A Travellerspoint blog

3-2-1-BUNGEE!!

Queenstown: The Adventure Capital of the World

all seasons in one day

The day we arrived in Queenstown, we decided to bungy jump. After all, AJ Hackett invented the sport here.

It was wild! We bungy-d 134 meters--that's nearly 400 feet down. I couldn't think about it; just stared straight ahead and jumped--(you can see from the pictures how my face illustrated my exact sentiment on the platform ;) After the bungy worked and I didn't die, it was the biggest adrenaline rush ever! Enjoy the pics!

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Posted by kendallwallace 22:55 Archived in New Zealand Tagged bungy Comments (0)

Ice Climbing the Franz Joseph Glacier

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When we arrived to the town of Franz Joseph, a bunch of us signed up to do ice-climbing on the Franz Joseph Glacier. So we walked the 2 kilometers to the glacier. We geared up, put attached our crampons to our boots to better dig into the ice (pictured above). Then we walked to the massive glacier. It's apparently 16 kilometers in length, and we were staring at just a part of it.

We climbed a smaller ice wall in the morning. Look at the view from the top!

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Then we went for a walk and found an ice cave. When all of the ice was packed together, it was so blue!!

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It was remarkably difficult to climb the ice wall, particularly the huge one that we finished the day on. My arms were completely sore at the end. But boy was it worth it! (Yes, that is me about 40 feet up on the ice wall--photo below).

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Below is the only alpine parrot in the world, called a kea. They are incredibly smart--apparently have IQs like that of dolphins--they steal things out of people's backpacks all the time, but it was cool to see one up close.

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This is a picture of the vast glacier. Get a good look. Yes, those dots down on the screen in red--they're people! That's how big it is!

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Posted by kendallwallace 21:44 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Irish Potato Famine Part II

I’m meeting a ton of people who have left their home country to pursue opportunities overseas. I’ve encountered Irish person after Irish person who has come to this part of the world, nearly always heading to Australia to pursue work. Meeting all of these migrants, I’m reminded of Frank Warnock’s class I took at Darden. It was an excellent class, teaching me about the global economy, interest rates, and how other influences affect an economy. During one lecture, we studied the current situation in Ireland and how its economic decline has impacted the EuroZone. It’s wonderful when you actually live what you learn about in class. This case is a little sad, because every Irish person I meet has left Ireland (because they can't in Ireland since the economy there is pretty terrible at the moment) to pursue work overseas where they can make money --particularly in Australia. Over and over again throughout my travels, I have heard about how people have worked for a few months in Australia and made SO much money. It’s kind of ridiculous! Apparently, the average barmaid or waitress gets paid $25 an hour! That’s more than a lot of my peers are making with an undergraduate degree! It’s very counterintuitive to get paid that much for the lower educated jobs, but then again, the Aussies apparently just don’t want to do those jobs so they have to get someone to do them. Interestingly, it’s not only the Irish, but now that the pound has taken a turn for the worse, I’m meeting a lot of English, Welsh, and Scots who are pursuing work over here. A lot of guys are working in the mines in Australia and going back to England to put a deposit on a flat.

It’s kind of ridiculous to make much more money relative to what the same job (or even better jobs) is paid in one's home country simply because one is getting paid in a stronger currency. Making good money in Australia is pretty tempting for me. I wasn’t planning on staying in Australia for work, but working for a few months might be a great idea--just what I need to continue my journey further.

Posted by kendallwallace 17:09 Archived in New Zealand Tagged australia Comments (1)

Kayaking in Abel Tasman

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After taking the ferry from Wellington to the South Island, we continued onward to Kaiteriteri. Because I had read so much about how gorgeous the Abel Tasman National Park is, I hopped off of the bus for a few days to enjoy an overnight kayaking trip. We began kayaking around these gorgeous inlets and made our way to Tonga Island, home to a large seal colony. Some of the male seals even swam right up to our kayaks! It was so cool! We even gathered the kayaks together, held up a sail, and sailed back to land.

