New Zealand: Queenstown | Tekapo | Christchurch | Aukland

Monday, 7 December 2015

En route to Queenstown we stopped at a little place called Jones's Fruit Stall which is a fresh fruit and vegetable shop. Things can be pretty pricey in Queenstown so it was a brief stop to pick up some essentials, tucked away on the side of a road. We bought grapes and strawberries for just over £3.50 which were so juicy and fresh. We then drove a little further on to AJ Hackett Bungy where all the people doing bungy jumps and canyon swings got sorted while the rest of us ate lunch. A bungy has never really appealed to me but half of me wants to do it as it's apparently even more incredible than a skydive. I don't quite feel comfortable with launching myself off a platform secured by only a rope, but it's definitely on my bucket list. I'll have to massively talk myself into doing it, but I'm determined to make it happen at some point. Watching people bungy was amazing as it was over the most beautiful setting - the Kawarau River and it was a gorgeous day, which actually made me want to do it more. Let's put it this way - if someone on the spot said I could have done one for free, I would have done it. A couple of people bottled it but we saw one couple bungy together who kissed as they pinged back up which was cute, and we also saw a disabled guy do it which was amazing. While we were waiting we were told the Zipride was on special for only 20 dollars instead of 50 dollars so we decided to go for it. Me and Abs went down separately but at the same time in a superman position and it was actually a little scarier when I was stood at the edge. It was so cool to zip wire over the river at the world's first bungy site, especially considering it was a spontaneous decision. We were each given a go pro which is a great idea and I bought the video and photos for 25 dollars which is about £10. It was such a nice and exciting way to kickstart our time in Queenstown and at about 3.30 we headed to our accommodation. 

Driving through Queenstown wasn't how I expected as it was a mix of retail parks located in what looked like industrial estates, ski resorts and something out of Doc Martin with lots of little houses on villagey hills surrounded by a large lake. The landscape changed the further we drove into the adventure capital and it looked very wealthy with large gorgeous hillside houses overlooking the lake and mountains. The actual town was cute and intimate with a plethora of luxury apartments. The shops were cute and quirky and we saw the iconic and infamous Ferg Burger which boasted an impressively long queue as always, so I'm told. We checked into Nomads and were in a room with Katey and a couple of the Swedish boys, but Fish had driven off with our bags so we had to wait around for a little bit. After sorting ourselves out and showering we enjoyed a few ciders in the room while getting ready. At 7.30pm we headed to Red Rock to meet everyone for the meal. Ribs and chicken thighs were on the menu but I don't like BBQ so I went for the veggie option which was vegetable and halloumi skewers with chips. The halloumi was to die for and seeing as I would never ever usually chose a veggie option, it was so good. We had 5 dollar drinks as a perk of the Kiwi bus and me and Abs were so happy that we finally found a bar that did rose wine. The weather was still gorgeous so we sat outside and ate while having a few drinks. It reminded me so much of being in Oz and made me realise how much I miss the warmer climate. After a pathetic attempt at a pool game we moved on to a bar called Loco which was so much fun. Again, 5 dollar drinks, good music and free shots. Everyone was pretty drunk and after a couple of hours we moved on to World Bar which was opposite our hostel. The mood quickly changed as the DJ didn't turn up which meant they were playing a playlist. I wouldn't have had a problem if it was a half decent one, but it was crap and I soon started to sober up and get a headache. And you know what's next when that happens? I get hungry. For me, as soon as I get hungry on a night out it's game over. By half 12 me and Kate were on our way to McDonald's and I had my first McChicken sandwich since being away. We had food and gossip club in our room with Morgan and Mike before going to sleep and enjoying a long lie in. 

