I Love…. Thrill: Adventures in New Zealand (Day 4-6)

“I will never bunjy jump. I will do a lot of things in life, but not bunjy jump” —-Kim in 2013

Fast forward to 9:00am on New Years Morning of 2014. I am standing in line to bunjy jump. I have number 19 and 58 written in big markers on either hand, indicating my weight and my order of jumping. My heart is racing a bit, but not as much as I anticipated. I was more concerned about the rain coming down, and if my braids were still in. Is there something wrong with me if this is my biggest concern? Thankfully I had already paid the day before, so I couldn’t back out. The rain, the cold, any last minute fears, would not stop me. As I stepped up, and they started wrapping my feet with the cords and patting, I thought my heartbeat alone was going to push me off the ledge. I was starting to feel the nerves.  I wasn’t scared about the end result. I knew I would survive and nothing would go wrong. The adrenline just kicks in, and its rewiring your mentality to quiet it. Except, nothing I said internally worked. My heart kept beating. Let me rephrase that, it was rapidly pounding and felt like it would break through and open up my chest at any moment.

My logic was… if I start 2014 with this, it is going to be an incredible year. It’s not that I felt that I had to do it, there was no pressure from anyone, nor myself. But It was a need. I have done a lot of crazy things in my life (hiked Machu Pichhu alone, sailed 700 miles back from Bermuda, ran a few half marathons, skydived, lived in the Bahamas, skiied Mt. Washington… call me crazy yet? I think they call it an “adrenaline junky”). Crazy is what keeps me going. I am always looking for the next crazy, the next thing to make my heart beat louder than the last. Bunjee jumping was not on my initial list, for no reason other than I had no interest in jumping off a ledge and being saved by rubber bands. Now, I am thankful it made it to my bucketlist.

I don’t necessarily live by the “YOLO” or “live with no regrets” mentality. I actually make it a point to not hold anything as a regret in life… everything happens for a reason, even if it seems stupid at the time. Even if it is dissapointing, disheartening, or sad, it will come around to make sense one day. It is not worth runing this moment, this breath in life, if you can’t change it.   I like to take advantage of the moment I am in .And what better way to be in the moment than jumping off a 200 foot bridge?

On the plane to New Zealand, I read My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir. It was one of those books that you finished, and you were so proud of her, but also motivated to do something yourself. It is about a journalist who is in a quarter-life crisis, and makes a resolution to “do something everyday that scares you”. I just love this idea. I tried it for a few days, but there isn’t enough in life that scares me. I would be better off with doing one thing a day to have me be in the moment.Anyways, this book is truly an inspiration and I highly recommend reading it,it will get you off the couch, and make you feel good about your life. She is funny, she is insightful, but most importantly, she makes you be reflective.  It will make you appreciate every experience, even something as simple as speaking to a stranger, or trying a new food. Every experience matters.

Now, Back to reality. I am on the bridge, waving to Greg. I tell the guys to push me, and they laugh. They ask me if I want to touch the water, and I say ” Surprise me”. And then?  I just go. There is no time to think, there is no thinking period. I just go. And it’s over in 2 1/2 minutes. It was really very easy, much easier than I thought it would be.  I was able to add it, and cross it off of my Bucket List at the same time. If you follow your breath from one moment to the next, everything else will just happen organically. 

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Afterwards, Greg and I made a 3 Hour drive to Lake Pukaki, and an overnight in a hostel in Mount Cook. There wasn’t much to see on the drive to Lake Pukaki. The only town of interest would be Wanaka, but it was foggy and rainy, so it just looked like all the other lakes. Apparently Wanaka is a huge destination for summer houses. We drove through downtown of Wanaka, which had a ton of restaurants, bars and shops. It seemed less “hippie” and more normal than those in Queenstown (just 30 min on the other side of the mountain).

There wasn’t much else to see on the drive besides Lake Pukaki. We did drive through Linds pass, which felt like it was something out of the Dr. Seuss book or movie. I felt like I was one of the balls of fur from Horton Hears a Who. We stopped so that Greg could nap (obviously) and I went and hiked around the lookout. It was certainly a scene that I will never see again!

