First of all, not having a laptop sucks. Not solely for social media purposes – mainly for blogging reasons. I’d have such a greater written documentation of my trip if I’d bought the bloody thing with me. However, even with Uncle Vernon (my laptops name), Wifi across NZ is generally pretty atrocious. So I resort to handwritten journals, which is snazzy – but also not ideal for sharing with you guys – namely my family and friends that wanna catch up and check in to see if I’m still alive.
This is the first time I’ve felt capable of writing a post since I arrived at Manila airport a whole month ago. Writing that post on my crappy little phone screen was not ideal. SO – to summarise, this post is going to be a whistle stop tour of my trip so far. And in all likelihood, there shant be another post until I leave this country in a months time.
Let’s go by my Kiwi Bus itinerary to start with to make things simple: Auckland – Cathedral Cove / Hot Water Beach – Waitomo – Rotorua – Taupo – River Valley – Wellington – Kaiteriteri – Westport – Lake Mahinapua – Franz Josef – Wanaka – Queenstown – Lake Tekapo – Christchurch … and then my own stop off Kaikoura.
Auckland – 08/01-10/01
Light n bright, vibrant city. I can see why Kiwis outside this region hate the city and the ‘townies/suits’ that dwell there. However I’m pretty sure the city has got lots to offer that I just haven’t explored as of yet. My visit consisted of a very long nap after my long flight, 3 or 4 hours exploration on foot, no particular sightseeing or attractions just good old getting lost, and then getting drunk with strangers. It was a great introduction back to travelling again. Made a couple of great pals (Pommies ofc) who I’ve been keeping in touch with the whole trip thus far.
Cathedral Cove/Hot Water Beach – 10/01-11/01
Started with the Kiwi Bus this day and I’ve made buds already! Wonderful bus driver called Cowboy drives us across to Cathedral Cove (beaut beach used as location in movies like Narnia), we stay at hot water beach. Bonding holes through digging holes to sit in as the hot springs rise up and meet the cold see on the beach. Sat being social in the holes then wandered into the shallow waters of a pretty rough sea that night. Felt pretty awe-struck as I stood out in the water and the waves beat me down. One of those moments when you feel super small but super humbled.
Waitomo (Legendary Black Water Rafting Co. / Glow Worm Caves) – 11/01-12/01
The landscape becomes more exotic. The hills are rolling, tight and luscious. It’s so green here and everything feels a bit jungly. I love it. We make our way to an area abundant with deep caves. These caves are home to millions of glow worms and a bunch of super old eels as well. The eel part is a bit freaky but the glow worms are amazing. I opt for my first elaborate activity on the bus and go tubing with the gang. A cheeky instructor takes me fancy and I’m group favourite 😉 I was definitely in on all the insider jokes n secrets. The instructors are knowledgeable and funny and the whole tubing experience was an absolute fave for everyone who signed up.
Rotorua (Hobbiton, Tamaki Maori Village and GeoThermal Activity) 11/01-16/01
This part is too exciting to write about whilst snoozy….
It’s pretty wonderful having a number of free desktops available for use at the hostel I’m at (Dusky Lodge and Backpackers, Kaikoura BIG UP) Half past seven and I’ve got my coffee and I’m up and ready to talk to you about the wonders surrounding Rotorua.
Rotorua, a pretty ugly town renowned for maori culture and geothermal activity. Mind you, it’s only the centre that is ugly really… sort of reminded me of The Stow in Harlow, Essex… not much in the way of desirable architecture, pretty standard for these young countries I’ve been visiting. (no offence residents soz soz). The surroundings however are beautiful, much like everywhere I’ve been on the North Island so far. And the town does sit on a nice big-ass lake. You can get great views if you go for a Luge at Fairy Springs. It’s not a cheap activity but it’s such good fun with mates. A luge is a part go-kart part gravity fuelled little racer, with easy steering and breaks it wasn’t hard for an uncoordinated fool like me to pick it up and go racing down the little mountain. You also get a nice chair lift up each time. Chair lifts, gondolas and racing, all good fun.
