Queenstown, Skydiving, and Happy Birthday, Dad!

I’ve decided to post another blog about Queenstown since I have spent more time in this beautiful city. It reminds me quite a bit of Banff because it is surrounded by mountains (and the fact the entire town is built on tourism).  To be totally honestly, I’ve never been a huge fan of tourist cities; I feel like places that are specifically designed for tourism do not have the same good vibes that other places have.  I will say that Queenstown has been a ton of fun and it doesn’t really matter if it is a tourism town or not when you are 15 000 ft in the air.

NZON_NZQT_2014_05_27_C1033_7494I decided to book my skydive yesterday with NZONE.  I chose them because they seem to capture better pictures than their competitor and we had some good fun talking via twitter before my jump.  I was only going to skydive once so I wanted to be sure that I had good images to capture my fear (ended up just capturing my huge smile).  Strangely enough, I wasn’t nervous leading up to my skydive. In fact, I didn’t really feel scared during the whole ordeal. What does it say about a person when they are completely calm and collected when they jump out of an airplane? I’m not sure but it can’t be good. Anyway, I will go through the process if anyone is thinking about doing this (do it!)

I was originally supposed to skydive at 8:30 a.m. but it got pushed back to 9:30. I jumped in a shuttle bus that took me to their hangar (about 20 minutes outside of the city).  There I waited for about half an hour and eventually got harnessed up.  You also get to put on this really cute jump suit that are totally in style right now.  Initially, the harness is put on fairly loose so that you still have mobility. Usually they have the planes go directly from the hangar but there was snow on the ground so we got back in the shuttle bus and were taken to the airport.NZON_NZQT_2014_05_27_C1033_7480

I got into the plane and watched as we went higher and higher. At this point I was totally calm.  Higher and higher, still feeling good. Higher and higher, put on my hat, gloves, and get my goggles ready.  Higher and higher, my tandem skydiving instructor (Sasha) connects us together so we can both either live or die together.  Higher and higher, “oh, those mountains are looking a lot smaller now.” At 12 000 ft, the rest of the people in the plane were ready to jump so I watched five people hop out of a perfectly good airplane.  Higher and higher, they give me a little tube with oxygen because, you know, we are getting to the altitude that I NEED MORE OXYGEN. At this point I am kind of just like… “Wow, crazy I need this tube for oxygen and yet I am jumping off of this plane in a matter of minutes.” I do not know what was going on in my brain but I saw the green button blink with the words “exit” written on them and knew it was my time.

Without hesitation, I started scooting down to the open door.  The way you place your body when you jump out is basically wrapping your legs around the airplane with your instructor still on the plane.  With NZONE, a separate jumper goes with you to capture your every moment.  My camera dude’s name was Jon and he was awesome! This was the part where I thought I might begin to freak out but at this altitude everything just seems surreal… you have no real scale or perspective of anything around you.  So you just hop off the plane.  I have to say my favourite part of my skydive ended up being the feeling of leaving the plane.  At this point you just realize that if your parachute fails it doesn’t matter because you are gonna die anyway… might as well enjoy the views.

And enjoy the views I did…

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With the 15 000 ft skydive, you get about 60 seconds of freefall which is incredible. My ears did pop pretty badly and in fact now (6NZON_NZQT_2014_05_27_C1033_7501 hours later) they still feel kinda weird. Doesn’t matter, totally worth it.

I’ve added an imgur album so you can see more shots. My face is pretty hilarious in some because of the fast speeds you reach.

Also, NZONE just posted a YouTube video on their channel from today and I am featured in it which is kind of cool.


I would also like to mention is it my dad’s birthday today (in Saskatchewan, anyway) and to wish him well! I am super lucky to be supported by someone as amazing as him! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

Queenstown (Part I) and Milford Sounds

Flying into Queenstown is awesome. The views… the mountains, lakes, valleys, and sky is indescribable, especially coming from the flat prairies of Saskatchewan.  My friend, Anneke, even caught a glimpse of a rainbow when flying.

Queenstown Rainbow

After arriving in Queenstown, I took a shuttle to Nomads Backpackers. This was the first time I went to one of the “big” hostel companies and had a really good experience. It wasn’t so much the hostel, as I find big hostels to be a little isolating, noisy, and often times more dirty than other small independent hostels.

My roommatFergburgeres — shoutout to my 120 team people! — were unreal. Sean (Alberta) told me I had to eat a Fergburger…. and eat a fergburger I did. I ate the whole thing and I am telling you… this thing is massive! I tried to take a picture to demonstrate how big it was but it didn’t really work out so well.

The next night, Jo (UK) joined us and we decided to go out and about, checking out the night life. We saw a really great live band and had some good eats.

