In December 2008, we were lucky enough to spend our Christmas in Queenstown, New Zealand after having travelled around the south island for around seven days first. As a couple in our 20s, we were used to going to our respective family homes for the festive season and this was the first time that we actually got to spend it together and alone and the world was our oyster. We were in the extreme sports capital of the world and we were going to get as much out of stay as possible.
The trip to Queentown had started in rainy Christchurch and we hired our little campervan thinking “oh no – we’ve left Sydney basking in it’s 30 degree heat for this!” The waterways running through Arthur’s Pass, the home of the original gold rush in the south island, were pouring with rain water and we had to stop at various points winding through those crazy roads, as they were really dangerous to drive on. Our Christmas was resembling a British one (wet!), except that we weren’t tucked up indoors being able to look at the rain through our window but having to put some hours in on the road.
By the time we hot the west of the island at Greymouth and down the Franz Josef highway, thing started to look up and within a few days we had both taken our first helicopter trip to see the Mount Cook national park (we’re at the other side in the picture above), hiked on the Franz Josef glacier and basked in sunshine that would FINALLY make people at home jealous!
We arrived in Queenstown on Christmas Eve to stay with the lovely people at Lake Vista (booked via the every reliable Hostel Bookers) run by Bev & Ian McLenaghen who provided us with delicious breakfast and local advice.
Christmas Day was spent chatting with fellow guests in the B&B, which for me was a bit of strange experiences – sharing your Christmas Day morning with strangers, although the other couples we chatted with were super friendly. We then took a leisurely walk into town and were delighted to be able to get a table outside at Prime Waterfront Restaurant and Bar before it really filled up and turned people away and had the most delicious of Christmas salmon (and plenty of champagne if I recall).
We then spent the evening watching TV and getting drunk on Bailey’s. I really cannot remember a better Christmas Day in my adult life and getting to sleep was really difficualt that night (almost as difficult as a child trying to sleep on Christmas Eve) as we had planned the most exciting Boxing Day for when we woke up: the morning spent skydiving and then jumping off a cliff with the boys at Canyon Swing. The skydive was my second and ran by the guys at Nzone who do tandem jumps above Queenstown with the drop zone in the Remarkables mountain range (which is surrounded by a working sheep farm). My first skydive had been earlier in the year in Australia along the eastern coast and I was really disappointed to have closed my eyes for a lot of the freefall, so this time I made sure that I said I had jumped before and that I wanted to be pushed to be brave this time! My request did not fall on deaf ears and me and my instructor Hanz were the last on the plane so that we would be the first to jump. I was also the only jumper with my own camera-person too. The vid will be on our YouTube channel to watch on Boxing Day.
I must say that if you have never done a tandem skydive, then I really recommend doing so and agree to it before you’ve even thought of it! You don’t even have to make the decision to jump as some very experienced person STRAPPED TO YOU will make that decision and pull the parachute and pretty much land for you too. You’re there for the ride. There’s plenty of opportunity around the world to jump in some really beautiful places (and even some great places in the UK) and many will discount you if you jump for charity. You too can “do a Superman” in the air and shout “again, again” as soon as you get back to the ground.
We spent the afternoon goofily jumping from Shotover Canyon, which is the world’s highest cliff jump at 109 meters. The guys there have mastered the art of fooling around a lot before you actually jump, coming up with crazy moves like Gimp Boy Goes to Hollywood, where you are suspended over said canyon, upside down, with a gimp mask on. We both did two jumps, both our seconds being pure jumps off rather than being suspended and I took around 10 minutes to take my second jump. I really didn’t want to leave. It was only Josh shouting at me that made me realise that I should never waste any opportunities like this and did the most pathetic, girly jump ever off the side. Not as spectacular as the morning, but it brought a few laughs to those watching and made me smile afterwards.
This year, we are married and we have family coming to our flat in London, but I sure will be thinking of those lucky people in Queenstown right now, enjoying the 28 degree weather and planning some great adventures for their stay. New Zealand is great country and I can’t wait to share more stories about driving around both of the islands.
Thanks for reading about our New Zealand Christmas and indeed for reading this blog since October. There are so many stories to tell from the road in 2013 and we really hope that you continue to follow them and tell us your own.
Merry Christmas everyone!