I: Hobbiton, Matamata
My time in Rotorua is particularly memorable because of the activities I did on the way in and out of this town. On the day of my arrival I visited the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata. This tour of the external set was fandabbydozy and thank god it was too because it came at a hefty price of approx 70 NZD. This included a little guided tour and a cheeky bevvy at The Green Dragon. I would say we were there less than two hours total but this was enough for us, our group didn’t have tons of questions and frankly I don’t think our guide had tons of answers, although I’m sure she would have tried her best to investigate for us and hassle more experienced guides. All in all I would say a worthwhile investment for someone who is ‘into’ the films and/or books and/or backstage experiences in general. It has been one of the best things (Top 5) I’ve done here in NZ, that might also have something to do with the glorious sunshine that blazed down and the magnificent company I was in.
II) Tamaki Māori Village – KIA ORA ❤
Kia ora is a Māori greeting. It means, literally, have life be well/healthy. But also so much more than that… It shows gratitude, respect, interest… I thought I’d start by introducing this term as it’s something I’ll take with me and continue to use in my language and writing.
By far my best travel experience in NZ and one of my best in the world. When making a list of the most influential / awe inspiring / memorable travel times it’s really refreshing to remember it’s not really amazing glaciers and waterfalls that make up and drive this beautiful world we live in. It’s human beings and what we decide to do with ourselves and the land we’ve been blessed with. My experience in NZ, like many others is driven by the beautiful people that live here and their amazing connection to the world around them.
Here at Tamaki I learnt a little about Maori culture, I was introduced to their customs and taught about their heritage. We slept in the buildings of their ancestors and sang, played and drank together. I enjoyed some beautiful kai (Māori word for food, remember it) and stayed up late in to the night chatting with my fellow travellers, my Kiwi bus driver and Chief and his partner.
There’s so much I could say about this experience and I will continue to share what I’ve learnt and spread the lessons and the joy of the Māori for a long time to come. However I feel I will end up yarning (chatting 😉 to my hearts content and not write about anything else. So I shall move on documenting my trip and perhaps return to this point.
III) Geothermal Activity
This will be a quick update as I didn’t explore the geothermal wonders too much in this town. After a lot of time exploring hot pools and geysers in Iceland I feel somewhat well-initiated into the geothermal world. To summarise, Rotorua is (apparently) a very stinky, eggy town. For once, I felt blessed with my lack of smell and remained unaffected by such an intrusion of the nasal cavities. My hostel (Base Rotorua, lovely staff but I do not recommend, stay at YHA next door and enjoy nicer communal areas and WiFi), was across from some interesting (free) bubbling mud pools, steam settled heavily around the pools and made for some pretty cool pictures. You can also chill and settle your tootsies in a couple of little man-made pools built in the area where the water is safe to touch..
Lovely little Redwood walk on the way here. Much closer to Rotorua I suppose, but I’ll shove it in this section anyway as this is when the Taupo leg of my journey began. The coach journey was short, only an hour or so on from Rotorua to another lake town. The weather was beyond dreary, but nonetheless I decided to sign myself up for a little charter sailboat when we stopped off at Huka Falls, the most photographed falls in NZ apparently, super blue and powerful. The boat sailed that evening across Lake Taupo, a lake so large it could fit Singapore inside it. (Thanks for the knowledge Cowboy). We drank, ate pizza and saw some cool old Māori carvings on the rocks out there. I socialised with some more pommies again… of course. The Barbary Cruise was a BYOB evening sail with pizza priced at 50 NZD. A little pricey however if the group is right it’s a super social occasion and I’m sure on a warmer/calmer evening it would have been great for a swim.
