A Travellerspoint blog

I'm not a bird, I'm not a plane.... I'm a bird plane!

Ian - "Let's run through that one more time, Step... step... RunRunRunRunRuuuun! Any questions?"

Me - "So we just run off the mountain?"

Ian - "Thats right, ready?"

Me - "We'll soon find out!"

This was my quick introduction in how to launch a hangglide!

When we arrived in Queesntown the weather was gorgeous and having missed out on hangliding in Abel Tasman I booked myself in and was on Mount Coronet within half an hour, but what I had forgotten was that Abel Tasman is one of the few if not the only place to hangglide by being pulled up by a tow plane, I would be doing it the normal way... just run of the mountain and hope for the best!


My trusted pilot was Ian who had been doing this for over 23 years. He had a slight resemblance to Ben Stiller which I was still trying to work out if I found reassuring or not when we got attached to the glider itself. As we needed to run to get ourself airborn the harness I wore was different to Dans with a stirrup at the bottom that I would need to get my feet onto once we were in the air.

There was no hanging around to let the nerves get to me as I was the first one up. Clinging on to Ian and determined to keep pace during the take off I was concentrating loads that I didn't realise my feet were off the ground so I was running in midair. It was effortless and we were flying!! After a bit of a struggle to get my feet in the stirrup we were on our way and soaring over the valley. it was a great feeling.


There was a devise on the glider which would make different beeping noises depending on what the glider was doing, it it was high pitched we were going up and if it was a lower tone we were going down. Ian found a thermal to try to get us some more flight to extend our flight, by circling up in the thermal just like a bird.

After we had some more height he asked if I liked roller coasters before flying the hangglide upwards until it stalled in the air and began to fall back down again before catching the air and swooping forward. It was fun and scary at the same time and I couldn't stop laughing and squealing so we did this a few more times.


We did some first turns and dives over the spectacular scenery and the flight was over too soon as we came in to land. As we got closer to the ground you realised how fast you were coming in and head first! It was so exciting to zoom in low to the ground through the purple grasses with mountains on each side, landing on the wheels and rolling till we stopped. I just laid on the floor laughing and shaking a little bit!

Simply AWESOME!!!


Posted by doyledan 02:23 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Bungy madness

On our way to Queenstown we would be stopping off at the original bungy jump Kawarau bridge that the madmen AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch first jumped off in 1988 and sparked a craze that has seen millions of people choose to throw themselves off things.


Before we got to the bridge I had said to myself and other people that I wasn't interested. I was more into skydiving and didn't really think I would do a bungy but with all the missed opportunities I was secretly thinking I need to do some adrenaline fuelled activity.

Two people on our bus, Dan and Anna from Sweden had put their hands up to do the jump and the rest of the bus would get to watch them. We all got shown a promotion video which informed you about the history of the Bungy (inspired by the coming of age ritual in Tahiti where men tie vines to their legs and thrown themselves off a platform) and some of the jumps that AJ Hackett did to promote the bungy were insane. He bungy'ed off the sky tower in a Auckland, 192m!! Insane! Anyways a I was getting a tiny buzz inside and thought, I got to do it...I mean its the adventure capital of the world!

So I signed up.....I know what your thinking...he must be mad too....


Perhaps I am!

And in a flash I was up on the bridge waiting behind Dan and Anna. After hearing Anna scream her way down I got tied up.

The guys who tie you up are your typical kiwi lads and as they set me up with gear and the guy goes to me, 'you wanna get wet, bro?' to which I replied 'uhhhh' and that was enough for him to say 'yep, you're going in'. I hadn't thought about it as the decision to jump was spontaneous so I thought just go with it.

Then one of the guys goes ' so mate, we just want a casual one here' , and I had to ask ' eh, what is casual?' ...to be honest the kiwi accent wasn't helping but I got the gist. Basically in order to get in the water you don't want to leap out as most do from the plank because the bungy cord extends to much and you get pulled back sooner. But even with that in my head I was a little confused to the point where when the countdown came I sort of hesitantly jumped and paused at the same time.

It didn't matter because the jump was awesome, and it was surreal at one point because it didn't feel like I was falling for a split second, then gravity kicked in and it was like, 'shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit! EPIC!!


And half my body got dunked into the river, which later Sarah told me was well received by the crowd as they hadn't seen a water jump.


I ran up to collect my photos and see Sarah's video. (Will follow shortly, upload issues)


It was one of the best things I've done!!


Stay tuned for more tales.


Posted by doyledan 02:11 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

The lakes of South Island

The next day we woke to a gorgeous day had we had to laugh because it seemed like when we got on the bus the weather would change for the better. The trip we were taking was not a long one and would involve stopping at Lake Matheson and then onward to Lake Wanaka. Between these two places there are some stunning landscapes.


