Tag Archives: new zealand

My Top 10 Hostels Around The World

11 Jun

Having stayed in 100’s of hostels in over 40 countries and on 5 continents, I think it’s be about time I shared my top 10 favorite hostels. These gems are the type of places that were so good, so welcoming and so jam-packed with facilities (despite their rock bottom prices) that I would return to a country JUST to stay there again.

In no particular order, here are my TOP TEN hostels worldwide.

10. Away With The Fairies Backpackers, Hogsback Mountains, South Africa

snow south africa

This was one of my favorite places in South Africa. The name itself was enough to persuade me to leave the stunning South African coastline and make the trek inland and up into the Hogsback mountains. Perched high on a cliff-top overlooking three beautiful mountains, Away With The Fairies is the perfect place to escape for a few days, and ‘return to nature’. The greater area also happens to be the birthplace of famed writer J.R.R Tolkein and trekking through the many trails, waterfalls and scenic villages, it’s not difficult to see where he may have got his inspiration from. The rooms have names such as ‘Bilbo’ and ‘Frodo’ and the common room and dormitories are the most cosy and homely rooms I have ever stayed in.

outdoor bath hogsbackWhether you come in Winter or Summer, you will feel right at home in this backpackers. If you’re lucky enough to arrive in Winter, you might even get to see the area covered in a beautiful blanket of snow. If you’re lucky enough to visit during the hot summer months, there is an outdoor bath with the most incredible view of the surrounding countryside where you can cool off. A visit to this magical hostel is a MUST if you are ever visiting South Africa!

 

 

9. Reggae Mansion Hostel, Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia

REGGAEMANSION

While many hostel names can be a little deceiving, Reggae Mansion in Kuala Lumpar is exactly what is says it is. It is an absolutely HUGE boutique backpackers hostel and besides the price and the fact that there are backpackers everywhere, it’s as far from a regular hostel as you can imagine.

reggae barEven looking at the hostel on arrival makes many people think, “Wow, what is this place?!” Then comes the vast range of facilities which include but are not limited to; A rooftop bar and tanning area, a cocktail bar, a restaurant serving delicious Malaysian and Western meals, dormitories where everyone has a double bed and their own private curtain and plug sockets, multiple areas to chill out and read and…a cinema. Yes, that’s right, this hostel has its own cinema on the property! They can also organize tours to just about anywhere, have nightly parties on the roof and take the guests out to many of the amazing restaurants and clubs KL has to offer. If you are looking for a place to stay in KL, look no further!!

 

8. Gili Hostel, Lombok, Indonesia

gili hostel

 

If you are traveling around Indonesia by yourself, The Gili Islands are THE place to go. If you are traveling to the Gili Islands by yourself, Gili Hostel is most definitely the place to go. It’s the only backpackers on the island and it is an absolute melting-pot of people each night.

gili-hostelSo famed are parties in Gili Hostel, mainly for their cheap as chips Vodka-Joss shots, that people who are staying in the islands other hotels make the effort to come over to the rooftop bar each night to party the night away. However, in true backpacking spirit (and to give many weary-eyed travelers a chance to sleep!) the bar closes at a respectable hour and all the patrons are brought as a group to one of the islands nightly parties! Besides being a great place to meet people, the hostel is mere meters from the crystal clear waters and the staff are happy to help you organize an array of trips such as scuba diving, snorkeling, sunset walks and more. The spacious dorms are kept spotless and always refreshingly cool, and the price is cheap enough that you may never want to leave!

 

7. South Coast Backpackers, Diani Beach, Kenya

south coast backpackers kenya

Their tagline is, “It’s not a business. It’s a house with a bar and a pool’ and honestly that is EXACTLY what it is. The property was once a luxurious villa, where only people who had more money than they knew what to do with could stay. After the violence and political unrest in Kenya, tourism was severely affected and many of the luxurious hotels near Mombassa were forced to close down. Their loss was our benefit, and by ‘our’ I mean backpackers the world over! This beautiful villa has been turned into a pseudo backpackers hostel but like the two owners say, really it’s just a beautiful house with a bar and pool. There’s even a personal chef who will cook you up whatever you like for breakfast!

