Traveling New Zealand’s South Island

We arrived at the airport a perfect two and a half hours before departure time only to find that our flight would be delayed by 90 minutes because of heavy fog in Queenstown. Jetstar didn’t want to waste time circling the airport. What was perplexing was that the Air New Zealand flight to Queenstown still took off on time.

Tip #1: You don’t have to arrive super early if you are flying domestically in New Zealand.

I learned from a guy here who flies charter planes part time that Air New Zealand uses a GPS-based landing program whereas Jetstar relies on a radio frequency sonar-like system that requires a view of the runway eventually. All planes need the fog to be at least 300 feet off the ground but Jetstar needs more. The guy, who is a real estate agent in Auckland, also explained how he can make in a day what a pilot would earn in a week. He added that there’s only nine private charter planes in the country.

Tip #2: To travel domestically in New Zealand, you apparently don’t even need any sort of identification and you can bring a good amount of liquids. I didn’t bust out my wallet a single time in either Auckland or Queenstown.

Security is a breeze at the tiny little Jetstar section of Auckland’s domestic terminal.

The lake next to Queenstown is basically where a knight in shining armor burned an evil giant who kidnapped the princess. That’s probably the Maori legend I best remember from the South Island.

Wearing my USC sweatshirt everywhere in the first couple of days brought me into conversations with an Indian dude from new York who works in the financial services industry. He went to Matt Barkley’s rival high school.

A guy in Queenstown asked me if I went to USC, and then said he went to USC. Then he randomly walked away. A couple of Annenberg students studying abroad in Australia ran into us. I also earned a couple of fight-ons from travelers in Queenstown.

Queenstown seems to me like what a Swiss ski town would be like.

Bungy jumping wasn’t as thrilling as I was expecting. The guy at the jump didn’t really give me a chance to breathe. He said look up at the camera. I smiled. He counted down from three and gently shoved me out. With no chance to reflect or prepare, I didn’t jump correctly. Since I didn’t dive out, I had to come back up upside down. It was one of those things were the anticipation was almost better than the actual thing.

We dined at the two big and famous restaurants in Queenstown: Winnies and Fergburger. My Fergburger tasted like Indian food sandwiched between two buns. Perfect. The pizza from Winnies had pumpkin, almonds, olives and other vegetables on it. Not a bad combination.

Tuesday we did a short hike to a field full of sheep and rabbit poop. The sad thing about New Zealand is you don’t really see that many animals. It’s so different than Yellowstone for example. We ran into evil sandflies at one beach we stopped at. One hostel had an evil spider we were forced to kill. There’s the occasional bird, but that’s about it.

Tip #3: If you’re going to a beach along the Tasman Sea, use insect repellant. The sand fly bites will take more than a week to stop itching.

Climbing the Fox Glacier was like rock climbing except with ice. We climbed out of a cave and did a handful of other climbs. The guides get paid $130 a day, making the half day tours with about fifteen people to one guide the most profitable. Our guide is off to work in Iceland next.

Friday, we wandered a bit around the beautiful Wanaka with its autumn colors.

Saturday we stopped by Queenstown and learned another girl had her entire life robbed from their rental car.

Sunday we saw Milford sound. The mountains go straight into the water. It’s quite ridiculous.

Monday short hike by the lake in Te Anau then onto Invercargill. As big as the city is, it was quite boring. The city has a water tower that you can’t climb up. Even its court was closed on a Friday morning.

Tip #4: Invercargill’s library has free Internet access.

Tuesday, we saw yellow-eyed penguins from a small lookout box on the cliff above the beach. You can go on the beach during the day while the penguins are out at sea. But in the morning and late afternoon, people have to stay up in the “hide” as penguins hop up the hill to their overnight shelters.

Dunedin is very similar to Auckland. I thought the people had thicker accents. The city has fewer Asians and the food seemed a bit more expensive.

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