A Travellerspoint blog

April 2015

Queenstown, NZ - a kid in an adventure candy store! (pt. 2)

Flying through forests, gliding beside mountains, canyon free falls and everything in between!

sunny 13 °C

When I left off in the last blog post, I just finished up free falling on the canyon swing and we had enjoyed an incredible dinner looking out over Queenstown. Needless to say we both slept well that evening which made it easier to get up the following morning and pack up our bags to head to our next hostel. We would have loved to have stayed at Bumbles for the rest of our trip but it came as no surprise that it was all booked up. With our bags packed, it was off to our next destination which was Aspen Lodge Backpackers hostel. Travelling light saved us hiring a cab to get to the hostel, as Aspen Lodge is located on the opposite side of the town, since we only had backpacks it really just ended up being a nice morning walk. We couldn't check in right away so we dropped off our bags and headed out for some breakfast. Today was my river fishing trip excursion. I had been doing some research on how to get to the docks and it didn't look like it was too far away, so my game plan was to get there on two feet. This would be cheaper and the exercise never hurts to help work of some of those late night beers. At this point in time my feet were still aching pretty good from all the walking we did in Melbourne and all the touring around we had done in Queenstown, but I didn't think it was bad enough to warrant paying for transportation to the docks. After a pretty light breakfast we made our way back to the hostel, checked into our room and then it was time to make my way to the docks which I was told it would be about a 45 minute walk away. Since Sherry didn't have anything booked to do for the day she tagged along for the walk with plans to just keep on touring around after she dropped me off. The day itself was fairly overcast and even a bit rainy at times but I was dressed for it. As we were walking I kept pulling out our iPad to check how much further we had to go and it wasn't long before I came to the realization that there was no way I was going to make to the boat on time! After unsuccessfully trying to flag a few taxis down it was time to tap into my cross country running skills. In the worst running shoes possible, I took off jogging down the trail in an attempt to make it to the boat on time. One thing I should note here is that I hate being late for things, it drives me crazy when I am late and equally so when other people are late - I guess you could call that my number one pet peeve. As I am running along I could feel the aches in my feet start to get worse as the my shoes were absolute crap for this type of thing, so before long I was looking like a baby deer and feeling about 100 years old. I couldn't even look the people in the eye that I crossed paths with, as I didn't want to see the bewildered looks that I knew they would have on their faces! Well, I finally did make it to the docks just as the boat was being loaded up with the other three passengers, who looked a heck of a lot more comfortable and relaxed then I did. Once I caught my breath I was able to make proper introductions to my boat mates which included two gentlemen from America and one girl from Alberta. With a few bits of information exchanged between ourselves and our boat captain, we set off out onto the lake and then eventually down into the river system where we would do our best to catch some brown and rainbow trout. The fishing trip itself would last about 4 hours as we made 4 different stops along the river before turning and heading back to the docks. Although the weather was pretty chilly and even raining at times, it was hard not to find enjoyment being surrounded by the mountains and doing something that I really enjoyed doing back home in Canada. Lady luck was on my side that day as I was able to catch 2 rainbow trout. Unfortunately for the rest of my group there was only one other fish caught. Now, I typically don't like to complain but our guide didn't really do a whole heck of a lot to earn his paycheque that day. He got everyone rigged up, but then pretty much just hung out fishing by the boat himself. He did come by and snap some photos for you when you caught a fish and would help with snags, but I thought he would have been out walking around and giving out some tips to help increase the odds of his clients catching fish. The business side of my brain was thinking that this dude had a pretty sweet gig going as I knew how much money he was racking in from the four of us, while the other side of brain, lets call it the "wants to see everyone treated fairly side" was pretty disappointed for the rest of the group. Now, did I say anything to the guide at the time, no I didn't. I mean lets be honest, he could have just chosen to leave my skinny butt out there! Did I say anything when we got back to the docks, again, no I didn't. This was the part that I have no good excuse for and which bothers me the most. I like to think that I am one of those people that stands up for what is right and will speak up when the time calls for it, but in this instance I felt like I failed. I mean, the guy was nice enough, but he really didn't seem to do his job from my perspective. Albeit, nobody else seemed too upset about the whole situation, and I even heard the other two gentlemen saying that they had a great time. Who knows, maybe it was all for not, but I think we all struggle to varying degrees when faced with these types of situations in our day to day lives. The struggle really seems to be around putting ourselves out there to express our opinions to others with the intent of rectifying a situation that we believe to be unfair, unjust, or just not right and knowing it could be extremely uncomfortable and awkward with potentially no reward. All that being said, I was glad to have taken the opportunity to go fishing and i think I can say that, because I actually caught fish. Had I been the one that got skunked then my thoughts on the experience might be a bit different.

