Now, because we are idiots, and by we, I mean Christie, we booked our flight to Melbourne out of Auckland and not Christchurch. This meant we had to get the bus all the way back up north repeating Wellington and Taupo on our way back up. In the end, it wasn’t that bad at all, we can definitely say we’ve seen the whole of New Zeland now and luckily Wellington and Taupo were two of our favourite places!
Somehow, Riss had managed to wangle her way into staying with Nick, Misha and Ruby in that beautiful house, while Christie and I boarded the big green bus once again. If we weren’t depressed already, a cyclone decided to hit just as we were leaving. This meant there was torrential rain and when we got to Lake Tekapo, which is supposed to be this beautiful lake where the water meets the sky, we couldn’t see more than a couple feet in front of us. I’ll admit that even through the rain we could see the intense aqua colour of the water so were pretty gutted at the weather. Lake Tekapo is also in the centre of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve which means one of the main activities there is to go to the hot pools in the evening and star gaze.
Our day, however, consisted of walking 15 mins to the supermarket in the rain, bought the cheapest dinner we could, and then walking 15 minutes back. There was a slight panic when a state of emergency was delayed in Christchurch due to the cyclone and if we were stuck in Lake Tekapo for another night it would have been less than ideal.
Thankfully the bus was still on and Christchurch was not flooded. Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island, however after the 2011 6.3 magnitude earthquake, it is still being rebuilt and therefore it’s littered with large empty lots. We arrived in the early afternoon but once again it was raining – as you can tell we were very lucky with the weather. By this point, we’d realised we only had enough money to spend £20 a day and therefore had to actually start budgeting like real travellers. Going out in New Zealand is the same as the UK, drinks average £5 each, so pre-drink hard.
We went for quite a nice (and free) walk through the botanic gardens and then decided to walk 25 minutes to the cheapest supermarket in New Zealand, our one and only love; Pak N’ Save. Again we had a very chilled evening and we were lucky enough to have been put in a 3-bed dorm (with no bunk beds!), it also had a balcony and a single bathroom with a power-shower right next door. We only stayed in Christchurch for one night and I really think that’s all you need, there really isn’t much to do there.
The next day was a travel day. We spent the whole day on the bus and arrived into Nelson late afternoon which gave us enough time to make dinner and walk to the beach to watch the sunset. We didn’t even stay for the whole sunset because it gets cold very fast. This stop is just mandatory if you’re planning on getting the ferry the next morning. All in all, the most interesting part of this day was that I’m pretty sure the hostel we were in was an old brothel.
Despite being a weird little town, the beach and lake in Nelson were very picturesque
After a broken night’s sleep due to two huge snorers, we got up and got on the bus (yay). Christie was very good, we were both supposed to go on a run that morning. When the alarm went off we both decided absolutely not, but then Christie actually got up and went. Apparently, I was in such a deep sleep there was no waking me. I felt very lazy and promised myself I’d do better. I was so good at the start of the trip! To be fair, she did have fish and chips for dinner while I refrained and had a chicken salad instead… just saying.
The rest of the day consisted of bus-ferry-bus with the aim of getting back to the North Island and Wellington. That evening we went back to Cuba street for those delicious wraps again, and the Arborist for frozen margaritas.
Next, we went to a bar called Dirty Little Secret, it’s a speak-easy. There are no signs, just a bouncer and a lift. When you get to the bar it’s got some great R&B tunes and has a really cool vibe to it. I would really recommend going.
While we were there this lady comes up to us and says “You girls are too pretty to be from here!” and proceeds to drag us over to her group of very weird friends. We chilled with them for a bit before ‘going to the loo’ and splitting. Obviously our last stop was back at Danger Danger. We danced to the cheese there until we realised we physically couldn’t afford any more drinks and went home.
We were rudely awoken at 7am by the girls in our room getting up and repacking their whole bags, thankfully the hangover wasn’t too bad! We then realised that we didn’t have accommodation for that evening and when we asked reception they said they wouldn’t know until the kiwi bus sent in their numbers. Check out is at 10am and we still didn’t know if we had a bed. All other hostels, hotels, Airbnb’s were fully booked. It had got to the point where we were posting asking if anyone had any friends or relatives that would take us in for the night! Thankfully, in the end, the hostel did have a bed.
While waiting to check back into the same hostel we ended up chatting with these two boys who then came to the beach with us. These were possibly the weirdest blokes I have ever met. One claimed he was a dating coach, comparing himself to ‘Hitch’ and that he made $100/hour teaching boys how to talk to girls and girls on how to be more approachable by guys. I swear I could physically smell the bullshit coming out of his mouth. The other one was a nice enough Welsh boy but then proceeded to tell us about he had somehow ended up going home with two 40-year-old women the night before. It’s safe to say we ignored their messages to meet up for dinner and drinks.
Instead, the plan for that evening had been to go to the supermarket, watch a film, eat the free meal the Base provides and go to bed. However, on the way to the supermarket we noticed a lovely little bar out in the sun serving $6 glasses of wine, I mean, it would be rude not to! Next thing we know its 11pm, we’ve met these two English guys who live in Wellington and were quite drunk. They showed us this amazing burger place though called Ekim burgers. The food is served out of a van and the place is covered in graffiti, but the food is fantastic! Definitely, give it a go and get the corn fritters (they’re like mini-hashbrowns).