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Once we were done kayaking for the day, I endured my first camping experience. A Brit who had camped before and I pitched a tent and built a campfire. Unfortunately, we didn’t have marshmallows, so no smores :(

The next day, we walked back to the main village, where we had started from. We walked past waterfalls and gorgeous views.
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Posted by kendallwallace 16:57 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new tasman zealand abel Comments (0)

Enjoying New Friends in Breathtaking Places

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On the way to Wellington, we made a few stops that were epic. We stopped for lunch the day after we did the Tongariro Crossing right next to where we did the hike, with Mt. Doom (from the Lord of the Rings movies) in the background. There, we enjoyed the sunshine as we had a picnic. The boys started playing rugby; the girls gymnastics. Shortly, I convinced one of the girls from the group--the other American--who just happens to be a Pilates instructor, to teach a class. So there we were, in the sunshine, mountains in the background, the birds chirping, and the boys groaning from stretching. It was hilarious--and a memory I’ll never forget.

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On another stop, we went to another Lord of the Rings landmark: a beautiful waterfall. We were enjoying the amazing cerulean of the waterfall when we suddenly hear a big splash. A bunch of the boys began jumping off the waterfall. It was awesome! Our eclectic group before we arrived at Wellington--was unparalleled--we all had such a blast!

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Then, I met up with some Scots and they all put on kilts for me. It was hilarious! I love connecting with my Scottish roots ;)

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Update: I'm meeting up with a lot of these folks for New Year's. Sydney New Year's 2012, here we come!

Posted by kendallwallace 16:51 Archived in New Zealand Tagged experience kiwi Comments (1)

The Rugby World Cup 2011 Final

Go All Blacks!

After an adventurous day of hiking and skydiving, the evening ended with a bang! After an exhausting day, we gathered in the streets of Taupo to watch the All Blacks play in the finals of the Rugby World Cup against France. The game was very tight, and finally the All Blacks pulled through winning the whole thing! It had been 21 years since they had won, and it was awesome to celebrate the host country winning it all! All of my Kiwi Experience buddies and I partied in the streets with the locals all night!

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Posted by kendallwallace 16:46 Archived in New Zealand Tagged world cup rugby Comments (0)

The Tongariro Crossing and Skydiving in Taupo

the hike from hell....

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Sunday was an adventure filled day. I woke up at 5:30am to begin a 19km hike through the mountains, known as the Tangariro Crossing. The hike is regarded as one of the best one-day hikes in the world, and it would have been had the weather not been a complete white-out for the first half (see pic below--yes, there are people in that white-out. Can you find them?). We joked as we went up that we journeyed through the 6 layers of hell to get to the summit of the hike: the first part, a ridiculously steep incline followed by a long walk through the snow followed by another steep incline with rain and a wind chill that just pounded against us. The easiest part--the decline--wasn’t even all that easy, as we went down and our knees absorbed every step, etc. It was brutal. After we were done, one of the Welsh guys joked that we should have woke up this morning, ripped up $94, and have gone back to sleep! I agree. (To make matters worse, I met girls later on in the week who had the most gorgeous weather on their walk: clear skies. They said it was amazing.) The “hike from hell” totally expended all of my energy; however the activity that followed gave me all my energy back.

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On our way back to Taupo, we stopped off at the airfield, and a group of us did our first skydive!! It was exhilarating! We jumped from 15,000 feet, having a full 60 seconds of freefall. The freefall was a lot scarier than I anticipated. I flapped my arms like a bird trying to make myself fly or slow down--I wasn't quite sure. Nonetheless, it didn't work, but I was quickly reprieved when the parachute opened and I had a long, slow descent to the airfield. And what a view it was!! I saw Lake Taupo as I descended, surrounded by mountains in the distance.
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Posted by kendallwallace 16:33 Archived in New Zealand Tagged skydiving taupo Comments (0)

Cultural Experience in Rotorua

Learning the Haka...