I couldn't really be bothered to drag myself out of bed the following morning but everyone wanted to go for a wander so I made myself feel a little more human and got dressed. Food was the first port of call so we went to the food court and I had the most disappointing jacket potato of my life. What's more is that I could have got a Domino's for less than the potato. We had a little roam around after and settled down by the lake to chill. We were all pretty tired and hungover so we alternated between sitting down and walking around to make the most of our last day in Queenstown. We even stopped off in the kiddies park for a little bit of play time which was funny before going for a stroll around the lake. All we'd really been waiting for was an acceptable time to go to Ferg Burger. People apparently come back to New Zealand just for the burger and if you put it into your Twitter search bar, Twitter erupts with how amazing it is. There's always a massive queue, which is always a good sign, and I decided to go for Fergburger (beef burger, relish, salad) with cheddar cheese because you can't go wrong with a classic. The queue was the shortest I've seen it and it only took about 15 minutes to order and get our food. We all sat by the lake on the grass and ate our burgers and while I've probably not eaten enough burgers to classify one as the best in the world, it was very nice. I can't quite say I'll be dreaming about it, but it hit the spot. We also stumbled across a lovely little shop called Glassons where I fell in love with a pair of shoes. The clothes were both gorgeous and affordable and I was gutted to find out they don't ship to the UK. Next stop was the pub where we went for a drink and played a couple of games of pool before heading back and making cookie hour by 5 minutes. A bright and quirky shop called Cookie Bar sells warm freshly baked cookies, hot drinks, milkshakes and ice cream. The cookie hour deal was 2 cookies for 3 dollars and it was so hard to choose between them. I ended up opting for a salted caramel one and a milk chocolate, caramel and fudge one. The inside of the shop was colourful and busy with a large cookie car at the back. Everything looked heavenly and my mouth was watering just standing inside.

Tuesday night was our last night with Katey, Jake, Morgan, Mike and Maria as we were leaving to finish our trip while they were all staying in Queenstown for a while. We'd been with them for the entire 2 weeks and we'd become such a little group who did everything together, so it was sad leaving that behind. None of us were up for going out as we were all pretty tired and hungover still, so we decided to chill in the TV room with food and films. We walked in to one girl sprawled over the only sofa lying in the dark watching Silence of the Lambs. She rudely asked us to be quiet when we were getting bean bags to sit down and told us off again when we were quietly whispering. You can't really be that demanding in a communal TV room in a hostel that houses hundreds of people, can you? We ended up watching the last hour of the film which was so weird and freaky and while we were planning on choosing the next film, 2 little gobshites beat us to it. When we were watching Silence of the Lambs they popped their head round the door 5 minutes before the end, but when me and Katey went down to reception to pick a film when it finished, they were already down there choosing one. The guy was really arrogant claiming that he'd beat us to it, as if it was some sort of competition. And to top it off they chose Pulp Fiction which we watched in Mission Beach in Oz. I didn't like or understand it so I went to bed, so knowing I had to endure it again was annoying to say the least. Nonetheless it was nice to all sit around and chill, minus the 2 movie picker stealers. That evening before bed we said our goodbyes which was sad and went to bed ready for our 9am journey to Tekapo. Leaving everyone behind meant we were joining a completely new bus with new people. We'd been in a little kiwi comfort bubble having been with the same driver and group of friends for the previous 2 weeks, and it's safe to say none of us wanted to leave that. The only positive thing was that it was clear blue skies and the sun was shining which was setting the tone for Fiji the following week. 

Our next stop was Tekapo for a night but en route we stopped at a nice sunny spot for lunch. We were only given 15 minutes which was cutting it a bit fine to make and eat lunch and use the toilet which is a bit unrealistic with a bus full of people. As soon as we'd finished eating we headed for the toilet and while we were waiting for Kate, Abby spotted the bus driving away. At first we thought we was looping round but when we got to the give way sign and Ben put his indicator on, we had to start running after it. People were looking out the window and nobody thought to ask him to stop which was just plain rude. Not only that, but at the previous stop he told us he had a really efficient way of making sure everyone was on board - to ask us all to let him know if the person sitting in front/behind/to the side of them was there. So cheers to the girls sitting in front and behind us in playing a vital role in our partial abandonment. I'm sorry, but I think Ben needs to find a more reliable way of ensuring his passengers remain safe. Fish might not be able to drive properly, but he would never do that to us. Silly strict Ben. I wish I could tell you that the fiasco ended there, but as soon as we pulled off a jar of salsa fell on Abby's head from the overhead storage. We were all wetting ourselves laughing because it was such a hilariously weird thing to happen, but it actually really hurt Abs and didn't help that she already had a headache. I'm telling you, Ben was a bad omen. While driving we got some great views of Mount Cook - New Zealand's highest mountain with its highest peak at 3754 metres. We then stopped at The Church of the Good Shepherd where an Asian wedding was taking place. We couldn't work out who the bride was as everyone was wearing white which I can only assume is a tradition/culture thing. The church was made by locals using the stones around the location which sits behind a lovely large lake. It's pretty impressive considering the size and intricacy of the building, situated in a remote and peaceful location which is one of the most photographed locations in the country.

