This journal was written as a physical diary by me during my gap year. I am typing this up to share my gap year experience. At the beginning of travels I was 22. I travelled with a friend (Kieren) and anybody else involved will be introduced during the journal. For more details, check here.
To travel through New Zealand, we booked a Kiwi Experience bus pass for the North and South Islands. This is a flexible bus pass so you can spend longer in places you want to, they have recommended hostels, and there are plenty of activities that they offer. We decided to travel New Zealand for 1 month.
Check out the previous instalment here.
5th March 2018
We got up very early to catch the bus to the ferry terminal then got on the InterIslander to the South Island. The ferry took 3.5 hours and arrived in Picton, where we hopped back on the Kiwi Experience bus to Nelson. We stopped at Nelson Lake (a glacier lake) for a picnic.
The bus then drove on to Kaiteriteri, which is near Abel Tasman National Park. We checked into Kaiteriteri Lodge before having fish and chips on the beach. Very nice chilled day today!
In the evening, we had drinks in the hostel bar with a lot of people from our bus. As the buses are flexible, it isn’t always the same people day-by-day but at the moment there is a large group of us who have been together for a while.
I loved the North Island of New Zealand. The scenery reminded me a little of Yorkshire – rolling green hills with a lot of sheep! My favourite place that we went to was The Bay of Islands, especially Cathedral Cove. Before coming to New Zealand, I’d never heard of Paihia and The Bay of Islands but I loved it so much! My favourite city was Wellington.
6th March 2018
This morning, we wandered around Kaiteriteri. It has a lovely small beach, which I find very relaxing.
We left Kaiteriteri at 11.30am and headed to Westport. We checked into Bazil’s Hostel, which is a lovely hostel with nice staff. Kieren and I had a wander and went to the skate park, where there was an abandoned skateboard. I can confirm that I’m terrible on a skateboard.
We had another evening in the hostel having a few drinks with others.
7th March 2018
The bus left today at 9am to go to Cape Foulwind for a lovely 3km beach walk. Then onto Punakaiki for another walk to see the ‘Pancake Rocks’, which are limestone rocks in the sea.
The bus also stopped in a town called Greymouth so that everyone from the bus could go to a fancy dress shop. Tonight, we’re having a costume party with the theme Bad Taste/The Zoo. I had no idea what to buy so just ended up getting a lion mask.
The final destination for today was Lake Mahinapua Hotel, which is located on the West Coast (which by the way, has amazing views!). The hotel is based around a pub and the staff are lovely. There’s also a dog called DJ. We wandered to the lake, then came back to the hotel to do some greenstone carving*. I made a necklace with a teardrop-shaped greenstone and I love it**!
We had a lovely meal made by the staff in the hotel – roast pork, roast potatoes, veg and gravy. Afterwards, we went to watch the sunset on the beach.
(a) Sunset at the beach. (b) Party at Lake Mahinapua.
The party was so fun! Some people had amazing costumes! Sam went as Harabe (with a halo made of a coat hanger, a black fluff jacket made from a pillow, a cardboard child and a banana). Great night!
*Greenstone is a stone found in southern New Zealand
**I still wear this necklace every single day.
8th March 2018
We had breakfast at the hotel – pancakes, bacon, syrup and toast.
The bus left Lake Mahinapua at 10am and headed to Franz Josef. We checked into Rainforest Retreat (pretty nice accommodation) then went for a walk through the very small town. The view of Franz Josef is stunning – so much snow at the top, even though it’s fairly warm in town. Kieren and I had a coffee in town before heading back to the hot tubs at Rainforest Retreat.
Franz Josef Glacier.
Pizza/garlic bread buffet for dinner then we had a few cocktails.
9th March 2018
I had a bit of a lie in then Kieren and I decided to go quad biking. This is the first activity that we booked independently, not through Kiwi Experience, and we decided to go for it because we’d both always wanted to go quad biking.
It was so fun! We went on a double bike and Kieren drove most of the time. I did a bit of driving towards the end. The track was cool – we went through rainforest and lots of rivers, and got beautiful views of Franz Josef glacier. I would definitely love to do this again!
(a)(b)(d) Quad biking in Franz Josef. (c) Franz Josef Map. (d) Franz Josef Glacier.
Afterwards, we went for a walk to the ‘Tunnels’ – these are caves that you can walk through. The water was ankle deep and it was freezing so we didn’t go too far in. It was a lovely walk though.
Tonight, we went out with a group of people from the Kiwi Experience bus. We’ve got such a nice group of people at the moment, that we’ve been with since Rotorua so we know them pretty well now. We had a few drinks in the hostel bar (happy hour!) then headed to Ice Bar (although this is not actually an ice bar). Had some drinks, played darts then headed back to the hostel bar for some dancing.
10th March 2018
The bus left at 7.30am this morning and I did not feel well after last night…
We stopped at Lake Matheson and had a lovely walk around the lake. This lake was stunning – it was so still that it acted as a mirror of the surroundings (which included Mount Cook, New Zealand’s biggest mountain). We then drove on to Lake Wanaka to take in the amazing views – the water looks such a light bright blue that it almost doesn’t look natural.
(a) + (b) Lake Matheson. (c) Mount Cook.
We arrived in Wanaka at 3pm, checked into Base Wanaka then wandered down to the lake for a swim. It was incredibly cold (as it is a glacier lake) so I only lasted a few minutes but at least I did it! The weather was nice so I had a lovely sunbathe.
Tonight, nobody from the group could be bothered to go out to we went to the movie room to watch How To Train a Dragon 2. Everybody fell asleep so it was basically a big group nap!
11th March 2018
Kieren left the hostel early to go mountain biking, and he really enjoyed it. I decided not to go because I don’t think mountain biking is my thing.
The bus left at 9am and headed to Mount Iron for a walk – lovely views of Wanaka from the top. Afterwards, we got back on the bus to Kawarau Bridge where some of the people from the bus were doing a bungy jump. We got to watch and it looks terrifying!
We then drove on to Queenstown and checked into Nomad’s – we got a 10 person room with all of our friends, which is so great! We all headed up the mountain on the Gondola to go on the luge. Kieren and I did this in Rotorua and loved it so it’s nice to do it again! It’s basically like human Mario kart down part of the mountain. We raced and it got pretty brutal – Kieren fell off twice…
We got back to the hostel and got ready to go out. We went for food and drinks at Red Rock, then had some more drinks at Loco Cantina and World Bar. Everybody’s favourite part of the night was Dylan (our Kiwi Experience bus driver for the past week) getting incredibly drunk – it was amazing and he is hilarious!
(a) Views of Queenstown. (b) Outside Loco Cantina. (c) Tickets for the Gondola and Luge.
Check out the next instalment here.