Getting closer to the end of the season, and my departure back to the UK, I decided to try and see as much of Queenstown and the surrounding areas as possible, and to fit in as many of these crazy activities that I have wanted to do since arriving in April!! The first was a few days away in Franz Joseph with one of my new great friends, Chloe, a fellow pommie. Chloe worked on the West Coast in Franz Joseph last year, and was going down there to pay a visit to see some friends, and to investigate a couple of job opportunities, so I hitched a ride with her, and we had a great few days away from the hustle and bustle of Queenstown.
I was very lucky on my first day to be given the opportunity to go up in a helicopter with a Heli Hike group who were going for a hike on the Glacier (Chloe used to work for the helicopter company so pulled in a favour..!). The group were flown over the Franz Joseph Glacier, and then dropped off onto it, where they were then going to do their hike across the ice for a few hours. I had already done a glacier hike with Mum and Peter when they were over in March, so I just stuck with the scenic flight in a twin engine Squirrel, and the views were just amazing!! Making the most of the great weather, we decided to drive out to Okarito in the afternoon, a very peaceful and isolated region not far from Franz. Here we took a stroll along the beach and up to a lookout where you got a great view of Okarito Lagoon, NZ's largest unmodified and unpolluted wetland, with the Southern Alps as a backdrop!! Not a bad view!!
Another stunning area near Queenstown is Glenorchy, a very small and beautifully situated community, about 40 mins away from Queenstown at the top end of Lake Wakatipu. A lot of the areas around here were used for the Lord of the Rings films, so every so often you would expect to see Frodo or an Ork come bounding round the corner!! Having bought a voucher to use at a local stables in Glenorchy when I first arrived in Queenstown, it was now time to use it, so another friend of mine, Zara, headed out with me for the day to Glenorchy to see what was on offer. In the morning we did a 2hr 'River Ride' around the head of Lake Wakatipu, and as the name suggests, through a few rivers. And what an amazing ride in terms of scenery. I don't think I have ever been on such a stunning horse ride ever, I certainly won't forget those views in a long time!! After 2hrs of riding we had built up a healthy appetite and decided to head over to the other side of Lake Wakatipu to check out 'Kinloch Lodge' for lunch. It's an excellent little retreat, a great place to unwind and to prepare for a tramp along one of the nearby tracks - Milford, Routeburn or Kepler, and here we spoilt ourselves, and enjoyed a fine lunch of New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels over looking the lake. Not quite ready to head back to Queenstown yet, we decided to walk some of our lunch off, and headed over to the start of the Routeburn Track which is one of New Zealand's most popular tramping routes. When I come back to New Zealand, this is definitely something I will be doing, I just unfortunately ran out of time, and the track doesn't really open up for another month or so until Spring is well and truly here.
One thing I did promise myself as soon as I had arrived in New Zealand though, was that I would do another sky dive whilst I was there. I had already done one in Australia last year over the Great Barrier Reef which was fantastic, but seeing the views over the snow capped mountains was just too good to miss. So accompanied by my friend Paul, and his niece Tracey, the three of us headed out with Nzone, a local skydiving company, to their drop zone on the edge of Lake Wakatipu, in front of the Remarkables. And what a day we picked for it, we couldn't have asked for a better day - blue sky, sun shining, you could see for miles all around. So all kitted out and ready to launch ourselves into the air at 15,000ft, we piled into the plane ready for our tandem sky dive! And what an amazing sky dive it was!! It was over a lot quicker than the previous one, maybe because I knew what to expect this time, and also because I was enjoying it a lot more! I can't describe what a buzz it gave me, nor how amazing the views were, just check out the photos to see for yourself! And if you ever get the chance to do one, just do it!!
What a way to finish off my last few days in New Zealand. It certainly has left me with some great memories, and some stunning views that I won't be forgetting in a hurry! New Zealand, I will be back...!!!