When we arrived in Rotorua, the entire bus participated in Zorbing (or rolling down a hill in a giant clear ball) and a number of fun adventure activities. I went jet-boating (going 100 mph in a matter of seconds.) It was wild.
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Then we participated in a more cultural activity that evening. We went to a Maori Hangi, the Maori version of a luau. The Maori are the “native” New Zealanders, being the first humans to arrive to the islands. We watched them perform the Haka, the native dance that they do to intimidate foreigners, which the New Zealand All Blacks have now adopted as their warning performance before they battle their opponent on the rugby pitch.

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After that brief interruption with an actual cultural experience (:p), we woke up the next morning to return to our adventure activities. We went luging down a huge mountain in Rotorua. Although one of the rules of luging was to not have group racing, that didn’t stop our ringleader Guy from starting the races!

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Posted by kendallwallace 16:23 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Caving in Waitomo

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Today, we journeyed to Waitomo, and we began a caving adventure with Black Water Rafting Company. We all put wetsuits on and prepared to enter 8 degree Celsius (that’s 46 degrees Fahrenheit) water! We abseiled 130 feet down a dark hole into the caves. Awaiting us at the bottom (aside from the excruciating cold of the water) was a colony of beautiful glow worms. As we came to find out, it’s actually the worms’ poo that makes them glow. But even though we were staring at these worms poo, it was absolutely magical :) See the photos and decide for yourself. As well as looking at the cool worms glowing in the dark, we also rode a zip-line, tubed in the water (aka black water rafting), and swam around (all whilst trying not to freeze). To warm up, our guides Zane and Drew brought us hot chocolate. The end was amazing, as we climbed up (yes, up) 2 waterfalls (not to mention under stalagtites and caves with just a few inches to breathe) to the surface. We were absolutely exhausted (or as the English would say, knackered), but it was such an incredible experience, so the cold and the exhaustion was well worth it!

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Posted by kendallwallace 19:51 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new zealand waitomo Comments (0)

Kiwi Experience

Hot Water Beach

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Today, I began riding on the Kiwi Experience, or as the Kiwis call it, “The Big Green Shag Machine.” Don’t worry Mom, that doesn’t pertain to me. In any case, it’s a hop-on, hop-off bus tour that runs throughout New Zealand. It’s so fun! It feels like I’m back on a high school trip. The first day, Guy, our bus driver and fellow backpacker, introduced us to the “Rules of the Bus”--the #1 being that you cannot say the word “Mine.” It’s harder than you might think. Imagine being on a bus with 40 other people and someone asks, “Whose bag is this?”

It’s been a really fun trip. We’re a mix of English (of course---they’re everywhere!!), Welsh, Scandinavians, Canadians, and Americans--all of whom are in our 20s, with the exception of two nice ladies from Malaysia...aka our Malaysian Mothers. Today, I taught them “See you later alligator” and they responded with “After while crocodile.” It was epic!

On our first day, we left Auckland and headed to Hot Water Beach, a beach on the coastline that has geothermal activity beneath it. During low tide, everyone brings their shovels to the beach and digs a big hole in hopes to create our own private hot tubs. It was unbelievable how hot the water got! A bit too hot in fact but a bit remarkable considering how cold the seawater was!

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Posted by kendallwallace 05:16 Archived in New Zealand Tagged water beach hot Comments (0)

Beachcomber Madness

Beachcomber is known as the quintessential party island. And it was. The first night was absolute mayhem. I can’t really comment on many of the things I witnessed for fear of offending some of my more reserved followers (ahem, Mom...), so I won’t. Lots of cool people I had met earlier in the week and I had a mini-reunion. We even played a fun game where you write someone's name on a piece of paper and stick it to the person's forehead next to you. Of course, the german next to me wrote what I wrote exactly the same name that I wrote on him. Can you guess what it was?

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However, I should have known when I saw that giant cockroach crawling towards the platters of food on the first day that things weren’t going to go my way the entire time....