It wasn't long before we reached Lake Matheson. The point of the stop here is to take a short walk and enjoy the scenery which is amazing. Sarah, Sally, Patriciza, Glyn and I grouped up for the walk.


It wasn't far before we got to the Lake and it was picture time of course.



I was keen to talk to Patriciza about her home of Switzerland as I wondered if the scenery we were looking at was similar. Judging by her description it sounds like it is with the Alps so close, potential holiday trip?


Getting photos done we headed back with the prospect of a tea or coffee with a good view inspiring us.

We hopped back on the bus and started a trip to Lake Wanaka. On route we passed even more stunning landscapes


one of which being Lake Hawea.


We reached Lake Wanaka in the early evening, and as it was our last week Sarah and I said, sod it! Let's eat out!


So after taking in the Lake with Sarah and Sally, climbing on big hands and sliding down dinosaurs we walked around looking for a curry house but it was pretty dead so we went to the Irish pub that looked out over the Lake and had a banjo duet playing covers including Rolling Stones and Black Eyed Peas!


Glyn joined us later and hearing her talking about Skydiving got me thinking and because we had missed Franz Josef and the prospect of jumping out plane I threw caution to the wind and ran back to the booking office and booked in to skydive the for the next morning.

And guess what......

It got cancelled due to the weather, FYI New Zealand weather is unpredictable if you hadn't guessed already.

So the next morning I joined up with Sarah and Sally and walked up Mount Iron, which was our original plan.


The walk was pleasant enough, with a few steep incline s to get the heart pumping. The 360 view of the Lake and Valley were worth it.



We made our way back down and stopped off at the Puzzle House and kind of art/funhouse. We didn't go inside but the girls nipped in to use the loo!


We left a Sally there as she was staying another night and decided that we should call her Phoebs, as she is quirky like the character from Friends :)

We would be continuing on to the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown!

What would we end up doing?

Stay tuned for more tales


Posted by doyledan 23:17 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Ice Ice Baby!

Franz Josef glacier!

Visiting the Franz Josef glacier had been one of the top things on our list of must dos in New Zealand. We had decided to do the Ice Explorer option where we would be helicoptered on the the glacier and hike on it for a couple of hours. Cool stuff!

Excited we made our way to the office and met by our guide Phil who advised us to get geared but we might not be able to go up as the clouds were really low and if they dropped further the helicopters wouldn't fly! You've got to be kidding me! The thought of missing out on something else due to the weather was almost too much but we laughed it off, signed in and got ourselves sorted with waterproof coats and trousers, hats and gloves and sized up for grampons as we had decided to wear our own boots.


Still uncertain what the clouds would do we headed towards the helicopter landing area for the rest of our briefing on how to not get your head chopped off by a propeller etc... The pilots and guides were all talking discreetly to each other and so we suspected the worse and so were pleasantly surprised when we were given the thumbs up and ushered to our helicopter. YES!


Dan and I managed to get the front seats and so had an awesome view as we took to the sky and headed to the glacier. From this perspective you could really see what they meant by the clouds... The horizontal line on these photos are not problems with the camera but the low cloud cover.


It was great fun landing on the the glacier in our own chopper it was like being in James Bond, the rest of the group came in on a second one and as we waved goodbye it dawned on us that if the cloud did drop we could be stuck up here!


Our guide told us that once he got stuck on the glacier for 6 hours due to bad weather but they are prepared for this with supplies including tents and food strategically placed incase this happens.

Now on the ice we had a quick lesson on attaching our grampons and how to walk confidently on the ice, stomping in the spikes to get a good grip. If you walked tentatively you would end up slipping all over the place. Gear ready we were off, after some Ice Explorer poses of course.


We thought we were a bit over dressed in all our kit given that the guides just wore shorts and a t shirt but it was soon clear why as Phil set to work carving out the ice steps for us to walk on with his pick axe! It looked like hard work but us girls were happy to watch and enjoy the view lol!


We needed to make sure we stuck to the path as there were holes in places that could drop down anywhere from 8 to 80 metres and so you don't want to fall down one of them. The glacier is always changing and moves 2ms everyday and so this means each time the guides come up there might be a new ice cave or tunnel to explore.


The water on the glacier is really pure and has hardly any minerals in it. The guides who work here need to make sure they add salts etc to their water because if you drink too much glacier water you'll get cramps. It was fine for us to have a taste though.


It was cool to see the chilly blue colour of the compacted ice. In deep parts of glaciers you even get purple ice!