Beach-Kenya-1125x784During low season, or if you stay mid-week, it’s possible to have the whole house and pool to yourself! During the weekend, however, backpackers, peace-corps workers and expats flock to this little piece of paradise to let off steam, enjoy the great ‘Happy Hour’ deals at the poolside bar and soak up the sun. The guys who work there are super laid back and full of incredible travel tales. They can also organize a variety of trips for you and will be sure to remind you that despite the fact that you may not want to leave their property, one of the most beautiful beaches in Kenya is only a 400 meter walk away! Kenya is very lacking on decent hostels so if you are traveling in this region and are craving a ‘true backpackers experience’, this is the place to go.

6. Frendz Hostel, Boracay, Philippines

the-view-from-the-frendz

Talk to anyone who has been to Boracay and there are two common themes that they all talk about. The fact that you simply must stay at Frendz Resort and that you must, must, must do the Boracay Pub Crawl! I’m not sure if they are connected but they both have the same mission, ‘Turn strangers into friends!’.

frendz-guesthouse-lounge-boracay-philippinesFrendz Hostel is literally meters away from one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Do a quick google search of ‘Boracay’ and you will know what I’m talking about! While there is nothing too special about the dorms or the common area (there’s a bar, a large table to eat or chat at, a pool table and they have private deck chairs on the beach for guests to use) it’s really the people who make this place so special. Everyone who stays here is dying to make new friends, party all night long and find a fun group of people to go exploring the island with. I would especially recommend this hostel is you are traveling solo to the Philipines and while you’re at it, sign yourself up to the Boracay Pub Crawl. Fun guaranteed!

 

5. Kimchi Guesthouse, Hongdae, Korea

hongdae lights

After almost 2 years in Korea and countless weekends staying in various hostels around Seoul, Kimchi Guesthouse in Hongdae remains one of my favourites. The rooms are spacious but cosy (an essential during the cold, Korean Winter!), the staff are friendly and welcoming and best of all, the hostel is only a hop, skip and a jump from the most-happening party district in Korea.

kimchi guesthouseWhen it comes to a place to stay, it often comes down to ‘location, location, location’, and Kimchi Guesthouse seems to have got this spot on. It’s in a quiet enough street that you can go to bed early if needed but also close enough to Seoul’s vibrant nightlife district that you could walk home alone and not feel concerned for your safety. My friends and I have probably stayed in over 10 hostels in and around this district of Seoul but this one is a firm favorite.

 

4. Fawlty Towers Backpackers, Livingstone, Zambia

victoria_falls

If you want to visit  Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the worlds, and don’t want to fork out hundreds of dollars to stay in one the limited hotel accommodation options in the area, Fawlty Towers is the place for you. You can’t really go wrong with a large backpackers just minutes away from the Zambian/Zimbabwean border , located in the small town of Livingstone which is now known as the ‘Adrenaline Junkie Capital of Africa!’ Bungee jumping, rock climbing, abseiling, white water rafting, gorge swings, micro lights flights and walking safari’s are just some of the nail-biting activities on offer.

fawlty towers backpackersIn the hostel itself there’s a bar, a large swimming pool with deck/lounge chairs and the dorms are fully equipped with much-needed mosquito nets and fans! This spot is also a great meeting spot to connect with other travelers as it is very close to the point where the Tazara Train (that runs from Tanzania to Zambia) ends and thus is a melting pot of backpackers, some having traveled all the way down through Northern and Eastern Africa while others are just beginning their adventure North.

 

3. Friendly Fun Franks, Riga, Latvia

Riga-Latvia

Any hostel that gives it’s guests a free beer before they have even fully checked in will always be held in high esteem by me. Voted Best Hostel in the World by users of Hostelworld.com a few years ago, staying here was one of the best experiences I have had in Europe. Not many people think of going on holidays to Latvia, but when a group of friends and I found cheap flights to Riga a few years back, booking this hostel for the duration of our stay was one of the best decisions we ever made.

friendly-fun-franks-backpackerLocated in central Riga and overlooking the Daugava river, on which many locals (and some brave tourists!) can be seen skating across during the winter months, the hostel is in a great location. The common room is both large and comfortable (and adorned with many certificates of praise received by the hostel!) and the bar, which they open at all sorts of crazy hours to meet demand, is the perfect spot to unwind with other travelers. The staff, however, are what made this place truly special. I’m not sure who Frank is, and he may not even be all that friendly, but he sure knows how to hire some of the most helpful, beautiful and friendly staff on the planet! Throughout our stay, they showed us all around the city, brought us to new bars and clubs each night, and booked us on all sorts of wacky adventures such as shooting AK47’S in old Russian Bunkers and sending us to some quaint town where we could go sledding! By the end of our one-week vacation, we had made many lifelong friends and I had a new hostel to add to my list of favorites.