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The next stop was Lake Pukaki, which is utterly breathtaking. There are no words. In a very different way than Queenstown was. It kind of was like, we were driving and had been in some pretty gross towns (Tinsel, an old mining town.. with absolutely nothing), and out of no where came Pukaki. It  was one of the most beautiful surprises of my life. It is the epitome of turqoise, there is no other way to describe it. It is caused by sediment coming from the mountains, and it is the must unreal color, fake color ever. Had I not seen it for myself, I would think it did not exist. We spent some time walking around and in the lake, and just amazed by the vivid colors. We drove all along the perimeter of the lake to get to Mt. Cook. The hostel was grimy, it was downpouring for our entire time, and it was cold.  Downpouring. Drenching. Freezing. It didn’t give Mt. Cook a good name for us. We were supposed to do 3 glacier hikes, but ended up just looking at pictures of the glaciers. As Greg itierated, “the pictures of it look very nice”. We left the next day, and I stopped at a short, 40 minute glacier hike. I did it alone, and Greg played on his phone in the car. It was very neat and interesting to see, but I was soaked for the remaining 3 hour drive. We arrived in Christchurch where we met up with Miles and Carolines family. We had a low-key night in Christchurch for Miles’ last night as a single man. It was great to be reunited with our fellow Americans.

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The glacier at the end of the freezing cold hike.

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Hiking by myself to the glacier. Notice the wetness.

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In Front of Lake Pukaki.

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I Love… Being In This Moment: New Years in New Zealand (Day 3)

New Years Eve is always something I feel ambivalent about. Everyone makes a huge commotion, and to me, it really isn’t anything special. It is a time used by many to reflect on what they did, and what they want to work on for the future. But to be honest, I do that every day. I don’t need a “day” or a “new year” to initiate a change in my lifestyle. I celebrate “a new day” everyday, rather than “a near year”. It’s great if its a catalyst for change for others, but to me, its just another beautiful morning to wake up. That being said, I never have really had an “awesome” time on new years. Most times growing up we were away on vacation, and in college it just never was a big deal. It is more important for me to focus on this moment, whatever that moment is, then for me to change my future moments. If you are always concerned about how you will be in the future, you will miss out on how you are right now. And how can you ever change, if you are not in tune with your current moment?

On this particular New Years, we were in fact, the first country in the whole entire universe of the world to celebrate New Years. Now that is pretty impressive. I had planned a “surprise” for Greg that was his christmas gift in the morning, which was a ride on a Jet Boat, which is famous in New Zealand for going incredibly fast, turning sharp corners, and going in 2 cm of water. It was very thrilling, very fast. It is worth it if you are doing a package with something else… but it is very very expensive to do it alone.  My favorite part of Greg’s surprise was the helicopter tour that I booked!  After the Jetboat, we took a bus to the top of a local ski mountain, where the helicopter would pick us up, fly us to the top of the Majestics, and then bring us to the airport. It brought us over the valley/mountains of Queenstown, and up to the top of the “Alps” to overlook the lake. It was breathtaking and incredible. We both voted it was the best part of our trip. Greg was like a little kid on Christmas, anticipating what his surprise was. I have always wanted to go in a helicopter, and I am so happy to cross it off my Bucket List from this trip. Our pilot was comical, friendly, and truly made it special.

Afterwards, we went on a bit of an adventure. We drove to Queenstown to walk around Queenstown gardens, which offered a 30 minute walk around the beach/gardens with breathtaking views (do you get the point of Queenstown.. it is breathtaking). Halfway on our peaceful walk, we realized we forgot something very important in the helicopter. We both had a minor heart attack. Fortunately, it was at the helicopter. After returning back to downtown, we found a cute outdoor restaurant and sat down for some beers and some delicious food. I got fresh seafood.  It was probably caught that day. I also had some sangria, and Greg got some local beer. It was a bit chilly, but sitting in the sun made it feel like a spring day. Afterwards,  I dragged Greg to do “Gibbston Valley Wine Tours” which I am thankful we did (even if he is not), so that we could learn about the differences of NZ wine to those we are used to drinking. It was a cute rustic wine cave, complete with a resturaunt, a cheese shop, and a little small breakfast/pastry nook. It was the cutest winery I have ever seen! They only make wines for sale in NZ, so I loved seeing how the business was run and operated.  We went back to our hotel, relaxed, then went back into town for dinner reservations at Fishbone. We had a marvelous time, and stayed all night chatting with an older Australian couple that was seated next to us. We were able to BYOB, which we later realized was a bad choice, since it made us come across as cheap when the server asked if it was a special bottle. Nope, it was just a cheap one in the liquor store.

