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Showing posts from May, 2012

Spring Break: Loyola Trip to Rotorua and Taupo (day 1)

Thursday April 19th

On Wednesday I did exactly what I wanted to do; slept in, did laundry, worked on a paper, and got ready for the next leg of the most epic spring break ever!
Thursday we woke up bright and early and were met by Hester and out bus driver for the weekend in the Huia parking lot. Our first stop after a couple of hours driving was the Waitomo glowworm caves. It felt so good to get off the bus and into the sunshine. Unfortunately there was road work along the way and we were running late and missed our tour time—but they did let us go on the next one. After a brief walk through a densely wooded area we came to the mouth of the cave and met our very enthusiastic guide. It was made abundantly clear that he not only loved his job but did so theatrically. He made the whole excursion ten times more fun. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the caves because of their sacred significance to the Maori and the damage the flash could do to the population of glowworms—so I’ll just…

South Island: Castle Hill and Back to Auckland

Tuesday the 17th

It was raining when we woke up in the morning (Gregg was the first to find out as he was sleeping out in the tent that night). I was totally convinced that we weren’t going to be able to climb because wet, cold rocks are not fun and pretty dangerous. I was more than a little disappointed. But we got up and out early anyway, just in case. I at least wanted to see and explore Castle Hill anyway—we had driven so far to get there. It was my day to drive again so once we had everything packed up and ready to go we were back on the road for the 30 minute drive to the park. Because Jessie and I are actually addicted to caffeine we had to stop for a cuppa along the way.We found this cute little coffee shop for our pit-stop. They had breakfast food too and when I walked through the door I was met by a familiar sound; my dad and I love to listen to his big band cds when we are in the car and one of our personal favorites is Pennsylvania 65000, which is what was playing throughou…

South Island: Last Day in Queenstown

Monday the 16th

Finally, today was the day we got to sleep in. Thank goodness we planned our last day in Queenstown to be low key because we all needed the rest and flexible schedule. The only thing we had to do was get to our campsite near Castle Hill so we could be there and able to climb the next morning before our flight home. Our days had been so busy so far that I realized I hadn’t really spent any time getting to know Queenstown (in the daylight). So a few friends and I ventured out for a late breakfast and cuppa as we wondered down the streets. It really is a beautiful town and not at all what I was expecting. I thought that Queenstown was going to be as urbanized as Auckland, with lots of cars and hustle-and-bustle. But I was wrong. It kind of reminded me of Vermont; purposefully relaxed. It is definitely a tourist destination, don’t get me wrong. But it wasn’t hard to find a little cafĂ© on the waterfront situated just right for people and nature watching—with delicious cappuc…

South Island: Karawua Bridge Bungee and Cowboy Bar (Yeehaawww)

Part 2 of Sunday the 15th

I made it back to the van after my awesome horseback ride with Amanda just in time for a quick lunch before I had to head back into town for my next moment of insanity: the Kawarua Bridge bungee jump. This was AJ Hackett’s first commercialized jump and is the only one with an option to touch the water! I was the only person to book this particular jump, everyone else who was doing a second bungee was doing the Ledge (that’s the one my sister Carrie did when she was in the South Island!). I was pretty pumped to be doing my own thing and I felt good about doing what I wanted to be doing instead of just following along with the group. Although, it would have been nice to have someone come with to take pictures (don’t worry, it was so epic I got the photo pack AND the DVD)! Since I was doing this alone I knew that it would be my unique piece of the South Island that I could keep selfishly to myself. But anyway, I made it to the AJ Hackett base with plenty of time …

South Island: Dart Stables LOTR tour

(SPOILER ALERT: I talk a lot about the Lord of the Rings in this post! If you haven’t read the books or seen it then 1) go do it RIGHT NOW because you haven’t lived yet and 2) stop reading (you should be reading Tolkien not me) because I would hate to spoil it for you.)
Since so much happened on this day of the trip for me I’m going to split it up into 2 blogs. It will make it way easier for me to write and post and probably a lot easier for you to read!
Part 1 of Sunday the 15th

This was one of the days of the entire spring break trip that I was looking forward to the most. It was jam-packed but well planned and a ton of fun; definitely my favorite day in Queenstown. My first adventure was a horseback riding tour through the area where they filled a lot of the Lord of the Rings, X-men Origins, and most recently the Hobbit!!! As I’m sure you know, I am a HUGE LOTR fan. My Mom had to practically force me to watch it one night as a family and after that I was hooked; it wasn’t long until…

