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Matt & Mercaders - The World Tour

Queenstown & Milford Sound

NEW ZEALAND | Saturday, 17 January 2009 | Views [971] | Comments [1]


We liked the atmosphere in Queenstown as soon as we arrived. It's really buzzing and busy at the same time as being quite quaint with cosy little pubs and cafes. One of the first things we did was book ourselves onto a white water rafting tour. We decided to go for the slightly harder rapids, difficulty rating 3-5 (5 being the biggest there is) and I personally felt quite proud of how brave I had become over the last few months – look at me, I'm growing. Of course it was with a somewhat pinched expression and clenched hands that I actually set out early the following morning.


We all signed our lives away before boarding the bus that was to take us to the start point. We were given the usual induction and safety spiel that one is always given before undertaking one of these experiences – oh except this time we were told that people had actually died. I mean realistically I knew this was always possible, but the cold and impassive way that this was relayed to us, did actually make me think twice about the sensibility of this escapade... but then I saw Matt's face and I knew there was to be no backing out.


We were put into our groups and assigned our group leaders – we actually had two, one of whom was being examined to determine whether or not she should qualify as a raft leader. Feeling good at this stage, feeling reeealy confident. We were given our whistle stop tour of the instructions and asked to demonstrate them a number of times to ensure, I suppose, we could tell our left from right and actually listen (you would be surprised how hard some people find this). Then before we knew it we were off! I didn't realise beforehand that you don't actually sit in the boat, but rather on the outside edge with your feet linked under the seat in front to hold you in... I mean seriously, what?? I couldn't see how I would have a hope in hell of staying in and listened extremely carefully to the different procedures to follow if one was to fall out of the boat, whilst thinking “please, please don't let it be me, please don't let me completely embarrass myself, or worse, kill myself”.


The first few easy rapids went without hitch – one of the German girls in our boat who was next to me did nearly tumble out but I was on the case and grabbed her leg... proud face. We all seemed to be able to follow the instructions and were even managing some amusing banter with the leaders. Then at the next rapid, slightly bigger and longer this time, disaster struck! Okay, it wasn't really that bad, nobody fell out or anything, but as we were all sat in the boat (one of the moves we were taught for when you are going down a rapid) somehow the boat got trapped between two massive rocks. The two leaders were desperately trying to get us out of the gap whilst we all sat there wondering what on earth was going to happen. Then eventually, a couple of the leaders from the other boat jumped out and gave them a hand and we were free at last, all quite exciting drama really.


The rest of the experience was brilliant and we had a lot of fun, especially doing the big rapid right at the end that got us all soaked. I feel I should point out that although we got to do lots of rowing and moving around the boat to aid with steering, the real hard work and technical stuff is done by the leaders, we just went along for the ride. This of course makes sense when you consider none of us had any training at all and makes it all the more fun.


That afternoon it started to pour down with rain so we found ourselves an awesome wine bar with a massive roaring fire and set about really relaxing. Our friends Nicola and Shane were also in Queenstown so we had planned to meet them that evening after they had done their rafting. Obviously we had only met them once before and realised just before we met them for the second time that we were mildly pissed (or really quite drunk in my case) and perhaps this wasn't appropriate given the circumstances. Well, we needn't have worried, they are Irish for goodness sake, they jumped right in with us and about 7 hours later we rolled out of the third bar having had a thoroughly entertaining evening.


We met up with Nicola and Shane the next day for a wander and another couple of drinks. It was at this point that the four of us discovered a shared love for all things sweet and Matt and I were introduced to one of the places that is emblazoned on my memory: The British Lolly Shop. I think at this point in our travels, finding this gem was more exciting than Charlie entering the chocolate factory, NO JOKE! It was only small but FULL of sweets and chocolate, but not just any old sweets and chocolate, oh no, we are talking British imported, retro sweets and chocolate! There were huge jars of chocolate eclairs, midget gems, toffees, lemon bon bons, pear drops, fizzy cola bottles, I mean I could go on and on. Not only that but there were bags and bars of things we had been dreaming of since we left London – minstrels, munchies, maltesers (you can't get any of these in any of the places we had been by the way), wham bars, fudge, the classic caramel bars, chocolate orange... seriously I need to stop now, even talking about it is making my mouth water! Needless to say we all went to town and probably had one of the proudest faced photos of our entire travels!


Our time in Queenstown had come to an end and after a final farewell to Nicola and Shane we packed up the van and headed off to Milford Sound for our next adventure...


Milford Sound


The journey to Milford Sound took in some of the most beautiful scenery we have ever seen. Matt in the drivers seat, me as always enjoying the ride as a passenger, kept stopping the van to get a proper look, it was that good! The closer we got the more dramatic the view became.


On arrival at the one and only campsite in Milford Sound the sky completely clouded over – not a great way to make the most of the view but pretty common apparently. We booked our Kayak tour for the next morning, which would consist of about 4 hours of kayaking amongst the mighty Milford Sound landscape, and settled in for the evening, being ultra careful as we went in and out of the bus not to let any of the disgusting sand flies in – they tried really hard.


Early the next morning we were collected and taken down to the small dock where we would be kayaking from. After being given our outfits – some lovely stripey thermal leggings, life jacket, wooly hat and skirt (that's the rubber thing that your wear round your middle and hook over the bit you sit in so as to stop the water getting in) – and a quick demonstration of how to use the oars, we were ready to be loaded in to our two-man kayak. We were a little wobbly as we were pushed into the water (me at the front) but managed to make our way over to our group. This is when we got our first glimpse of the impressive Milford Sound from water level – except it was drizzling and cloudy and we couldn't really see all that much, but it still felt awesome to be paddling around surrounded by this incredible scenery.


We managed to paddle our way to an amazing waterfall and our guide took us right up to the   bottom of it so we could look up. Occasionally during the morning, a massive cruise ship would sail past and anyone who wasn't completely up with the group had to make a bit of a dash for it so as to avoid any unfortunate incidents. It is quite important that you and your partner stay in time when paddling in a kayak, this makes it smoother and easier for both. I was at the front and therefore Matt was supposed to keep in time with me, and I was really going for it and trying hard so I secretly thought he'd be quite impressed. It wasn't until near the end, when there had already been a few minor disagreements between us, that he pointed out how slowly I'd been paddling! Furiously I decided we were on no speaks – clearly impossible when trying to return home safely in a kayak.


All in all it was great fun, pretty tiring but a great way to spend a morning and attempt to see Milford Sound. We spent another night in the campsite which meant we were able to return the following morning when the sun was shining and the sky clear and see Milford Sound in all its glory – and it really was spectacular.


We then headed back to Queenstown for one night before making our way to Ashburton to stay with Ross, a friend of Matt's from home.




The Kayak, trip, always a guaranteed arguement!

  Sam Mar 11, 2009 9:59 PM



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