2. Nomads Hostel, Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown_in_Winter

 

This hostel was one the most amazing places I have ever stayed. It was one of those times when even your super high expectations for a destination are exceeded and you just know that you have picked THE best place in stay. The hostel itself is huge but what makes it great is that they have an ample amount of facilities for everyone. There are lounge chairs everywhere, the dorms have balconies and there are tons of computers for guests to use. The dorms are spacious, and if you have the cash to splash out on a private room you might even think you are in a top hotel rather than a cheap hostel.

960_960_sauna-queenstownThe people working and staying here are super social, and as you are allowed to drink in the hostel, it is a great place to meet and chat with other backpackers without having to go out on the town and spend lots of money. They organize lots of nights out including a 10 dollar pub crawl and can also organize a variety of tours, adventures, flights and adrenaline pumping activities to fill your days and empty your wallet! Also, did I mention there’s a sauna?! Madness. If I ever go back to New Zealand, this will be the first place on my list! 

 

 

1. Buccaneers Backpackers, Cintsa, South Africa

buccaneers-lodge-backpackers

Honestly, I could probably write a full bog post on hostels in South Africa as there are so many great spots! I was going back and forth for the last hour deciding whether to include one of the hostels I stayed in while traveling in Australia or to include a second South African hostel. In the end, I had to stay true to myself, and this gem of a Backpackers on the wild coast of South Africa wins the last spot! The hostel is really rustic and the views of the beach below are spectacular!

buccaneersThey can organize horse back riding along the beach, daily surfing lessons or weekly surf camps and their poolside parties are out of this world. It’s a strange place as it feels like you are escaping the hustle and bustle and getting back to nature but at the same time it’s such a popular spot that you are bound to meet rakes of other backpackers while staying here. Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint the precise reasons why a hostel is great, you just get a feeling while staying there that you never really want to leave and be it 1 year or 10 years since your last stay, it is a place that will always stay in your memory. For me, Buccaneers is one of those places. :)

Loving Travel, Loving Life

12 Jul

Fellow Blogger Travel with Papino recently blogged about travel bliss, a rare moment when the outside world seems distant and all you can do is bask in your surroundings. Be it someplace exotic, a moment with good friends, or a break from it all; when we capture these unforgettable moments on camera they make for truly captivating photos.

I have just browsed through album after album of old photos from life in Ireland to life on the road, from Ireland to Latvia, Ethiopia to Taiwan, and Australia to Korea looking for photos that really capture the moment, be it travel bliss or just a moment of extreme happiness.  

This collection might seem a bit random but all these photos hold a special place in my heart and memories come flooding back upon seeing each one of these pictures. If you want to know more about any of them feel free to ask, but I think the picture with the caption tells it all. Let your imagination or heart work out the rest.

Feel free to share yours be it a story or a photo.

Thanks to Papino for this awesome idea.

Boracay Island, The Philippines

Holidaying at home; Baltimore, West Cork

Isle of Tiree, Scotland

Masaii in Mombassa, Kenya

Life is full of joy, Kitale Kenya

Close to Paradise; Auckland, New Zealand

Spreading joy on Childrens Day in Dublin, Ireland

Pure couchsurfing heaven...on a river!

Setiing my eyes on Sydney Opera House for the 1st time...Amazing

At the summit of Mt Seoraksan in South Korea...Breathtaking!

Frolicking in the Cherry Blossoms, Gyeongju

Pure Travel Bliss

Bloggers Day for New Zealand

22 Mar

As I recently made a post urging people to donate to the Japan earthquake appeal, I would also like to post about New Zealand, and encourage people that, despite the devastation caused by the earthquake in ChristChurch, New Zealand is still one of the most beautiful and amazing countries to visit in the world.

Due to the bad media and natural devastation caused by the earthquake, recovery is proving to be a slow process. While one of their biggest money earners, tourism, is in desperate need of a boost, New Zealand, and of course all its people, is suffering terribly. Travel bloggers world wide have set aside these 3 days, from the 20th to the 22nd March to encourage more people to visit the rugged isle that brought you The Lord Of The Rings, All Blacks Rugby, some of the worlds most delicious wines, highest sky dives and bungee jumps along side stunning glaciers and breath taking mountains and lakes.

