Around the World 1997 Travel Diaries. Part 14, nearly bungee jumping in Queenstown

8 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

The only stop we made en route to Queenstown was at a place that had a lot of puzzles, not very interesting and frustrating to have a go to say the least. The scenery changed quite a lot during the day. The mountains were still there, but the rainforest and its greenery disappeared, and it was replaced with more brushland and firs. Just before Queenstown we stopped at the Kauwaru suspension bridge, the birthplace of bungee jumping. At 91 dollars it was too expensive for our budget, and we lacked a bit of courage too. Queenstown is the action capital of NZ and therefore pretty overpriced. We thought we could get a double room at a “normal” price at Central Backpackers, but the price here was 42 dollars for a double and 34 dollars for a 3-man dorm! The city was like any other alpine resort kind of town with tons of bars with happy hours. We went for a short walk in the evening with our travel companion Paul who has been with us in the bus since Christchurch.


9 December 1997, on our way from Alpine Stopover, Queensland, New Zealand:
So the bus has stopped, and we miss Deano already! Have a new driver, David, not very informative, but he thinks there’s no major problem with the bus, and that we’ll probably be on the go again soon. Yesterday we left Makarora around 10 a.m. and arrived in Queenstown around 4 p.m. Had our first stop at a labyrinth which we didn’t bother to visit, then went on to a bridge where some of the others were bungy-jumping. A lot of money for a very short thrill! Queenstown seemed like a really cosy town, beautifully situated between mountains and by a big lake, also quite touristy – we saw horses with santa hats on. Stayed in a 3-bed room together with Paul (“Val”) from Canada for NZD 17 per person at Backpackers Downtown, a double would have cost 42. Toilet and shower in the room, so it was ok to share. Dined at Pizza Hut, then to Abbey Road – a pub to meet up with the others, then on to a night club where happy hour drinks cost only NZD 1! Went home early, around 11 p.m., Paul got back around 2 a.m., got a bit wild after a while he said, topless dancing, party sex- games, and quite a few from the other bus had paired up, not a surprise really. We’re the only ones left from our bus now, some stayed in Queenstown, the others left the bus at other places, so we’re with strangers again – poor us…


We said goodbye to Paul before entering the bus en route to the Alpine stopover. It was also goodbye to Deano who drove his bus back to Christchurch. Our new driver was Davies, and he was a bit more quiet compared to Deano. The landscape did not change, and we had a stop in Cooktown which lies under massive mountains and Mt Cook itself. There are plenty of hikes here, from short 2-hour hikes like we did, and long ones that could be for days. We walked an easy trek to the foot of the mountains and glaciers of Mt Cook. It was amazing. We stayed at some great big huts with 7 beds and a decent kitchen and bathroom. It was me and 6 girls and that limited my access to the bathroom considerably. The stop itself was well worth it. It was so cold during the night that a fully dressed Tanja came sneaking over to my bunk bed in the morning to get warm, she was shivering!


10 December 1997, Backpackers Inn, Christchurch, New Zealand:
Got back here at around 4 p.m. today and have got a double room, nice to share bed once in a while! Yesterday we were in a seven-bed dorm, ok with kitchen, toilet, shower and TV, but was cold last night and had to get up and put some more clothes on, stupid not to rent a duvet. Went for a two-hour walk towards a glacier yesterday, just Ørjan and me which was nice, could walk in our own pace. Nice and quiet, only the birds singing and the occasional rock-slide and small avalanches that broke the silence. Fresh, nice air and loads of beautiful lupins along the way. We were hungry when we got back, so had a “gourmet” meal with instant noodles back in the cabin. Exchanged some money today and got more for our USD than last time, NZD 327 for USD 200 (only 322 last time). We have around NZD 30 to spend per day, should try not to use Visa too much, need to have some money when we get back, too. Lousy weather today, grey and raining the whole day, slept almost all the way on the bus from Cooktown. Leave for Kaikoura tomorrow at 8.20 a.m.


The day was spent on the bus on the way to Christchurch. We got another complimentary night at Backpackers Inn, and we got to wash some clothes.


11 December 1997, Top Spot, Kaikoura, New Zealand:
I’m cold – really cold in the house due to the constant draft, but it’s quite nice apart from the bedroom – only three bunk beds, and that’s it. But there’s a big nice kitchen, living room with TV and a nice patio outside by the garden with a beautiful view. Left Christchurch around 9 a.m. and arrived here at 12.30 p.m. – nice to get to spend some of the day here, and not having a very long drive. Kaikoura is beautifully situated by the sea, went for a long walk, and it was so nice to have the smell from the salt water and the seaweeds, almost like home. Went into a fish shack to see if they had some prawns, but apparently, they don’t exist in the sea here. They had big crayfish and lobsters though with lots of nice white meat, but we’d already bought food and stretched our budget, so we didn’t buy any.  We also went on the “Scenic walk” to see the colony of seals but didn’t spot any. Then we felt tired, and Ørjan tried to hitch hike, and we got lucky on our third attempt. A kind couple from Nelson drove us all the way back into town, and we were very grateful! Relaxed for a while in the sun before making delicious dinner – fajitas.


New bus and new driver up to Kaikoura. We got to Kaikoura at 13:00 and walked along the stunning coastline to spot seals and dolphins. We hitchhiked back to town. We made fajitas for dinner, noms! We stayed at Top Spot, it was nice with a big kitchen, nice rooms, and communal areas. Tomorrow we will drive to Picton to catch the ferry to Wellington and the North Island. Those who had been swimming with the dolphins said it was fantastic, we regretted not doing that. The whale spotting was also said to be nice.

When we came back to the South Island in 2005, the one thing we were really certain we would do was swim with the dolphins at Kaikoura. The advice we had in 1997 to wait until Bay of Islands in the North Island, was completely wrong (more on that later). Read more about our swim in 2005 here.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Coming up next: the North Island!

Categories:Around The World 1997, Travel

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