So, with the fishing behind us, it was now time to get my cold, tired and hungry self back to the hostel (can you hear the violins playing in the background...). Now, there was a bus stop right by the docks, but I had zero cash on me which meant I was going to be tackling the long walk back to town. By this time, my legs, along with my feet, were feeling pretty craptastic, and all I could think about was getting back to the hostel and soaking in a hot shower. The walk took over an hour and during that time I did everything I could to ignore the pain in my legs but I was pretty damn close to just stopping at one of the other hotels along the way and booking another room for the night just so I could soak in the tube for the night - but common sense prevailed and i carried on, making it back just shortly after Sherry had completed her tour around the Queenstown area. I was completely gassed and going out for food was the last thing on my mind, but we were both hungry as heck. It was at this time that we remembered the Fergburger tip about ordering them ahead and then just walking in to pick them up! Sherry, who can chalk me up for an IOU on this one, made the phone call, ordered the burgers and went down to pick them up the burgers, plus some milkshakes, while my sorry ass laid in bed after a nice hot shower. She is too good to me! Now, I should explain that the Fergburger is hugely sought after Queenstown experience . These burgers are quite famous, as evidenced by the 1.5-2 hour line-ups that people wait in to get them. The locals will often tell you that Devil Burger is better, but unfortunately we didn't make it there to give our thoughts on them. What I can say for sure is that the Fergburger was pretty damn good. It is absolutely huge and is more than enough to fill you up on its own. I am pretty sure Guy Fieri would have this place on triple D if he made it to Queenstown for a show. I am sure it will be no surprise to anyone that Sherry and I had an early night as we entered the food coma zone once we finished up our dinner.

The next morning it was time to go zip-lining and this adventure would take us back up to Bob's Peak. This is the same place where the Stratosphere Restaurant is and where we had my birthday dinner. Bob's Peak goes seemingly straight up for about 450 meters behind the centre of Queenstown and is easily accessed by a short but scenic gondola ride. You will frequently come across mountain bikers who can easily load their bikes on the gondola to get up to the peak where they will dismount and fly down the mountain at breakneck speeds leaving bystanders with jaws dropped. The other way that you can get too the top of Bob's Peak is on foot through their well maintained trail system. The walk itself takes about 45-60 minutes, which doesn't sound too bad but I should note that it also doesn't really have too many flat spots to allow to you catch your breath and rest your legs. With feet and legs hurting from the day before you would think this would have been the last way we would have got to the zip-line, but in fact, this is exactly how we got to the top. With better shoes on my feet the hike actually turned out pretty good. There are a few stops along the way to stop and catch your breath while looking out over the town and you also get an up close and personal view of the crazy mountain bikers who are flying down the mountainside. When we finally made it to the top, we had both worked up a bit of a sweat, which then quickly turned into a chilled feeling as the cold air brought our body temperatures back down to a normal place. The company we would be zipping with was Eco Trek Tours. They have a few different line combinations to chose from which helps with managing costs for those that are on a strict budget but that still want to take in the experience. Sherry and I chose to go for the whole enchilada and signed up for the 6 line tour, which included one of the worlds steepest zip-lines. These guys had safety front and centre right from the start and it was evident all the way through our high flying tour down the mountain. They even had extra gloves, toques and jackets on hand in case you hadn't properly dressed for the weather. Our group had about 10-12 people in it, with one lady catching everybody's attention as she was well into her 70's but age was non factor as she was up there rocking each and every jump like she was 25. I can only hope that I am living like that when I get to that time in my life. Each time we would get to a new zip-line our guides would stop and give us some information about the local area and explain why some things are the way they are and then they would give you a challenge to accomplish on your next zip-line. Sherry and I had a lot of fun with this as we were zipping along upside down and doing lots of fun crazy tricks to show each other up each time we came to a new zip-line. This was no canyon swing, but I had a heck of a lot of fun cruising through the bushes and looking out over spectacular Lake Wakatipu. The guides we had helped to make this a really enjoyable day as well by tossing in humour and having lots of fun themselves as they made sure we all safely reached our final landing zone near the base of Bob's Peak. The experience itself was even more meaningful for Sherry as this was yet another opportunity to challenge her body to see just how far along she had come over the last few years since all of her concussion issues. Well, as the picture will make clear, she knocked this one out of the park. She was twisting and flipping and gliding upside down every chance she had. I am happy to say she walked out of there feeling great, both physically and mentally for having faced another challenge on her list of things to do. For me, I was just happy to be there to share in it with her. Way back in the day when Sherry and I were dating and she was going through her health challenges, she gave me the chance to get out and not look back as she felt she was burdening me too much with her health issues. My simple response was, no, and that I wanted to be around for the days when she got better and started getting back to being the person she wanted to be. That day of zip-lining, as simple as it may seem, was yet another example of one of those moments I was looking forward to being apart of and why I didn't "pull the shoot" when given the chance. It is the struggles of the past that really make you appreciate the good times in life no matter how big or small they may seem to others.

For those of you who have been keeping track of time, you will know that our zip-line trip was taking place on good old St. Patricks Day! When we got back to our room, we got some rest and relaxation, then we found a nice little restaurant to eat at where we played some pool and I tried out a couple of pints local brew as a pre-paddy warm up. Now, I should likely tell you that there are not just a few people from Ireland in Queenstown, there are tones! There is a bit of a joke that if all the Irish are there, then who the heck is in Ireland? So it I am sure it goes without say with so many Irish folk on hand that Sherry and I had a blast on St. Patricks day. We tried out a couple of different pubs which were both playing live Irish music. Pog Mahones was where we settled in for the night and it was an absolute blast. The Guinness was free flowing and delicious, while the musicians had the crowds dancing and singing into the wee hours of the morning. At one point we found ourselves right up against the stage area where Sherry was showing off her coordinated dance moves with her new friend, while I was doing my best lip sync impressions letting on like I knew all the words to the Irish songs I was only hearing for the first or second time. It was deadly! What a night! Probably the coolest part was watching what I like to call "real time six degrees of separation". It all starts with stopping to talk to one person, who then introduces you to someone they just met from another country, who in turn met two other people from yet another different country and so on, until before you know it you have a nice little group of new people who you would swear knew each other forever the way they are carrying on with each other. With my belly topped to brim with Guinness and Sherry amazingly danced out, pillows found our heads around 1:00 am that night...St. Patrick you win again!

