HANGIng out in the North Island

Ok. So it seems my last blog post caused a bit of concern and opinion amongst some people so I think I should clear something up: I am having a really great time. I promise.

I’m really tired (I’m not going to say I haven’t had a couple of frustrated cries over Skype with my mum) and a bit sick of travelling as much as I have been, but happy. I have always been completely honest within the content of my blog, the good and bad, and just like anything else, this trip is not 100% amazing all the time. Sometimes I want to stay in bed not get up and get a bus or a ferry at 5:30 am or listen to the Canadian guy in the bed next to be snore like a freight train or lie awake worrying if that slightly bent top bunk might just come crashing down on me if I fall asleep. Sometimes I want to be on my own. Sometimes I want the things that I can’t afford so desperately it makes me cry (a coffee, a cake, that second glass of wine, meat for dinner… man, I miss meat… I can veggie it with the best of them but because I can’t have it, I want it. Same with chocolate).

But nothing is easy all the time. Nothing worthwhile, anyway. It’s not an adventure if it’s all smooth sailing.

With the idea of adventure in mind, I’ve decided to go to the east coast of Australia, Fiji and Bali. The airfare relatively reasonable and my airfare is semi-easy to rejig, and I have plenty of time to spare. I don’t think you realise, until you finally get to your destination, what it is that you want – or is possible – to do. With regards to working, the option is still there but I am really enjoying this lady of leisure business at the moment. When I think of how hard I worked to get the money together, I’m more inclined to just go a bit wild and self-indulgently travel this part of the world until I go home broke (thank god I’ve already paid for my return flights).

So once again, I am fine. Better than fine. I am great. I’m loving travelling and have nothing of great concern to complain about.

So that’s done. On to more interesting things: what I’ve been up to!

It has been all go for a week or so now and I feel like I haven’t stopped. Hitting Wellington has been bittersweet. I have reached the end of my north island journey and have given myself a much deserved five day break, but I have also reached my end destination on that particular Stray bus so I had to say bye to some really fab people (again)!

I have visited so many places since my last post, I’m not even sure where to start. New Zealand has so much to offer but they really should rename it Land of the Long Buffering Time not Land of the Long White Cloud!

So I’m going to tell you about the places that have really stuck in my mind. First up, the east cape!

This trip was exactly what well all needed. Eleven of us bid farewell to the main bus and headed off to the cost for a few days of beaches, bonfires, BBQs and general rest! I loved the east cape but we did move every night. You can “hop off” but being summer, the buses are pretty booked up and I did not want to get stuck somewhere for weeks at time.

We were so lucky to have such great weather (pale English girl here burnt her face but on the plus side discovered the joys of natural Aloe Vera). We stayed mainly in home stays and chilled. Exactly what we all wanted!

After the east, going back to the city of Roturua was a bit like being returned after an alien abduction, eyes blinking in the bright sun, scared of all the traffic. We didn’t have too time to think though as we were picked up by Kaylan, quite possibly the best Stray driver ever, and whisked off to Lake Anefenewa for our second “cultural experience.” This one was way better than before which in hindsight I think was a bit of a rip off.

We had a traditional Hangi meal (a traditional Māori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven underground), went glamping and were able to visit a local school the next day. Despite being poor this school puts UK schools to shame. The children are all above the national reading level and excel at examinations! This was the highlight of my trip so far.

 

We then stayed at Blue Duck Lodge which is a conservation lodge in the oddly of nowhere. We had a few drinks, group meals, hiked, went horse riding and had the best time. It was a working farm full of animals so I was very happy!

After this we headed to National Park. I visited Gollum’s pool and went on a few hikes. Our hostel was amazing, complete with hot tubs!!

We then made our way down to Wellington which is where I am now. I love Wellington. I have been here four days (a rest stop before I get on the very and head south) and am staying on the nicest hostel complete with free wifi, hair straighteners and hair dryer.

I’ve just been taking it easy in Wellington as I’m aware how may miles I have clocked up and how little sleep I’ve had. I had a big night out with my old bus members, visit libraries, did a city walk, took a tour of parliament and the national museum.

On Wednesday I will be able to hop on the ferry and grab the bus at Picton as I have decided to keep going. I’m very excited for the south and it’s hard to believe anything can be more beautiful than what I have already seen in NZ.

First stop, Nelson.

Raglan, Mourea and Indecision

The last few days have been eventful. Both good and bad.

The good stuff: meeting a great bunch of people on the Stray bus, clocking up some miles in the north and finally feeling good about my decision to leave my friends and family behind a travel.

The Bad: indecision about my future travel plans, having to leave my current stray bus to go east and some cheap fuckwit stealing my waterproof (seriously, it’s worth about £15 and now I have to buy a new one)

So let’s start with the bad, get that out the way. The waterproof? I’m sure it was on my bag when I went for a shower and then it had spirited away when I got back. Having to leave the Stray bus? Although I’m excited to see the East, the bus has got quite friendly and I regret not buying a national pass so I can stick with these guys but there’s no room for regrets when you travel. I was so sad to leave them though! Fingers crossed the next bus is just as awesome.

The travel plans? Well, as I travel I realise that I don’t know if I want to work.

Not because I don’t think working wouldn’t be amazing, but because I don’t really want to stay in a a hostel long term. It’s expensive over here and I don’t think I’d save anything as all my money would go on hostel fees – so what’s the point!? It would mean using relying solely on savings, although this will mean cutting my 8 months down to 6 if I’ve budgeted correctly. But then am I wasting my visa? See! Indecision!!

I’ve also got inspired while I’m here to travel further. There are so many cheap flights to places like Australia, Fiji, and Bali it is ridiculous!! Plus, I’m having way too good a time to work at the moment. But I’ve got to sit down and plan which is no fun! This one isn’t such a bad thing, it’s the travellers moan where you realise you’re moaning about nothing and being ungrateful.