So in an effort to persuade more people to think about visiting New Zealand, a decision I guarantee you won’t regret, here are a few of my favorite holiday snaps from my 2 weeks travelling around in a camper van with my parents and best friend this time last year and 1 week exploring Auckland.

Our camper trip started in Queenstown, went all the way up the west coast to Abel Tasman National Park then back down the East coast past Kaikora and into the Canterbury plains and finally Christchurch. It’s hard to believe so much of that study city is now destroyed or sitting under rubble.

Queenstown

Sky Diving over Lake Wanaka

 

Dad at Lake Wanaka

Walking through Abel Tasman National Park

Swimming with Dolphins, Kaikora

New Kiwi friends

 

Hot Air Balloon ride over Canterbury Plains

Awesome Auckland

Paradise in the city, Auckland

 

International Adventurers: Exploration by Bike

26 Nov

Feature 2 of my thesis

Lois Pryce

 

Take a woman on the verge of insanity, a motorbike verging on dangerous and the length of three entire continents and you have yourself a wild adventure.

Torn between following in the footsteps of two famous relatives, Max Born, the Nobel Prize winner in Physics and his granddaughter, Olivia Newton John, Lois Pryce instead opted for a life on the road. In April 2003 the ‘whiter than white’, five foot four, product manager from London left her cosy houseboat, her loving husband and her job with the BBC to embark on a 20,000 mile trip of a lifetime.

“I was looking at the Americas and it really does start right at the top of the globe and end right at the bottom so it’s like travelling half way around the world,” she recalls.

Travelling down through the Americas Lois had no real schedule, deciding it was much more fun to sit back and enjoy the ride. She spent over a month in Mexico staying in cheap, grotty hostels infested with cockroaches and with no running water where she suffered from a nasty case of food poisoning. She also ventured down a lawless jungle highway into Colombia, a country renowned for its international drug trade.

When you get from Panama to Colombia the road actually runs out. It is just this dense lawless jungle for about 75 miles and no one has ever cut a road through it. I was nervous about entering Colombia because back in 2003, a few weeks before I arrived, a group of English backpackers were kidnapped there.”

Following on from the success of the trip, Lois had officially caught the travel bug and set her sights on traversing Africa, a 10,000 mile journey taking her through some of the most lawless and dangerous countries on the planet. She says she was in search of a ‘real, proper, old-fashioned adventure’.

Africa was a real tough trip compared with my first trip. Even though the American journey was twice as long; Africa was ten times as hard.”

Lois’s unconventional route through Africa turned out to be very testing and took her through war-ridden countries with little to no infrastructure, where level motorways were a distant dream.

Once you get to the Sahara its just sand and rocks so that’s really tough going. Then in central Africa it’s just mud and where there is tarmac it’s all broken up with potholes so it’s physically a very difficult continent to cross”, Lois says.

My greatest memory though would be riding across the Sahara, from an actual motor biking point of view. It’s the best riding I’ve ever done in my life; it was so exciting.”

One of the scarier moments from her trip was when, she had to choose between a concrete road dotted with landmines or a muddy track which had been transformed into a gushing river, reminding her that tarmac roads aren’t always the safest.

Her route into Africa included a boat trip from France to Tunisia and then riding on into Algeria where she met some other bikers.

“In Algeria I was really grateful that I had the company of some other travellers because I was thinking ‘my god what would this be like if I hadn’t met up with them and had done this on my own’. I would have been so miserable; I wouldn’t have been able to do anything. I imagine it’s a pretty bleak place to be completely alone if you’re a white woman.”

As she was crossing a border in Algeria into the Sahara, officials refused to give her a permit simply because she was a woman. Often men would totally ignore her which left her feeling excluded and lonely. She believes that they were simply “not ready for the idea of a white woman riding a motorcycle.”

“It was just beyond their comprehension. They would think I was a man a lot of the time when I would drive up to checkpoints. When I would speak back to them, and they realised I was a woman, they would literally flinch and pull their hand away.”

From Algeria she travelled straight through Niger where chickens had run of the villages and cigarette smugglers were in abundance. She then crossed the northern part of Nigeria, a country which she had worried a lot about ever since entering the chaotic Nigerian Embassy back in London.

“I was worried about Nigeria because it has a bad reputation for corrupt officials and bribery but we didn’t have any of that and actually I found it very welcoming.”

