South Island, East Coast: Seals, Rain and 2 am Marshmallows

To pinch a phrase from the Kiwis, Queenstown was sweet as, but when the time came for me to get back on the bus and go somewhere else, I was kind of ready.

QTown took my cash, spirit and gave me a bruise the size of a fist that is showing no sign of shifting, actually, I think it might even be increasing in size.

The weather had been getting worse; the sun in Queenstown refusing to hang around, so I was more than happy when my new bus driver swooped by in the big orange bus to whisk me off to my next destination: Mount Cook. I was even more surprised when a whole host of people I knew from previous buses started taking their seats. Turns out, everyone stayed longer in Queenstown so I wouldn’t be starting all over with meeting people like I thought and I got to hang out with some great people.

First up, Mount Cook. Now I’ve been feeling pretty burnt out recently. Lack of decent sleep and early starts were starting to take their toll on this old lady so I decided that Mount Cook would be my rest evening.

And then the best thing happened, we got in our a room, put down our heavy bags and there it was: an en-suite bathroom with an actual bath. The thing I have been incessantly pining over since I left home. I turned down the opportunity to take a walk around the mountain to see the glaciers. I know that seems silly but I reasoned that I’d just been to Franz Joseph and actually climbed a glacier, it was time for some pampering. I just couldn’t take anymore walks.

Despite only having the dregs of a bottle of wine left (and no glass) and the big hole in the ceiling looking a) suspiciously like someone had stashed a camera in or b) like the ceiling might have caved in at any second, it was pretty luxurious! My roommates and a few others from the bus decided to have dinner in the bar (luxury x 2) and a few drinks (luxury x 3) and play the pub quiz (luxury x 4) which we ultimately won and scored $50 between four people. Of course this was a “resort” bar so $50 only really got us one nice drink each, but it was worth it to order something you really wanted and enjoy it over good conversation and victory.

The next day we moved on to Rangitata which is a rafting base. Now I don’t have much to say about this place. It’s one of the things that can become pretty hard when travelling with the Stray bus as occasionally some of the stops just don’t really interest you, or you’re not really sure what to do there. It wasn’t beautiful like Mount Cook, which was half the problem – with views like that we were spoilt so whatever followed wouldn’t impress as much, but if you’re into rafting then it’s supposed to be the best in NZ.

I didn’t raft, preferring to save my money and do it somewhere cheaper. I’ve already done a lot of activities so far in New Zealand and I think I should save some for other countries.

Instead we headed down to the river, caught some sun and went swimming in the coldest water I have ever experienced. Of course our driver decided it would be funny to completely splash us when we were taking pictures. Queue screaming, swearing and laughing drenched girls.

That night we had a BBQ (FYI if you do use Stray in New Zealand and have Lefty as a driver, say yes to the BBQ as his mashed potatoes are amazing) and a few drinks which was really nice and I felt like I’d been spoilt by eating real food and not just noodles and pasta to save money. We all went to bed happy and fat. The next day, however, was like something from The Craft. Bugs. Everywhere. I have never seen so many dead flies: all over the kitchen, all over the sink. It makes my skin crawl just thinking about it. I was glad to get out of there! As much as I am toughening up to the backpacking way of life, that was a whole other story!

After that it was on to Kaikoura which is where I am now. It absolutely poured it down for the whole journey and I was really starting to worry about spending two days/ three nights on my own in a small town with terrible weather. I’m usually OK with a bit of rain if there’s a museum or theatre nearby but Kaikoura is all about the marine life and activities such as swimming with dolphins and seals or whale watching. Cancellations do happen but I have a whole day tomorrow so hopefully there will be good weather.

However once we’d settled in and I’d booked into my room at a different hostel to the other Strays, it brightened up pretty quickly and got really hot. I met some girls I’d been travelling with and a new guy from England that we roped in to coming with us – and we went out for drinks. Now drinks is never just drinks and we ended up getting pretty drunk in an Irish bar and dancing to music before heading off to the beach where we found some people with a bonfire and stayed there roasting marshmallows until 2 am. Bliss. Well, except for falling over (again) and getting smoke in my eyes!

The bus left me and my hangover behind this morning and I woke to the sound of, you guessed it, rain. Luckily I haven’t booked my seal swim until tomorrow so *fingers crossed* the weather will be good to me now. I did brave the downpour and head to the isite in town with the purpose of getting a map to walk out to the seal colony but the weather was so bad, I had to go back to the hostel where I’ve just done my washing and some writing and uploaded a load of photos – all important things that I’ve been putting off to do other things – instead. Although I feel like I am wasting precious time.

It’s hard to remember when you’re travelling – particularly on a backpacker bus – that you need to take days off like this to sleep, or read, or rest or wash some pants because going commando has started to get a bit much. We feel like we should constantly be on the go and the thought of sitting in the hostel all day – even if it is pissing it down or you really have to do those important jobs – just seems absurd. I really need to learn to take a break!

So the sun has just come out (it’s 5pm) but I think it’s too late to walk to the seal colony today. I’m going to rest some more and get an early night before tomorrow’s swim. I’m just praying to all the NZ gods that the weather will be nice tomorrow and my trip doesn’t get cancelled. This is one of the things I want to do the most in New Zealand. That, and a wine tour in Blenheim which is my next stop so I better do some sort of anti-rain dance.

I am roughly a third of the way through my trip now which is a little scary and I’m starting to feel more at home with the travelling lifestyle and with being a solo traveller in particular. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • It’s not awesome all the time. Some days you will miss home with a passion but you’ve just got to get passed it because the next day you’ll meet someone awesome and see something you’ve never seen before. Some people find being away from home easier than others and that’s fine. Me? I’m somewhere in the middle. I love being here but I do occasionally find myself missing home.
  • Hangovers are worse in another country. Oh. My. God. I hate hangovers and can’t handle them in general. I need my own bed, my DVD collection, a bottle of Diet Coke and a cuddle. These things and only these things sooth my hangover. Travelling sucks with a hangover but is brilliant drunk.
  • People are mostly brilliant. Most people will talk to you, will hang out with you if you put yourself out there.
  • Some people are just dicks. There’s not much you can do about that apart from revel in the fact that they will always be so. They steak your money and steal your stuff but, hey, Karmas a bitch, and the universe does not take kindly to those who take from others.
  • Your hair will look shit for the duration of your time spent travelling. Sneak in to the YHA and use the hair dryer but it wont help. Five minutes later you will be channelling Diana Ross
  • Approximately five weeks in to your trip you will 1) hate all of your clothes and want to set fire to them, 2) hate anyone who snore 3) start snoring 4) never want to eat pasta, noodles, jam sandwiches, cereal bars again 4) have that moment when you realise this trip has changed you infinitely for the better and you’re having the time of your life.
  • I am a short term traveller. Four – Five months suits me better than eight – twelve. That’s just me.
  • You can do things on your own like go to the cinema or dinner or for a drink and not feel uncomfortable, just awesome.
  • I really do fall over a lot.
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