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.
12th March 2018
I had such a long lie in (10.30am)! I feel like I really needed it because I’m so exhausted doing so many activities. Kieren and I had a lovely stroll around Queenstown Gardens and around the lake before exploring the town. I’m not sure why but I thought Queenstown was a city, but turns out it’s just a small town. I really love it here though – such a beautiful lake completely surrounded by mountains.
(a) Queenstown Gardens. (b) (c) (d) Lake Wakatipu (Queenstown).
Kieren, Will and Charley hired BMXs and went to the skate park. Then, we went for free food (curry and rice) at the hostel but we hardly got anything. They actually ran out of food so Paul (who for some reason we’ve started calling Keith) ended up with a plate of dry rice!
We had some drinks in the room afterwards but after 30 minutes they get confiscated because it’s a dry hostel.
*I don’t remember where this came from but I remember it being hilarious. Paul/Keith was in on the joke.
13th March 2018
We got up early to catch the bus to Milford Sound. It ended up being 20 minutes late so not a good start. Due to the weather, the two previous day trips had been cancelled at the last minute so a lot of people had waited 3 days in a row for this bus..
We drove to Te Amo where we stopped for food. There were alpacas there and they were so cute! We then drove on to Fiordland National Park where we saw a lot of beautiful scenery. As we were driving through the National Park, another coach came around the corner too quickly and was half on our side of the road. Dave, our driver, had to swerve and ended up crashing to coach into the trees at the side of the road. Two of the tyres were completely slashed and the rims were significantly out of place so it couldn’t be driven. As the roads are very narrow here, and literally on the edge of a cliff, if it had happened about 2 minutes earlier there is a good chance the bus would have gone off a cliff… Some coaches behind us were going to the same place and had spare seats. We all hopped on different coaches and headed to the ferry terminal.
(a) (c) (d) Waterfalls of Milford Sound. (b) Bus post-crash.
The cruise around Milford Sound was so amazing – probably my favourite scenery in New Zealand so far. This is classed of a fjord so really is stunning. We saw fur seals and dolphins, as well as getting absolutely soaked by a waterfall.
(a) Seals on the rocks. (b) (c) (d) Milford Sound.
When we got back to the ferry terminal, we had to wait 2 hours for a new coach that had been sent from Te Amo. During this time I had to borrow somebody else’s pyjama bottom shorts to change out of my jeans that were completely soaked through. While we were waiting we played some games (including a violent game of snap which I won).
We eventually got a coach to Te Amo then had to change to a new Kiwi Experience Bus that met us there. The whole drive back was long (4.5 hours). We got back to Queenstown at 11pm – definitely an adventurous day!
(a) Kiwi Experience ticket to Milford Sound. (b) Milford Sound map.
We were starving when we got back but luckily Fergburger was open. This is a famous burger restaurant in Queenstown. It was so nice!
(a) How tired I was… collapsing on a sofa in the hostel lobby. (b) Chicken burger from the Famous Fergburger.
14th March 2018
We had to check out of Nomads (goodbye room 214 – my favourite room with the best people!) to then check back in later (2 separate bookings).
A group of us hired some bikes and cycled around the lake – beautiful scenery! We ended up cycling around 30km. We stopped for brunch on the way back at a nice cafe overlooking the lake.
Cycling around the lake in Queenstown.
Afterwards, we went to the pub for $4 happy hour wines! We had a few then headed to an Irish Bar.
15th March 2018
This morning, Kieren and I walked up Queenstown Hill – it was quite intense and definitely more of a mountain. It was totally worth it though for the views of Queenstown from the top. We were so tired when we got back to the hostel that we ended up having a chilled afternoon in the TV room.
(a) Cute tree on the hike up Queenstown Hill. (b) (c) (d) Views from the top of Queenstown Hill.
In the evening we went to Minus 5 Ice Bar. Although it’s supposed to be -5 degrees, it was actually -7.5 degrees. They provide you with a huge coat and gloves before they let you in. The entire bar is made of ice and there were ice sculptures everywhere! Even the glasses that we drank out of were completely made of ice! We were only supposed to stay for 30 minutes but we ended up staying for 1 hour because it was a quiet night. When we got outside it seemed tropical even though it was only around 15 degrees.
Minus Five Ice Bar, Queenstown.
We went to another bar next door where we had a few drinks and chatted. A woman next to us and a polaroid camera and took a cute photo of us.
16th March 2020
We got up early to leave Queenstown and head to Lake Tekapo. None of our room 214 friends are coming on the same bus as us – they’ve either already left Queenstown or are going other places soon. It was really sad to say goodbye! Luckily, we discovered that we’re still on the same bus as Arjun and Garen*, who are so lovely!
It was a really nice sunny day so we stopped at Lake Pukaki. The lake was the most amazing light blue colour and there was a great view of Mount Cook. I dipped my feet in the lake and it was absolutely freezing!
The bus continued to Lake Tekapo, and we checked into Lakefront Lodge. I needed some alone time (because I haven’t had any in months) so I went to Tekapo Springs. This has 3 manmade hot pools (although the water is from a natural geothermal source). It was so relaxing sitting in the hot pool and looking at incredible views of Lake Tekapo.
As the sun was setting, Kieren and I walked up Mount John to see the stars at the top. We only lasted 15 minutes at the top because it was very cold but the stars were absolutely amazing! Tekapo is known for the stars because it has very little light pollution. They were definitely the best stars I’ve ever seen! We walked down the mountain using a torch because obviously it was completely pitch black (apart from the stars).
*They’d been on our Kiwi Experience bus for at least the past 2 weeks
Check out the next instalment here (available 9am GMT 26th April).