Kia Ora to the second installment of James Ranken’s Kiwi Experience across NZ. He’s conquered the North, but now it’s time to see what the South Island will throw at him. Home to the adventure capital of the world, glaciers and party towns it’s going to be one jam-packed, heart-pumping, adrenaline-fuelled escapde!
Pack your parachutes, let’s go…
Fresh faces on the South Island
Next half of the adventure, New Zealand’s south island! We arrived in Picton and were pumped for whatever was about to be thrown at us. It was great to meet some fresh faces joining the bus at the south island ferry crossing. We all headed to Kaiteriteri and set off on our kayaks from the most beautiful beach EVER and spent the rest of the day exploring Abel Tasman National Park, seriously breath-taking (not just saying that).
We continued down to Westport where we arrived at Basils Hostel, this place was awesome the guys here were so friendly and ran a unique surf school on the west coast of the south island. The surf looked incredible and it’s definitely on my list of places to return to!
James Bond eat your heart out!
We carried on our journey to Lake Mahinapua, the scenery here was fantastic, I decided to put my drone through its paces across the lake. The drone captured New Zealand’s ever changing landscape perfectly it flew from the beach across forest over the lake towards the snow capped mountains at Franz Joseph. We headed over to Franz Joseph the sky was clear blue and it was the perfect day for a helicopter tour onto the glacier. This is an absolute bucket-list, must do! Felt like James Bond as I skydived out of the helicopter and landed on the icy ledges of the glacier – pretty hardcore but incredible! To top off an epic day we spent the evening relaxing in naturally heated thermal pools.
I was in love with the south island and everyday it just got better and better, the next stop on my itinerary was Lake Wanaka, which was the perfect place to chill-out, catch up on my editing and just about get over my glacier skydive before the crazy land of Queenstown hit us!
Welcome to the adrenaline capital of the world
Queenstown really did live up to expectations, if you haven’t been you NEED to go! On the way there, the bus stops off at the AJ Hackett Bungee – if you feel like stretching your legs and throwing yourself off a bridge, then you’ve come to the right place! If that doesn’t do it for you there’s always hiking, skiing, climbing, backpacking, mountain biking, skydiving, rope swings, canyon jumps and plenty of other activities. The luge run was one of my favourites as the majority of the coach got together and took the luge down the mountain – there was a real team spirit. After that we took to the canyon to fly down the river at 70kph in a twin v8 jet boat, another VERY surreal but awesome experience!
If you’ve never done a skydive before then this is the place to do it. Having done over 100 jumps myself I had never flown at an altitude that meant we were in the proximity of snow capped mountains – the view was stunning. Not only that but you can actually see people hiking and skiing around the summit! We cruised up to 15,000ft and lost sight of the ant sized people, but the mountain range was in full effect. The peaks carry on as far as the eye can see, you leave the aircraft and you are free, flying above one of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet.
I have to admit I did feel sad to leave Queenstown but I know I will definitely return there soon.
Star gazing at Tekapu
Next up was Lake Tekapu, on the way we checked out Lake Twizel and its crystal blue water. Then headed onto lake Tekapu itself. Tekapu is known for its star gazing with an observatory on the hill giving tours and talks about the night sky. We managed to take some of the best night shots EVER!
Last night in Christchurch
We left the gorgeous lake and headed onto Christchurch and wow what an amazingly vibrant place! I was very interested in the history of Christchurch and the redevelopment following the large earthquake that devastated the city some years ago. Having studied architecture at university it was incredible to see how well the city has recovered and the strong community vibe, which still exists. The nightlife in Christchurch was awesome and a great place to say our goodbye to all of the mates we’d made on the big green bus!
See you soon NZ!
So this is where my Kiwi adventure comes to an end… it was time to head back home. I genuinely couldn’t believe it, six weeks of the best times with some of the most fantastic people I had ever met. We had become a really close group throughout all of the adventures. I know I will be returning to New Zealand and hopefully reuniting with the same faces again!