Having survived Nigeria, Lois had only one thing on her mind: The Congo. Throughout Africa Lois was warned not to venture into the Congo, one of the deadliest conflict zones in the world. She put on a brave face, however, and entered the heart of darkness.

On entering the immigration office, Lois was left speechless at the sight of gruesome photos of tortured civilians. From genital mutilation, de-capitation and hangings, she recalls being guided though the casualties by the young immigration official who, when asked why these gruesome murders took place, calmly replied, ‘C’est la vie’.

There is a definite air of hostility, not just towards travellers but amongst the people themselves. They have been brutalised over the years of the regime and through civil wars. It’s an unpleasant place to be whether you are Congolese or English. There were a lot of signs of brutality. It’s in everybody’s life, in their eyes in their faces. It’s a hard place to live. I had a lot of scary moments there with officials and the police as they are the people you fear over there.”

Following the terror of the Congo, Angola turned out to be the biggest surprise for Lois and her favourite country on her trip. The West African nation has been troubled by civil war for nearly 27 years and is known to be an impossible country to traverse due to widespread land mines and bombed roads and railways.

Despite the county’s troubled past, Lois found the people went out of their way to help her.

“I could not have asked for more friendly and welcoming people; they were just so lovely. The place is a wreck; there are tanks all over the place abandoned by the side of the road, land mines everywhere and kids who have got their legs blown off because of mines. It’s horrible but the people are just fantastic,” she remembers with a sad smile.

On her next trip, Lois hopes to ride eastwards towards India or Mongolia and perhaps take her husband, who has also embarked on biking trips around the world. She leaves me with some wise advice.

It’s better to travel alone than to travel with the wrong person. You need to choose your travelling companions very carefully!”

SIDE BAR- Polly Evans

Polly Evans

 

Another Intrepid traveller who decided to leave her loved ones in search of a motor biking adventure is Polly Evans, travel writer and author of ‘Quirky Travel guides’. Unlike Lois Pryce, however, Polly Evans has always been a little offbeat.

Evans strives to find the interesting in the ordinary wherever she travels, preferring to dine in restaurants that dish up road-kill or bars that serve cocktails garnished with human toes rather than visiting tourist attractions. So when she decided to embark on a biking trip around New Zealand in search of the last bastion of masculinity; the Kiwi bloke, nobody bat an eyelid.

Despite Evan’s mad raving lunatic expeditions around the world from reindeer chasing in Siberia to learning to Dog sled in Canada, speaking to her you will quickly discover she is a very calm and quiet woman. When asked where she got her ‘quirkiness’ from, the ever modest Evans denies she is ‘all that quirky’ and puts it down to her odd personality which has grown with her throughout life.

Evans grew up in Derbyshire, in England, until she was nine years old, when her family moved to Tokyo for a year, something she feels was a strong motivating force in travelling later on.

When I was in school there we had 18 kids in the class and between them were ten different nationalities. It was a very big eye-opener for me coming from rural England to see that there were all sorts of people in the World doing things differently and that they were still good people.”

Her biking trip to New Zealand, although predominantly a search for some Kiwi masculinity, brought her in contact with numerous interesting characters along the way.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find what I was looking for. I decided that all the real New Zealand men had probably disappeared, as you would imagine. I wasn’t expecting that New Zealand men would still be in the 19th Century and indeed they weren’t. They had moved on with the rest of the male species across the globe which is probably a very good thing”, she laughs.

Her journey around New Zealand brought her in contact with Maori warriors who carved their enemies’ bones into cutlery, a pioneer family who lived in a tree, and some flamboyant gold miners who lit their pipes with five-pound notes and wondered how their descendants have become pathologically obsessed with helpfulness and Coronation Street.

To find out more about the adventures of Polly Evans, log on to her website, www.pollyevans.com and be sure to look at her section on ‘Hamster escapes’. The quirkiness continues…

My first Dolphin Encounter

30 Mar

I love Dolphins!!!

Towards the end of our awesome road trip we ended up in the idyllic seaside town of Kaikora on the east coast of New Zealand, known for its amazing marine life. From whale watching tours, dolphin encounters and swimming with seals to  bird watching and nature walks around the ruggedly beautiful Peninsula, Kaikora is a nature lovers heaven.

