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Never been in freefall 12,000ft from the ground before :)

sunny 21 °C
View Cass & Lee's RTW trip! on Cass - Lee's travel map.

Things were looking up as soon as we boarded the ferry to the south island, the weather was beautiful! The views of Marlborough Sound as we approached Picton were gorgeous, we just didn’t know where to look. Once we left the ferry, we were taken straight for some wine tasting, my favourite pass time :) We got to try their world renowned Sauvignon Blanc which was pretty good. I did my good deed of the day when a fellow Slovakian girl on our tour had returned with fly spray, whilst looking for insect repellent to spray on her skin – I helped her rectify that one :) We were then taken to an airfield where people could choose whether they wanted to throw themselves out of a plane or do hang gliding etc. Given the fact that I don’t even like getting on a Boeing 747 without a fuss, and I’m much happier with my feet on the ground, I declined! We then headed to our accommodation in Abel Tasman National Park, and stayed at a place called Old Macdonald’s Farm. We had a bbq for dinner and tried some local green lip mussels cooked on the barbie, which were beautiful! Out came the Uno, and a good night was had by all :)

The following day we took a water taxi to a place called Anchorage, and saw split apple rock on the way which was pretty cool. We took a walk to a viewpoint which was pretty spectacular with views across the bays and the mountains in the distance. The spot we found for lunch was pretty nice, and once we’d finished eating Lee disappeared off taking photos. The next time I laid eyes on him was when we heard him shout ‘can you see me’, and there he was perched on a little rock, which from my angle looked as though it was a sheer drop! I think I need to put reins on him, I swear :) Between myself and another lady, one of us seemed to be destined to face plant the floor with the amount of times we tripped up! We then walked back to Marahau with very tired legs after walking a total of 13 miles! At least that should help counteract the alcohol consumption :) Once we got back to our place, we then decided to go and watch two of our fellow tour members do a sky dive – I was still glad it wasn’t me! We went for dinner at a burger place just down the road... Seriously, the burgers were the size of our heads, and my god was it the best burger I had ever tasted :)

The next day we headed to Hanmer Springs. On route we stopped at Lake Rotoiti which was stunning, and we went for a little walk around. Our next stop was Maruia Falls which was pretty interesting to see as it wasn’t here 100yrs ago. It appeared when an earthquake hit, measuring 7.8 on the richter scale! We arrived at our accommodation and wow were we impressed, we had views across the mountain range which was amazing! We spent the evening having a nice pub dinner and then at the hot springs, which were so relaxing… until we had to get out at 9pm and do a mad dash to get our towels as it was freezing!

The following morning we headed to Kaikoura to do some whale watching. We boarded a catamaran and headed out to sea, it was like being on a rollercoaster! The waves were huge and were sending our vessel all over the place  I thought I may be sea sick or nervous but it was actually great fun! Finally we got the alert that a 20mtr Sperm Whale had surfaced, we all ran to the top deck to see it, and it was amazing! We were all frantically taking photos of the spray and then his tail fin disappearing. He surfaced for around 10 minutes before diving down to around 2500 meters to hunt, where he stays for up to an hour. We both felt very privileged to have been lucky enough to see such a huge whale out in its own territory. We then got to see some New Zealand Fur Seals, one of which was devouring an Octopus and shaking it around like a Lion would do with a piece of meat, it was a great sight to see! We also got to see Albatross and Petrel birds swooping and landing on the surface, they really are huge. After a dinner at the local fish and chip shop, we had our usual card game frenzy and headed to bed ready for an early 5am start the following morning, my favourite! :(

The next day we started our journey to Franz Josef, and stopped at Christchurch for some brekkie. We then took a break and went for a wander around Castle Hill which is where a scene from Lord of the Rings was filmed. My heart was in my mouth as Lee decided to start climbing rocks and then he was sat perched on a rock with a sheer drop of about 30mtrs the other side. We drove past the Southern Alps and saw the glaciers and various lakes throughout the journey. We made it to our accommodation for the next couple of nights, Franz Josef. We’d had every intention of doing a glacier walk, but when we were about to book we got told that it wasn’t the best idea if you have dislocating joints – rubbish  So instead we headed out kayaking which was so calm and beautiful and gave us amazing views of Mt Cook. The lake in the morning was covered in a mist so we couldn’t see where we were headed, which was great fun! Then once the mist lifted the lake was just so pretty and looked like glass in places, where you could get a great mirror image of the trees and plants. We then decided to take a walk to the terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier, which ended up being over a 10 mile round trip… we certainly had a good deal of exercise that day!

The following morning, before we headed to our destination of Makarora, whilst I was in the shower and my room mates were all snoozing, the fire alarm went off! We all ventured outside, and I was still soaked from the shower. After all that commotion we went to watch another member of our group do a skydive over Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. It was the first time I actually felt a bit jealous and wondered whether it would be something I could bring myself to do, as I’ve seen quite a few people survive them now, haha :) I’m still the biggest wimp in the world though, so the chance remains pretty slim! The place that we stayed was just so so peaceful and surrounded by beautiful scenery, pretty much like all of NZ really. We had a nice group dinner and then went down to the river and had a camp fire and sat around it chatting which was lovely. We were based on the quietest road we had ever seen, we only saw one truck drive along it the whole time we were there. A couple of people in our group decided to actually lay on the road to show how empty it was :)

The following morning I found out that our guide and myself were booked onto a skydive. I was a nervous wreck but decided I would make the final choice of whether to go through it or not once I got to the airfield. Once there I was physically shaking but so determined I wanted to chuck myself out of a plane for some very strange reason! Before signing my life away Lee got two separate people to come and talk to me and help me get over my worries, and it must have worked as my signature appeared on the piece of paper. Before I knew it I was being suited and harnessed up and talking to my tandem instructor. Within minutes we were in the smallest plane I have ever been in and climbing to the skies. It was a beautiful day with hardly a cloud in the sky. I was a lot calmer than I ever imagined and had no intention of not going through with the jump. The shutter door opened and the first tandem left the plane and literally fell like a stone! By this point I was wondering what on earth was compelling me to do such a crazy thing! My instructor was fantastic and talked to me throughout the flight and ushered me to the door. The next thing I felt was a huge belly flip and before I knew it I was facing the ground with my camera man in front of me. The only word that can describe the feeling of freefall is ‘Mental’!! The wind rush was just crazy but I didn’t really have a sense of being so high because it was too high, if you see what I mean! I was smiling my head off and then realised the wind had literally stuck my mouth where it was :) I felt the parachute pull us and I knew we were safe, and the view was incredible. No noise, no crazy wind, just calmness and blue skies. As we twirled our way to the ground I couldn’t believe I had actually done it. I had stepped out of my comfort zone completely, being scared of heights and so so scared of flying, and could not stop smiling when we landed and just felt so proud of myself!

New Zealand has certainly pushed my limits and opened my eyes! I think I will be buzzing until next week!! :)

Posted by Cass - Lee 15:06 Archived in New Zealand

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