Our accommodation for the night was Lakeside Lodge situated in a tranquil location tucked away behind a lake which was the most gorgeous electric blue. We checked in swiftly and made our way 200m down the road to the building, to find out we were sharing with Bruno who was on our last bus which was nice. After getting changed into something a little cooler we sat on the grass outside to read our books but it was a little chilly so we headed inside. It was modern but cosy with a real rustic feel. The room was boxed in by large floor-length glass windows and the edge of the room was laden with sofas and pillows. A log fire completed the homely feel alongside the views out on to the lake. We got comfy and sprawled out for a good couple of hours before making dinner - chicken in a creamy tomato and  mozzarella sauce with sweet potato mash and broccoli. We've realised that while being away we've cooked 4 meals, the 3 others being curry, fajitas and a classic pasta and sauce. There wasn't an awful lot to do in Tekapo besides hikes and rafting and the mood was pretty mellow so we decided to have a chilled one and catch up on Keeping Up With The Kardashians before getting an early night. While Tekapo was pretty uneventful, although the wifi was the best we've had in New Zealand, we were up at 8am ready to head to Christchurch h for a couple of days. 

It's the largest city in the South islands and the 3rd largest city in New Zealand, boasting a population of just under 350,000. Hagley Park in the city centre is the world's 3rd largest city park behind Central Park, New York and Stanley Park, Vancouver. Christchurch suffered a catastrophic 6.3 magnitude earthquake in February 2011 which left lasting effects the city is still recovering from. We arrived in Christchurch around lunchtime and checked into YMCA which was a hell of a lot more expensive than I imagine considered it's designed for homeless people in England. While the room wasn't anything special it was pretty big and spacious which made a change. While Abby tried to sleep off her headache Kate and I went for a wander to find out how to get to the airport and picked up a few bits for dinner while food shopping. The map we were given was very easy to navigate and on our way to New World we saw some very interesting sights. A lot of the town's entertainment has been rebuilt in the form of shipping containers which gives the city a unique and captivating aura. The city is awash with pop-up shops, bars and restaurants admist an landscape that is still quite clearly recovering. The streets were overpowered with rubble and constitution work 4 years on, with some buildings yet to be pulled down. Apparently there are going to be no more buildings over 6 storeys which will result in Christchurch losing its city vibe even more. It reminded me a little of Wellington in an atmosphere sense as it was almost like a ghosttown with little buzz. 

En route to the supermarket we spotted a department store called Balantynes and the window Christmas decorations enticed us in. It felt like we stepped straight into a Debenhams in England and I couldn't have felt any more at home. The shop floor was scattered with plush makeup counters, perfectly preened assistants and traditional Christmas decorations. We had a little wander round and swooned at all the things we couldn't afford and had to force ourselves to leave before we got carried away. We exited through a different door and saw a completely different side of the shopping scene in Christchruch - shops made out of shipping containers. While they looked cool and quirky, we also saw a bank made out of one which is crazy how shop owners had to use the only resources available to ensure that life and business could continue as normal. Well, as normal as can be after an earthquake that shattered the entire city. As we walked a little further round we stumbled across a cute little sweet shop called Johnson's which sold sweets and chocolate from around the world that you don't find in Australasia. It was so weird seeing Revels, Terry's Chocolate Orange, Yorkie Bar etc, especially seeing as it was so highly marked up to obviously cover the fees of importing. After a slight detour and walking the long way round we finally found New World in a shopping precinct and grabbed a trolley. We only popped in to grab some stuff for lunches and dinners for the following 2 nights but somehow we walked in on New World's annual Christmas party. And considering Kate and I are 2 of the biggest foodies I know, we stepped right into heaven. 