Our last full day in Queenstown was fairly relaxed as we grabbed some smoothies and walked around the park just chilling and trying our best to take it all in before we left. We even made a stop at the local hockey rink to check it out. The ice was out, but it was still really neat to stumble into a place that was so familiar to both of us from growing up in rural Ontario. Had someone asked me a true or false question 2 weeks prior about whether there was ice hockey in New Zealand, I would have not hesitated in saying false, but I was very much proven wrong and there are even some good old Canadian boys still living the dream playing for teams in the NZIHL. With our last day in the bag, it was just a matter of getting some rest and then getting up for 15 hours of travel time which would land us back in Perth before heading back up to Geraldton to see Joe and Angel again for a few days. Although Sherry and I obviously jam packed our 7 days with lot's of adventure sports, which are not always budget friendly, it is important to know there are still lots of amazing free or much cheaper things you can do to entertain yourself while still getting a great experience in Queenstown. I have attached a link to the website for Queenstown which is a good starting spot for anyone who is interested in checking out this adventure island http://www.queenstownnz.co.nz/information/Maps/. When we flew out of Queenstown the following morning I was found myself with mixed emotions as I felt like there was so much more I wanted to experience in New Zealand as a whole, not just Queenstown, but at the same time I was so very content with the time we did spend there. It was just another amazing example of what this big old world has to offer and we are so fortunate for having the opportunity to experience. I know that is something that I have said in other posts, but every time I think back over our adventures I feel guilty for not acknowledging just how lucky we are. Well thats all for now, it is off across a bunch of time zones and back to Geraldton Australia...mmmmm air plane food! hahaha


Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 05:41 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Queenstown, NZ - a kid in an adventure candy store! (pt. 1)

Flying through forests, gliding beside mountains, canyon free falls and everything in between!

sunny 14 °C

Finally, the time was here, it was a day I had been anxiously waiting on since we had booked it, it was time to make our way to New Zealand and I was pumped! New Zealand had been on my radar since we made up our mind to spend time in Australia. The photos I had seen during my research and the stories that I heard from friends and colleagues who had travelled their themselves, made me even more positive about my desire to visit what sounded like a pretty magical playground. There was not one bad thing I heard about travelling in New Zealand and I wasn't going to miss out on the chance to create our own stories when we were so close to it. So, now you know a little bit about why we decided on New Zealand, let's not wait any longer to get into the details of our 7 incredible days in adventure paradise!

I actually did manage to get some sleep the night before our flight, but I was awake well before our alarm at 5:30am, popping out of bed and clearing myself out of the room like a mini fire drill was taking place. When you are staying in a room with 4 other people that you do not know, you have to make sure you are executing the quietest fire drill possible though, which I think we did pretty well at considering we had to move all our luggage out, plus try and make sure we didn't leave anything important laying around. After rustling Sherry up from her sleep we moved our operation out into the hallway where we checked and double checked to make sure we didn't leave anything laying around in the dark. All was in order and we had no issues getting to the airport on time. Taxi was our choice for transportation again due to our early flight and because the airport bus would have taken 1.5 hours to get us there and that was valuable sleep which I was not willing to sacrifice just to save a few bucks (it was literally just a few bucks). After a little sorting out of our boarding passes with the airline staff, who were visibly and vocally thrilled about the new passenger self help boarding system, (for the Sheldon Coopers in the crowd, that was sarcasm haha) we boarded our flight and were on our way. We had a 3.5 hour flight ahead of us that would land us right in Queenstown, which is located on the south island of New Zealand. As usual, I should have taken this time to grab some sleep but that just wasn't happening. Sleep was 100% out of the equation once the clouds started to part and I saw the incredible mountainous landscape below us . This was the first time in my 30 plus years that I had seen mountains before, let alone the expansive ranges that made up the landscape as far as the eye could see below us. I found myself bobbing and weaving my head around my tiny little plane window in an attempt to stay in constant line of site of this new experience. I would tap Sherry on the arm trying to get her to look out the window, which I knew was a lost cause as flying isn' t her favourite thing to begin with, but I thought I would at least try - she wouldn't even look at me hahaha - she just kept shaking her head at me and buried her face in her book further and further, in an attempt to ignore me. The jaw dropping views only got better as the plane continued its decent into the airport. Mountains surrounded us on both sides of the plane and in comparison to their size, at times it felt as though we were in a small bush plane rather than the large passanger plane we were on. Bright blue rivers cut their way through the mountain range bases and larger lakes began appearing at their mouths - Sherry had to remind me to blink every once and a awhile as we approached our landing. If you can schedule your flight into Queenstown so that you are landing in daytime you will certianly be getting full value for your money! Hell, just schedule every possible flight for the daytime because I don't know how you could ever get bored of that experience. As I am sure you are all wondering by now, did the plane ever land Shayne?! Well the answer of course is yes and we both couldn't wait to get out of our seats to get even closer to the beautiful land around us. After sneaking in a quick photo on the Tarmac and being told to move on by airport security, it was time to wait in a lengthy customs line before we finally grabbed a cab to take us to Bumbles Backpackers hostel where we would be staying for the first 4 nights. In hindsight we could have grabbed a bus for cheaper, but we landed ourselves a really friendly cab driver who offered tones of great advice about how to spend our time while in Queenstown, plus he gave a crucial local insider tip about how to order a Fergburger without having to wait in the 2 hour lineup (will explain what a Fergburger is later).

