Hello Friends and Fellow Fish,
The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of adventure, adversity, and the usual highs and lows that New Zealand seems to enjoy throwing our way. When we last left you, we were in the Rainforest Retreat and working for accommodation getting re-adjusted to normal life interacting with people again. So it is from here that I will pick up.
While at Rainforest Retreat, we met 3 girls one night and started talking about our travels. We mentioned how we had a van that just died and how we were stranded with no way to move on. It came up that they had a van as well and were in fact going to Queenstown the next day. They seemed like very nice girls and offered to take us. We jumped at this opportunity and the next day set off for Queenstown after work.
It was about an 8 hour drive and we made a few stops along the way. One of the girls had a guitar so we put on a small concert in the back while we drove along. We pulled into Qtown around 11pm and met up with one of our friends who was staying and living/working there. He took us out to a couple places which was nice and had a solid night. Slept in the van while the girls checked into a hostel for the night.
The next few days were great and really allowed me to see Queenstown live up to its name firsthand. First, it was here that you realize how few places there are to go in New Zealand. In that, when people say, "Oh, you HAVE to go here and then go see THIS" they don't actually mean a town or place itself, but more the area around it and leading to it that they mean. The towns are generally so small and have nothing going on that its pointless to actually go to a town for that town. I realized this because Queenstown is one of the places that people say go FOR the town as well as it surroundings. While we were there we saw so many familiar faces. Travellers that we saw or talked to while we were in Franz Josef coupled with the people that live in Queenstown full time that we see walking around or working all the time. We compared Qtown to a big college, that is filled with people passing through and because there are people there that also happened to be in Franz Josef and elsewhere, we could talk about the places we all had been and swap stories. But it was the strangest phenomenon walking around a completely foreign place and feeling like you know so many people so far away from home, but Queenstown lended itself to that feeling which made us all feel like we were in a familiar place.
This "small world" mentality was made even more obvious one night when we were hanging out in a hostel that our friends had checked into. We were in the lounge and talking to new people as is customary and I see a guy who looks like someone I knew. I said to the girl next to me he looks familiar, but I just couldn't figure it out. He walks by again and I think to myself, "he looks like this guy I went to high school with." He walks out and past a window when the girl I was talking to says, "oh, he is from New Jersey too!" Thats when it clicked. I pointed at him, got his attention and the look of astonishment and disbelief was so clear on both of our faces. He came back in, and turns out he was in fact Colin Caroll from Mendham New Jersey. We sat and caught up the rest of the night and could not believe that 10,000 miles away from home, of all places, we bump into each other here. Everyone in the room was equally stunned. Small effing world.
While in Queenstown, we indulged a bit, eating out at the famous "Fergburger" almost everyday, which I do not regret one bit! The bit I do regret is our newfound love of gambling and the casinos. The good thing was that they would hold our bags for us while we were on the floor. We played a lot of roulette and figured its an easy way to win some money, until we lost it all. So we found ourselves just scraping by anyway we could. I did that by cutting corners on accommodation. Here are a few examples, one night when the other two decided to get a hostel room, I was stubborn and did not want to do that. So I went out to the big lake and slept right near the water under a tree. Another night, Ariel and I both decided to sleep in this overhang at a local park. We unrolled our sleeping bags and slept on the cement. Finally, (maybe our lowest point or our finest?) we snuck into a hostel and slept on the lounge couches, and had to move along before the opening staff found us in the morning.
On November the 15th, 2011 in the year of our Lord, I did what few men have ever dared.
I woke up that morning, a bit sore from sleeping on the ground but the day started out just like any other. Went in search of breakfast, hung around town, and just enjoyed life. It didn't occur to me what the day had in store until around 11am. I was going to bungy jump the second highest bungy in the entire world. I forgot that it was the day and was immediately overcome with anxiety. Not in the "freak out" way that you see on tv, but in a quiet, reserved, fearful type of way. I didn't talk much and I could not stop thinking about it. I don't even know why. I have already jumped out of a plane 18,000 feet above the ground, but there was something eating at me inside this time. I just couldn't figure it out.
At 1:30pm I check in alone, as the other two decided not to do the jump, and get on a bus that takes us outside the city limits and deep into the mountains. The drive out was a good distraction because the scenery was breathtaking (do I use that word too much on this blog?) and I was able to focus on that. But once we pulled off the paved road and up along this winding, treacherous, dirt road I was brought back to the reality of my predicament.
Once we got to the top there was a small facility, and before we even got off the bus I realized the entire bus was shaking from the strong gusts of wind that were howling around at the top of this mountain. Off the bus, I got harnessed up and weighed. Then instructed to walk out the back door and out to the conveyor lift that would take me out over the canyon. The place where I jump from looked like some kind of sick twisted joke. It was a metal box, suspended by wires hanging over this immense canyon, swaying back and forth with the wind. I went out with a group of people and tried to calm myself by talking to them but ended up making an ass out of myself when I chimed in on their conversation and got weird looks. We made our way on this apparatus that took us out to the metal box described earlier. I was met with loud music and a bunch of people standing around paired with the frenzy of the employees trying to do their job.
