Oceania Travel

Queenstown to Franz Josef

28 December 2011

A sleep in. So, so good. We started our day a little later as we had an appointment with a bungee at 12pm. We checked out of our hostel and had a little walk through the cute little main street of Queenstown, stopping for a small breakfast at a bakery. We started to head back up to the cable cars which would take us to our bungee ledge.

Inclining up the steep mountain slope, we could see Queenstown in all its glory. Such a magnificent view. We were surrounded by dense forest. Then we spotted our bungee ledge. Oh my. So high. A little bit of worry began to creep over us.

We descended the cable car and made our way to the bungee area. We checked-in and had our weight tattooed on our hand with permanent marker. Fun times. We watched a few bungee jumps and became a little more nervous, especially after watching a young woman almost have a nervous breakdown. A lot of people were jumping off the ledge, but I promised myself that I’d ask one of the guys to drop me. There was no way I could jump off that!

It was almost time. We decided to head to the ledge together for moral support. I was to be first. The lady attached all the gear on me very quickly, and before I knew it it was my turn. I looked to the distance, over the edge of the platform, and I actually thought that it didn’t look so bad, as long as I didn’t look down, and I thought to myself, Yes, yes, I can jump off. The man counted down, 3, 2, 1. And I did it. No second thoughts. In fact, no thoughts at all. I just ran and jumped off the platform. Screaming at the feeling of the drop, and before I knew it I had already bounced. I looked around to see the view. It was pretty impressive. I could see Queenstown in its entirety. I was pulled back up and my only thought was, Wow!

Alex’s turn. He decided he would do the jump in an extraordinary way. He did a handstand over the edge and flipped himself over it! I heard a deep, manly groan as he soared downwards. Unfortunately we were unable to see each others’ jump, just the fall, as we were strapped in on the platform. However, after all this we watched or videos a few times, and we saw our photos which were absolutely incredible.

We did it! We rewarded ourselves with ice-cream and began our drive to Franz Josef, a touristy town whose main feature is a huge glacier.

Our first stop of this four-or-so-hour drive was Lake Hawea. Another huge, beautiful New Zealand lake. We headed down to put our feet in the cool water. There, Alex taught me how to skim rocks across the lake. I’m almost as good as him now!

Soon enough we were driving through a chilly forest was up in the mountains called Mount Aspiring National Park. We stopped at a little walk, as well as a lovely waterfall, but headed back to the car pretty quickly due to sandflies.

We drove some more and approached a mountainous coastline, where we could look down to see the wild beach, very far away. We passed a town called Haast, and very soon we had to come to a complete stop on the highway.

There had been an accident, and there was a helicopter blocking our way. We waited about an hour in our car on the highway, not really knowing what was going on. We got out of our car and waited around for some more, whilst the cars behind us kept queuing up. The emergency helicopter took some time to transport a few bodies and then eventually it flew away. Time to go. We headed back into our cars, moved a few metres, only to come to a complete stop again. A police woman came up to us to tell us what was going on. “Basically,” she said, “there has been a severe collision and one person has died. We now need to wait for the sheriff to come to inspect the crash scene to report back to the coroner, and he’s coming from the closest town, which is one and a half hours away. When he comes, he will tell us whether to keep the road open, or if we need to close it. If we close it, you will have to go back to where you came from for the night. But I can’t tell you what he’ll choose.” We decided to wait. The previous town, Haast, was pretty far back. We didn’t have anything to lose.

We waited two more hours, and lucky for us, they decided to open the road. The time was 9pm and we were still an hour and a half away from our hostel in Franz. The reception of the hostel closed at 9pm and we didn’t want to lose our reservation. Lucky for us, we found a hotel at about 9.10pm and were able to use their phone to call our hostel and alert them that we’d be late. They knew all about the accident and told us how we could get to our room after hours. Perfect! The sun went down and we finally arrived at our hostel at 10.30pm, after zigzagging around some of the worst roads we’ve seen so far, all in pitch black. Surprisingly, there was a pub open in Franz Josef and we finally got our dinner at midnight. All turned out okay in the end, although we did miss out on seeing a glacier prior to Franz Josef, called Fox Glacier, as by the time we got there it was already dark.

The accident was pretty bad. It turned out that one 82 year old local man died, and a 40 year old German woman died on the way to the hospital. This event has made me incredibly more cautious on these deadly roads.

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