Queenstown is a far cry from some of the large and sometimes overwhelming cities we found ourselves in during recent stops. With a population of around 30,000, it is quite small and comes with all the small town feels that you might expect. If you are staying in the town centre (which we were) everything you need is within walking distance. Great food options, endless tour operators, links to beautiful walking trails and a friendly helping hand just about everywhere you turn. Now, mind you, a lot of the crazy adventures you may get yourself signed up for are outside of the town but you will be given transport by the operators to get there when you sign up.

When we checked into our hostel we were absolutely overwhelmed by the adventure opportunities that were at our finger tips. The reception area of Bumbles Backpackers was covered with pamphlets that were organized by air, land and water adventure categories. We just started grabbing whatever caught our eye and it wasn't long before we had a pretty big stack to look over and with information in hand we headed up to our room to unpack and get settled. We lucked out pretty good as our private room looked out directly at the mountain ranges and over the sparkling blue Lake Wakatipu. One of the most prominent mountain ranges in our line of sight was called "The Remarkable's", which are famous for a couple of reasons. For one, it is one of only two mountain ranges in the world that runs directly from the north to the south of a country and the second being that it has been used for many famous films, most notably being Lord of the Rings. It was quite surreal that this was what we would be waking up to for the next 4 mornings. A sense of calm and relaxation permeated through me, it was paradise and I was instantly in love with it all. Pamphlets in hand, we made our way down towards the harbour area in search of a place to top up our bellies and to start figuring out what crazy adventures we wanted to try our hand at while in Queenstown. We grabbed an outdoor seat at "The Pub on Wharf" which gave us a great view of the waterfront and allowed us to take in all that was around us while, well me anyways, sipping away on a delicious pint of beer. We had seven days in Queenstown and we wanted to ensure we maximized our time while there so we needed to be somewhat strategic in what we selected to do, while doing our best to be mindful of cost, but I am not going to lie, budget was blown while here! It wasn't the food or drink that really put us out of joint with our budget, but rather all the crazy adventure sports we decided to take on. The saying, "You Only Live Once" was front and centre in our decision making for the entire week! After narrowing down our choices, downing another delicious pint while listening to a young street performer entertain the patio goers with some pretty amazing acoustic guitar, it was time to head on back to our hostel for some rest and relaxation. It would have been quite easy to sit at the table all night and do my best to drink that keg dry, but better judgement prevailed and we packed in what had been a great introduction to Queenstown. Okay, we stopped at one more pub (The Find) before packing it in....but that was it, I promise hahaha.

The next morning it was time to get booking our adventures. This turned out to be very convenient and enjoyable as all we had to do was walk down to reception at our hostel and chat with the wonderfully friendly Denise. We had a full roster of things we wanted to book and she was amazing through it all - she even jumped in to offer cheaper or better options for your money and the best part was she had done them all so she knew what she was talking about. This might sound like an up sell to some readers, but I can tell you for sure that it was 100% genuine and she had our best interest at hand. When it was all said and done, here is what our week would look like: Saturday - Paragliding, Sunday (my birthday) - Canyon Swing and dinner at Skyline Stratosphere Restaurant and Bar, Monday - River Fishing trip, Tuesday- Zip-line, Wednesday - nothing planned, and Thursday - Fly back to Australia. We could have certainly tucked a few of these things into the same day but we wanted to keep a nice balance of being able to enjoy the town and getting the old heart pumping in the same day. For the rest of Friday we spent our time cruising around the town checking out all the little shops and stores. The sun was out, but the temperatures were not all that hot which made for a pretty comfortable time touring the town. Not much shopping took place during our day as we still hadn't got over the sticker shock in New Zealand, plus we just didn't need for anything. Thankfully our Canadian dollar was doing a bit better then the NZ dollar because things are expensive - 9-10 dollar pints and $150 sweaters are just a few examples of the cost of living in NZ. It is was quite common to run into the same waiter who served you one night at the pub, working down the street at a clothing shop just to be able to afford livingNZ (especially Queenstown). Our night settled with some pizza and beer for me, a green smoothie for Sherry and a movie on the iPad which was just alright with me after all the fresh air from our touring around.

