Monday, December 20, 2010

South Island Tour

It is going to be extremely difficult to keep this post short. I have just returned from a 3 week tour of the South Island with 16 other exchange students (from my district and another close by). This has definitely been the highlight of my exchange so far! We traveled by bus all over the South Island, sleeping in backpackers.... well we put our stuff there at least. It all started in Wellington, the nations capital... (this would be a good time to pull up Google Maps and find New Zealand)

Solene (France) and Oriane (Belgium) with 'The Beehive' Parliament Building

We then took a ferry from the North to the South Island and arrived in Picton. From here we went on a 2 day kayak trip.

First view of the South Island from the Ferry

Yves (Argentina), my kayaking partner

We then drove down to Christchurch where we visited the Antarctic Centre, the Christchurch Cathedral and all the amazing parks/gardens. (Christchurch is the garden city!) Despite enduring a devastating earthquake back in September, Christchurch was as beautiful as ever and showed hardly any signs of damage.

The A-team enjoying a Hagglund ride at the Antarctic Centre

So sad I'm going to miss it...

We then continued down to the Catlins where we went on 2 practise tramps (or hikes if you're Canadian) in preparation for the Milford Track which we would be tramping later in the trip.

Tramping on the beach in the Catlins

Despite trying out my borrowed boots before the trip, I developed some nasty as blisters half way through our first tramp! They were absolutely disgusting and I wasn't able to wear any shoes except jandals (flip flops) for the next 5 days!

Blisters; what a pain in the... heel...

We didn't have a moment to rest; the next day we were biking the Otago Central Rail Trail. Although I've never seen them, I was told this is Lord of the Rings country. (This is on my list of things to do during the holidays!) 

Solene (France) taking a break, er, I mean posing for a photo

As you can imagine, with 17 exchange students, there was a bit of shenanigans that went on during the trip!

Solene (France) is the target of an attack from the boys

From Otago we went to Te Anau where we did some last minute preparations for the Milford Track. We enjoyed one last real meal, then border the boat that would take us to the start of the track.

Before we were sweaty and disgusting!

Our first day was only a one and a half hour tramp. A bit misleading for the days that followed. We had a swim in the water coming down off the mountains and played cards before hitting the sack to prepare for the day that followed...

Renny (Finland) infront of the beautiful backdrops of Day 1 

Day 2 was sunny and beautiful. We swam under waterfalls and drank from crystal clear streams (sorry for the flowery adjectives). At the end of the day, I realized swimming had maybe not been the best idea; when I took off my red bandana I realized that the red dye had leaked out and had been dying my hair all day! Many Avril Lavigne jokes ensued...

The views of Day 2

Day 3 was straight up the mountain and then straight down again. The views were, again, spectacular. When I was told that the Milford Track was one of the most beautiful tracks in the world, I thought the Kiwis were just being cocky again. But it really is some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen!

Oriane (Belgium) on top of the world!

The last day was bittersweet. We were so sad that that part of our trip was over, but SO looking forward to a shower and food that hadn't been rehydrated!

A very happy moment!

We spent the following day on a boat in the Milford Sound. I'm going to have to let the pictures speak for themselves or this post will NEVER end!

A view from our boat in the Milford

Chile, Belgium, Brazil, Brazil, France

Our next stop was the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown! We had a free night, so the girls decided to go out for a quiet dinner without the boys!

Enjoying a meal with just the girls!

We later met up with the boys at a burger joint called 'Fergburger'. The burgers are huge, so naturally money was bet on how quickly they could be eaten...

Leticia (Brazil) beating the boys in the burger 'eat off'

A view of Queenstown

Of course we had to partake in the thrilling activities Queenstown is famous for; bungy and sky diving! I was way to scared too do a bungy, so I opted for sky diving. I thought I was going to throw up when I was about to get on the airplane, but once I was inside, I was only excited! I jumped from 12 thousand feet, with 45 seconds of free fall. 

A little bit scared...

But then only enjoying it!!

The rest of the trip flew by. We stopped at Mt Cook and looked at some glaciers and icebergs...

Glaciers and icebergs...

But before we knew it, we were back on the ferry to the North Island. I'm so sad it's over, but so glad it happened!

The last glimpse of the South Island