Take of Leave

Alexis S. James Cook University, Australia

Date

March 22, 2016

Hello lovely people around the world! I, once again, have been gone for quite some time and I would apologize, but it’s just the type of person I am *shrugs*. I will tell you though the past month of uni has been a bit rough because of illness and junk which is why I’ve been MIA for THIS long. But I’m healthy and I’m back and I promised you vacation pictures and adventure stories!

New Zealand

New Zeland is such a beautiful, wonderful place and I am so grateful and happy that I was there. I’d really like to go again but there are still other things around here that I want to do a first time, so I’ll have to hold off. When I went it was the end of November - beginning of December, spring going into summer. Also, in Australia, in Townsville, it was dry season. So back at uni everything was dead and dry and brown so getting to Queenstown and seeing mountains of green and seeing flowers and trees and grass that were alive and vibrant – it was all so shocking and made everything so much better. I hadn’t realized how much I really missed just seeing green grass until I got there.

I had a pretty long layover in the airport in New Zealand so the first day and a half was really me catching up on some well needed sleep and getting groceries but I started off the adventures with the easiest thing to do: a tour! I took the Paradise tour where a group of others and myself went from Queenstown to a place in the mountains called Paradise. And I can tell you that is EXACTLY what it is. It’s gorgeous and you just never want to leave. You feel as though that’s just where you belong. And this is coming from a city loving girl, everyone. We went through some point where major movies were filmed like Wolverine and Lord of the Rings (LOTR). We went through all forests and mountains and got to take pictures with some props and have tea and learn about the movie, the scenes, and area and its history. It was really nice and absolutely beautiful. The next day, I went to the botanical gardens and walked around. Queenstown Gardens is one of the most beautiful botanical gardens I’ve been to, honestly. I visited a few times during my holiday in NZ.

As the days went on, my adventures got more bold to lead up to my last adventure in NZ. I also tried to have at least a half day between each adventure as well just to give myself a break and relaxation time. It worked out pretty well for me. So, the next adventure I went on was kayaking and horseback riding! I’d been kayaking once before in the rainforest here in Australia. I really liked it so I decided that I wanted to try again but in a different kind of water. To be completely honest, I could have gone sea kayaking but I am absolutely terrified of the ocean and the creatures that live in it, and I just couldn’t bring myself to try. So I went kayaking in the lake in Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu. The water was absolutely freezing. However, because it’s a lake, it was very calm, and because NZ doesn’t have predatory animals, I knew I wouldn’t have to deal with animals and creatures in the water (e.g. crocodiles like in Australia). It was a two person kayak and I was partnered with another girl from America who was on holiday as well. We kayaked from mainland Queenstown to one of the three small islands in the middle of the lake, Pig Island, which no, it doesn’t have any pigs on it. It does however have a flightless bird. After kayaking I went horseback riding for the very first time in my life. Which I found out I am absolutely terrible at. Almost fell off a trotting horse twice (which is, by the way, the same amount of times that we trotted as a group; I just could not grasp the concept at all). We rode through a trail alongside the Remarkables (mountain names) and it was just incredible. Even though I had a hard time with kayaking and horseback riding, it didn’t matter. The scenery and the guides were incredible and friendly and it was still an impeccable experience. As I expected, I was sore for a good two days after that, though.

Next, I moved up to hang gliding. Side note real quick, I am terrified of heights. It’s something I’m trying to work on still and I decided to test my limits with the last adventures because I have no idea when I would ever get a chance to say I’ve done these things ever again. Now, this adventure was my favourite! It was unbelievable. I was nervous and really anxious about it once I got to the top of the mountain. But you know that excited-anxious where you’re excited but you have a twinge of fear manifesting and creating some anxiety? It was like that. And I can tell you, I want to go hang gliding again, definitely. My flyer pilot was so nice (and also American just by chance!) and the experience and scenery of seeing everything from a literal bird’s eye view is something I recommend everyone do. And I know some people may be like, “Well I can see everything from pictures or videos or flying in a plane too” but no, you’re wrong. You feel like you yourself have wings and are actually flying; feeling the wind on your face is not something you can replicate with videos and pictures.