Saturday would be the beginning of our outdoor adventures and, I will just make note now that we had both never taken part in the things we signed up for, with the only exception being my fishing trip. Paragliding was first on the docket. We were brought to the top of a mountain where we were weighed up so we could be properly paired with a guide and then it was not long before we were flying off the mountain, taking in all the amazing views. We were strapped into a seat which was attached to our guide who did most of the driving but who did give over the reins to us if we wanted to give it a try and of course we both did. Just for clarity purposes, Sherry and I were on separate gliders, in fact she went down about 20 minutes after I did, so I was able to watch her flying down and then eventually landing at the base of the mountain. The weather was absolutely perfect, which made for some really cool shots on the "GoPro" that our guide brought down with us. The ride itself only takes about 15-20 minutes and it seemingly goes by faster then that, as one you take off, you feel you could stay up there forever if the weather and views stayed just like they were that day. With the weather being so great, Sherry and I decided to jump on board a lake cruise (Million Dollar Cruise) when we got back into Queenstown. This cruise would take us for a guided tour around Lake Wakatipu and gave us a chance to take in even more of the scenery while getting some detailed insight from our captain who kept things very light and informative. The cruise itself only takes about 1.5 hours and I would highly recommend it. There are other cruises that go out of the harbour and in all honesty we didn't look into those all that much as this one grabbed our eye first so we literally just jumped on it. The evening brought a welcome surprise as Sherry remembered from talking to her paragliding guide that there was going to be a paragliding stunt show that evening that could be viewed from the beach area right by the docks. People began gathering around all over the beach. We sat perched up on a rock wall outlining the beach, while people worked their way around the water near us setting up a landing pad for the gliders made out of white water rafts in the water. The show did not disappoint whatsoever as paraglider after paraglider came sailing down from above the Skyline Stratosphere Restaurant and Bar, otherwise known as "way the hell up in the mountains". These talented men and women would do some pretty intense spins out over the water before trying to excite the crowded beachfront by sticking a landing on the rafts. The show was not without a few hair raising moments with included one paraglider spinning a little too out of control and having to pull his emergency shoot, while on two other occasions we watched paragliders suspending themselves hundreds of meters over the lake and then with no warning they would drop a person from their strapping and that person would free fall towards the water, pulling their own base jumper shoot just in time before they splashed down in the water. This was freaking nuts! It was hard to believe what we were watching could even be real at times. It was really cool that we had been paragliding ourselves just that morning as that gave us an even greater appreciation for what we were watching that evening. It is these types of unexpected experiences that always seem to standout and bring a big smile to your face when you are traveling....sure it is always nice when plans go as expected but its the pleaseant surprises that can really take your day to the next level of enjoyment.

When morning rolled around I was successful in brushing away the cobwebs created by a night of Guinness and live Irish music in a downtown pub. This was a good thing because it was my birthday and I was going to throw myself off the worlds tallest canyon swing. As we sat in the downtown office waiting for our transportation to arrive we watched videos of Jack Osborne completing his jumps when he was filming his adventure show a few years back. It looked crazy and it looked fun as hell! Everybody was sitting around with nervous anticipation about what we were all about to take part in. Fear and anxiousness can be an interesting bonding agent as we all would toss out a comment here and there and those comments would be met by nervous laughter all around. As you will see in the photos, we couldn't have asked for a better day. The canyon water was bright blue with the exception of intermittent white waters which broke up the calmness. Just so everyone can get a picture of what we were walking into - the canyon swing is 109 metres high and consists of a 60 metre free fall, which is followed by a 200 metre swing through the canyon below. You can choose to go off the platform however you like, and there are suggestions galore in case your creative mojo is not operating due to the increasing fear of what you are about to do. One guy that came with us decided to go off with his skateboard duct tapped to his feet! After watching a few of my new friends take the plunge and then be hauled back up to safety, it was my time to go and I chose to jump off backwards. Kinda of figured if it was all going to go bad I would rather not watch it happen! The guys that are running the jump like to mess with you a bit. You take a few photos and then it is up to you to take the plunge on your own or they will shove you off when you least expect it (its actually pretty funny when this happens). My nerves were in hyperdrive but I was not backing down. The only part that really freaked me out was when you are standing just a few feet back from the edge and are shuffling around to get into position. Once I was leaned out over the canyon, it was game on as I bent my knees pushing back towards the open air. Almost instantly there were involuntary noises being pushed from my chest and out of my mouth. I tried my best to hold my relaxed looking pose but the old legs and arms definitely started to flail a bit as I searched for something solid to hold onto. Once I reached the bottom of the free fall the swing caught me and I was gliding through the canyon and it really does feel like you are flying for a bit. I couldn't hold back the adrenalin induced excitement that was flowing through my body as I began shouting out some waaahooooos while gliding back and forth in the canyon. When the swing settled down, the guys hauled me back to the top and the entire time I made my ascent to the platform I was grinning ear to ear. Now, since there was time available to do a second jump for a fee that was a fraction of what we paid before, I wasn't going to pass up on that opportunity. I decided to do a jump called "gimp boy goes to hollywood" where they hang you upside down over the canyon and then release you whenever the heck they feel like it. What the hell, why not, right? Well, the first jump was intense but this jump was even crazier but just as fun. Again, it was the time where I was standing at the edge waiting to go out over the canyon that was the most nerve racking but once they had me hanging over the canyon I was more relaxed for some weird reason. More flailing, with no involuntary noises and some yelling during the canyon swing part were what made up this jump for me. It was an absolute blast, and when I finally walked off the platform and back up to see Sherry who had been nervously watching me from the viewing deck, I had the biggest smile on my face. What a way to kick off being 32! I will never forget that one as long as I live and thats maybe what is so special about it. In the past I have found that birthdays really started to come and go without any significance, which is quite unfortunate when you think about it. I am not saying you have to do something extreme to appreciate your birthday, but it is a day that is worth doing something that will help you to remember it and to make it as special as it deserves to be. Life goes by way to fast to not enjoy such a significant milestone as your birthday. When we finally arrived back at our hostel from this tour we got ourselves dressed up and made our way up the gondola to the Skyline Stratosphere Restaurant and Bar. The bar had an amazing view out over Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountain ranges. As we sat down for dinner the sun started to fall behind the mountains casting shadows across the landscape - it was really hard to believe we were sitting and eating with all this beauty below us. Dinner was another one of those moments where you felt that what is taking place was so surreal but at the same time it gives you that undeniable reassurance that you have made the right choice in doing what you have chosen to do. The meal itself was amazing, with it all ending by stuffing ourselves with way too many desserts but they were all just to damn good to resist. A serene gondola ride brought us back to the base in Queenstown where we made our way to the hostel and tossed ourselves into our bunks as the food coma's fully took over. What an amazing day....What an amazing Birthday! I felt extremely blessed that day. It wouldn't have been nearly as incredible without Sherry there nervously watching me take those canyon swings and keeping me company during our dinner. There really is something to be said about having just the right person with you to share in and ultimately enhance your experiences in life - I am pretty damn lucky that I have Sherry for that. Okay, Okay....I better pump the breaks on that mushy stuff before I have to turn in my "man card" hahaha.