One word for Queenstown on NYE? Crazy. Cray-cray-crazy. Every spot on every road and park is completely populated, and most of them are under 22. It was a very young crowd. It was a very drunk crowd. There was numerous pub crawls, many outdoor food stands, bands playing by the water for 9 hours. They know how to throw a party. It was quite the wild scene.  We sat and listened to the (horrible) band play til midnight, watched the fireworks, had some bubbly, and took the first water ferry back to the hotel. It was the best new years that I could ask for.

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Love, Your Co-Pilots.

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I Love…. Exploring: Adventures in New Zealand (Day 2)

We haven’t even been in New Zealand 24 hours yet, and I feel like we need a week just to rest. Today we had a big drive ahead of us… for a total of 10 hours. While it was only about 400ish km, the roads were very windey, singlelaned, and you had to drive slow. The alarm went off at 5:45 and we were in our rental car by 6:00. It was foggy, overcast, and we had a lot of snacks (thankfully theres a grocery store 1 mile from the hotel that we stocked up on food at ). Little did we know, this would be the most beautiful drive, of our lives. When looking into rental cars vs buses, we definitely splurged and spoiled ourselves with a rental car. Had we used a bus for transportation here, and to Christchurch, we probably would have spent $150 each, instead of about $400 each (with gas). However, it was extremely worth the expense, since we were able to pull over as we pleased. The number of times that I had Greg pulled over, he should of driven off without me. However, there were so many little nooks to see along the way. In my itinerary, I had printed out a map with each place to stop, however, this proved unnecessary as each location had signs/postage along the way.

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First 1/2 hour of our drive.

 

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Places to Stop on the Drive to Milford Sound:

  •  Te Anau (Small town, right on a river with some artsy/country stores and resturaunts). When we came it was very foggy, very early, and raining. We did not stay but 5 minutes to get gas.
  • Mirror Lakes,- “lake matheson” reflections of Earl Mountains, beech forest & wetlands- it was very beautiful, with massive trees. However, due to the rain/fog, we were unable to see the famous “mirror” reflection.

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    Mirror Lakes on a Cloudy and Rainy Day

  • Knobs Flat interpretational display, geology and wildlife.
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  • Holly Ford Valley- The “divide”- My favorite viewing point of the entire drive. I felt like we were at the end of the world. I have never had such massive mountains/ cliffs/rocks surrounding me. I felt like an ant, I felt like the mountains could squash me.
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Throughout the drive we saw thousands of waterfalls

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This was my favorite part of the drive… I felt like we would see a dinosaur any minute.

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By far, my favorite pit stop. We had to wait here to go through a one way tunnel, through the middle of this mountain.

  • Homer Tunnel 1200m rock hewn tunnel, car park and nature walk- It was a bit scary going into the tunnel… it is 1 way and very dark. We had to wait on one side for about 15 minutes, which wasn’t long enough. This was the most interesting scenery that we were to see!
  • The Chasm waterfall walk, waterfalls and water-sculpted rocks, (20 mins) – At this stop, I did the walk and Greg stayed in the car to eat. It reminded me of the Gorge in NH… but the rocks, shaped by the water, were some of the neatest that I ever saw!If you have the time, it is definitely worth the quick trip.

 

Besides these spots that were marked on my list to stop at, we found another 5-6 that were truly magestic. I can’t count the number of times that we stopped to just look, in amazement.

I am just putting it in writing, that this was the most beautiful drive that I have ever done. The changes in scenery within just 30 minutes, is as if you were driving from Texas to Antarctica.. it truly is so contrasting and changing at every moment. For that matter, and for my awesome music selection, the drive went by fast. . Greg was a phenomenal chauffeur.

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Let’s just say I am obsessed with these fields of flowers… 1 of 243924 pictures

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The colors of everything were so very vivid.

