So on to my second Contiki! This trip started in Christchurch and for just over two weeks would take me all around the south and north island. We’d be spending a decent amount of time in Queenstown, or as some know it the extreme sports capital of the world, so I’d planned to do a fair few along the way.
After we met our tour manager Josh and the group, we had a short tour around Christchurch and then all hopped in the coach and headed down past Lake Takepo to our first stay which was a lodge by Lake Ohau. This was (although cloudy) still really pretty and a great chance as a first night to have some beers and get to know each other over a few drinks!
We then proceeded down to Dunedin, home of the steepest street in the world (exciting right), but more importantly a Cadbury factory and Speights brewery, both of which we were due to have a tour of that day! I didn’t realise that visiting a chocolate factory would be happening so I was super excited… Although we didn’t actually go in the factory floor itself we were taken around and shown processes and some pretty cool stuff. The highlight was probably getting to pour (yes I said pour) your own choice of warm melty pure Cadbury chocolate into cups and top it up with a choice of toppings. I even had second helpings and felt like a kid who’d eaten too many Easter eggs. Overall the tour was really fun and for 20 dollars great value as we probably got that value back in free chocolate freebies along the way anyway! Following this we headed to the Speights brewery for a tour and sample. By sample we had 45 minutes to get our fill in the bar downstairs and there was plenty to be consumed. I called it an early night in preparation for the next day which was to be my first extreme sport and first time bungee jumping.
After a morning driving through some great scenery and grabbing some lunch it was time for my bungee jump. Now I had picked one off a bridge on the way into Queenstown with the option of being dunked in the water at the bottom. I decided while in Rome, so without too much thought (for fear I would back out) I lined up and got my harness attached as well as the main bungee support around my ankle then stepped forward. After jumping the sensation of falling really surprised me (sounds stupid I know!) but I forgot I had a bungee attached so started waving my arms around in fear I was falling towards the ground and imminent doom, before the bungee quickly came into effect I remembered it was a bungee jump and I enjoyed myself a bit more. Having done it I don’t know if I would be more of less scared doing another one… But the main good feelings come from having been able to say I’ve done it.
That night we arrived in Queenstown and headed up the gondola for an all you can eat buffet with incredible views over the town. We then had a few drinks in a few bars and made the most of Queenstown’s nightlife. As a group the first morning we had a jet boat ride which entails going up to 90kmph inches from rocks across Rapids etc, also doing the occasional 360. This was cold but super fun! Unfortunately my skydive in the afternoon was cancelled due to weather, however this meant I got to go on the boat trip with horse riding.
Now I wasn’t expecting too much as the trip had been sold as going on an old boat and riding extremely slowly on some horses… However I hadn’t ridden a horse so thought why not! It turned out to be possibly one of the best things I’ve done on my entire trip. The boat itself was beautiful and the only steam operated commercial boat in the Southern Hemisphere, we cruised across the lake seeing breathtaking scenery throughout (a common theme for the afternoon) before arriving at Walter Peak Farm. We met a man in very short shorts holding a ‘horses’ sign and followed him through seeing llamas, highland cattle, sheep (of course) and even a group of puppies! After an intro to how horses work (this sounds silly but I had no idea so it was very informative) we each got on our horse and proceeded to ride along up a hill surrounded by what was probably hands down some of the most beautiful surrounds on my entire trip. 360 degrees of absolutely incredible beauty, mountains, lakes, valleys. The photos, as taken on horseback, (yes I’m almost a pro now) don’t do it justice. We then came back for some tea and scones before the boat back across the lake.
After the pleasant afternoon the day before I went up the gondola again for a couple of rides on the luge before coming back down for my canyon swing. Having done the bungy I was definitely more nervous about this… We arrived at the site and there were various ways you can basically fall off a cliff 60 metres then swinging near the bottom. Some of these include cycling off on a tricycle, being kicked off ‘this is Sparta’ style, having a rope cut to fall, etc etc. I decided on falling backwards, while sitting on a chair. By ‘I decided’, I mean I was called a wuss by the Kiwi guide for chosing a ‘tame’ way of falling off a cliff… So if you remember when you were in school leaning back on your chair, this was like that but then you fall 60 metres. After realising to my peril I was wearing an England shirt and the instructor was a Scot, he proceeded to mess with me a lot! This included telling me to lean back to fall before pulling me back in, at least 4 times… Then making some fantastic small talk about candy crush before eventually I fell pretty terrified off the edge on my chair. It was fun once I’d done it but I think I’ll be leaving it a while before I do it again…
Unfortunately the next day the weather meant that having driven to the site, got my jumpsuit on and then sat in the hangar my skydive was cancelled. It did mean I saved the extortionate amount of money they charge for the dive and photos in Queenstown (the cheapest photo option was $180 so the equivalent of about £100…). I used the rest of the day to explore around town a bit more and relax before our final night here and a group dinner. After some awesome pizza we had the option to go to the ‘fear factory’ which was a horror maze in Queenstown. After being a bit dubious on whether it would be worth it it turned out to be loads of fun, you can tell by the photo that my group were pretty terrified by all the antics in the pitch black such as men in chains wearing hockey masks, creepy actors laughing and chasing you all while in the dark having to feel your way around.
We had a long drive to Franz Josef the next day, where weather permitting we would get the chance to take a helicopter over the Franz Josef Glacier. Unfortunately fitting in with the trend the weather didn’t play ball, however we did get to hike to see the glacier (which was a little bit damp), but it got my inner geographer excited as I ran the final bit of the path to see it. We also got to explore an old mining shaft that had a bunch of glow worms in it. Looking like green LEDs without a torch on them and like translucent sticks of slime without unfortunately we couldn’t get good pictures but they were great to see just the same. After a couple of big driving days stopping at points along the way it was time to get the ferry over to Wellington on the north island where our adventure was to continue.