Monday, December 28, 2009

Headed North

On November 6 I was headed North again. Thankfully three friends from the ‘southbus’ were accompanying me all the way up to Auckland. The four of us got cozy on the near empty Kiwi bus and made the best of our time.

In Kaikoura, a sea-side town, Dan and Jen drank away their sorrows after saying farewell to Ash, a holiday romance and travel buddy. Paddy and I made new friends and cooked dinner for our new friends, Charlotte and some Irish boys. Thanks to Polly, I can know cook a few delicious dishes and enjoy the cooking part of it as much as the eating part.

This is the town where most people choose to go whale-wathing and swim with dolphins. The weather was a bit chilly and the price to go out with a guided tour was a bit steep. I choose to sit this one out. So, to answer an often asked question: No, I did not see any whales. However, I did see a few dolphins in New Zealand jumping about as I took the ferry between Wellington and Picton. Australia also provided amazing sea life, but that’s later.

After Kaikoura, we left the beautiful South Island on the ferry headed North to Wellington. Wellington entertained us with its free four-story museum that houses the world’s largest squid. It was there that I had a personal guide, an elderly gentleman that taught me all about the squid and fun facts about whales. Ever need to know information about a blue whale? I’m your girl.

Leaving the South Island was a hard one because we left so many dear friends and wonderful memories were made there. All good things come to an end though. What kind of a saying is that really? All good things should last in my opinion. No worries, mate. The North Island had a few tricks up its sleeves. I was in for many more good days in Northern New Zealand.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Next Stop: Christchurch. The English settled Christchurch years ago and its evident everywhere you turn. The street names seem have all been named after English townships, the buildings resemble that of England’s architecture. Even the church of Christchurch attempts to have the facade of that of English churches.

Christchurch was the end of most of my friends’ trip. There’s a main airport there and sadly, a lot of people said their farewells to New Zealand and to me right there. I had spent nearly three weeks with these people: making many memories, hearing their life stories and getting to know them and beginning to call them friends. Thankfully my last night in Christchurch happened to Guy Fawke’s Night. “Remember, remember the fifth of November…” This English holiday celebrates the fact that Guy Fawkes was burned at the stake after being caught for his attempt to burn down the Queen’s house. Moral of the story: Don’t try to burn down the Queen’s or you will get burned.

Surprisingly, Christchurch played it up really big with a carnival and fireworks at the pier. It was a good way to end a great trip with great people.

Here my friends Anna, Roz and Philli are taking in the sights to be seen in the city. Then a beautiful day was spent at the lovely Christchurch Botanical Gardens. It was a fun-filled day of picture taking. The garden was free and really pretty. Two thumbs up, Christchurch.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Home sweet home. A red slipper wearing Kansan gal once said, “there’s no place like home,” and she might have been onto something. I have been over the big blue and back. I’ve ventured down under and still made it back to good ol’ Kansas. I didn’t tap my heels together while abroad, but I’m sure if I had, I would have ended right back where I started: Kansas.

So, here I am in Kansas sitting at my beloved Mac reminiscing about my time away. It’s a bit overwhelming to be honest. I left my house May 25th, 2009 and have basically been on the move since.

My European adventures were amazing, but only the beginning. My backpack (aka my rucksack) has seen better days, but it’s still holding up. The list of lost items has reached a record breaking thirty-plus items. I don’t even want to write them all down; it’s quite ridiculous. However, no lost cameras (okay, one, but that’s still pretty good), no lost iPods, cell phones, credit cards, and thankfully no lost passports. I think I came out pretty well if I do say so myself.

I apologize to those of you who were hoping to follow me on this here blog. I failed. I will be the first to admit that I failed. I did not to update my facebook status. I hardly kept in touch with friends and family. I failed to blog. I apologize. However, I plan on making it up to you all. I will obnoxiously update my facebook status from here on out. I will obsessively text, skype and ring my friends and family. Now that I have free internet access and unlimited text messaging on my beloved blackberry, I’ll be so well-connected it will possibly make up for my lack of entries.

I will now begin to recall my craziest times and overseas endeavors. So, these entries will most likely not be in chronological order, but heck how will any of you ever know? Exactly. So, sit back and enjoy as I recall my adventures one blog entry at a time.

Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand. Considering New Zealand is one of the leading producers of adventure sports, Queenstown is just something off the map for adventure lovers. The town has a ski resort feel. Its main road is lined with shops where you can buy anything from souvenirs to snow boards. There’s travel agencies around every corner where you can book anything from paragliding to bungy jumping. The town is buzzing at all hours of the day. The town has grown exponentially over the past few years. We were told that just twenty years ago, Queenstown resembled Wanaka, which was a quiet lake-side town just an hour or so away. Now Queenstown has two high seasons due to its allure of year-round adventure.

Before arriving in Queenstown, the Kiwi Bus, which is the hop-on, hop-off travel bus I traveled New Zealand on, stopped at the AJ Hackett Bridge. AJ Hackett is a man known for his love of adrenalin, but what really put his name in the books was his invention of the bungy. Yes, this man thought to himself one day, “Hmm… I wonder what would happen if we tied ourselves to a rope made from the same material as a rubber band and then threw ourselves off of a bridge.” Waa-la. The Bungy Jump was born. If anyone questions this man’s sanity… all I have to say is “Don’t knock it ‘till you try it.” Because I sure did.

At the AJ Hackett bridge we watched an educational video that had my arm hair standing on end. It showed the history of the bungy, and then showed AJ Hackett himself bungy jumping off the Effiel Tower! He jumped down in the middle of it. It only took minuets before he was arrested by the Parisian police, but from that moment on word was out. Bungy Jumping became a world-wide phenomenon. Yet, New Zealand is still the leading bungy jump site, and it is my personal opinion that it’s the best place in the world to have a jump.

After witnessing the terrifying act of bungy jumping, some travel buddies and I signed right up. Not for the ledge bungy or the bridge bungy, but for the Nevis Bungy – the highest jump of them all at a death defying 134 meters! (For those not on the metric system, that’s nearly 350 feet.) Our jump date: Halloween.

Queenstown provided us with wowing nights out and beautiful scenery by day. The town is surrounded by breath-taking views from every angle. Mountains here and there as well as Lake Wakatipu. Think green and I’m not talking about this new ‘be green’ wanna-be eco-friendly trend. I am talking about actual green. New Zealand is simply beautiful, full of lush vegetation and green scenery everywhere. I loved looking outside and having my breath taken away nearly every time, but heck who wouldn’t?

My time in Queenstown can be summed up in one word: extreme. When we went out, we went out bigger than ever. There were prizes to be won every night. There were teapots to be drank at World Bar. There were J├Ąger Trains to be started and of course finished. There were luges to be ridden. There were ice hockey games to be won. There were bungys to be jumped (not quite sure that has the right ring to it, but you get the point). Basically, Queenstown was to be conquered, but I am pretty sure it conquered me. I would have loved to have stayed there for weeks, but physically and financially I needed to move on.

Moving on is a hard thing to do when traveling about freely. You find somewhere that you love and everything seems to be going right. You think to yourself, “Whoa, I could stay here forever,” but No. You cannot stay forever. You are a traveler. You have to move on. Take things for what they are. Queenstown was good to me and I left it on a high note, and that’s the best thing to do—leave on a high note.