Oliver is…

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man

…done with New Zealand, for now

I’ve spent slightly more than two weeks travelling round New Zealand’s south island but now I’m gone. This trip will always stick in my mind because of the Christchurch earthquake, but there are a few other memorable moments too.

Things didn’t start off very well. Because of a delayed flight, strict customs and an understaffed border control point I didn’t get to my hostel until around 3am, having to check out in a few hours when all I really wanted to do was sleep, sleep, sleep. My despair was short lived as I walked across town to my new place and saw that the Jailhouse actually was a converted prison, housing criminals as recently as 1999. After a couple of days walking around Christchurch, seeing the peace symbols, the big chess board and the beautiful cathedral, I was pretty much done with this city.

The cathedral

During my time there I also took a day trip to Kaikoura to swim with fur seals which was quite a cool experience. I also bought my first tourist tat of my trip, something to symbolise new beginnings and remind me of my day with the seals as I couldn’t really take any photos underwater.

I also used my time in Ch’ch to make some major cuts to my life — something that, had it been suggested six months ago, I would’ve dismissed out of hand. It might also seem a bit strange considering my actions in Melbourne (thought brilliantly brave by a few, completely ridiculous by others, while some were sadly indifferent), but, like my recent purchases suggest, this is a time to wipe the slate clean and to look forward without distractions or hindrances.

I’d booked five nights in Christchurch so I could meet up with Donald and Laura (planned for the first time) and then left on 22 February. I’ve written enough about that for you all to know what happened — or almost happened to me — that day. There’s also already a run down of my trip to Geraldine, but I think I should probably just remind everyone that I am the proud owner of two eyes that have seen the world’s biggest jumper.

The biggest jumper in the world

After Geraldine I got on a bus to Queenstown, the self-proclaimed adventure capital of the world. The scenery on this trip (and every bus trip, to be fair) was stunning. Much of it was reminiscent of Scotland, but the farther I got from Christchurch the more dramatic it got. It’s like Scotland had been fed a moon stone and evolved into New Zealand. My favourite part was the rivers and lakes that looked like they’d be taken straight from a child’s drawing who’d had the thought ‘What colour is water? This bright blue felt-tip looks spot on’.


This trip also showed how a disaster in one area can effect a whole island. As Christchurch is the major city of the south island, nearly everything goes through there. People I spoke to in Geraldine were worried about what they would be able to get in their supermarket in a few days and these fears were already being shown across the rest of the country.


It was around this time that I’d realised that I was actually cursed and that the world was totally out to get me. With suggestions that I was outrunning death in a Hollywood style, I did what anyone in my position would do and gave serious consideration to jumping off a bridge.

So that’s exactly what I did.


I jumped at Kawarau Bridge, which is the first commercial bungee spot in the world. I remember from childhood seeing a programme about this and since then I’d thought that if I was going to do a jump it should be at this bridge. I was a little disappointed by it in the end, the rush not being as great as I hoped, but it was certainly something worth trying. If there’s a next time, it’ll definitely be somewhere higher.

The best day of my trip came towards the end when rather than just taking a walk up a glacier as I’d originally intended, I upgraded my tour to go ice climbing on Franz Josef (the glacier, not the amazing Franz Josef moustache). I’ve never done anything like that before (indoor rock climbing when I was 12 really doesn’t compare) and it was a completely great way to spend a day. My forearms have never been so tired and considering the way I spent some of the my days as a teenager, that’s saying a lot.


When I first arrived at my hostel there was one other girl in my dorm already. It turns out she was also staying there for two nights, was going on the same glacier tour as me and also came from Edinburgh. As coincidences go, that’s quite a tame one and probably not worth mentioning.

I was leaving FJ in the early afternoon the next day so went to a cafe for lunch. Even though they got my order wrong, I rewarded them by buying a cake that looked better than it tasted. As I was leaving, a green bus pulled up alongside my cafe and I waved to Donald and Laura as I walked past. In all probability, this is the last time I’m going to see them. I’ve probably thought that before.

My bus took me to Greymouth where I spent a night not really doing anything and then I hopped on another bus to Christchurch. Deciding that my earlier cuts weren’t severe enough, I made sure to make them more extreme.

The difference from my first trip was startling. Much of the city centre was cordoned off, so I couldn’t see much of what I did before. The things I did see were eerie — the streets were practically empty apart from the soldiers patrolling the taped off junctions. Many of the buildings were still in pretty good shape — better than I expected — but others were completely destroyed. Walls were missing, chimneys were toppled and nearly every church I saw had lost a spire.

Hopefully I’m about to arrive in Chennai without any problems before going off to meet Dave in Thailand in a couple of weeks. Then what? Who knows?

More New Zealand photos here.

Filed under: new zealand, , , ,

4 Responses

  1. Dave w says:

    Wow, I would love to jump off something.

  2. Dave w says:

    Also, I’m nosily wondering what kind of cuts you’re talking about – unless it’s private! My clothes bag has started tearing at the seams again (why did I buy bulky jeans immediately before travelling to a country too hot to wear them?) so I’m going to have to dump some T-shirts or something.

    • Oliver says:

      I forgot about this post – poor form, Oliver. In case you were still wondering about this, Jemma guessed right.

      Maybe you should ditch the jeans. Although having said that, I bought some stupid things that take up space and weigh something but I don’t want to get rid of them just yet because I only just got them and that seems silly.

  3. Jemma says:


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