While my parents headed off on a 3 hour hike around the bay, Ali and I set off on our full day Dolphin Encounter. The excitement I expereinced at the thought of swimming with dolphins in the Pacific Ocean reached a whole new height once out on the open sea. It was not some small pod of tamed dolphins showing off around hundreds of pesty tourist boats, it was a HUGE pod of between 200 and 500 wild dolphins jumping, flipping and frolicking in the open ocean. Similar to white backed dolphins, dusky dolphins are known for their displays of aerial acrobatics!

Dolphins, Dolphins everywhere...

Our small group of 15  quietly slid into the water to observe the beautiful creatures. We were not allowed to reach out and touch them and were simply told to ‘sing’ to them and swim around in fast circles to attract their attention. The dolphins would often simply ignore us and swim off in the opposite direction where upon we would all swim back to the boat as fast as our flippers would allow us and follow them from a safe distance then slip into the water to play with them a little more.

Once we were all exhausted from jumping in and out of the water the tour guides fed us with cookies and hot chocoalte and we had a photo taking session as the dolphins swam majestically in front of the boat, occasionally jumping out of the water and doing flips and turns. It was a truely unforgettable experience and the absolute highlight of my 2 weeks in New Zealand.

Little show off!

Another show off..

Pancake rocks, Glaciers and Swing bridges!

27 Mar
Leaving Wanaka behind us we set off again in our trust Maui camper up the west coast of the South Island and past some of the most stunning scenery to be found; long never-endling flat lakes surrounded by huge, towering mountains, winding roads with not a car to be seen for miles, cute little picnic stops, and the rugged NZ coastline.

It’s a puzzling world…

26 Mar

While enroute to Lake Wanaka we dropped into Stuart Landsborough’s ‘Puzzling World which is a world unique attraction specialising in puzzling eccentricity, an attraction which may well have the most photographed odities in New Zealand. The attraction has the world’s first ‘modern maze’, a puzzle cafe and mind boggling illusion rooms, the likes of which I have never seen before.

Puzzling world, Wanaka

  Continue reading

Are you an adrenaline Junkie?

24 Mar

“Be brave. Even if you’re not, pretend to be. No one can tell the difference”.

These are the wise words I was given before jumping out of a plane from a dizzying height of 15,000 feet in New Zealand; a country that  is foremost known for being home to the set of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The All Blacks rugby team and lots, and lots of sheep. In fact there are 10 sheep for every one person in New Zealand. That is one hell of a lot of sheep. But enough about sheep…what some people may not know is that New Zealand is also the adrenaline capital of the world. You name it, no matter how crazy the concept, they probably have it.

My 2 weeks of adrenaline junkie heaven started on New Zealand’s South Island in the picturesque Queenstown, where I met up with my best friend Ali and my parents. Queenstown is like no other place I have been. As my plane from Melbourne landed you could see everyone admiring the stunning surroundings of  huge, snow-covered mountains and never ending glistening glacier lakes. It is such a popular destination, especially during the winter ski-season, yet some how has managed to hold on its quaint, small town charm.

Ali and Me in beautiful Queenstown by Lake Waktipu

On our first day we set off to get our hearts pumping on the ‘Shotover Jet’, tagged as ‘The World’s most exciting jet boat ride’. And by god was it exciting. On many occasions I thought my heart was going to fly up and out of my mouth as the driver spun crazy 360′ turns at breath-taking speeds in the narrowest parts of the canyon with the sheer cliff face mere inches from my frightened face. Despite only lasting about 35 minutes, it was boat ride I will never forget.

You WILL get wet! Shotover Jet, Queenstown

Shotover River Gorge

Back into the Camper and off we set on our 10 day adventure with our next stop being Lake Wanaka, which I decided would be a good place to throw myself out of a plane. I saw this toilet graffiti while over there and felt it really explains my reasoning;

“If not here, where? If not now, when? If not me, who?”

The only available jump was at 2pm so we set off to the near by National Park, where I, despite sub arctic conditions, decided to run off the jetty and dive into the lake. The glacier lake. The lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Cold would be one way of describing it. Icy would be another!

Feeeeeeezing cold glacier water...gahhhh.

After drying off and feeling wide awake I was ready for my sky-dive. I suited up, was given a 5 minute safety breach and off we went. The 3 other jumpers casually ‘fell’ from the plane at 12,000 feet but as I had opted for the ultimate adrenaline rush from the altitude of 15,000 feet I had to hold on a bit longer. As the plane slowly climbed higher and higher, and my heart started beating faster and faster at the thought of soon having to jump out, I was given a oxegen mask to wear (as we were climbing to an altitude where it was becoming difficult to breathe). Far from calming me down or making me feel safer, this actually made me nearly poop my pants. Finally we had reached our destination and from the plane we flew.