 

Sunday morning Jo and I decided to book white water rafting which was SO MUCH FUN! Seriously, I loved it. We even got to hop in the river when it was fairly calm and just let the water take us… so much fun. I have a few really great shots, including one where shortly after I fell off the raft.

White Water Rafting

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Anneke and I drove to Te Anau the next morning because we thought it was 30 minutes away from Milford Sounds (it was actually two hours, woops!) so we got up early to head for Milford Sounds and begin our kayak trip.  Unfortunately, the weather turned out to be terrible and we couldn’t kayak so we booked a cruise with Small Encounters (definitely recommend them!).  They are a smaller boat so they can get right under waterfalls. In fact, when my friend and I were getting a picture taken right by a waterfall…. this happened to me.

<Will upload picture of getting owned by a waterfall when Wi-Fi permits>

Rather than posting pictures of Milford directly to my blog I have created an imgur link that allows you to view all of the good stuff.

Milford Sounds

 

Milford Sounds

 

 

Windy Wellington

Hello everyone,

I know it has been a long time but I can only write blog posts when hostels have computers with keyboards on them.  Ain’t nobody got time to do this on a tablet. So here is a brief update on my trip: I took a bus to Auckland and stayed in the worst hostel — let me just say the lighting was florescent and brown stains were visible.  No worries, I brought my handy dandy travel sheet and spent the night freezing my butt off.

Harbour

The next day I flew to beautiful Wellington with a population of 400 000 people.  The flight to Wellington was fairly uneventful because fog made visibility low.  The landing freaked me out a bit because it feels like you are just going to land in the middle of the ocean.  There are some pretty entertaining videos of planes trying to land with heavy Wellington winds on YouTube. Bravo, pilots.

But seriously, Wellington is super windy.  The wind doesn’t hide the magnificent scenery or amazing people I met during my stay. As soon as I landed I met up with some locals and watched Star Wars Episode IV, V, and VI in theatres. Yes, it was as awesome as it sounds. All of the people I met at the theatre were super friendly and welcoming. So a big thanks to them, specifically Anthony who went above and beyond during my stay. The picture below was taken by him so I can’t take credit for it (unfortunately):

welly

My favourite place was probably an old graveyard that was situated right beside the university.  I absolutely love visiting old graveyards because they tell such sad and strange stories of lives people had.  For instance, infant mortality rates were high and many children died before they reached the age of five years old.  The majority of headstones reflected this sad truth.

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My second favourite was a hike in Eastbourne that had pretty amazing views. I did get a little lost on my way to this view but it was all worth it in the end. My gopro’s battery was on its last leg and I could only get a single shot of the view.

Eastbourne Hike View

I was planning on staying in Wellington for four days and ended up staying for two weeks.  I absolutely love this place. The night life, music, size, and scenery was an overwhelming experience and I am glad to be flying out of Wellington so I can say a final goodbye.

Anneke

 

 

 

I met a lovely German girl, Anneke, in Wellington and we are currently traveling the South Island together.

 

Plus I got a job teaching back home at Melville Comprehensive School when I was in Wellington so I am thinking it is my good luck city. :)

Arrived in Paihia!

Hey everyone! Sorry I haven’t been blogging at all but it turns out that New Zealand does not really believe in free Wi-Fi. So here I sit, at midnight, with one single bar in my connection.  I’m going to be sharing some of my pictures and experiences below.  Starting with my flights and arrival.

I left Regina, SK at 1:50 P. M.  My flight went to Calgary and then Vancouver.  This took about three hours total, including layovers.  At this point I was feeling pretty awake and excited for me trip.  I had four hours to kill so decided to hit up a restaurant and talk to some of the travelers that surrounded me.  Strangely enough, two wonderful young women were from Wellington and gave me a ton of tips for when I came to their city.

The plane ride from Vancouver to Auckland was a long one for sure.  Luckily, I was pretty tired from traveling already so I did get some shut eye. I ended up purchasing exit row seat which wasawesome because I had a lot of extra leg room….  Totally worth the extra hundred bucks on a 14 hour flight.  I arrived in Auckland International Airport at approximately 5:00 a.m. and headed for the bus station.

The bus from Auckland to Paihia in the Bay of Islands was not expected until 7:45 a.m. so I wasted a few hours sitting on the ground and reading “The Fault in our Stars” by John Greene (great read, a little too lovey at times but I definitely recommend it).  The bus ride was four hours and at 11:55 a.m.  I arrived at my first destination, Paihia!

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The minute I arrived at Paihia

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Checking out the city!

This was the view from my hostel balcony:
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I finished reading three books in two days with this beautiful view.
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To be continued…