The good? I’ve had the best week. I’ve met so many nice people and seen some amazing places and I’ve still got another week and a half on this North Island tour then at least another four of the South Island!

Let’s start with Raglan. This place is so pretty. If you surf, it’s paradise. I don’t surf, I barely beach because I find it hard to sit sill for long periods of time. We dost do much at Raglan, just chilled, stayed in an Eco lodge and cooked a huge group meal together (food is a bitch when you’re on your own and you’re always lugging around your plastic bags stuffed with uninspiring food). The sunset was truly amazing up at inspirational point and I loved my time in Raglan. I can see why the surfers stay here for months on end!

The next day we headed to the Waitimo caves famous for glow worms. We spent two hours exploring caves on a boat and by foot. It was great – with us drifting along the water in the pitch black with the glow worms lighting up all around us, twinkling like fairy lights.

That’s evening we went to a cultural evening at Mourea. This was so good. Although there was obviously some level of audience participation (I was chosen to be the leader of the poi poi because I was too busy looking at this massive moth that had flown in the room – horrendous) but they put on a huge feast and sang songs and – most importantly – did the Haka!! That night we stayed in the meeting hut where all the important events are held. We all slept in the same room in sleeping bags which was really odd but great fun.

I am having THE best time in New Zealand. It really is a beautiful country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Straying: Perfect Paihia

Yesterday I woke up early – my room mates were still fast asleep – to the sound of rain and knew I had to lug all my stuff to the bus stop for 7:50 am. But the problem was, which bloody bus stop was I meant to go to? My e-ticket just said bus stop. Queue small freak out. Ponsonby Road has loads of bloody bus stops. Which side of the road should I be on? So I asked a few sodden looking kiwis if they could help me out. They were great – although I can recognise the look in their eye that we’ve all given when a tourist can’t navigate their way around our cities and it’s a little bit funny.

THIS is karma, guys, and it’s an embarrassing bitch.

The bus was late which made things worse in the panic stakes, but eventually a little white bus pulled up (I was expecting the big black and orange one as per the Stray website) and our guide popped out, took my bags and ushered me onto the bus. On I popped, waterproof rustling with each step and looking like a nerd.

I’m on a three week “tour” of the north
Island. I say this with some reservation as it is by all means NOT an all expenses paid trip. My transport is covered, as are a host of free activities on the way to the destination, and the first nights accoms are always guaranteed and recommendations made, but all activities and the price of hostels are down to you to pay.

It’s brilliant and flexible – you can hop off and hop back on anytime you want. If you want to stay an extra night, month, six months in a particular area- you can! The passes are valid for 12 months. I only opted for the north island tour as I was reluctant to part with the fee for the two islands in case it was terrible, but now I wish I had as it is the perfect way to travel New Zealand when you are a solo traveller.

My plan is to work a while in windy Wellington (the end stop I have opted for on this particular tour) and buy a pass for the south from Stray. The south is hard to travel around if you don’t have a car so it’s the perfect solution.

This should take me to June if I play it right and don’t develop a nasty seafood addiction!

There are a few downsides to Stray but the good far out-ways these picky points:

1) it’s expensive and, although highly subsidised, the trips really start adding up. There is so much to do in NZ and it’s easy to get carried away. My tip is to keep a log of what you’re spending – even the little things like a drink or a snack because it all adds up – so you can monitor finances. It sounds like I’m taking all the fun out or travelling but NZ does not offer cheap accoms like Thailand or India. Working here, if only for a few weeks or months (I’m hoping for 2 months work) can really help!

2) they work in affiliation with other companies such as hostels but you are by no means tied down to this particular hostel. You can book your own accommodation of course but then you’re away from the rest of the group. I’m heading back to Auckland tomorrow and don’t want to stay in the recommended Base hostel if possible because it sounds like hell so I need to send a few emails this afternoon.

I’m currently in Paihia which is a small coastal town in the Bay of Islands. It’s picturesque and relatively quiet, well, apart from the party hostel that I am currently calling home. Last night was a BBQ at the hostel and a few drinks with the group – unfortunately most this group will be heading somewhere else or home – but they are a great bunch of people (as usual when I get drunk, I forgot to take pictures but I promise to rectify this).

Today, I opted to go on a boat tour to the hole in the rock which is exactly as it sounds and something completely unexplainable at the same time. We cruised around a few of the islands, the weather was overcast but that’s no bad thing at the height of NZ summer, and soon came across a pod of dolphins showing off for the tourists. I couldn’t really get a great picture because they were so fast! Next up was ‘The Hole in the Rock’ itself. It was stunning and, luckily, we were even able to drive through the hole itself.

Next up was a stop off at one of the islands where we did a scenic tour and I realised exactly how unfit I’ve become recently. The steep climbs were well worth it. Just look at the below views. They say the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but it really is in New Zealand.

As part of the package, Great Sights Tours ($92 NZ so the equivalent of aprox £46) offered a free ferry ride from Russell (a neighbouring village steeped in history and NZ’s first capital city) back to Paihia. So I said goodbye to my travel companion, Myriam, and hopped off at Russell. Now, although I was meant to be having a spend free day (I’ve bought some relatively cheap
and uninspiring food to cook at the hostel – pasta untasty anyone??) I decided to take myself out for a much needed glass of red and a bowl of calamari while people watching along the beach. Naughty and not within my backpackers budget, but perfect!

Tomorrow will be spent in Auckland and will be a chance for me to a) wash some clothes and b) buy shorts because I forgot to pack some!

After that it’s on to Raglan which is surfers paradise. Can’t wait!! Ferry has arrived to take me back to Paihia – See you on the other side!