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Miles and miles and miles of this

Once at Milford Sound, we did a 2 hour boat tour, saw the “fijords”. The tourguide talked the entire time, telling us the history of the people in the land. Because we were so focused on the views, a lot of it didn’t stick. But we can read up on it later. For most of the boatride, it was overcast, but it did lighten up at the end, and for our drive back. Reading up on Milford Sound, it says 95% of the time it is overcast/rainy, so the fact that we even saw a little sun was miraculous. There were SO many waterfalls. Prior to this trip, I had never even seen one. I fell in love with the sight and sound of them.

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Cloudy day at Milford Sound

 

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Waterfall after Waterfall… Enter romantic comment here.

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Despite it being a cloudy day, it truly was breathtaking.

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After the boat tour, we hopped in the car and  turned around for the 5 hours back. This drive went by much faster since we didn’t stop at so many places. It was amazing, we had the sunroof open, the windows down, and the sun was shining as hot as it could for a summer day. We saw 934092384 more sheep than I have ever in my entire life. This is no exaggeration.

Because of our long long day, we got back at around 6pm and just  took it easy. We had apps at the hotel restaurant, got a bottle of wine from the grocery store and snuggled in bed early (And yes, it was still light out).

5 words to describe this part of the trip? Magestic, Enchanting, Unreal, Beautiful, Peaceful

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I Love… Traveling: Adventures in New Zealand (Day 1)

Greg and I at the airport- 32 hours of travel ahead of us!

Greg and I at the airport- 32 hours of travel ahead of us!

Greg and I had an amazing opportunity to travel to New Zealand for a close friends wedding. It was a once in a life time chance, and we really didn’t have to think too long about it before we booked our trip. The planning of the trip took months and months. Thankfully I wasn’t too busy at work, and I meticulously planned the trip, down to the last second of every day. Trust me, the Itinerary was 25 pages. I spent hours researching the reviews of restaurants, hostels, hotels, beaches, what to do, what not to do, tourist traps. I strongly considered opening my own travel company afterwards, since I loved the process, and our trip had no unexpected bumps. Everything was better than I imagined it to be. It was truly one of the most memorable trips of our lives.

For the sake of my elaborations, I will break our trip up into a few posts. Probably many posts. Today’s focus? Queenstown. Day 1. We did a lot in day one. Well, we did a lot every day.

We took off at a 6:09 AM from Boston, and had a direct 6.5 hour flight to San Fran… we had a 10 hour layover in San Fran, and we took full advantage of our leisure time to explore the city.  We used Freshen Up to clean up.. which wast probably the smartest thing we did. Then we got on our 13 hour flight to Auckland. In Auckland, we had a 40 minute layover ( I was extremely stressed… we had to get our luggage, take a shuttle to the domestic airport, check in, go through security, AND board). In the states, this NEVER would have been possible. Because New Zealand only has about 1 murder every 10 years, lets just say their secuirty is a bit light. We were able to do all this, and have time to spare. We got on NZ Air, and took off for another 1.5 Hour flight to Queenstown. At this point, we were not really tired since we were so excited to finally be here. I was able to sleep on/off for about 7 hours, and greg had gotten about 10.

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Flying into Queenstown

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Changing in the parking lot!

We got a rental car from Jucy (and became obsessed with them), and we went to explore town. The airport was about 10 minutes from downtown. Greg had a few issues at first when learning to use the car, and took a couple roundabouts and wrong turns to get adjusted. I offered to drive, but we all know how that would have turned out.

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My chauffeur for the Journey…. Mister Gregory

We arrived at 9:00 am on the first day, and went right downtown to get Fergberger by 10:00am. Fergburger was worth the wait just for the experience of eating there. This is an absolute must. It is the truly “locals” spot and will give you the atmosphere of the entire town. The burger itself is to die for. One of the best that I have ever had, and probably because the meat is so local and fresh. We sat at the park by the water, laid in the sun, and took a deep breath of NZ air.

 

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Image Fergberger!

 

Queenstown reminds me of Burlington Vermont. Everyone is barefoot, mostly shirtless or in jerseys, walking with alcohol or smoking. Mary Jane. The atmosphere is so laid back. It is truly an extremists’ paradise with the mountains for bikers, boarders, skiiers, the bungeers, speed boating, kayaks, trekkers, hang gliders, sky diving, anything outdoorsy you want to do, Queenstown has. Life moves at a much slower pace. There is no concern for time, money, or worries. The only thing that matters, is this moment. This vibe is everywhere, and it is contagious. It is impossible to not appreciate the moment you are in, and nothing else. Every flower, every blade of grass, every color is 1000x more vivid. It truly is not like anywhere that I have ever been, nor that I even thought existed.

