Queenstown to Wanaka
We left camp before 10am and picked up the 2 Kepler Track walkers, who said their hike was great. From there we were en route to Queenstown. We arrived around 12:30 and booked/paid for our activities. Queenstown is very touristy and they run ‘heaps’ of activities here… bungy, jetboating, safaris, skydiving, flights, canyoning… everything! But it’s more expensive than doing it elsewhere in NZ. We quickly set up our tents at the holiday park and had lunch before 8 of us set out for our 2pm river surfing, aka boogie boarding through white water rapids. We drove out to the river and put on wetsuits, helmets, and flippers, which definitely hurt my sunburned arms! Our guides showed us how to float, steer through rapids, change direction, and dive under. Then we took off down the river, which felt so nice on this hot sunny day. It was really hard to control your speed so everyone kept bumping into each other. The guides had us steer certain ways so we could catch the rapids. It was 11km of floating/surfing in total.
Then they directed us to steer to the right and grab the rocks in order to catch the big wave but only 3 of us made it. And of course I was the first one to go, so I steered up the river and kicked as hard as I could, which they said should place us right in the stationary wave. Sure enough, the next thing I knew, I went over a rapid and was stuck in this wave getting pummeled while a guide held me there. It felt SO GREAT!! Then I was swept downstream and we all climbed back up the river to try it again. The other 2 people missed the wave entirely. The 2nd time, most of the 8 were able to catch the wave, including me… and I was in the wave for a really long time, the best part of the whole ride! I couldn’t see anything but it felt so good.
Then we stopped a bit further down and jumped off a 3-4m rock into the river. The guide took a picture of me there with my water camera. We finished the ride by going through the grade 4 rapids in single file. I just followed the line and had to close my eyes and pray I didn’t hit anything. I fell off my board a couple times but got right back on. I didn’t even think to dive under when the waves came, I just went upwards with my board and went flying. The crazy thing is, I wasn’t scared at all during it – it was fun, but it seemed so normal for some reason. Everyone else came out afterwards referring to the outing as a near-death experience, saying it was traumatizing, that they’d never do it again, and that they’d nearly drowned. I was the only one who wasn’t scared at all and caught the wave both times. Everyone kept telling me I was so awesome at river surfing, that I was a natural and had found my calling. It was kinda cool to be the star, though I didn’t feel so extraordinary while in the river. Even when we got back they were telling the others how well I did. Crazy. I felt absolutely nothing in my calves while kicking with my flippers – finally, a use for my man-legs!
Shortly after getting back, we had to get ready to go out to dinner at Dux de Lux. Everyone arrived late of course, and we sat at 2 long tables, all 30 of us. I sat with a lot of the newbies for once which was kind of nice. I wish I’d talked to some of them sooner because a lot of them are leaving tomorrow. I chatted with a 20-yr-old Aussie guy [forgot his name] who was really nice. I had chicken and potatoes and then Thai veggie soup. Food is so expensive here – $36NZ for a meal! I went back to the camp before 10 and saw a guy juggling torches on a tall unicycle while a lot of the group went out to bars and clubs. I don’t wanna be tired for hang gliding tomorrow!
The next day, I woke up at 7:30am for my 9am hanggliding! I had lots of time so I even showered [in the morning, gasp!]. But it was too windy to fly so we didn’t go – oh well, saved myself $125US. I walked around Queenstown for a bit and bought another paua bracelet, this time with beads so I can rethread it if it breaks. I also bought 2 realllllllly pretty and soft mohair scarves, 1 for my mom. I’m very excited about this purchase! I also bought the Da Vinci Code FINALLY and started reading it in Starbucks, where I ran into Anna who was also there reading. She told me the book was alright but not amazing. I didn’t want to bother her reading though so I kept to myself and read.
Then it started to rain a little and it was cloudy and windy. I walked around with James [late 20's, London] and then dropped my stuff off at the camp. I walked up the hill to the gondola, which took us up the mountain. I called home around 12:30 and only Shan was home so we talked about school for a bit. I went up the chairlift and did the scenic luge! Really fun. It was like a scooter, but you sit down and pull the handles up toward you to slow down. The view on the mountain was amazing – lots of mountains on the water by the town, plus the sky had cleared up. Perfect!
GroupI went back to the camp before 2 to see people off. Most of us just sat by the bus until we had to leave at 3. Half of the group left us today – it was actually really sad to see some of them go [I even had tears in my eyes!]. You get so used to seeing and being around the same people every day, even if you’re not close friends with them it’s still weird without them there anymore. Plus, you have this amazing experience that you shared with them and you may not ever see them again! Crazy. I think I’ll miss Kendra [fellow American] the most, and Sally and Rich were also great.
We stopped shortly after so Mike could do the bungy, but it was busy so we were there for 1.5 hrs. He did a weird jump off rather than a dive, but that’s more than I did! I actually think I could do the bungy if I HAD to [like on the Amazing Race] but I don’t like falling! Afterwards I walked around and admired the scenery.
We set up camp at a bushcamp on Lake Wanaka – it was so windy!! The lake is beautiful though, the mountains around it are so perfect that they look fake. My tent was hard to put up in the wind and hard rocky ground but I managed. We had BBQ and salad for dinner, very good. Got to know a bit about the 4 new people, 1 is from just outside NYC and 1 is from Spain. It was just too cold and windy to stay out so I retired to my tent by 10pm.