Well, there is plenty more to talk about in Queenstown, but I am going to have to enter into part two of this journey in separate post as I just did a quick scroll back up the page and realized that things are getting pretty drawn out here. Hopefully I didn't lose anyone along the way. Part two won't be long in getting posted as we have finally landed back in a home base for a bit so I can keep cracking at it.


Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 10:07 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

From the West Coast to the East Coast of Australia

Melbourne, you so fine!

sunny 17 °C

When I left off last Sherry and I had just finished up a weekend in Geraldton WA and we were about to make our way to Perth to catch a flight all the way over to the East Coast where we would spend a few days in Melbourne. To get to Perth we purchased bus tickets in Geraldton, which were just another reminder of just how expensive things are in Australia, as it cost us about $165 in total to get us both to Perth. Back in Thailand we could have got 3 plane tickets for this price! But, as the blog is titled...it is, what it is, and we needed to get to Perth and this was how it had to be. I will talk more about the cost of living in Austrlaia in a later post and so for now, I will just say that you need to be prepared for some sticker shock if you are travelling from North America. Our bus left around 8:30 am on Monday March 9th and we arrived in Perth around 2:30 in the afternoon. Unlike our bus travels in south east Asia this trip was pretty uneventful. Don't get me wrong, I was quite alright with that being the case. This drive took us along the in-land route to Perth, so the scenary was pretty uneventful, with the only breaks in the flat dessert looking landscape, being our short stops at gas stations for food or to pick up other passengers. Through our travels back and forth to Perth we got to know the routine pretty well. Along the way you would always stop at a gas station where you could grab some deep fried goodness that was waiting under a heat lamp for you or in some cases there would be fresh homemade meat pies waiting for you to devour and stave off hunger. These stops were not so great for my gluten intolerant companion, but sherry made sure to pack some snacks, as she is usually prepared to do that no matter where we go until she figures out the local appetite for gluten free options. There are restaurants attached to some of the gas stations but when you are making the drive to or from Perth, all you want to do is get it over with, so it is almost always just a grab and go stop. After a short taxi ride to the airport (couldn't find a cheaper or more timely way to get there at that time) we checked in with plenty of time to spare before boarding our Virgin Australia flight at 5:30. Our flight would be around 3.5 hours but due to crossing over time zones we would be getting into Melbourne at right around midnight. For those people wondering about finding the cheapest or best flights, my only recommendation right now would be to shop around. I know, I know, thanks for blowing our minds with that insightful travel tip Shayne! The truth is we have tried all sorts of websites and apps to book our flights, and hotels for that matter, and we haven't been dissappointed with any particular one yet. Some of the most user friendly ones are Trip Advisor (app or website) and Kayak (app). These sites give you a look at all the different offers out there, whether it be from Expedia, Booking.com, Agooda, CheapOAir, Tripsta or one of the many other online offerings that are out there. You will find that prices can tend to escalate from the price you see on the initial search when you go into the booking so make sure you read the fine print and know what costs you are adding on and if you really need them. Some sites may look cheaper then others based on the initial search but it will be the added costs once the booking starts that bring them back to par with the rest. Expedia has been one that we have been particularly happy with in terms of the price being the same in the initial search as it is when finally hitting "ok" to make your booking.

