New Zealand: Extreme sports capitals, Wanaka and Queenstown

The next day and on the road again we stopped at Haast beach as, despite the rain, it would be our last chance to enter the wild Tasman Ocean before heading inland. After changing into swimming shorts in the car I made a dash for the sea to avoid the cool rain, without really evaluating the state of the ocean I was charging into. When I got in the water I noticed the sea-bed descended steeply after a few metres and suddenly I was out of my depth in huge strong waves and a current that appeared to be pulling me out, oops! Luckily I managed to claw myself back in, and out of the water but after seeing this Joe decided against the dip. I managed to stick around shivering for a few minutes to see a pod of small dolphins larking around effortlessly in the waves, as if to mock me.

After a coffee to warm up we continued south to Wanaka which is tagged as a more chilled out extreme sports centre than Queenstown. Wanaka is set in a huge sweeping valley next to a lovely blue lake, rising up to several impressive peaks and we arrived to clear skies and sunshine after the morning rain.

We spent the afternoon back in the water, jumping off the Wanaka lake pier, and Joe experimenting with some interesting flips. That evening, tired of cooking, we ate in a local Indian restaurant. Joe claimed it was a necessity as his best mate Bob and him are on a quest to compare curries of the world.

Up early the next morning Joe, Dad and I set off in the sunshine on an epic 6 hour walk up a local peak. We got some awesome views of the huge lake snaking around the valley and glaciers on the higher mountains in the distance. At the top Dad twinged his back so Joe and I went ahead to get the car whilst he ambled down. Somehow we took a wrong turn and ended up in someone’s back garden which we sneaked through and out onto the road. We were pretty knackered so hitch-hiked back to the town, grabbed the car and returned for Dad.

I met this dude checking out the awesome view, that was the spit of myself 😉

Dad and Joe lagging behind:

The next day we visited “A Puzzling World” which is a visual illusions museum which boggles the mind. After having our minds blown for a few hours we headed to Queenstown a couple of hours away. We spent the afternoon in the glorious sunshine on the beach in Queenstown on Lake Wakatipu.

Hmm, what’s happened here?

Big Dom, Little Joe:

As it was Friday night Joe and I partnered up with a bunch of Brits staying in our hostel, and after experiencing goon (goon is the affectionate name given to boxed wine in NZ and Oz which is notoriously drunk by travellers due to it being the cheapest drink by vol) for the first time ended up in the lively bars of Queenstown. With plenty of dutch courage I requested to ride a mechanical bull on top setting in one bar. After a couple of very bumpy seconds I was thrown from the bull somehow skinning the inside of my arm and cutting my elbow.

As Queenstown is the extreme sport capital of the world I decided to go for a game of golf with my Dad on Sunday morning 😉 I wanted to do the extreme sports but the prices really put me off. I would have opportunity to do the bungee and sky-diving in Asia at a fraction of the cost and I hadn’t played golf in 7 months!

The summer temperatures were really rising despite being quite far south so we needed a refreshing dip in Queenstown lake before we drove the several hours to Te Anau which is on the edge of Fjord Land famous for Milford and Doubtless Sounds. Te Anau itself is another South Island town in idyllic settings next to a lake overlooking rainforest covered mountains in the background, and we spent the early evening leaping off the lake jetty.

Milford Sound being approachable by road is the cheaper more popular option for visitors to the area, with Doubtless Sounds requiring an expensive and exclusive cruise. For this reason Mum and Dad booked themselves on a horrendously expensive cruise and Joe and I opted for the car route.

The driven route to Milford Sound is reputably one of the most impressive drives going and Joe and I were treated to a visual treat on the 2 hour drive. Starting in the rolling hills of temperate rain forests, followed by the increasingly impressive mountain before reaching vertical sheer rock faces with glaciers hanging off the top.

Camera does it no justice but this is a super steep and high cliff that looked awesome!

Again, I need a better camera but the scenery was breathtaking.  This was a hanging glacier perched atop a huge steep cliff:

Arriving in Milford Sound we went to enquire about cruises; with one main question: where can we jump off things and swim? As none of the cruises allowed you to swim and having been spoiled for breathtaking scenery over the past weeks we decided on recommendation from a lad behind the cruise counter to head for a secret swimming spot 5km back up the road to Te Anau at “The Chasm”.

Milford Sound, we didn’t bother taking a closer look:

The Chasm is a stop for tour buses travelling to Milford Sound and consists of a typically NZ-safe boarded path through some rainforest to an impressive glacial waterfall which has carved its way though some rocks to create an impressive chamber and deep pool which is viewed from above. Off the tourist path there is an unoffical route through thick rainforest which brings you out at the top of a cliff overlooking an impossibly clear glacial pool which honesty looked like it had been computer generated it was so perfect.  After sizing it up we leaped into the pool which turned out to be the COLDEST WATER EVER!  My strong desire to take a peek at the chasm with my snorkel and mask overcame the pain of being in the water and I managed to navigate a narrow steep sided passageway that had been eroded years by  waterflow that led to the super-deep chasm where I could see the waterfall plunging air bubbles 5 or 6 metres into the crystal clear water, and the bottom about 15m down. I was there long enough to pop my head up to see the faces of some puzzled Japanese tourists up above me on the platform before I raced back to pool and clambered back up the cliff. It took me about 6 hours to properly warm up!

The Chasm from above:

Crystal clear pool:

Taking a leap:

On the way back to Te Anau we picked up a hitchhiker, Isa from Hong Kong, who ended up in the same hostel as us. As Isa was also heading back to Queenstown, we offered to take her back with us the next day which was probably quite a surprise for the parents when we picked them up from the ferry terminal.  So stopping at every lake for more jumping-in we headed back to Queenstown with a full car.

Before picking our parents up Joe, Isa and I went for a dip in the clear waters of Lake Manapouri:

Back in Queenstown we attempted to go to the world famous Ferg Burger but my parents were not keen waiting in the huge line that had formed outside, so we went for a Chinese. This was my one regret as even after I left Queenstown I was constantly reminded of how good the Ferg Burger was and frequently heard it was the best burger ever, and that I was crazy not to have waited the insignificant amount of queuing time for the holiest of holy burgers!! The receptionist at the hostel even demanded that I go for breakfast there the next day (as it is open from 7am to 5am to cope with demand) but we couldn’t as we had arranged to play a round of golf before boarding our flights out of the South Island; myself to Wellington and my parents back up to Auckland for the last couple of days of their trip 😦

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