As we tumbled from the sky, free-falling towards the ground at breaking speeds, and the ice-cold air brushed against my face I felt ecstatic. After about 45 seconds of free-falling the parachute shot up and we slowed right down, finally bursting through the cloud to take in the absolutely mesmerizing scenery of Mount Cook and Mount Aspiring National Park. As we gazed over to the glistening waters of Lake Wanaka, I told my tandem partner of my swim earlier that morning to which he replied, “Girl, are your crazy?!” Funny reaction I thought, as I’m not the one who jumps out of planes for a living! 

It was an absolute once in a life time experience that I’m sure to never forget. After all, it’s not everyday you strap yourself to a beautiful stranger and leap from a perfectly good aircraft!!

Taking in the view over Lake Wanaka

Setting off with my 'Beautiful stranger'!

" Free...Free Falling...!"

Kia Ora New Zealand

2 Dec
 It was just a usual Monday afternoon in Cork, as I was sitting down to eat some soup and sandwiches for lunch. Suddenly my mobile rings and it turns out to be a good friend of mine, Dan, calling from New Zealand. He is walking home from a drunken night out and it is circa 3am in NZ. We chat for a while and I laugh (at his drunkeness!) and then he asks me, “So, when are you coming to visit me in New Zealand?”. As I had plans to travel to Oz in the near future (just waiting for my Visa) I tell him some day, some day.
As fate would have it,and much to Dans shock, some day turned out to be that weekend!! Flights were booked 72 hours before departure and off I went to pay a visit to Dan and of course my best friend  Ali, who was living in Auckland.
While most people have a long list of places they *must* visit I simply had a list of people I had to see. It was absolutely awesome to see Ali again and meeting her new love, Ben.
As Ali was working most days I got in touch with the ever trustworthy Auckland Couchsurfing network and signed up for a free tour of Auckland’s Beaches. We drove all around the city and ended up at the opposite side of the harbour with spectacular views of Auckland’s Skyline.

From some old war bunker to protect against attacking russians (yup New Zealand ACTUALLY feared Russia might one day attack them?!?!?) to miles of glistening white sand, cute little Ice- Creameries and quaint suburbs, my little tour of Auckland was magical.

Pretty Blue Harbour…oh and me!
Aucklands beautiful beach

Dan hitchhiked from Lake Taupo for the weekend and we partied like we’ve never partied before, (pub) crawling our way around a city neither of us knew too well, and ended up in a Casino circa 5am. We also bumped into a fellow Irishman, who turned out to be from Galway and went to School with my cousin. Small World.

The second night we ended up in some “Cowboys and Indians” bar which I still claim to be the most awesome bar in the world. They gave away free cowboys hats to all customers, the beer was seriously cheap, there was Karaoke on ALL the time, and they even let us stand on the bar to do Riverdance. Fun times!

One of my last days in Auckland, Ali’s boyfriend Ben organised for us all to go on a bus tour with his hostel to Piha. 30 crazy backpackers on a bus and the ‘tour leader’, a young welsh guy who must have eaten WAY too much skittles (as his energy is endless), decides it would be a good idea to stop at the Bottle-O to stock up on alcohol for the 2 hour bus journey. So now we have 30 crazy, DRUNK, backpackers on a bus.It was  SWEET AS, as the Kiwis would say. 

The tour itself was incredible and included swimming under a waterfall in a national park, an awesome picnic on Piha beach, which is one of the most dangerous yet most spectacular stretches of coast in all of New Zealand. Despite big plans to party the night away back in Auckland with all our newly made friends, the effects of alcohol, dehydration and exhaustion set in and I had my first (and only) lazy night of my trip.

For my last night Ali and I ended up heading the Auckland Couchsurfing monthly meet up down in the harbour. I had previously planned to meet up with a friend from home, Aimie, who was alos visiting Auckland, but she had a prior dinner commitment with her family.

The CS party was great fun and there were over 50 people from various countries to talk to. ABout half way through the night, I heard someone call my name, only to turn around and see Aimie and her family having dinner in the same venue as the CS party. We couldn’t believe the co-incidence. Yet again I say, SMALL WORLD.

Auckland Skyline
Janet and Ali, Cowgirls
Shosef (from Galway) and Dan
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