Every corner we turned there were little assistant Elves with platters of food and drink. I'm usually a little bit polite when it comes to free testers but I was hungry and these people were never going to see me again. In other words, we took advantage and then some. We started with crackers topped with feta cheese and beetroot, and then on to chunks of Brie and pear and hazelnut cheese which was surprisingly good. Next up was Christmas cake, Russian fudge and Lindt chocolate balls washed down with a shot of fresh orange juice and a shot of lemon, honey and ginger juice which again, I actually liked. Next we were offered German stollen with marzipan which is a sweet sugary bread and was heaven in my mouths, followed by gluten and dairy free mince pie, Apple pie, meat pizza and chicken, Brie and cranberry pizza which was gorgeous. I'd never have known they were gluten free if the lady hadn't have told me but I literally could have bought a whole pizza and apple pie and demolished it. By this point we only had mushrooms and peppers in our trolley and we found it absolutely hilarious. We were walking around intending to find the next item on our list but as soon as we saw a different member of staff with a new platter we'd change trolley direction and inconspicuously stroll past and collect another foodie freebie. We tried lemon and lime bitter, lemonade and the fresh garlic bread and Hawaiian bread was amazing. To top it all off we had a cup of popcorn each and to say we were hungry when we entered the shop, we definitely weren't hungry when we left. We did walk past the wine stall a few times but the lady looked a little snobby and only offered it to older people who she probably knew could actually afford it. We ended up walking around the supermarket giggling because of how greedy we were being, while also pretending to be interested in buying the products the members of staff were so kindly feeding us and telling us about. It was the best food shop ever and most definitely my highlight of the day.

Bellies full we headed back to the hostel, did some laundry, watched the Pretty Little Liars 5 Years Forward interview and chilled before making fajitas for dinner and getting an early night. I had a pretty good sleep and woke up at 10 to speak to my boyfriend. The wifi was actually decent for once meaning I didn't have to borrow Kate's phone and we managed to chat for an hour and a half uninterrupted. Now we're in single figure countdown until I fly back to England it makes me even more excited to see him so chatting about what we're going to do when I'm home was so nice. I also woke up to some pretty hilarious news, too. The last blog post I wrote included a paragraph about two of our friends Jake and Katey who live in a place called Canvey Island. I wrote a paragraph about them and how they described Canvey as it sounds like a funny place, and I woke up to a message from Katey saying she'd shown her mum who loved it and has shared it on Facebook saying it's the funniest thing she's read in a long time. Jake then informed us that his friends on his Facebook feed are also sharing it because of how funny and accurate it apparently is. Very flattering as I love the fact people like what I write - it's a sense of achievement - but also crazy. After a lazy morning making spaghetti on toast for brunch we decided to go for a wander through the Re: Start Mall. It's made from shipping containers and consisted of a lot of unique foodie places which smelt divine. I expected a lot more in the form of clothes shopping and was a little shocked at the lack of quantity as it was very small. The variety of food on offer however was pretty impressive, especially considering it's all served out of colourful and decorative shipping containers. 