Some of the crevices we walked through were really narrow and we were told how one woman had recently got stuck for two hours as her boots had got jammed next to each other as she tried to walk through so we had to shimmy along in some points.



We got to slide through some ice tunnels that had opened up which was really fun, although a bit wet!


Yep we fitted through these...just!


Some parts were quite steep and we had to make use of the ropes that had been staked into the ice. You definitely felt like an explorer going through this icy landscape.


Just chillin'


We would here buzzing on the radios and the helicopters were on their way back to get us. We hoped all the groups from our bus had managed to get up on the ice as it sounded like they would soon be stopping the helicopters. We had been on the early group as we were going to skydive over the glacier that afternoon, I'm sure you've guessed though that got cancelled! We'll just have to come back one day to do it as its meant to be the second best skydive in the world!


Back in the chopper we were all on a high but also tired from all the excitement and stomping on the ice.


The added bonus of doing this trip was free access to the Hot Pools with your ticket. What a better way to spend the afternoon after a day on the ice than in 40 degree hot water pools!


Posted by doyledan 15:52 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Pancake Rocks and Jade Carving!

It was a relief to wake up to sunshine after the worst downpour they had had this year! But our time a Abel Tasman had run out as we had to keep moving to stick to the schedule. It felt a bit like we were a day out of sink with the weather and if we had left a day later we would have been able to do everything we had planned.

Trying no to feel despondent we hopped on the bus and headed towards Punakaki. It was a scenic drive following the twisting road along the river until we got to the coast.


Here we stopped at Cape Foulwind to check out the local fur seal colony and their babies! I wonder if it is the smell if seals that gave the cape its name? Once you had tuned in your seal spotting eyes we started to see them everywhere, popping their heads out from behind the rocks and hopping over the boulders.


This one enjoyed a good scratch!


Fur seals can swim up to 30km per hour over short distances and can dive to over 250ms! This is a crazy depth to comprehend as we have only been to 30m and that seemed a lot!

We also met a relative of the Kiwi bird but I can't remember the name of them...


Next stop was to check out the famous pancake rocks. Made out of limestone they have formed into these unique layers that make them look like stacks of pancakes. The experts still aren't sure exactly how and why these rocks formed in this way.


We were staying that night in little houses a short walk from the beach ours was called Rata and as I wasn't well Possum had kindly set aside our own room instead of bunking upstairs with everyone else. As I got an early night Dan joined the others to check out the sunset.


The next morning Sally and I were up early as we were going to do Jade Carving and make our own Maori inspired necklaces. It would take us 4 hours to make our creations and we were picked up by Hamish and taken to his studio to get started. Whilst we chose our designs we were introduced to Brindle a 7 month old puppy who liked to play and I think I was going to get distracted by this one!


I was hoping to get more inspiration on different designs we could do but those on show were limited so I decided to go with a swirl that would look like a wave as I like the ocean. In Maori this is a symbol of harmony which is a nice touch too. First step was to cut a circle of Jade using the circle cutting machine. It took a while to cut through the stone but soon I had a perfect circle and Hamish helped to draw on the markings and set me up to drill a hole through the middle that would start the swirl.



Then we needed to master the technique of cutting the stone, using one edge of the tool to make the cut deeper and then the flatter edge to move the curve out... Did that make sense to you as I struggled with this and every time I thought I was getting it right it turns out I was doing it wrong.


Needless to say it took a while to get the hang of it but eventually the gap of the swirl began to form although I had made lots of scratches that I needed to try to get rid of when it came to the polishing phase.


Before doing that though I needed to thin down the outside edge and I think I was a bit better at this part!


Polishing had 4 steps and we were fast running out of time so we took in turns swapping from one machine to the other to use the different polishing tools. We were just finishing up when the bus pulled up to pick us up but it was a bit rushed at the end.

It had been a really fun morning and great to be able to make our own necklace. I'm glad I did it this way rather than buying one from the shops as apparently the only way you should get a Maori necklace is either to make it, be given one as gift or kill someone and take their necklace! Didn't fancy doing the last one!


If I was to do it again though I think I would go to the bone carving studio. Having met up with other people who did that they seem to have had much more inspiration with designs, with about 40 instead of 4! It might be that bone is more pliable to carve than Jade so you can do more intricate designs in the same time.

That aside I'm pleased with my handy work :)

We had a long drive that afternoon to get to Franx Josef and along the way we had our first incident, but no one was hurt so alls ok.


And we soon forgot about it after seeing this view!


We made it to Franz Josef safe and sound and in the morning we would be trekking on a glacier! Yeah!



Posted by doyledan 01:11 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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