After such a great experience with that I was really excited about the next adventure: ziplining. This was also a first experience (as was everything except kayaking to be clear) and really wonderful. It was quick and fun and definitely not as scary as I assumed it was going to be. I went three different times. The first time was just a regular sitting position so I could get the feel for it. Then I did the superman, which is exactly as it sounds. I was laying down on my stomach much like superman flying. And last, was my favorite, batman. I was upside down, and backwards. It was so exciting. It was also very bad preparation for the next adventure because the height and experience difference was just so exponential.

My final adventure in Queenstown was, of course, bungy jumping. Personally, I can say that I will never bungy jump ever again. Now, remember, I’m terrified of heights. Bungy jumping, regardless of my fear, has always been on my bucket list and I’m happy that I was able to experience it and check it off, no doubt. Everything was incredible except for the actual feeling I got while jumping. Most of the experience was amazing and I would love to go and support someone else if I could.

After we got up to the box we were jumping from, I watched other people be called ahead of me and get hooked up and jump and scream. Then, one girl, two people ahead of me chickened out. She just couldn’t do it. I don’t know if she went ahead with it after all because I left immediately after I jumped, but I hope she did. All I could think then was, that’s not gonna be me, I’m here, I don’t care how scared I am, I’m going to do it. Then my turn came and I got a little excited. I went to sit in the chair to be hooked into the bungy and screamed when I felt the chair go back just a bit. Obviously nervous, the staff and everyone, including myself, laughed and it lifted a lot of nerves.

Once you’re hooked in, you have to do this little waddle dance to a plank, like you’re jumping off a pirate ship in the sky. The thing with bungy jumping is that when the staff member tells you to jump, you have to jump. As in, they don’t push you or force you, YOU have to push yourself, YOU have to make your body move. I was told to step on to the plank and as I approached the plank (not even the edge) I stopped. I froze because my heart just fell out and I got really scared. I was still smiling, I was even laughing to myself. The member told me to take three more steps. I took two. I stopped in the middle of the plank, and along with my courage, my smile fell as well. He said one more step and I swallowed my fear and took it, and within the next ten seconds I was falling. I expected that I would scream until my lungs burst. When I jumped, I didn’t scream, I did absolutely nothing. My entire mind was blank when I first jumped because when you first jump, what you feel is like if you were to just jump from a small ledge. Then, the free fall feeling set in. My blank mind and fear suddenly turned into a ferocious need to find something to grab to pull myself up. I still didn’t scream, at that point I closed my eyes, then I felt the tension of the rope and I relaxed and I even laughed and smiled. I was smiling and laughing and so relieved at the end while coming up and getting unstrapped to leave, like a giant weight lifted off of me. However, I was shaking for the entire rest of my day (I went bungy jumping around 3:30 pm). My friends who went loved it and so did everyone before me and locals I talked to. And even with the fear, I don’t regret doing it whatsoever. It’s an incredible experience whether good or bad and I’m so happy that I can say that I did it. And of course I have photo and video for proof of it, too.

Aside from all the adventures, exploring, enjoying, and sightseeing is a must. The town is so tiny and yet so lively, it’s a great place just to watch people and shop and talk to locals. There’s also a ‘beach’ in the middle of town at the beginning of Lake Wakatipu. It’s a wonderful place to just relax and read and catch some sun. There’s a great bar and club scene as well. If you want to go out there’s some pub crawls that happen in some hostels or you can just find some locals or travelers to go out and adventure the scene with. Just remember to be careful! And in Queenstown, when I did buy liquor or when I did go out, for ID, since I’m not Kiwi and I don’t have a Kiwi ID, I had to use my passport so just be aware of that and be really careful not to lose it while you’re out. I also highly recommend looking at Maori jewelry and anything Maori in general. It’s beautiful and makes incredible gifts to family (and yourself).

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