Out there, they affix these straps to my feet and tell me to empty my pockets. It was in this in between time after I was geared up and before I jumped that my fear and nervousness were suddenly and inexplicably replaced by an adrenaline rush and thrill. I was third in line and just getting antsy waiting around. My name was called and they sat me down in a black leather chair, where they bound my feet and attached it to a rope made of rubberbands tied together. The guy who did it helped me up as I waddled to the edge. They always say, "don't look down." But I just had to. What I saw was a small river about 300 meters below me. The man counted down from three, but I took a few seconds extra. Looked down and out one more time. took a deep breath...and...SWAN DIVE!!!! Out and down. I was yelling the entire time. The ground rush was other worldly. In my peripherals I saw the canyon walls wizzing by as the small river grew larger and larger with each passing second. 8 full seconds of free fall later, the rope catches and all the blood in my body rushes to my head. The discomfort was by far the worst part of the entire ordeal but was very brief. They trained us to pull a small cord to release your feet so you don't have to get pulled up upside down, and they tell you to do it at the top of your second bounce. Unfortunately, mine got caught and wouldn't release. So I had an extra bounce. They pulled me up and I have never been more happy. I was high fiving strangers and hugging people. I felt like a different person after having done that. I still don't know what about that changed me inside, but it affected my life in such a way that I feel like a different person. Doing that bungy seriously changed my life and I don't know why. Maybe part of it is the fact I had to actually throw myself off of this ledge, maybe it was the ground rush, maybe it was the fact I went it alone. All these things could have contributed but I am a changed man because of it. I no longer fear the nightmares of me falling to my death because I have conquered it. (Ironically enough I was having those dreams in the days leading up to the jump).
For out last few days in Queenstown it was raining and miserable, so we decided to check into a hostel and lived out the rest of our days in Queenstown in the relative luxury of a big hostel. We spent our time sitting by the water, and taking naps in the park, or playing frisbee because we had all virtually run out of money.
We left Queenstown and flew to Christchurch. The very same Christchurch that was hit with the massive earthquake earlier in the year. When we landed we literally had no where to go. My plan was to sleep on the streets or something but when we got off the bus from the airport, we stumbled upon something just a step up. OCCUPY Christchurch. Yes, the same movement that began in New York weeks ago has made it all the way down here. They were camped in a big park (Christchurch is full of big parks) and we walked up with our tent and joined them. We talked to a few others that were camped there and immediately knew what kind of people we were dealing with. These were bona fide hippies. I sat in on one of their "General Assembly" meetings where all 15-20 of them get together and talk about things. There was one point of the meeting where we go in a circle and have one minute to talk about anything we want. This one man with dreads and tattered looking clothes starts off with, "I love that we are out here amongst the trees. I love trees. They are just so great and give us the air we need to breathe..." He was serious. Minus the random guy from Chicago, two french guys, and the hobo that wouldn't stop huffing glue from a plastic bag, these were a bunch of rag-tag individuals who most likely had no idea why they were actually there "protesting." I don't say that in a judgmental way at all, but these people literally had no idea about anything. The only thing they would say about the actual movement is how they think the corporations are taking over and they are trying to send a message to all the corporations in Christchurch.
Which leads me to my next point. THERE ARE NO CORPORATIONS IN CHRISTCHURCH. The entire city was devastated by a massive earthquake, literally the entire city center is closed off. All the corporations, businesses, and people left the city. Literally, up and left. We walked by shops that still had things in them. The shops could be functional if it weren't for the debris and sheetrock that littered the floor. Christchurch reminded me of an old western ghost town except modern. The only people walking around were those that were taking pictures of the destruction. The level of devastation really hit home when we took a bus tour through the city center and there was a lady next to us that was pointing out all the places where she worked, her friends worked, and the places she used to go. It was crazy seeing a city destroyed so badly that the people who used to live and work there just picked up and left. Its sad because it looked like Christchurch used to be an awesome place to be. I would have loved to see it when it wasn't being leveled to the ground.
Our time in Christchurch passed without much to mention. We spent a lot of our time at this mall that had free internet. We walked around the botanical gardens. After the first few days of staying in the camp we decided to get a hostel for out last night. Currently sitting in an airport almost a full 24 hours before our flight just because there is NOTHING else to do and we did not want to pay for another night/camp with the hippies. While waiting, met a girl who has been here since Sunday and is not flying until Friday. So it could be worse.
In other news, we booked tickets to JAPAN after Australia. We cannot wait!!! Going to be in Sydney in less than a day. We are ecstatic. Once again slept on the floor of an airport (in fact got to the airport 28 hours before our flight because we had no money and no where else to go. However, we were not even in the worst of situations. We met a girl who had been there since Monday and was flying out on Friday and similarly had no money and no where to go. So it could have been worse). New beginnings, new adventure, new challenges. Don't be afraid to comment or share any thoughts. Keep following fellow fish.
Until Next Time,
pictures and videos to come when we arrive in sydney and are not on limited internet
pictures and videos to come when we arrive in sydney and are not on limited internet