My solo adventure in Middle Earth

It was 4:30 a.m. local time when I touched down in Christchurch, New Zealand by myself.  I had been in airports or on a plane for about 12 hours (Could have almost made in back to the US).  Needless to say, I was happy to have finally reached New Zealand.  Ridge was off on his own adventure and had been for nearly a week by this time.  He was in Hobart Tasmania, and would be crew on the delivery of CQS, a super maxi that had just completed the Sydney to Hobart Race.  Ridge and his fellow crew members would be going into the Southern Ocean, cross the Tasman Sea, pass through the Bay of Islands and deliver the boat to a marina in Auckland, New Zealand to be worked on.  It was a change in plans that I wasn’t prepared for, but a truly once in a lifetime opportunity for Ridge.  I wont go into much more detail on his trip because it already sounds cooler than mine, but I will say this,  I was not happy about the change in plans at first, but after an hour or so of poking a voodoo doll of Ridge that I had crafted from hair from our brush, I decided to let it go.  I had my mind set that I was going to have an incredible adventure on my own 🙂  After I landed, the next leg of my journey was a full day bus trip across Middle Earth.  The trip began in Christchurch and ended in Wanaka and wasn’t scheduled to depart until 7:30 a.m.  This meant that I had plenty of time to get through immigration/customs and find where I needed to meet the bus and relax for a bit.  Thank goodness I had ample time because while going through customs I let them know that I had done some hikes in Australia and they wanted to see the bottom of my hiking boots to make sure they were clean (New Zealand has a very fragile ecosystem)… these were in the very bottom of my very over packed backpack.  After what seemed like a lifetime of removing items…I was able to pull out my shoes, they were okayed, and I was sent on my way.  By this time a large coffee was much needed.  I made my way to a coffee/pastry shop and bought a cuppa and a pastry for later :P.  It was at this exact moment that I realized I was over packed…I knew I had over packed prior to this, but I always had Ridge to hold things for me when I needed. Now, without my purse rack, Ridge, I needed to grab my wallet from a grotesquely oversized purse that was hanging from my shoulder, all the while holding on to a backpack containing my laptop and other things I did not need, a jacket, and trying not to fall over from the weight of my backpacking backpack on my back.   After some serious struggling and a near anxiety attack for fear of holding up the line behind me, I got my wallet, my coffee and some snacks and went on my way.  I sat down, resituated my bags, and waited for my chariot to arrive.  The bus arrived an hour later than scheduled  and I was the first to board. After making what seemed like a lifetime of stops in Christchurch, we were on our way to head west towards Wanaka.  Along the way we made numerous stops: one for coffee, some for bathroom breaks, and a lunch stop at Lake Tekapo, where the famous Church of the Good Shepard is.  The scenery along the way was absolutely gorgeous—the lupine flowers were in full bloom and were everywhere you looked—the shades of purple, pink and white popped against he rolling green hills.  Even though it was a cold, cloudy day, the vibrant green grassy hills, alpine lakes and snow capped mountains were breathtaking made you forget about the gloom.  It looked like Middle Earth–just like from the movies.   Although I was exhausted, I stayed awake so that I didn’t miss a thing.  It was a long, but beautiful day across the Land of the Long White Cloud.  The last stop on the bus was in Tarras, where I was dropped off on the side of the road by a store and restaurant, and awaited a pickup van to take me the rest of the way to Wanaka.   As luck would have it, a family from my hometown in Maryland was on holiday in New Zealand during my stay there, what a small world!  Cheryl, John and Cate Adams were staying in Wanaka, which is one of the reasons I opted to venture across instead of staying on the west coast in Christchurch.  The Adams’ family invited me to stay with them at their gorgeous Airbnb.  It was located in a residential neighborhood about a half an hour walk, along the lake, down to the Main Street in Wanaka.  It was so nice to see some familiar faces!  Cate and I went to Calvert High School together and have a ton of mutual friends from back home in Calvert County, Maryland (God Bless Yall Real Good),  and Cheryl and my dad taught together at Calvert High School.  Ill say it again…What a small world.  That night was pretty low key, as the Adams’ had been horseback riding all after noon and I was exhausted from traveling so far, we all had an early night.  The next morning, Cate and I woke up at about 4:30 a.m. and headed to Roys Peak Track in hopes to watch the sunrise from the top of Mount Roy.  Let me tell you about the Roys Peak track…although listed as an “easy track” on the Department of Conservation website, I assure you…it is not.  The track which is 16km (9.94 miles), up the side of a mountain with an elevation gain of 1300 m (4200 feet) proved to be pretty challenging for myself and my hiking companion, Cate.  We arrived to the track parking lot sometime around 5:00 a.m. and began our trek up.  We had read that the entire trip would take 5-6 hours and being active gals, said we could probably do it in five…we were very wrong!  It was dark out but not pitch black as we began, and we had plenty of company for a good part of the journey up—sheep…everywhere… These sheep do not like photos, but do love taking huge dumps everywhere on the walking path towards the summit—heaps of poo.  The trek up starts out grassy and turns to gravel and is a pretty steep incline.  As the sun began rising into the sky, we saw that we could not see the summit at all due to the mist on the tops of the mountains—several times we thought we should turn back because we doubted we would see anything once we made it to the top, and also…it was painful.  I mean I legit vomited.  Although every time we mentioned going back, we said what if we turned around and we were SO CLOSE to the summit.  This kept us going.  By the way, we were never so close to the summit, we just could not see anything as the clouds were so thick.  At one point, we finally saw people coming down the mountain towards us and we asked them how much further—2 hours left.  I remember hoping they were wrong, but they seemed like legit hikers so I knew deep down they were right.  Our next question was…can you see anything at the top? They replied no and made a comment about how it was a nice little hike anyway.  I remember thinking…yeah it’s a really nice little hike. Just kidding, I remember thinking—little hike? HA!  And then thinking…let’s let them walk a little while past us and then turn around, but keep a safe distance between us and them so they don’t think we are pansies.  However, after this little exchange, Cate and I still decided to press on—I vomited probably an hour after this and we made it to the summit another 45 minutes to an hour after that.  When we arrived at the summit you couldn’t see anything- a thick sea of clouds.  Still absolutely beautiful, though and we felt amazing for having finished…and really cold, it was freezing up there.  After a few minutes of catching our breath and taking some shots, the clouds in the sky began to clear a bit and we could see some of the beautiful mountains in the distance. We didn’t stay too long because of the wind chill, but it felt so good to make it to the top.  As we made our way down, of course, the sky began to clear!  The next batch of early risers definitely were able to see the view of Wanaka Lake, Mt. Aspiring and further, but they had to share it with others.  We were still able to see the mountains, but we had it all to ourselves!  The trek down was just as challenging and I would end up being sore for days to follow, but it was all worth it.  After the hike, Cate and I went back to her family’s place and got in a little cat nap before our next adventure—bungey jumping. 