After walking around town, checking out our hotel, and resting a bit, we took the water taxi into town (mostly just to see the lake that we were on) and walked to the Skyline Gondola . It was really hard in planning our trip, given the limited amount of time for what was worth our time and money. Probably because I did a little too much research, but we were perfectly happy with everything that we did. For example, their was another skyline gondola in another town (Rotorua) that we  were going too.. .but it had no mountains, and only overlooked a lake. I am very pleased with our decision my decision to do the one here. Let’s be honest… Greg had NO idea what we were doing, or when we were doing it. Some may see it as apathy, but it truly made for an enjoyable, nonstressful trip. He didn’t care what we did, and was a trooper. He “trusted” my choices in planning. He probably regretted this later on… but it allowed me the freedom to really create a packed, interesting, and fun itinerary.

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The Happiest Girl in the Happiest Place

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The Gondola offers not only the most amazing views of the town, but probably that I have ever seen. It was a little pricy, but we got a glass of wine at the top and soaked in the views. I had originally made dinner reservations at the top, and cancelled them since we had limited time to try the  meals downtown, and there were so many places that looked good. We also did the luge which seemed ridiculously dangerous. Winding down a mountain at very high speeds, in small plastic go-karts? Greg was like a little kid, a bundle of nerves on take off. It was a blast, and had some of the most breath-taking views that I have ever seen. It is worth every bit of time, and every penny, just to see the lay of the land. It is a must for Queenstown.

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Luge! Have you ever seen a view like this??

 

We went to dinner at The Cow which was one of the coolest restaurants I have ever been to. The history of the location and the story behind the restaurant could be a whole novel itself. I strongly encourage you to read it, and to also go here (if you know, you are in NZ). The vibe is very authentic, rustic, and old. You feel like you are on a farm, and the decor is extremely unique. We ended up meeting a couple at the bar while waiting for a table, and ended up sitting next to them and chatting the night away with them. They were on their honeymoon from Australia! I will put this in writing, that I have never had a garlic bread better than  the one here. The pizza also was cooked perfectly. At this point in the trip, we had reached our tired stage.. we had been up way too many hours, already done way too many things, and drinken a few too many glasses of vino. When we left, it was downpouring. Downpouring.

 

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The Cow

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Cow in the Rain Storm

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We stayed at Hilton Queenstown for 4 nights in an amazing suite right on the water. It is beautiful, isolated, romantic and quiet. It is 20 minutes outside of town, which is a bit of a pain if you do not have a car. Fortunately we did. The drive is so beautiful, majestic and enchanting, that the location is not a problem. They also offer shuttles and water taxis to get into town. We mistakenly took a taxi back one night, and it cost $45! The water taxi si $20 round trip/person.. so either way these are not cheap alternatives. If you want to save money it is certainly worth renting a car. The hotel has every ammenity you can imagine… a beautiful spa, a 5 star resturaunt, 3 or 4 smaller resturaunts/bars, a small cafe, an indoor pool/hottub, parking garage, a dock to jump into the water. It also is right on the waterfront walkway, which you can follow north to the mouth of the lake, riding a bike or walking for over 5-6 miles. We did it while waiting to check in to our room and it was beautiful! We saw NZ wildlife (birds), the most interesting flowers (see below), and lots of nooks and small beaches. It was very serene, peaceful. It also took us through neighborhoods, so we were able to see the more upscale, but also local part of the town.

The coolest thing about New Zealand is that it stays light out until 11:30 in the summer. Everynight, as we were in bed by 11:00, we felt like we were just going down for a nap! The first day was long, and exhausting. But I am so glad that we did all that we did- and it wouldn’t of happened had we not crammed it in. For we are in New Zealand to explore.. not relax. But at this point, I think Greg was wishing he signed up for the other “relaxation” trip!

5 Words to describe this day: Exhausting, Exciting, Curious, Relaxing, Stunning

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The Hotel

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