There was a lot of anticipation leading up to this weekend’s trip. This past week, classes were cancelled on Thursday as our “skip day” in order to give us a four day weekend for some extra travel time. I had some trouble deciding what I wanted to do, how much exactly I was ready to spend and what activities were most important to do here rather than somewhere else. Canyoning pretty much topped the list, especially because the experience is so dependent on the location, unlike some other things that you can do anywhere. I eventually found a compromise; I would travel to Queenstown and canyon with one group, then meet up with another group that evening for the rest of the weekend.
I apologize in advance for the wordiness of this post, we had such a big weekend and there’s just so much to say.
Let me just say this now: last weekend was the most ratchet and disastrous, yet unimaginably amazing weekend possible. It all started off on Thursday morning around 6 when I realized I had overslept, and the cab I was supposed to take had left me. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so mad at myself. Don’t get me wrong, I totally went through that phase of blaming everyone else possible before myself. There were four other people taking the same cab as me and none of them came and found me, and I used that as an excuse to take the blame off of me. Truth is though, its nobody else’s responsibility to make sure I get up and make my flight. Thankfully there was another group heading out in a cab a little bit later and I hopped in with them. Wasn’t soon enough though because I missed my flight. I got onto another one that had a very tight connection in Christchurch. I decided to go ahead and take my chances though because I really really had to make it to Queenstown by 1:30 in time for canyoning that I had already booked and paid for. It wasn’t a long wait to get onto the flight, and just 45 minutes later (9:00 am) I was sprinting through the airport to board my connecting flight (departs at 9:10.. like a said, very tight connection). I got to the gate at like 9:03 where I was promptly told I was about 45 seconds too late. After a minor freak out, I headed over to the ticketing counter to try my last hand at getting a flight in time. The lady tried to charge me over $300 for this flight, and that was just not going to happen. Amazingly, the group I would be later meeting up with in Queenstown was at the Christchurch airport at the same time. If all else failed, I figured I could just drive to Queenstown with them and skip the canyoning, even though that was the number one thing I wanted to do here. They were super patient with me while I tried to get everything worked out, and Eric even convinced the Air New Zealand lady to put me on the next plane for free. They then hit the road while I waiting to board the next plane.
You better believe I was the very first person on that plane. I refused to miss a third plane of the day. After I finally got on the plane and settled and realized my chances for catching canyoning were strong, I relaxed into my seat on the teeny tiny plane and enjoyed the scenery through the window.
After landing, I booked it to the bus into town that the canyoning lady told me was $7. As I entered the bus I was confronted with some more bad news. It was $8, cash only, and you’ll never guess what I had… $7.60. I promptly started freaking out again and the bus driver probably just felt sorry for me or wanted me to shut up so he let me on anyways. Final check-in for canyoning was at 1:15 and I arrived with plenty of time to spare at 1:14. I could’ve cried all over again just because I was so happy to have made it despite all the issues I had that morning. I was so happy to see that the other group (Alex, Emily, Katie, and Jess) had already made it.
Anyways, the actual canyoning was AMAZING. Like seriously so much fun. I’ve never really done anything like it before and it was totally out of my comfort zone but it was incredible. We did a few different ziplines, repelled down a 40ish foot cliff (total guesstimation), an 8 foot jump, 20 foot jump, a superman jump and a zipline-abseil combo among many other things. It lasted around 4 hours and even though the water got soo cold even through the wetsuit, I was not ready to be done. It definitely made the whole morning hassle pay off and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Here are a few of my favorite pictures:
After returning to the city center of Queenstown, I walked around the city a little before heading to the hostel. I had initially made the reservation for all five people of our group at one hostel and was planning on meeting them there once they drove down from Christchurch. However, because it was me and my luck and my booking, the hostel had our reservation for the wrong night and were completely booked up for the night. (Side Note: I checked my confirmation email and I had totally booked the correct night so it was definitely not my fault. Just sayin.) Finding another hostel proved to not be an issue at all; the actual city of Queenstown is pretty small and there was another hostel with availability like 2 blocks away. The issue we were now facing was that since nobody has phones or consistent internet access, I had no way of telling the rest of the group what was going on or which hostel we had moved to. I also had zero idea of when they would be arriving into town. Much to my pleasant surprise, there was another GT group staying in town that I was able to meet up with and hang out with for the night so I wasn’t all alone in a random city. So I did the best thing I could think of and left a note on the front desk of the old hostel telling them to go to the new hostel. Then it was out of my hands. I only paid for my room at the new hostel, but reserved the rest of the rooms so they could pay on their arrival. This worked out perfectly because around 1 am, I got a facebook message saying the major highway my group was driving in on randomly shuts down at 6 pm every night and they were now stuck as well. Friday morning, I still had not heard anything else from my group so I just hung out in the front lobby and hoped they would eventually get there. About two hours later, Jessica and Eric walked in the door and we definitely had the whole running and jumping into each other’s arms moment. They made it and I was alive, so we were happy.