South Island: Milford Sound

Saturday April 14th
(A note to those who read this via your email: if you go to the web page there are lots of links to all of my photos and the videos of my bungee jumps! Please check it out!)
I forgot to mention last blog what our camp site was like in Queenstown! It was called Qbox and it was the coolest place we stayed at. The campsites (aka where you park your car) were powered which is always a plus and the bathroom was pretty big so there was never a line too long to wait in for a hot shower. The best part was that there was a kitchen and a common room with a patio and a fire pit that we could use at any time. The best part of THAT was that each of these rooms was made from recycled materials. They were actually storage containers that the owners had turned into livable space. Everyone was welcome for a really modest price and if you were so inclined you could pitch a tent and sleep under the stars (which I was not). All of the different hostels and camp sites were well known to…

South Island: Wanaka and Arrival in Queenstown (aka BUNGEE!!)

I’m glad we had such a relaxing night at the glacial hot-pools because we had to get up really early the next morning to get to Queenstown. It was really exciting to start this leg of the journey because Queenstown was our last big destination—it flew by so quickly! It was my day to drive and unfortunately I felt like death. A pretty ugly cold had been going around the vans and it was my turn to suffer through it. But, by some miracle, we managed to get up and on the road by 7:45 leaving plenty of time to grab a quick coffee to take along for the ride. Thank goodness Lent was over and I could treat myself to a cappuccino. For a little bit of a change, I had Jessie AND Greg up front with me helping to navigate and chat along the way. Again, the scenery was incredible but driving for 3 hours was a struggle. Greg made my day when he put on one of his own playlists and lifted up everyone’s spirits. By this point I was also feeling te nerves kick in for what was waiting for me in Queenstow…

South Island: Lake Matheson (again) and Franz Joseph Glacier!

Since we didn’t have to be at the base for our glacier hike until later in the afternoon we decided to get up early and try to get back to Lake Matheson before the clouds could beat us there and get that iconic photo we were all dying for. It was a great group effort to get up and moving as fast as we could. We lucked out. We trekked through the walk to the lake with a purpose since we had taken our time yesterday and we were on a tight schedule. When we get there we were not disappointed. The sun was out, the sky was clear and blue, and the world was still in the morning air. It is an understatement to say that the lake was a mirror. It looked like Mount Tasman was standing on itself. We had to tear ourselves away after taking about a hundred pictures and then just standing in awe of the view. But we had an adventure to begin! I don’t know why but I was feeling pretty nervous about the helicopter ride. I’d never been in one before, never mind to the top of a glacier. We dropped the v…

South Island: Lake Matheson and Fox Glacier

Luckily for us, Jessie is a morning person and a natural early riser. She had been exploring a little bit around the campsite before she came in and woke us up. She told us, very calmly, to look outside. When we all rolled over to get a glimpse out the window we were met by one of the most beautiful views of the trip. TJ nearly dove out of the top bunk to get outside and actually yelled, “Get me outta here!” when he saw what lay at our doorstep. We poured out of the van and looked at what we had parked in front of. The huge, snow-capped Mount Tasman was standing there, in the morning light and misty clouds, waiting to say hello. Our collective jaws literally dropped. We had to laugh that we had this unreal scene in front of us the whole night. Lake Matheson, Fox Glacier, and Franz Joseph Glacier were all relatively close to each other so it was really easy for us to spend the next 2 days bouncing between the 3, getting the best of it all.

We ate breakfast and took a quick drive to Lak…

South Island: Abel Tasman and Greymouth

Anyway, back to my spring break stories! (Thanks for the ANZAC Day digression. I really enjoyed it) We left Nelson in the morning and headed down the long road to Abel Tasman National Park. There were a lot of winding roads and far stretches of highway that made it almost seem like we were on a treadmill except for the occasional small town that broke up the scenery of rolling green hills, fall foliage, and blue sky. One town crept up on us a little unexpectedly and the lead van got caught going a little to fast through a school zone and got a speeding ticket. My van was following them and noticed the change in the speed limit but there wasn’t much we could do to slow them down. The Officer was really nice, but still gave them a fine. The driver felt horrible but everyone in the van insisted on splitting it. A little more cautiously, we kept on truckin’. We stopped for lunch and to get our barings along the way. I’m not going to lie, tensions were running kind of high today. There was …