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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.


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


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

Beware of falling ice…

Franza Josef Glacier Pools

Once we felt revived we hopped back into the camper and set off up the coast again. Our next stop was the pancake rocks or ‘Punakaiki’ in Greymouth. Here, just a short walk from the road, we saw all sorts of interesting rock formations, sea stacks and blow holes some of which formed up to 30 million years ago.

Pancake rocks

We drove on and stopped for an adrenaline kick at the Buller Gorge where we risked life and limb to cross the shaky swing bridge (longest in New Zealand) across the Buller gorge. After exploring the other side and seeing where a lot of gold panning took place many years ago we decided to take the comet line back across to safety which was awesome fun, just as long as your not afraid of heights!!

Me in front of Buller Gorge Swing Bridge

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

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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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