The bus the next morning to Taupo was at 8am, we woke up at 7:45am. We pelted it own the road to the pickup point, me with my 30kg bag on my back.. but thankfully we didn’t miss the bus. We did bump into some people we had met on the way down so it was nice to have friends again! If you’ve read my previous posts, the first time we went to Taupo we stayed in a brilliant hostel called Haka Lodge. Obviously, I had thought that I had booked this one again. We get dropped off and try to check in and they don’t have our booking. Mildly confused I check my Hostelworld app only to discover I had booked a different hostel. This would normally have been fine, however, we had just been boasting about how nice this hostel is to other people on the bus and then had to turn up with our tails between our legs when we realised we had actually booked the hostel the kiwi experience books for you.
In all ended well however as this hostel was really nice as well. It had a cheap bar and it was nice to spend time with the friends that we had made. The Tongariro crossing had been cancelled AGAIN because of bad weather so instead, we got super drunk with a stag-do staying in the hostel – it’s hard to say no to $5 beers when you have nothing to do the next day.
As the weather was so awful the following day, we really didn’t have anything to do. We ended up barricading ourselves in the TV room, did admin and watched films. To be fair, Christie did go to a yoga class and I went to the gym so all in all, it was quite a productive day.
After Taupo, we boarded our final Kiwi bus ever!! We were quite excited by this prospect. On your way to Auckland, you get to stop off at a Kiwi sanctuary. Entry is about $20 but it all goes towards conservation so I really did mind paying it – plus you can’t go to New Zealand and not see a live kiwi! I would like to point out that Christie was the only one on our entire but who didn’t pay to go in because she “would rather spend it on food” – like you can’t get that anywhere else? We got to see some baby kiwis which were SO cute. What the centre does is track the kiwi’s in the wild and when they’re nesting they take the egg, rear it in the centre and then release them back into the wild, either once they are old enough to fend for themselves, or into a predator-free area. Once we’d arrived in Aukland we checked into our hostel, went for dinner at this delicious Malaysian restaurant called Mamak. We tried to have a few drinks but ended up asleep by 10pm.
We had to check out of the hostel at 10am and our flight wasn’t until 6pm, thankfully the hostel had a bag store next door. As we had time to kill we actually ended up going to the gym! We found one that had a 7-day free pass called Tepid Baths, signed up and went (just say you’re moving to Auckland but are currently living in a hostel). After the gym, we were feeling rather proud and treated ourselves to a bagel from the amazing place called Best Ugly Bagels. The staff in there are really cool and the food is even better. It’s a bit pricey for a bagel but worth it.
By the time we’d done all of that, it was time to get to the airport and head to Melbourne. The easiest (and cheapest) way to get to the airport is the Skybus. Luckily for us, Christie was able to use her mum’s pass to get into the lounge! A couple of glasses of wine and copious amounts of butter chicken, cheese and biscuits later we were ready to board and ready for the next chapter of our adventure – Australia we’re coming for you!
Lake Tekapo: Lakefront Lodge – This is pretty much the only place to stay in Lake Tekapo. It was alright, the rooms were nice and warm but tiny and the kitchen was quite small for the number of people there as well. There was a nice outside area with BBQs although we didn’t get to test them out!
Christchurch: YMCA – really great hostel, definitely stay here. You have to pay for wifi but its cheap and pretty good. The kitchen is nice and there are chill areas on each floor as well. There is also a gym in the building, I’m sure you have to pay for it but I doubt it’s very much!
Nelson: The Custom House – pretty sure this used to be an old brothel. There is a stripper pole in reception and a really small number of rooms with sinks in them. Anyways, they give you 1GB of free data and there’s free laundry. It’s a 20-minute walk into town and 20 minutes in the other direction to the beach. Its alright for 1 night and I don’t think Nelson’s a place worth the effort of trying to find a nicer place.
Wellington: Base – Average hostel. Rooms are quite small but the kitchen and lounge space is big. They give you a free shot and a free meal ticket when you arrive which was great for us as we were very much out of money. Didn’t try the bar but believe they have cheap deals on most nights! The first night we stayed, booked through Kiwi Experience was $33, however, our second night was $49. The prices change day-to-day depending on demand. I can’t say it’s worth $50/night but there was nowhere else we could have stayed.
Taupo: Urban Retreat – This is actually also a great hostel. It has a super cheap bar ($5 beer, $4 wine), a nice outside area to sit in, a big kitchen, pool table and a nice TV room. They also have a deal with a local gym so you can get $5 entry. I went, it’s a basic gym but has absolutely everything you’d need. The rooms and beds aren’t as nice as Haka Lodge but I’d say that’s its only downfall.
Auckland: Nomads – I’ve already explained how bad this hostel is but the second time round confirmed my suspicions. I got bed bugs. The next morning I woke covered in bites which ended up being itchy for weeks. I left a trip advisor review explaining this and sent them an email but go no response from either.