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To be honest—I don’t think either of us really wanted to go bungey jumping—we had wanted to do the Nevis Swing, but they were completely booked, so this left us with only the bungey option, or nothing.  Also, before my Ridge and I parted ways, I mentioned that I wanted to bungey or skydive…or something crazy and he said something to the effect of “you would never do that”, so obviously…had to prove him wrong.  When we awoke from our Roys Peak nap, we started to get ready and headed out towards Queenstown where we were set to bungey.  We were both nervous as hell.  Prior to arriving at the AJ Hacket jump off, Cate told me about something an Aussie pal of hers had mentioned—that people have had their eye balls fall out of their sockets before while bungey jumping.  Seemed like something that would ruin our day, so we decided we had better ask for goggles.  Upon arrival and signing in I asked the lady if they had any goggles.  She shot me an odd look and said they had some prescription goggles for people that wear glasses but neither Cate nor I were wearing glasses,  so I explained why I asked.  She laughed and said that rumor has been going around for decades and its was false.  She said that some jumper’s eyes can get blood shot, but no one has ever had their eyes fall out of their sockets.  She was a ginger, but so am I, so I decided she was trustworthy and we 86’d the goggles.  After we were all signed in, we went out to the bridge and got strapped in, although I was still crazy scared at this moment, I didn’t know what scary was until I put my feet over the edge and looked at the drop down.  After what seemed like a lifetime of discussions on how we should jump, the guys running the bridge finally counted down from 3-2-1 and we actually jumped! I closed my eyes and I don’t think I opened them until we were bouncing back up from the first fall.  It was pretty freaking cool—what a rush and the view of the gorgeous blue water wasn’t bad either.  It was also kind of painful—the guy had strapped me in super tight and when we were just dangling headfirst over the water when it was over, my ankles were hurting something serious.  After we were pulled down into the boat, I asked if they could get the straps off of me as they were crazy tight.  The guy said, of course they are—wouldn’t want you to fall out of them.  I agreed, but in my head I was cursing him to hurry up and get them off, and that is when he said, “Whoa, these are on super tight!”.  Well, Cate and I had had a productive day in New Zealand: Sunrise hike and bungey jumping to finish it off.  After the jump, we parted ways—she head back to Wanaka and I headed on to my Airbnb in Arrowtown. 

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Arrowtown was AMAZING! Its quiet, but only 15/20 minutes from busy Queenstown.  I was able to walk from my hosts home into the main street of town in seven minutes.  The main street had shops, museums, cafes and grocery stores and was just plain adorable.  I enjoyed every minute of staying there—the views are incredible (just like everywhere in New Zealand).  I could watch planes coming in to land in Queenstown between the mountains (scary), watch the snow pile up on the mountain peaks overnight and the sun set from my window every evening.  A truly gorgeous place.  While staying at my Airbnb in Arrowtown I allowed myself one rest day.  That was the day after the hike and the jump—whoa, holy sore.  I slept in, reorganized my things, read a bit and walked into town to explore, get some grub and use wifi to book some excursions.  The one thing I knew I HAD to do was book a trip out to Milford Sound.  I had thought about driving myself but my host said I was crazy because it was so far.  It was pretty far—a full day for sure, so I started looking into bus tours.  Most bus tours were booked up for the days to follow, but I found one that had one seat left- the BBQ Bus and I booked it immediately.  This tour included the bus trip out there and back, several stops along the way for brekkie, bathroom breaks, photo ops, a stop off for lunch in Fijordland National Park with BBQ lunch and a quick hike, and even included the ferry out into Milford Sound with complimentary biscuits, tea and coffee!  I could not recommend this company enough! Our driver, Nigel, was incredible.  He was wickedly funny and taught us a lot about New Zealand wildlife, fauna, and Mountain ranges along the way and tested us on our knowledge on the way home.  There was about 15 people on the bus and everyone knew each other by name at the end of the tour—It was a total blast.  Also, the drive out there…pictures don’t do justice—just beautiful. I met two people from the US, one of which was going to Salisbury University in Maryland and clung to them most of the trip.   It was a full 12 hours that I had been on the tour by the time I arrived back at my Airbnb, so very happy with my decision not to drive.  The days are running together a bit now, but I think I picked up my husband at the airport the following afternoon, thus ending my solo adventure.  Ridge had been gone from me for  11 days at this point and I was ready for him to be my adventure buddy again, but I did have an awesome time by myself.  It forced me to do things on my own and meet people and it was one of the best experiences of my life to date.  Good for the soul.


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