New Zealand Gap Year Travel: Christchurch, Kaikoura, Wellington, Lake Taupo & Auckland
After deciding to cover Australia another time, I changed my flight to New Zealand for an earlier date. Unfortunately there were no flights to Queenstown (the adrenalin junkie's dangerous sports capital of the world) and so I had to settle for Christchurch which was near the middle of New Zealand's south island. I had been looking forward to Queenstown as I wanted to see all the activities like bungee jumping, white water rafting and sky diving for myself. I decided I would try sky diving at Lake Taupo on the north island later in the trip.
After arriving in sleepy Christchurch, I managed to find a hostel room at the third attempt. Christchurch is almost identical to various small towns aroundEngland with it's slow pace of life, it's cathedral and the cool overcast weather. I met a few people at the hostel and spent the rest of the day exploring Christchurch. After covering the central area on foot, I suddenly realized that I had explored most of Christchurch in just one afternoon. Although the pace of life appeared slow, Christchurch is renowned for the variety of activities it has on offer including whale watching, mountaineering, hiking, sky diving, horse riding and much more. Unfortunately I spent most of my two days in Christchurch sightseeing, shopping, eating and drinking.
After missing out on half a night's sleep as my dorm mate brought a girl back and spent a few hours humping while practicing his primeval grunts, I managed to book a coach trip upto Kaikoura which is famous for whale watching. Kaikoura was a very small town with just one long road. Like other towns in New Zealand, Kaikoura offered a wide range of activities and most people looked as though they had descended on the town to take part in one activity or another. The scenery was quite rugged with a large mountainous backdrop reminding me of Lord of the Rings. In the end I decided not to go on a costly whale watching trip as most people who had taken the trip failed to glimpse anything resembling a whale.
After leaving Kaikoura, I took another coach to Nelson for the ferry crossing to Wellington. The ferry trip across Marlborough Sound was spectacular and after arriving late in Wellington, we were picked up by the hostel owners. It was a relief having a single room to myself. I spent a couple of pleasant days in Wellington trying out various Vietnamese and Indian restaurants. The actual city is much like any other with a fairly lively atmosphere at night amongst its bars and pubs.
The next stop on my gap year to New Zealand was Lake Taupo which is a beautiful rural location on north island. Some of the people at the hostel had tried sky diving and I decided to give it a go. After booking a sky diving session, I spent a restless and nervous night contemplating my decision. The next morning a large limousine arrived to pick us up. After arriving at the sky diving centre, we watched a sky diving instruction movie and then it was straight into our costumes and onto the plane. All six of us were strapped individually to an instructor and as the small plane descended to 12,000 feet, the nervousness intensified. I was unlucky enough to go first and the instructor opened the plane door revealing a distinct lack of ground as I remember. We placed our legs out of the door and the instructor asked me to tilt my head back. As soon as my head went back, we jumped out of the plane. The first few seconds was absolutely terrifying as I hurtled towards the ground but I retained an air of dignity as I screamed a few sentences composed entirely of four letter words. Panic lead to exhilaration as I dived at super sonic speeds towards the ground. It had crossed my mind that no parachute had opened but I had faith in the instructors ability to remain awake on what must have been his 1,000th sky dive that year. Once the parachute had opened, everything appeared serene and calm as I watched my feet dangling in mid air high above the river and land below. After a pleasant few minutes in the air, we touched down safely but I remained on a high for the rest of the day.
The next day I made my way to my final stop in New Zealand - Auckland. Auckland is New Zealand's largest city and has a large range of activities available as well as beaches, shopping and nightlife. Auckland was much busier and slightly more congested than other cities in New Zealand but I was looking forward to going to some tropical island paradise as the next destination on my gap year was going to be Fiji in the south pacific.