Monday, March 19, 2007

South Island, New Zealand

Currently in Queenstown New Zealand having been in the South Island of New Zealand since last Friday. This morning, I had a ride on the shotover jet which is a speedboat that operates in the Shotover River and powers down the river and over the canyons. The boats are powered by V6 engines and run at a speed of up to 50 mph, it was certainly the most powerful boat that I'd ever been on. The only downside was the cold blast of water spray in your face which makes it a pretty cold experience, but the 360 decree turns added to the overall experience, I was grateful though that I had a light breakfast.

I also went white water rafting on the Shotover River, fun though though most of it was pretty tame and more a row along the river, the best part was emerging from a short tunnel to be faced with a grade 5 rapid(pretty severe), likewise a stretch of 400 metre rapid tested your ability to stay in the boat. Although I was kitted out in wet suit, life jacket it is pretty cold if you do fall in the river.

Anyway, the last few days have certainly been busy since leaving Wellington last Friday. The journey to the South Island involved a three hour ferry journey in which I watched in the ferry cinema Notes on a Scandal starring Judi Dench and Cate Blanchet(a first class film and one of the best I've seen this year)to help pass the time before arrival in Picton on the South Island. The ferry used also happened to be one I'd travelled on many years previously between Ireland and Wales, they clearly travel far in the world!

After the ferry it involved a four hour journey to Christchurch along the Kaikoura coastline, along the way I spotted seal colonies. The coastline was spectacular in beauty and reminded me of Great Ocean Road near Melbourne Australia which I went down a few years ago.

After a night spent in Christchurch which is not the most happening of places it was on to Franz Josef. This involved transgressing Arthur's Pass and seeing some amazing mountains which had been in the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings. Seeing the sheer seize of the mountains, the jagged cliffs and in some cases snow capped brought home how beautiful New Zealand as a country happens to be. I've been to many places in the world but for sheer scenery that places has to be amongst the best. The only downside was the twisty roads which after five hours spent in a coach made me feel slightly nauseous and dampened my enthusiasm for St Patrick's night celebrations in Franz Josef, travel brings with it downsides and being in a coach with 40 other people makes you that much more susceptible to every passing bug under the sun. Thankfully panadol was great for getting rid of the headache and made me feel a whole lot better.

Following on from Franz Josef it was on to Fox Glacier and a 8km hike onto the glacier. This was the first time I'd been on a glacier and seeing the ice formations on the glacier it really was a beautiful sight and brought home the beauty of the glacier. Although it was naturally cold on the glacier, it was not that bad and climbing the glacier brought some amazing views of the surrounding mountains along with the rugged scenery.

Following on from that it was onto Queenstown, the journey was over five hours(coach travel can be very boring) but was enlivened by the stop at Thunder Creek falls, passing over the Haast pass(the longest bridge in New Zealand) and then passing Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea which provided more scenery that was spectacular to view along wit some awe inspiring vistas.

Arriving in Queenstown, I'm in the centre of an adult adventure playground with bungee jumping, canyon swings,jet boating, rafting and sky diving. After initially deciding not to go sky diving, I changed my mind and tomorrow I'm going to take a plunge from 12,000 feet in the sky. The jump is a tandem jump in harness which takes the worry off somewhat but it should certainly be an experience and no doubt I'll be scared stiff going up in the plane but it should be a great experience and I'm looking forward to undertaking my first ever sky dive. Hopefully the weather will also be good tomorrow, it has been pretty awful her most of the past week in Queenstown but today is thankfully dry, now it needs to hold for another 24 hours. If it is bad, the sky dive will not happen.

Anyway that is all for now, hopefully I'll next be able to update my blog next after my sky jump tomorrow.


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