Friday, February 7, 2014

3.1.6 The South is Always Better

Hey Everyone!

So this weekend, if you can call it that, was without a doubt one of the most fun times I've ever had. It all started by hopping on a plane on Wednesday afternoon. We got to the airport and checked our luggage and as we started to go towards to gate the most strange thing happened. Well it was more of something that didn't happen. In New Zealand there is no security for domestic flights. Yeah, you read that right. All there is, is a clause that you have to accept when checking in to say that you won't bring any forbidden items. We had a quick flight from Wellington to Christchurch and then another 45 min flight from Christchurch to Queenstown and we were there!

The view over Wellington
As we got off the plane in Queenstown, we couldn't have been more excited. Everyone we had talked to all around the country has raved about Queenstown and how awesome it is and they were all right. It has a feel of a ski town but there aren't families and retirees. There are mainly just young adventure seekers and Asians everywhere! Since Queenstown has an international airport many Asians fly in to see the Milford Sound. As Evan and I got settled in we walked around town a bit. It was a little discouraging that it has a very "touristy" feel but not the same as let's say Pigeon Forge. This was a very different type of tourism. Like I said before, there are the Milford Sound people and then there are the young people that go bungee jumping.
The view of the city and Brooks Prettyman jumping off a perfectly good platform
It is the sense of adventure that really fuels the town. It is right on the lake and you have the opportunity to go do pretty much anything in the outdoors at your fingertips. So in order to do as much cool stuff as possible, Evan and I went to bed early to get ready for an early start on Thursday.
A great view of Lake Wakatipu (the lake Queenstown is on)
Thursday January 30th, 2014 was one of the best days I've had in a long long time. We woke up and met our fly fishing guide Jeff Jones (www.fishing.co.nz) at 8AM sharp. Originally Jeff was worried about the weather but it turned out to be an awesome day out on the river. The creek that we fished was Diamond Creek. It is a slow moving meadow stream that is a brown trout only stream. At first the fishing was a little frustrating because I was still getting used to lowering my expectations about the quantity of fish that are expected to be caught in New Zealand. After a good bit of fishing I was able to hook into the biggest trout of my life.
Lovely Diamond Creek and Jeff
Jeff was on the bank and saw a fish rise but couldn't tell how big it was. As I got up to him, he showed me exactly where to cast. I casted right on top of the spot and then I saw a huge brown rise up. Unfortunately I picked up the fly right before he could take it. I immediately threw it back out there and hoped for the best. Luckily he went after the blowfly( small horsefly) imitation and took it. I fought the fish for a good twenty minutes before we were able to net him. We had a scale and he weighed in just over 5 pounds. I didn't have any way to tell how long he was besides my arm but I would estimate that he was around 28 inches long. After that fish I caught the second biggest trout of my life twenty minutes later. It was a truly amazing experience of fishing and won't be the last time I'll be toting a fly rod around Queenstown that's for sure. It was a shame that Evan didn't get to land any fish, although he did have some good strikes.

The Beast

3.5lbs and about 25"
After our awesome morning of fly fishing we met up with the rest of our friends to go bungee jumping! We got all of our gear packed away, signed our lives away, and rode the 40 min bus ride to the site of the bungee jump. The jump we did was the famous Nevis Bungee. It is 134 meter high or 440 feet! It has approximatly 8 secs of free fall and it was awesome. It is the tallest in New Zealand and the 14th tallest in the world!




I will try to describe what it felt to jump out off a platform and fall 440 feet. The staff at the site do not want you to think about the jump at all. They walk you out to the platform and count you down to jump really soon. For this reason, the first few seconds are very surreal. You are just taking in the scenery. Then your body realizes that you are falling and the wind rushes past your face. You fall for a few seconds more and then the bungee cord grabs you. It was a truly amazing experience and was unlike anything I ever experienced before. After we got done with the bungee jump we hopped in the car and drove to the Milford Sound!

So this weekend was all about firsts and the extremes. After catching the biggest two trout of my life and bungee jumping for the first time, we went to explore the most beautiful place I've ever seen and what is commonly referred to as the 8th Wonder of the World. Evan and I split up for the tour of Milford Sound as I took a cruise and he and Brooks kayaked the sound. It really is hard to describe how awesome the place is in words. The glacier cut walls are so steep it is just insane. Everything is super lush because it rains all the time. Fortunately we had a perfect day but we were told that it rain around 265 days a year! There were so many waterfalls all over the sound that are mostly fed by only rainwater. All in all, it was a stunning place and I would recommend anyone to go see it for yourself because no words or pictures can do it justice.

One of the many amazing waterfalls
Seals!
As we left Milford Sound we quickly learned that the beauty was far from over. Since we did the drive there in the dark we saw some amazing sight for the first time on the way back.
The Chasm: a waterfall that worked its way through the rock

a waterfall coming off a glacier

more waterfalls


We spent Friday night again back in Queenstown before setting out for Mt. Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. We were very lucky to use an awesome system called Transfercar for our rental cars. Because of the high amount of tourism and people dropping cars off at different rental locations than where they rent from, there is a need to relocate cars. We got the opportunity to relocate two 2014 fully loaded cars for Budget with a free tank of gas! We had heard of the company but were so glad it worked out that we could get exactly what we needed in a car for free!
super blue Lake Pukaki near Mt. Cook
We drove through the amazing countryside from Queenstown to Mt. Cook. Again, I want to emphasize how crazy the landscape changes here. You can drive 20 mins and it look totally different. Right before Mt. Cook we stop to see the beautiful Lake Pukaki. It is a beautiful sky blue color because of the mass amount of silt in the glacier fed streams that flow into the lake. We got to the Mt. Cook National Park and did a quick hike to a Hooker Glacier and Hooker Lake. We ran into some friends that were coming from the lake as we were heading there and they showed us a video of them swimming in the glacial water. And being the very smart and mature people that we are, we obviously had to jump in the water too.
As cold as it gets: standing on a glacier in a glacial lake
To say the water was cold would be an understatement. Because of the silt and the fact that the water was moving we're pretty sure that it was sub freezing water. So after that experience we dried off, put on our clothes, and booked it back to the lodge to get a warm meal. Sunday morning Evan and I along with our friends Maggie and Andy woke up at 6AM to be on the trail at 7AM. The crazy thing about the Southern Alps is that they are so tall and steep. Either you have a nice leisurely hike in the valley or it's straight up a  cliff. On Sunday morning we decided to do the straight up a cliff thing.
The view halfway up the trail
The hike took us up over 2200 stairs just to get to about 60% to the top. Then from there we hiked the rest of the way picking our own path over exposed boulders. All in all we climbed about 3300 feet of elevation. When we got up to the saddle it was totally worth it. The view to our right was the peak of Mt. Cook and to the left was a huge glacier. As we were sitting there we could hear mini avalanches of ice falling down. It was truly an awesome hike.


All in all it was an awesome weekend that I won't forget anytime soon. Thanks for sticking with this long blog post! Stay tuned as we finish up here in NZ and move on to Australia!

-Davis