Location: Christchurch, Lake Tekapo and Pukaki – New Zealand South Island
Highlight: Picking up the rental van and our first night of camping
There was a lot to look forward to in New Zealand, from the famous cinematography to the many ‘must see’ places recommended by friends who have waxed lyrically about it.
We arrived in Christchurch on a gloomy day and the city was clearly still reeling from an earthquake last year which measured 5.7 on the Richter Scale and claimed the lives of 2 people. There were buildings which were half rubble and it was hard to differentiate between what was being rebuilt and what was just being left as it is. The weather was pants, which didn’t help to improve our opinion of it.
… Nor did a situation we had on the outskirts of town with a group of drugged up (with the only knowledge I have being gleaned from shows like Breaking Bad and a Louis Theroux documentary, I felt confident diagnosing their behaviour as being high on crystal meth) hoodlums who approached us as we were watching a rugby training session, minding our own business. We had just been shopping, we had food and beers in our bags, and one of the group of 4 boys was trying to grab our last remaining beer. Simon tried reasoning with them “Don’t take our last beer – come on guys!”. Fortunately for us, the leader of their clan told him to back off, “you can’t take their last beer”, which we thanked him for. Apparently the final beer of a 6 pack is sacred, no matter where you are in the world.
It felt like the encounter could have gone one of two ways, we were grateful that it went the way it did.
They headed off with a warning message from the leader “Next time, don’t touch my leg.” aimed in my direction, though I don’t remember touching him.
Anyway, we picked up our camper van the next day and we were off on our adventure.
We picked up a packed lunch and had a quick picnic on the beach at Ashburton:
We were enjoying the freedom of cruising around in our van, stopping off for a swim if we wanted to, smashing it to our destination otherwise. First destination was the B-E-A-Utiful Lake Tekapo.
The sky and the lake were competing to be the bluest, our gas stove cooking my beans along nicely and it was an incredibly peaceful spot to pitch up for the night. I enjoyed the dramatic cloud formations especially.
We had downloaded a great app (Campermates for those interested) which showed where the best camping spots were and what facilities you can find there. This particular spot that we picked for the night had zero facilities, but that was fine by us. The lake water was probably cleaner than the stuff we get through the taps in London.
When morning came, another day and another lake, this time it was Lake Tekapo’s bigger, more mountainous brother – Lake Pukaki.
In the background of the photo above, obscured by the clouds, is snow capped Mount Cook, the highest mountain in NZ.
We continued driving down to the pretty town of Wanaka during the day and arrived in time for a quick dip in the lake.
Emphasis on the word ‘quick’ though, as it was glacially cold. Adrenaline was coursing through my veins after dunking.
And it wasn’t the only time I would feel that adrenaline, as I was fortunate enough to receive some money for Christmas from Nan which I put towards a skydive in Wanaka. I was later told by Nan that the money wasn’t to be spent on skydiving, so I transferred it to my “safe events” budget.
Anyway, after moving the exact same amount of money out of my safe events budget, I booked myself on a 12,000 foot skydive, overlooking two beautiful lakes. It was too blustery to jump so I had to come back on a later date (having waited in the reception for 3 hours), but the weather was much better when I did come back again, so I was glad to have waited.
A safety video, followed by being strapped into my harness, then a short conversation with the man who I would be jumping out of a plane with and I was placing my trust in to bring us both safely from that height. Before I knew it, we were on a tiny plane with 5 other jumpers and their parachute-partners and I was being strapped tightly to mine as he wrapped his legs around the outside of mine and straddled me from behind. We ascended, I looked down and thought how high it was, then saw on one of the parachute guys’ watches that we weren’t even at 5,000 foot high – still a way to go.
By the time we reached 12,000 feet, we were in the clouds and I was watching people hurl themselves out of the plane, right in front of my eyes… and I was next.
It’s such a smoothly run operation, the guy I was strapped to (my ‘beautiful stranger’ as they’re called) jumps 12 times a day if the conditions are right… I wasn’t worried about any mishaps, but there’s nothing quite like hanging off a flying plane knowing that you’ll be free falling in a matter of moments.
We jumped. We were free falling for nearly a minute. I went through phases of “OH WOW THIS IS SO AWESOME” sheer rigidity of muscles to “relax, enjoy the views” and somewhere in between “Let’s try the breaststroke in mid air.”
What an experience.
Out came the parachute and lots of whooping from me. We ‘chuted around, my beautiful stranger showed me the landscape, pointed out the lakes and the mountains which are ski slopes in winter. It was a bright day and I could see for miles in every direction, it was a sight to behold.
After maybe 10 minutes of descending it came to the landing, which I was told would be a ‘slide in on your bum’ situation, but we ran it in which felt badass, all I needed was an assault rifle and I’d have lived out any boy’s dream of being a paratrooper.
Next up on our trip was a drive down to Milford Sound, Queenstown and hitting the west coast.
P.S. You may have noticed more photos in this post. There are 2 main reasons:
- New Zealand is such a damn photogenic place. My camera was in use a lot of the time, and we were up from sunrise to set set every day.
- The failure that was the photo situation in the last blog post – Thailand: Take 2
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Late 20’s Crisis