Bungy Jumping and More: Camper Van Adventure Part 3
We arrived in Queenstown on Leap Day so it only seemed appropriate to honor this special day by partaking in one of Queenstown extreme sport activities, Bungy Jumping!! I had heard amazing things about all the extreme activities available in Queenstown and was really looking forward to splurging on something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. Little did I know that New Zealand is actually home to the first commercial bridge Bungy jump in the world, founded by AJ Hackett and Henry Van Asch on the Kawarau Bridge in 1988. The bridge is 142 feet tall and spans the Kawarau River and is just 20 minutes from Queenstown.
As far as extreme sports tend to go, in my mind Bungy jumping off a bridge over water seemed less risky than sky diving or hang gliding. I figured, I’m a good swimmer and the river is deep, if something happens I’ll get a bit of a shock and a splash but will probably come out all right. I purposely made sure not to google “Bungy jumping accidents” before my leap as I didn’t want to spoil my excitement with too much nervousness. I’m pretty sure Jeremy was anxious enough for me even saying “maybe you should give me the passports,” before I made my way out onto the bridge. Granted he did explain later that the reason was he didn’t want them just sitting up there in my purse in the communal basket, and not because he wanted to escape the country should I plummet to my death.
Here’s a video I took from my GoPro of my experience. I really enjoyed it and would totally do it again. It was so much fun to free fall and then get bounced up to do it over again a couple more times. I was a little worried about whiplash but didn’t find the experience painful at all nor was I sore the next day. The only unnerving part is when they wrap a towel between your ankles, strap on the rope and Bungy cord. The whole thing seemed a little bit lax, no safety video before or anything, we were just told to do a nice dive out to make the experience more comfortable. I pretended that I was taking my starting dive at a swim meet and just went with it!
Later that afternoon back in Queenstown we met up with one of the board members and spokespeople from my former employer IFT, Anne, who took us to one of her favorite beer spots called Atlas which was right behind the wharf on the water and had great view of Lake Wakatipu and the mountains. It was wonderful to see a familiar face across the globe and even nicer to hear that on a conference call she had earlier that week that some of my former IFT colleagues had asked if she’d seen me yet!
After having a beer Jeremy and I made our way to Queenstown’s most famous eatery, Ferg Burger. Known for their long lines and massive inventive burgers we splurged and each got our own. We’ve been sharing most of our meals since leaving, especially when eating out so it was a treat to each order our own entrée. Both with prime NZ beef, mine had American bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion, avocado, aioli and tomato relish; and Jeremy’s had American bacon, cheddar cheese, pineapple, lettuce, tomato, red onion, aioli and tomato relish.
The next morning, we made our way to the famous fjord, Milford Sound. At first we were worried we wouldn’t be able to fit in the 8th natural wonder of the world into our itinerary, but after being encouraged by every New Zealander we came across as well as several other travelers we decided to give our campervan a rest and take a bus tour for the five hour trip each way. We had a great driver who told us a lot of the history about the whole fjordland national park area and also stopped at several scenic sites and short hikes along the way.
Milford Sound itself was nothing short of amazing. In a place where it rains over 252 inches a year, we were lucky enough to be there on a beautiful sunny day where we could see every part of the fjord. What was great was that because it had just rained recently, there were a ton of waterfalls! The boat driver gave us a pretty cool experience by pulling up as close to possible to one and we all got wet! Also because of the way the sun reflected on the waterfall, we also saw a beautiful rainbow! There was a ton of wildlife in the area as well, we saw fur seals and even a pod of dolphins joined us on our adventure to swim alongside the boat. Overall our tour of the whole fjordland area and Milford Sound itself was pretty amazing. We’d highly recommend taking the time to do it if you ever happen to be in New Zealand.
The next morning we’d originally planned to get on the road early in order to make it Mount Cook by early afternoon to do a three hour walk I’d been looking forward to since we arrived, but Wilson our camper had other ideas. A few days before Wilson started making some worrisome squeaky noises when we were driving and Jeremy noticed that the breaks were a bit off. Our contact at Cruzy had some trouble setting up an appointment to correspond with our schedule so we had to delay our plans for a few hours while Wilson was looked after at the shop. Luckily the fix was quick but as we were leaving the shop the mechanic mentioned that we also might want the tires to be looked at. So off we went across the street to have someone else examine Wilson and the tire situation. Wilson must have been tired as the guy at the tire shop alerted us that at least one tire was unsafe to drive on. So after approval we then had a tire replaced and finally hit the road for Mount Cook.
We arrived in Mount Cook to one of the DOC’s most well-known campsites, White Horse Hill and it was packed! At the time of our arrival at 5:00pm the spots for campers were few and far between. After driving around we found a spot to fit Wilson and settled in for a crowded evening amongst fellow explorers. While we didn’t have time to the do the Hooker Valley Track that day we still got a good glimpse of Mount Cook itself before making dinner and calling it an evening. Little did we know that our delay to the campsite would prove for a wonderful experience on the trail the next morning. And as promised the stars that evening were some of the best I’d ever seen. I spent a good half hour just lying on my back in the grass besides our camper staring at the Milky Way and taking in the fresh mountain air.
After doing the track we made our way to Lake Tekapo, another amazingly blue lake surrounded by mountains. We stopped by the famous Church of the Good Shepherd guarded by my spirit animal, the border collie.
We stopped for lunch in a beautiful picnic area right on the lake and even got to enjoy some amazing sushi! There is an alpine salmon farm in the area and we had the most amazing alpine salmon sashimi fresh out of the water! Our goal that evening was to make it halfway back to Christchurch to a little town called Geraldine where there were a few rural DOC campsites we’d be able to park at before making the rest of the trek to Christchurch the next day, our final one in New Zealand. I called this final evening in our camper the “sheep sleep,” as we basically parked next to a bunch of fields of sheep and cows and you were able to hear them all night baa-ing and mooing.
We arrived in Christchurch by noon and decided to spend our last few hours in Wilson exploring the city before we had to say goodbye. In 2010 and 2011 Christchurch was devastated by a series of earthquakes and we were surprised to find that a lot of the downtown area was still boarded up and much was still under construction. It was a real reminder how powerful that the earth can be and it doesn’t care what humanity is in the way. There were not a lot of shops, restaurants and cafes to choose from, but we did really enjoy their botanic gardens.
Finally it was time to have our contact come collect Wilson and say our sad goodbyes. While living in a camper certainly proved that we likely won't be moving into a tiny home some day, we were surprised how much we enjoyed it. Having the freedom to move about with your home as you wish was liberating and some of the campsites we stayed at were truly breathtaking. I also think that it made us stronger as a couple, there's a big difference between sharing a hotel room for a week and sharing a camper van. Living and driving in a tiny home demands patience, good communication and the ability to love someone in all their smelly splendor. We’ve already discussed perhaps doing another camper adventure back in the US some day to explore our national parks! Wilson, our camper van you got us to the end