Much of the next few days involved me doing a little admin on my phone here and there and drinking lots of local beer whilst doing so. Lakehouse Taupo on the waterfront was my bar of choice. Unpretentious vibes, friendly staff and plenty of craft on tap. It wasn’t cheap but not extortionate either. The prices out here aren’t as mad as everyone says. I think that’s because I’m used to Canada though, or the south… can’t imagine a northerner would appreciate a 9 NZD pint, which isn’t actually a pint I suppose. Most places here don’t offer pints they offer . British pints serve at 568ml according to metric, and we’re pretty exact and fussy in ole blighty, this measurement will only differ a little according to the amount of head offered with your bevvy of choice. Comparatively a kiwi ‘pint’ is predominantly a colloquial term to refer to a glass or handle and is offered at a similar/more expensive rate. Less bang for your buck, an average Kiwi pint is approx 425ml – shocker folks. I’ve found this varies massively across the islands though.
A bit off Taupo there… but beer is important of course. Beyond the boat journey, beer and admin, my time in Taupo was mostly preoccupied with Spa Thermal Park. As the rain poured down I would soak in the hot springs as they met the icy water of the river. A great rainy day activity as the pools would be far too hot on a scorching summer day. This would be such a cool winter activity in snow.
Taupo was also the place I reunited with work pal Georgina and her travel companion Ruth. We’ve mostly been travelling together ever since. Only recently have we parted to finish our journeys is seperate directions </3. I’ve not travelled as a group since Interrailing as an eighteen year old, it was really good fun overlapping our trip for a little while – I’d definitely travel with these girls again.
River Valley 19/01 – 20/01
River Valley Lodge is a magical place alongside the Rangitikei river where you can escape from the rest of the world. About a forty minute drive from civilisation, this hidden getaway is an absolute gem on the Kiwi Experience bus route. I’ve had my doubts about choosing to travel in such a way but it’s remote, hard to reach locations like this one that make it all worth it. The bunk houses were cosy and the instructors and lodge staff were friendly and sociable, making us feel like part of the family. I could easily have gone here and not partook in any of the activities at all. Just tanned up and rested up. However about ten minutes before the deadline to sign up for rafting, and quite a lot of red wine later, I put myself forward. I figured although I’ve done rafting before I’m sure it could be a really different experience. And it was, the trip was gnarly as. The water was running higher than normal due to the recent cyclones NZ has been experiencing this summer and the rapids were all the more exciting. We managed to flip the raft and all seven of us with it in Grade 5 rapids. Off we all went, tumbling down and out. I was the only female on board and the smallest. It all moved super fast, one moment I was heart pumping above the water the next there was gushing all around me and a dark figure pushing down on me. My buddy Sam, the biggest of the crew, had fallen on me pinning me close to the riverbed, the smaller boys too had pinned him somewhat. So it was a case of bobbing underwater, feeling relatively safe as I couldn’t see any big jagged rocks and just assuming everyone was gonna sort themselves out. I popped up after all the others and whizzed my way down stream. An instructors shout to my left indicated I had a big swim ahead of me. To clear the rather nasty looking torrent ahead I needed to power myself to the nearest raft along the shore. Don’t think I’ve swam with such force since I was doing lifeguard training.
Once we were all aboard once more my heart was thump thump thumping like no adrenaline rush I’ve had in recent years. Nothing like a bit of real danger to make you feel you’ve got your money’s worth!
The journey wasn’t over really, not long after, another great thud and a slight misjudgement and one of the poor German fellas had popped out the back. What I didn’t notice was we’d also lost our instructor at the same time. Everyone except Liam and I at the front were trying to play hero – scrabbling around left right and centre to save our lost crew. We nearly capsized again in the mission. Luckily us at the front kept our heads and counterbalanced as they flailed about.
The photos are great, I’ll upload them when I have desktop access.
This first time in Welly really just initiated me into the city, I really got to know it better spending six nights here on my way back up to Auckland. I need to save battery just now so I shall have to catch you all up on it a bit later…. only almost a month behind on my updates
… I’ve realised there are USB ports on InterCity buses, so free WiFi and charging woo woo, not different to the ole Kiwi Experience bus.