Unfortunately, the next night after dinner, I came down with a case of food poisoning. I hadn’t had food poisoning since I was a kid and I remember it so vividly. It just rips through your system. After dinner, I was violently ill for the next twenty-four hours. After the getting ill part was over, I was so weak that my hopes were dashed. I had hoped t do the famous shark dive at Beqa Lagoon and to sail back to New Zealand instead of taking a plane. Alas, I was so sick, however, that I decided to take the first flight out back to New Zealand to begin my official journey there.

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Posted by kendallwallace 04:49 Archived in Fiji Tagged fiji Comments (0)

"Are You For Scuba?"

Cave-Diving, The Blue Lagoon, and Finding Nemo

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Once I got the furthest north you can get on the Yasawa Island chain, to Tavewa and Nacula, my experience in Fiji changed for the better. No more bed bug scares, a bit more helpful Fijians, and even better, the most beautiful weather and area in Fiji. We left the rain down south and entered 3 days of magnificent sunshine.

The first day, a great group of us rode in a 20-minute boat ride to go swimming in the Sawailau Caves. It was such a cool experience--we had to dive underwater to swim from cave to cave. Some of the Fijian guys even figured out how to climb up the walls and jump off from 30 feet high into the abyss in the cave.

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That afternoon, a bunch of us went on a banana boat ride to the Blue Lagoon, the same lagoon from the famous Brooke Shields' movie. We snorkeled around there in the picturesque water.

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The next day, I did my first dive since I had gotten my scuba certification. It was absolutely incredible, breathing underwater from 40 feet below the surface. At first I was a little nervous, so my dive instructor and I played tic-tac-toe on the bottom of the sea until I felt comfortable, and then we went to find Nemo and other sea creatures, including a sea snake and giant clams.

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A few days later, I arrived at Mantaray Resort on Nanuya Balavu Island, famous for having manta rays pass through almost on a daily basis. I had hoped to swim with the Manta Rays on Mantaray Island, but since it was towards the end of the season, none were to be found. So instead, I just partook in some of the best snorkeling around. It was amazing, and then we made jewelry out of coconuts: a ring for me and a bracelet with an "H" on it for my nephew, Harry.

Posted by kendallwallace 04:24 Archived in Fiji Tagged fiji Comments (0)

Fiji Time

Any Answer is Correct....

One of the biggest things I’ve learned since I’ve been in Fiji is that to the Fijians I’ve met, any answer is correct. I can’t speak for all Fijians, but for the ones I’ve met, 100% of the time I’ll get an answer to a question; however, only 90% of the time it’ll be correct. No joke. It’s kind of hysterical. Sometimes I wonder if I’m on candid camera and the object is just to see how much my patience can be tested. Even throughout my travels in other countries, if locals didn’t know the answer, I would receive an “I don’t know.” It seems here that not knowing might be culturally unacceptable; either that, or it’s time to trick the tourist. Either way, I simply have not been getting a correct answer to any question.

In any case, some of the situations that have arisen have been a bit mind-boggling. For example, during the bed bug fiasco on the island of Waya Lailai, the manager told me that they had such a bed bug infestation that they needed to bring pest control from the main island. She said that they brought them yesterday. To clarify, I said, “Oh, so they already came, Therefore, the problem is solved, right?” She replied, “No, they are coming today.” Confused, I asked, “Oh, so they are coming today?” Then she said, “No, they didn’t come, and they can’t come today. But they are coming tomorrow.” I asked why they didn’t come, to which she replied that it was because the boat was full. When I asked her why they didn’t take another boat, she replied that it’s because they prefer that boat. You can probably make the same assumption that I did--that they just really just couldn’t be bothered to actually eradicate the problem. She basically just wanted me to go away and be happy with what she told me and to not inquire further, so I kept getting excuse after excuse, probably none of which were actually true.

