, which is a exhilarating speed/jet-boat experience lasting approx. 25 minutes. It was initially delayed by half an hour as the weather was horrendous, but we were finally on the water screaming as we reached speeds of 80 mph. It was freezing, and the rain falling from the sky felt like pin-pricks against our faces. Maybe I’m not selling this? But I promise you we had fun.

And then we headed back to our hostel to wait for an hour and a half.

And we felt sick. And we couldn’t eat. And we couldn’t talk.

I was laying on the hostel floor in the fetal position as Shannon’s phone rang to tell us that we were late, that they had emailed us the wrong time and we needed to get to their offices asap. So we ran and they checked us in and weighed us and drew bizarre pictures on our hands, before driving us to the valley.

It was time to do our Canyon Swing.

We had paid for a Swing & Fox Combo – the fox being a Zipline style activity. They took us up to a point of 180 m, before kitting us up with our helmets and bits. I went first, and asked lots of questions about ‘what do I do if?’ And ‘when I get to the other side will I hit the wall?’. To which they responded: ‘We don’t know’ and ‘Maybe?’. They were hilariously sarcastic, and in not trying to reassure our nerves whatsoever they actually managed to make us relax. And so they pushed me off, backwards, and I screamed as the zipline dropped and whizzed me across the Canyon and into the arms of another employee. I watched as Shannon followed, and then we were quickly strapped onto another zipline to whizz us back across, racing one another as we went. We loved the Fox, but we were ready for more.

There was a group of 8 of us for the swing, as opposed to just 3 for the Fox. Shannon was called up first, and I watched as she lept off of the edge, falling a ridiculous 109 metres. Oh boy.

Then it was my turn. I was kitted up, ready to jump. Pictures had been taken and the camera was rolling. The next thing I knew they told me I was all good to go. Oh God. All I had to do was ‘briskly walk’ off of the edge, that’s all. After a lot of deep breaths, and a fair bit of swearing, I jumped. It was incredible. After realising that I was in fact alive, that I hadn’t just plummeted to my death, I started to laugh. And my first thought was, ‘Oh God, my mum is going to kill me!’

With trembling legs I was back on solid ground, laughing with Shannon as we went to purchase the videos. It was easily one of the best things that I’ve done, and has made me even more eager to get a bungee jump booked.

As the excitement of the canyon swing wore off, we quickly realised how hungry we were so we headed to the famous Fergburger (as anyone who has been to Queenstown will have heard of) and devoured the largest burgers we have ever seen, before returning to our hostel to pack. Our bus to Wanaka was leaving at 8 am the following morning, and despite several attempts from our roommates to go out we had an early night (I think we’re growing up). And now we’re in Wanaka. Trying desperately to find somewhere to live, and a job for Shannon… Wish us luck.3

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