So Welly first time round consisted of drinking in the hostel bar with an abundance of stag dos to start. Standard, not the only time I’ve been drinking with stag dos on this trip. Young female travellers tend to attract that sorta group funnily enough.
Then the next morning we went for a delicious brunch af Plum Cafe on Cuba St (highly recommend all things eggy) and walked along the water front having some girly bonding time. We saw some penguins as we sat dangling our legs, was pretty wonderful. I really truly love Georgina, she’s not just my work mate anymore, we’ve shared too much with each other to belittle it by just calling us work friends. She’s one of my best friends and Ruth, her travel companion is now a good friend too, amazing gals and I’m so glad to have shared some of my trip with them.
That evening they went to the cable car and saw a little show up there and I went to chill and see if I could get word to Doug, my kiwi mate I met in Squamish.
The next day I met Doug by the bucket fountain on Cuba St and we took the bus out to Miramar. Miramar is an area in Greater Wellington known for its association with the movies, lots has been filmed that way and the famous Weta Workshop is based there. We stuck our noses into the gift shop and went on our merry way towards the trails on the hill. There was a mountain bike race that day and we thought we’d go hang around in the bushes and catch some snaps. Doug is good at that sorta thing and got a few for his website. After photo time and some fun little races we headed down to Scorching Bay beach for a coffee and a little swim. When back in town we headed up to Doug’s digs up by the cable car and grabbed a couple of growlers from Garage Project, a trendy local ‘micro’ brewery. Not particularly small nowadays.
My final day in Welly on my route down consisted of little more than a couple of pints at Mac’s Brewbar on the water front and a good read of my book. I was near the start of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo at this point, I’d picked it up in the book exchange the night before. Up to this point I’d read Whale Rider and a collection of short stories by Miranda July. Lots of reading to be done this trip.
Kaiteriteri 24/01 – 25/01
A small seaside resort town in the Abel Tasman region. We arrived pretty late into this cute little place so there wasn’t too much time for sunbathing before making dinner and grabbing a few beers while listening to some live music at the hostel bar. The bar was chocka full of surfer hippy types. Lots of whiteman dreads, tyedye and very few shoes.
The night was chill, the locals were a tight knit bunch though so I didn’t feel particularly immersed. We left early ish the next morning. There was a little time for a morning paddle and a read before hopping back on that bloody coach.
Westport 25/01 – 26/01
Westport is meant to be a bit of a surfers Mecca on the northwest coast of the South Island. Here we walked to the beach for a late night bonfire and drinks. Stretch, our kiwi driver, set a pretty mean fire up and we all chatted the night away. The hostel was vibey but the town was boring long and ugly. The beach was a good 40 minute walk away so I was pretty glad to be packing up again the next day.
Lake Mahinipua / Poo Pub 26/01-27/01
Here is where dignity goes to die. The accommodation here exists solely for Kiwi Experience passengers. It’s a nice little inclusive set up nestled between the boistorous West Coast waters and the slightly brown Lake Mahinipua. There are hot tubs, volley ball nets and lots of fancy dress. Our given theme was All things Australia 🇦🇺 as it was Australia Day. I went as the EAC, a costume I’ve used once before. This consists mostly of tinfoil fish.
I drank the night away and had a lot of fun. I could probably have done without having so much fun cos as it turns out such fun isn’t very good for your bank balance, complexion or returning beer belly.
Franz Josef 27/01 – 29/01
As we travelled further south along the east of the South Island it began to look more like Canada. We arrived at beautiful retreat style accommodation where we could see the glacier from our windows. I opted for a little kayak trip with the gang as opposed to an expensive HELI-hike. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful glacial stuff before in Iceland and thought I’d save my wallet and get on the water for a couple of hours.
I shared a kayak with a beginner who didn’t know her lefts from riguys, Claudia was nice enough, but she sure was a lousy paddler. I chose to sit at the back so I could control the steering, not that she understood this. I was nice though don’t you worry folks 😘.