Eric managed to talk the cruise company into letting us go on a later cruise, and we made the 5-hour, stunningly beautiful drive to Milford Sound just in time. Milford Sound is in Fiordland, which is this huge area of glacier-cut mountains flooded by the sea. The cruise went through these insanely steep cliffs, some reaching over a mile high, straight up. We saw several huge waterfalls; one was three times as high as Niagara Falls. It was hard to comprehend that even while looking right at it. We saw a giant pack of bottlenose dolphins; some of the younger ones would come right up to the boat and play in the wake. It was awesome. We saw more seals too! It was two hours of just having your mind blown that a place like that could even exist. If you ever have the money & time in your life and don’t mind long flights, GO TO MILFORD SOUND. I cannot stress that enough.
Upon seeing this amazing waterfall, we then decided it would be a good idea to, legally or not, hike to it. After having to jump the “Danger” fence, we got to this waterfall that I would consider the highlight to my weekend.
Around 8 pm, we began the 6 hour drive to Mt Cook where we had a hostel booked for that night. I passed out pretty quickly in the car, but around 1:30 am, Eric was beginning to go a little crazy from driving so I took over for the last hour and a half of the drive. It was pitch black outside and there are no street lights anywhere. Oh, and the roads are FREAKING INFESTED with rabbits. At any given time, there were at least 2 or 3 visible rabbits throwing themselves in front of the car. I dodged probably 100 rabbits… 2 were not so lucky. It was the most horrifying experience of my life; I swerved pretty bad once and woke up everyone in the car as I was about to kill us by running off the road. After that, I had to purposefully talk myself through the rest of the drive to not swerve when I saw a rabbit run in front of the car. “I’m a vicious, bunny-killing machine and I will not swerve this car.” or something like that. It was rough. We finally arrived at the Mt Cook YHA around 3:30 am and quickly passed out.
A quick turnaround 9 am wake up call had us moving groggily yet excitedly towards our hike through Mt. Cook. Mt. Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand and its the mountain that Sir Edmund Hillary practiced on before he climbed Everest. Our initial plan was to do an 8 hour, super intense hike along a ridge line on Mt Cook. We obviously couldn’t summit because its like super mountaineering and ice climbing and stuff. Butttt since we had such a long day before, we decided on a more moderate 4 hour hike to a glacial lake. It was pretty easy-going but just absolutely beautiful. I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record about how “beautiful” and “incredible” everything is, but each weekend I’m constantly being overwhelmed with the beauty of this earth.
So we made it to Hooker Lake (yep that’s real) in just two hours and saw this milky white lake with legit icebergs in it. You can actually watch the snow melt on top of Mt Cook, come down a waterfall, and drop into this lake. So you can only imagine how cold it was. I don’t know if it was delusion or lack of sleep or what, but we decided it would be a great idea to swim out to this iceberg maybe 20 feet away and climb on it. So you put your feet in the water and for the first few seconds its fine, then after about 10 seconds there are LITRALLY knives stabbing all through your feet its so cold. Most other people went out before I did which was bad for multiple reasons; one of them being I had to watch them writhe in pain trying to swim out there only to find relief in sitting on a big block of ice, another was because the iceberg, unbeknownst to us, was drifting further and further away. Regardless, I still went for it and actually thought I was dying and could go into shock at any moment, but it was SO worth it. I mean, who else can say they swam in a glacial lake and climbed an iceberg?
So post-freezing our bums off, we laid out on the hot rocks to thaw out and I even dozed off a little before we headed back to the car. Once we made it back to the car, we started yet another long drive back to Christchurch where we would catch a flight at 6:55 am the next morning. The drive went pretty much without a hitch; we stopped in Lake Tekapo for some dinner and had our pictures taken yet again by some more Asians.. Then made it to the airport around midnight where we stayed until the flight. Throughout the night, more and more students from our program were rolling in periodically. We all discussed how little of sleep we had gotten and how crazy of adventures we had. We got back to the Weir House around 8 am where I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
About noon we got up and decided to not waste our whole day, as this was the first time most of us were in town on a weekend in Wellington. A group of us hit up the farmers market and the food truck park where there was this street performer who was amazingg. A few of us even pitched in for his CD because he was so good. We hung out around town before heading back to the Weir House to change just in time for church. Matt, Jordy, Eric, Rebecca and I attended Arise Church on Sunday night. It was pretty much as different as you can get from Birchman (not in a bad way for either church). There was a band instead of a choir, lots of jumping around during worship, and lots of affirmation during the sermon. It was really awesome. Afterwards we got some dinner and exchanged stories about our respective weekends, as this was the first weekend we hadn’t all traveled together.
And just like that, our first month of the program has passed. Hiking, sea kayaking, canyoning, backpacking, camping, iceberg climbing, black water caving, and nearly 100 hours spent in a car. What an amazing ride it has already been. Its hard to believe we are already 1/3 of the way finished but I’m so excited for all the adventures that are still ahead of us.