There wasn't an awful lot to do or see after that so we decided to sunbathe in Hagley park as the weather was gorgeous. After catching the sun for a couple of hours we headed towards the cafe for a little break where I devoured a slice of chocolate cake. It was right beside the botanic gardens and the park is absolutely beautiful, especially in the glorious sunshine. There was a visitor cafe with futuristic and plush decor, featuring an outside seating area under umbrellas and bean bags on the grass. It was so weird laying in the sun at the beginning of December and while I loved it, it made me realise how happy I am to be going home for Christmas. For me, Christmas is cold, frosty and cosy and I wouldn't have it any other way. We sunbathed and chatted a little more after our refreshments pitstop before heading back just before 6pm and cooking up a mean curry. We had a flight to Aukland the following morning so opted for another chilled one catching up on Made in Chelsea. Saturday morning meant getting the bus to the airport, checking in and flying 1 hour and 20 minutes back up to Aukland where we started. I had a gluten free brownie on the flight which wasn't actually great, but for some reason New Zealand is gluten free crazy. It's EVERYWHERE. So Georgia if you're reading this, you'd be in heaven over here. It was also weird that because we checked in online and it was only a domestic flight, we didn't actually have to show our passports once. We learnt from our rookie error when we first arrived in New Zealand and spent 100 dollars on a taxi and managed to get a public bus into the city for 28 dollars return. It was right outside the terminal conveniently waiting for us so we enjoyed the free on board wifi while we travelled 45 minutes into the city. 

We were staying at a hostel called Fat Camel in a private room courtesy of Abby's mum's friend's daughter Zoe. She works for Nomads in New Zealand and kindly booked us in for our final 2 nights free of charge which we were incredibly grateful for. It was also the start of private rooms again which is a luxury when you've stayed in manky dorms for 8 weeks straight. The room was light, airy and spacious albeit a little grotty in places (the toilet didn't have a lid or flush properly) but we hadn't paid a penny so we definitely weren't complaining. As soon as we'd dumped our bags we headed over to Domino's to get our last ever 5 dollar pizza for the foreseeable future. We'd planned on going to the Phoenix Plaza Christmas market, however it was a 31 minute drive away so figured we'd go to a closer one we found online at the entrance of the shopping centre down the road. Turns out while New Zealand flaunts a giant Santa and reindeer on the side of a building, they don't really do Christmas that well. The Christmas market consisted of 3 stalls. THREE. We went inside one of the shops and asked whether there were any other Christmas markets nearby, and both people I asked said 'Christmas market for what?'. Erm, CHRISTMAS!? They just don't do it the same here which was pretty upsetting, but I'm going to London when I'm home so that'll more than make up for it. Instead we had a wander up the high street and spent our afternoon drifting in and out of the likes of Lush, Topshop, The Body Shop, Glassons and department stores. When we'd exhausted all our options we went to a cute little rooftop bar attached to Nomads and enjoyed a couple of 5 dollar glasses of wine in the sunshine. Because what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon? An even better way to spend it after that was a dancing/wall twerking/gymnastics class to Justin Bieber in our room which resulted in Abby - the most unflexible girl I've ever met (she struggles to even stretch her leg out straight) - rolling back to try and put her leg behind her head and snapping my sunglasses. One of the many hilarious daily occurrences we face. 

Fat Camel were offering a free snack size meal between 7-8pm and Saturday night was curry night. We were all excited as pizza and curry in the same day is a good day, until we got downstairs and discovered it was fish curry. Who puts fish in a curry!? And it wasn't even proper curry because it was fish in a curry sauce served with chips in a colourful plastic childrens bowl. That evening we all laid on mine and Ab's double which was actually 2 singles pushed together, and watched Geordie Shore before going to sleep. I thought I enjoyed the best lie in ever on Sunday morning until I realised it was only 8.30am. Damn you body clock. After a relaxing morning lounging around in bed and catching up on Vlogmas we went to get food and then went to see Mockingjay Part 2. When the release date was announced I knew I'd be in New Zealand so we said all along that we'd watch it here which is pretty cool. I loved the film but I think the very end bit spoiled it a little bit, not to mention it was bloody freezing in the cinema. We chilled and phoned home on our final night in New Zealand ready for our flight the following morning. It's been an absolute whirlwind of a 3 weeks but I've had the most incredible time. Fiji is next for 5 days and we're ditching hostels for a little bit of luxury. I can't quite believe I go home in a week as I'm writing this - it all feels a bit too surreal. Saying that, I'm so ridiculously excited to see my loved ones and get in the Christmas spirit. But for now it's goodbye New Zealand and a big warm welcome to Fiji. 

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