We were lucky enough to spot a kōtuku, a New Zealand white heron, (seen on the two dollar coin). These birds are pretty damn rare so I felt rather blessed to be in such company. Our guide, like most kiwis had never seen one before.
As well as a little kayaking, we took a walk for a couple of hours to meet the bottom of the glacier. It was a leisurely one with no incline to speak of.
Overall our time in Franz was super chill, again, too much drinking but also a little exercise to balance it out.
Wanaka 29/01 – 30/01
Wanaka defeated me. The town is beautiful, a little too touristy for my liking but nice nonetheless. Here all I did was sunbathe, drink and read. After Wanaka I could drink no more. Too many heavy nights were giving my body some real signs to stop what I was doing.
Nothing much to report from this little tourist hotspot. I feel spending so much time in British Columbia these last twelve months I’ve become somewhat accustomed to mountain views. Lucky me ae.
Queenstown / Milford Sound
First night and I’m signed up for a bar crawl. No no no. I attend the dinner part, sip a few soft drinks and then slope off for gelato around midnight on the water front. Things immediately feel better, I’m by myself at the lake. I could be anywhere in the world, I can be anonymous. Queenstown is a bit of a daunting place to be honest. It’s lovely, but it’s like Whistler, it’s all built up at once so it looks like a movie set. A movie set where I’m not sure I wanna be in the film. Maybe I’ll be an extra, quite liking the idea of blending into the background in this party town.
Mom strolling along and I hear people calling my name. Abigail, Abi! Oh Jesus, I think, they’re gonna try and drag me back to the bloody fresher-esque bar crawl. A sigh of relief, it’s Cal, Laura and Andy from my first bus. They’re sitting at the waters edge with a couple of bevvies. The water and the sky look great tonight. The tinnies are by no means tempting at this point but being reunited with my travel buds is a breath of fresh air. They’re my age you see and being with them doesn’t feel like being on a school bus.
I do the same the next night, after an amazing day at Milford Sound. Crashing through the hurricane force winds to catch a glimpse at the eight wonder of the world. The day was exhausting, standing up against that sort of wind really takes it out of you. But I still made time to search on the water for my pals again before heading in for a pretty early night. The next day we do very little. It rains and it pours, I make it out the hostel a couple of times but I’m not too fussed about doing much. I treat myself to some Hawaiian style poke, a raw fish dish. It was delicious but this was a mistake. A very ill, delusional afternoon followed. I was falling in and out of sleep paralysis for hours on end, hallucinating often and seriously concerned about my chances of being able to do the Nevis Bungee and the Canyon swing the next day. I’m pretty sure being delusional and nauseous is a terrible combo for adrenaline activities.
The next day I woke up right as rain, we watched The Boat that Rocked in the movie room at the hostel and moseyed on over to the AJ Hackett meeting point early afternoon. The bungeee is one of the largest in the world, but I reckon the wobbly drive up that hills a bit scarier. That’s real danger, like the rafting. I’ve got quite a lot of trust in those bungee chords and the instructors sorting me out. Cars and wobbly roads however, not so sure mate. The afternoon was great, it was expensive and great. We bought all the videos and photos to commemorate the once in a lifetime experience. All to be uploaded when I have a desktop, promise.
A beautiful place of zen n chilling. Not much to this small settlement in the way of shops and such things. But not really what you’re after. The large lake is a beautiful blue and the mountains are looming and silent. My time here was spent strolling, sunbathing and recharging after what has been a pretty hectic trip so far. I also did lots of necessary food prep, perks of having the kitchen to yourself when you stay in the glamping area (same price as dorms but much more spacious) Here I began reading Red Dragon, the first of the Hannibal series.
Tekapo marked the first time on my trip where i rocked up somewhere with no accommodation booked and spent a lot of time in solitude. Was jammin’.
New Plymouth 20/02-21/02