Before getting right into the details of our time in Melbourne I will touch on briefly why it was that we decided on going there and not Sydney or one of the other highlight city's along the Gold Coast. Sydney is always the front and center choice for travellers when they go to Australia and I am sure as many people are reading this they are under the mindset that Sydney is the capital of Australia due to how much press and marketing it gets globally. Well, it is actually not the capaital, Canberra is and as I was told by some of our teacher friends back in Geraldton, even some students still believe that Sydney is the capital! We talked with many different people along our travels to date, trying to gauge what places might peak our interest on the Gold Coast, and Melbourne was the overwhelming number one. People kept telling us that Sysney was very busy and congested with tourists and that we wouldn't find very many tried and true Aussies there. We just were not in the mood at that time for a crazy busy city and being in the monotony of hopping around from tourist attraction to tourist attraction just to say we were there. Please don't get me wrong, Sydney is definitely on our list of things to do, but given our short time frame and our desire for a more relaxed experience, we landed on Melbourne. Queensland is another beautiful place we hope to be fortunate to travel to some day.

Our flight to Melbourne was right on time as we landed just after midnight. With no customs to clear, we buzzed through the airport and were in a taxi before 12:30. Since we arrived too late in the night, taxi was the best option to get us to our destination in a timely fashion. It cost us about $50 to get right to our hostel in the centre of Melbourne, which seems like a lot, but again based on the speed at which we got to our place it was definitely the best option. We stayed at the Space Hotel, which despite the name, is in fact a hostel. It was around $32 a night to stay in a 6 person dorm room. This may again seem somewhat expensive to seasoned hostel goers, but this place had great ammenities and I would highly recommend it. Everything was clean, comfortable and well taken care off, which are all things that can go a long way to helping you maintain a positive outlook on your travels. We did our best to sneak into our dorm room without disturbing our roommates but thankfully they had just landed in from a night out drinking so we fired up some drunken banter with them, sharing a few good laughs before finally putting head to pillow. The next morning I was awake pretty early as I am a fairly light sleeper and a couple of our roommates were up and on the way out to their next destinations quite early. I was totally fine with being awake, and I felt pretty good for having limited sleep, so I grabbed a shower and toured around the hostel to see what all we had available to us, while Sherry grabbed a few more zzz's. We had no real definitive plan for our time in Melbourne so the first day we grabbed a map and just started walking around. Our plan was to make our way down to the harbour and beach area, then just go with the flow from there. As we were further south in Australia now we noticed a change up in temps as the highs of 32 degrees Celsius were exchanged for average temps around 16-18 degrees Celsius. As a point of reference I will just remind everyone that it was mid March which was the beginning of their fall or autumn season, so all and all that is pretty good in my mind. I located a walking path that would take us all the way down to the harbour and it was only a few blocks from our hostel that we were able to connect up with that. The pathway follows along the Yarra River which we found out makes for a beautiful and relaxing walk. The path was paved the entire way and well marked for bikers, walkers and runners. It become very evident to us that Melbourne is a fitness forward city as we encountered bikers, joggers and walkers of all ages along our journey. The city has made the fitness lifestyle very accessible to its citizens by creating the infrastructure they need to partake in and enjoy being fit. The pathway's are so well designed for bikers, which seemly must cut back on the amount of traffic on the roads. It appears that many people were using bikes to get to and from work instead of driving their car or using public transport. There was even a rock climbing wall under one of the over passes that people were stoping at to literally and figuratively hang out. After a few directional mix ups, we finally made it to the harbour area around lunch time, so we figured the only proper thing to do at that time was to eat! We made our way out along St. Kilda pier, passing fisherman, tourists and locals along the way. The sun was out and there was a slight breeze which made the walk quite comfortable and enjoyable. About 2/3 of the way down the pier there is a restaurant called "Little Blue Restaurant" which has both indoor and patio seating and this was where we decided to take a rest to have some lunch. We sat out on the patio overlooking the harbour and back towards Melbourne which made for an excellent backdrop during our meal. We took some photos of our stop here which I will have up and posted soon! We both really enjoyed our lunch here and would recommend making a stop in if you find yourself wondering around the St. Kilda pier and your stomach starts to growl at you. I was in total relax mode after this stop, partially because we had done a wack load of walking already and partially because the environment around us was so calm and beautiful that it was pretty hard not to be. With nothing else planned on our agenda we walked back down the pier to St. Kilda park and then eventually started making our way back to the city center. Along the way we passed many of the same city sites we saw along our way to the harbour but because of the time of day the activity in and around the Yarra River had increased considerably. The work day was over, school was out and people were all over the place. Bikers, runners, joggers, walkers, and rowers all made up a very vibrant pulse around this waterway. Sherry and I stopped and watched the rowers for awhile to give our aching feet and legs a rest. One, two, four and eight person boats made their way up and down the river with their coaches shouting instructions through a megaphone as they kept pace biking along shore. There were young and old alike taking part, with some boats just being out there for exercise and enjoyment while others were clearly there for competition training. Having never been exposed to live rowing in my life, but being a fan of sport in general, this was a really cool and unplanned stop along the way. That night we were both pretty played out from all the walking we had done, so we grabbed some dinner and made plans for the next day and tucked in for a somewhat early night.