I’ve never encountered a culture where literally everything I ask, I don’t know if I'm getting a correct answer. I’m not sure if the locals that I have met believe what they are saying or if they just don’t care. I’m leaning toward the latter---I just don’t think any form of Western customer service, and giving correct information being an essential part of good customer service, is part of the Fijian culture....at least not in anything that is not extremely high end. At Turtle Island, for example, I’m sure you can get good customer service; then again, it’s the premier resort in the area, rivaling a St. Regis, and it’s owned and operated by Americans. I perceive the lack of effort to deliver a correct answer as not so much a result of the places we are staying, but rather an essential difference between Western and Fijian culture. Even a simple thing, such as what time the reception closes or what time the rugby games come on will result in me showing up to a locked or empty room.

I kind of feel like Jim from The Office, constantly perplexed and looking for a camera to capture my face of, “Really? Did that really just happen?” O well.

Posted by kendallwallace 21:49 Archived in Fiji Tagged fiji Comments (0)

Bed Bugs

The Perils of Being a Backpacker....

Let me start off by saying that I’ve been fortunate enough to not have bed bugs, and please keep your fingers crossed that I won’t have to endure them. Seriously--all I want for Christmas is to not get bitten by bed bugs. Not my two front teeth, not money, not anything, but to not get bitten by those bloody bugs. Staying at backpacker hostels has taught me that it may be unavoidable. Particularly when the same group of people travel on these tours from island to island, always staying in the same hostels, they bring their stuff (and their bugs) with them.

Before arriving on Waya Lailai Island, I had heard nasty things about their bed bug infestation. Warning: if you get queasy, do not read further. In any case, when I got there, some English girls and I refused to stay in the room with the infestation. I’ve met a couple of girls who were unfortunate enough to be attacked in the middle of the night by those nasty buggers, and every time I think of it, I get itchy. It’s absolutely disgusting to see people with these bites. They look like they have mosquito bites all over their body--poor things. One girl had to go to the doctor and get an antihistamine shot. It’s seriously the worst thing about traveling like this--the constant threat that I’m going to be attacked in the middle of the night by those things. It’s kind of humorous in a way though, because it’s the constant topic of conversation--no matter what culture, we’re all scared of those little buggers and everyone of us just hopes we’re not the one to get them. So please keep your fingers crossed for me.

Update: Fortunately, I escaped Fiji without being bitten....whew!

Posted by kendallwallace 21:49 Archived in Fiji Tagged fiji Comments (0)

BULA!

Welcome to Fiji: The Country of Islands

sunny

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I arrived in Fiji the first day to warmth. I’ve never been so happy to feel the humidity. The first night in the hotel, I wore my UVA shirt to bed, and a girl stopped me and said, “Wait a sec....did you go to UVA?” I told her I did, and she replied, “I do too!” As it turns out, she is studying abroad in Auckland and was in Fiji for vacation. What a small world!

The next day, we transferred to South Sea Island. You know that sometimes people will ask you if you’d rather be on a deserted island or something else. Being on this island by myself for 30 minutes before the day-trippers arrived made me realize I’d choose the something else. Humans are such social creatures, and 30 minutes on that island alone before anyone else arrived made me realize just how social I really am. I mean...I've been in houses bigger than that island! Fortunately, two English girls arrived and then many more. They fixed us our dinner on our own private island as we watched the sun set.

The next day, I took a sailboat to the island of Monuriki, where Cast Away, the movie with Tom Hanks, was filmed. We partook in some great snorkeling and then looked for Wilson. Unfortunately, he wasn’t around.

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The next day, I climbed to the summit of Waya Lailai island. It was quite a hike, but the views at the top were worth the 2 1/2 hours of sweating.
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This morning, I snorkeled with white tip reef sharks. It was absolutely incredible! They were all swimming around us. A bit scary at times, but well worth it.

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Today, I arrived on the island of Korovou. We went snorkeling at Honeymoon Beach. At first, we couldn’t find the reef, but then we stumbled upon it, and boy, was it gorgeous! We saw a small reef shark and then a giant Dori fish. I even saw a little Nemo playing in the sea anemone.

Posted by kendallwallace 23:23 Archived in Fiji Tagged fiji Comments (0)

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