I haven’t had internet for several days, so this is a long post…
Akoroa is this funny little French town in New Zealand which has a little harbor with swimming and boating and is known for its plethora of seals, dolphins and whales. I spent the day on the beach, dipping my toes into the water and reading my book in the sun. During my night there I went to a movie (The Counterfeiter) at the cafe/bar/cinema/library and took a nice walk on the waterfront. Since the sun doesn’t set until about 9:30, I was able to take in a lot of the harbor after the 6:30 movie.
My hostel was called the Dolphin Backpackers, but really it could be a bed & breakfast. The room I got was a HUGE double with gorgeous antique furniture and big windows. I didn’t meet another person from the hostel at all since the building I was in only had 4 rooms, all doubles.
I went back to Christchurch at 3:30 the next afternoon and then had dinner sitting outside watching a busker’s show. I checked in to the Base (notoriously crappy, large youth hostel chain) and got a free drink ticket for paying an extra $1.50 to stay in the all-women’s dorms. My roommates were a nice group: a Brit, an Irish woman, and a Chinese woman. We all went to the bar with our drink tickets and I got second place in a Roshambo contest (prize: a free drink!). Our room was quite nice, with 2 bunk beds and a window. I’ve heard stories about rooms with no windows, 8 or more beds, and loud, snoring guys, so I count myself lucky(well, not exactly lucky since I did pick to stay with all women!).
Falling into bed around midnight, I then had to wake up around 7am for the Stray bus (which is why I chose Base, all I needed was a place to lay my head and Stray picks up from Base).
My driver was so far my favorite, they all have nicknames, but this guy goes by his real name: Kerry, though some people call him Uncle Fuck Fuck on account of his potty mouth. 🙂
We arrived in Kaikoura in the pouring rain, so I took in a movie in the common room with some folks from the bus. This hostel had a neat mixture of 60s velvet wallpaper and Far Side comics and errata on the walls. There are 2 resident cats, one of which decided to sleep on my lap through the whole movie. Kerry continues to be my favorite driver and so far this is my favorite Stray crew. After the movie, I took a nice walk with Nicola, a woman from the bus who is doing the same route as me. After finishing a bottle of wine with a nice Swedish guy, I got in the hot tub and then chatted up the hostel manager (a woman) about motorcycles.
Unfortunately, our room (me, the Swede, a Dutch girl and the beautiful Swiss girl Patty), was situated directly above a bar with a very active jukebox. Luckily, it turned off at midnight.
We headed to Abel Tasman park and stayed at a place that reminds me SO MUCH of Camp & Sons!
They have llamas, horses, cows, and even a rooster that crows at midday. I met a fantastic Irish girl my same age named Nola and she decided to go to Golden Bay with me. At this camp (Old McDonald’s Farm) you can rent tents with cots in them ($15 instead of the tiny sheds they call dorms for $25), so Nola and I shared a tent and even split some groceries for making dinner in Golden Bay.
We skipped Kerry’s bus for a night when we went to Golden Bay but caught up again. Our driver in between was this total womanizer/jerk who went by the name “Number Two”. He was totally full of himself and said a lot of rude things about different nationalities, which, as you can imagine, makes it hard not to offend *someone* since the buses are full of every different nationality you can imagine.
The night at Old McDonald’s was nice anyway, “Number Two” made a huge pot of green lipped mussels (YUM!) and a big bbq for everyone. Then a guy played guitar and we all sat around a fire and chatted. Very wholesome 🙂 If it hadn’t been for constantly swatting sand flies (a particularly awful cousin of the mosquito), it would have been perfect.
In the morning, Nola and I started our trip to Golden Bay. 15 minutes by bus down the road and connecting with a water taxi. There’s no dock or anything, we just waded out to knee-deep water and hopped on it with our backpacks. The driver was so nice, he played around with hopping big waves and making tight circles. Some dolphins chased us and he stopped for us to see some seals with their pups.
Both Abel Tasman Park and Golden Bay are about the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen: crystal clear, blue waters, giant sand cliffs with trees on top and perfect white beaches.
Huge rock formations come out of the water with huge birds and seals on them.
He dropped us on a beach just past the end of the official park and we had a picnic lunch, swam, and sunbathed for a couple hours. A dolphin came so close to shore it looked like he would beach himself! When I told the driver later, he said “oh, that’s George”, he’s a local dolphin who likes to hang out by the shore.
He picked us up at 2PM and took us to Pohara, a dinky little town with nothing but the restaurant/bar/hostel (with 2 small cabins) where were were staying. We made a nice dinner and met our German cabin-mates. From 5-9PM at the bar/restaurant (just outside our windows), there was live music and it seemed like all the families in the area came to eat dinner and to watch the music.
We went to sleep early and headed out for the return trip by bus. The driver was a really cool older English guy named Nick who I had lunch with him before the bus left. It went over the hills and back down to Old McDonald’s, stopping at some really beautiful lookouts and small hikes.
When we got back to Old McDonald’s, we decided to do a sunset kayak, so we went over to the kayak company and it was just us! The guide was a really laid-back, cute, kayak-is-my-life kind of guy who was more than happy to go at our snail’s pace. We landed at the beach by Split Apple Rock and he made us tea and coffee and we all sat around chatting.
We got back in our kayaks for the return trip and by this time, the sun was starting to set and make the sky pink and the water was getting dark. we gently took our cameras out and drifted and saw a blue penguin floating along in the water next to us! What a treat! Our guide was having such a good time, he asked if we wanted to just float along until dark, so we stayed out until about 10PM (the sun sets at 9PM) watching the stars and listening to the birds.
The next day we headed out to Barrytown. This is apparently a stop only Stray makes and there’s nearly nothing in the town but the bar/restaurant/hostel where we stayed. They do a couple activities: looking for greenstone on the beach, forging your own knife, and bone carving.
I met a very cool French girl named Lara (she was in my dorm) and we ditched the hostel where the bus is staying and went to another. We’re now in Franz Josef and our hostel is pretty cute. The dorms are mixed, but it’s a nice group. The guy in the bed across from me (Cody from Alberta, Canada) came with us for drinks and dinner. I’m going on a heli-hike (the helicopter takes you way up and then you hike) tomorrow with Nola and a couple other girls onto the top of the glacier!