The next morning Sherry got up early and was successful in getting us booked on a tour that would take us out of the city and out to Phillip Island where we would get exposed to more of the beautiful countryside and some of Australia's awesome local wildlife. I will give a quick shout out to our tour company "Go West" (http://www.gowest.com.au/our-tours/penguin-parade-day-tour/) as we had a great day and were entertained the whole time by our fantastic tour guide Dennis. The tour we selected would take us to Phillip Island which is south east of Melbourne and takes about 1.5 hours to get to by bus. The island itself is now connected by road way and has a permanent population of around 9500. During the summer months the population explodes to around 40,000 due to all the seasonal guests with cottages and summer homes. Our tour group was nice and small with only about 20 or so people which allowed us to easily get to know everyone throughout the day. We departed our hotel around 11:00 am, making our way to our first stop which was at Rhyll Trout and Bush Tucker Farm. Here we started with a great lunch, which included fresh fried rainbow trout for me and a gluten free option for Sherry which was a salad with grilled fish. There were two other options which we had time to choose from while we made the drive out from Melbourne. The meal was a great start to our day and was another opportunity to meet more of the people on our tour. All fuelled up, we headed out to walk around the property, receiving a lesson in bush tucker along the way. Bush Tucker is essentially a collection of wild growing plants and trees that are edible and which have been used for centuries by the local tribes. Our guide was quite knowledgable and kept things entertaining all along the way. Back on the bus, I sat with my new friend from Tokyo who was over on holiday visiting her boyfriend who lived and worked in Sydney. She had spent time going to school in the United States and as such she spoke English quite well. She was very friendly and inquisitive which lead to some great conversations about just about everything. These interactions, for me, are what travel is all about. Getting to informally learn about the greater world around you through the experiences of other people. The next stop for us would be the much anticipated Koala Conservation Center. During this part of the tour we would be guided around through the centre, getting the chance to snap photos of the Koalas in a very natural environment. Now, I have to say, these little buggers may be cute, but dammit they are lazy! As you will see from pictures, they are sleeping almost all the time and are tucked away in the branches of the trees. As I said to the tour guide, it pretty much seemed like these guys were dealing with a permanent hangover! Regardless of their static nature, it was still really cool to see them. During the tour we also came across some wallabies which are described as small or midsized macropods, that look quite similar to kangaroos, but as the description suggests, they are smaller. All and all we spent about an hour at the center before jumping back in the bus and arriving at our wine tasting session out in the beautiful countryside of Phillip Island. With expansive views of the small vineyard, the surrounding farmland and the ocean, this place had curb appeal that could not likely be matched - it was stunning. It's not very often you hear about wine tasting experiences going bad, and I am not about to start! We had a great time with our host Karen who presented us with three white and three red wines to try out. Of course the wine was accompanied by a selection of fresh local cheeses as well. I can safely say that I did learn a bit about wine during this expeience but mostly I just caught a buzz as Sherry passed her unfinished glasses over to me to finish, so she could get topped up with the next wine, which would inevitably be passed over to me as well. It was a vicous cycle, but I prevailed, managing to resist the temptation to go all "John Belushi in Animal House" up in there. Before loading up on the bus, most people made the change to some warmer clothes as the sun was starting to go down and the air temperature was doing the same. After a short stop in the small town of Cows for a snack, it was off down the coast to the "Knobbies" where we would get to tour around the giant coastline and take picutures of little penguins as they snuggled up in the wooden huts along the cliff side. These little fellas would also be the main attraction that night at the Penguin Parade, but since it would be night time during that show, we would not be able to take photos due to the flash of the camera disorientating them as they made their way up the beach. The coastal views at the Knobbies were incredible and it got me even more excited to get over to Ireland where I knew I would be encountering even more of this great natural beauty. Finally, at just before 8:00 pm we arrived at the site where we would watch the worlds smallest penguins, who had been out at sea for many weeks, come bouncing out of the ocean and make their return to their babies and their homes which are scattered all over the coastal area. This occurrence happens daily. It is almost like clockwork, with the penguins starting to waddle up the shore at or right around 8:30. The way things are set up, you literally have these fellas walking right beside you as they call out to their families and eventually start doling out food to their young ones. There are tons of people around, so you do need to be patient, but it's certainly an experience that is well worth it - just remember to dress warm and all will be well. With the penguin parade all wrapped up, our day on Phillip Island had come to an end. Back on the bus our driver turned off lights and it was nap time for most people, but as we had been doing all day, my friend from Tokyo and I started to chat again, and we did do for the entire 1.5 hour drive back to Melbourne. What a great day that was and I am sure it goes without saying, but I highly recommend taking in this adventurous day. Between the amazing sites, comical tour guide and the great people we got to meet, it was well worth the price of admission. Back in Melbourne, it was straight to bed for Sherry and I as we had to be up for a 10:00 am flight to Queenstown, New Zealand.

Melbourne was a wonderful experience for both Sherry and I. It is an absolutley beautiful city that seems to offer a little bit of everything. It certainly has a passion for the arts with plays and exhibitions readily available, while also offering many outdoors activities for its residents and visitors. We definitely would like to make a trip back to Melbourne some day when we can take even more time to experience all the hidden gems tucked within it's city walls. Well, it is off to New Zealand!


Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 10:38 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 3 of 3) Page [1]