If North Island was good, South Island is better. At least, that's the opinion of almost everyone I asked. More epic nature. More remote locations.
I finally got into the groove of this trip. Surface friends fell away. And the handful of travelers I truly clicked with stuck around and made the experience a thousand times better. I stopped stressing about money. and about image. about trying to be a best friend to everyone I talked to. I slept if I was tired or went out if I felt like it. I kept up with work and put it out of my mind when I'm not dealing with deadlines. I let go of trying to control my surroundings.
Abel Tasman (Marahau)
The signup sheet for activities was making its way around the bus. There was at least 5 to choose from but one form was empty. It was the most expensive: Canyoning. I didn't even think twice before writing my name down and it was well worth the money!!
This face aint attractive. cuz who has time to look pretty when in reality they're sliding down a boulder + trying not to drown + scared af. you can't fake that kind of thing.
It was insane in the best way possible. Took all I had to not pee in my wetsuit.
And shoutout to our guide Lee who was in Survivor New Zealand!!
Stopover at a historic coal mining town. At the hostel, my little girl group bonded over hot chocolate and movies in the common room. On our ride out, we visited Punakaiki’s Pancake Rocks.
The sun finally came out for a bit in this glacier town. Many opted for the expensive helicopter ride that takes you on top of the glacier but I wanted to save that experience for somewhere more epic like Iceland 🤞🤞Instead, Mara and I took the day to hike from the town center to the bottom of the glacier. To this moment I can say it was absolutely one of my top New Zealand highlights – Fo' freeeee.
Yes, the water in this river looks like milk! It's super-fine powder from glacial erosion that flows down and mixes with the water, making it cloudy. #science
Closer to the glacier though, there was fresh, ice-cold water that was pure enough to fill up our water bottles.
Either love it or hate it, but Stray makes several stops along the way to show off beautiful landmarks. Sometimes the driver surprises you with a hike first thing in the morning when I couldn't be bothered with anything. It definitely pushed me to see things that I would never have seen otherwise.
And then came Wanaka. It was so beautiful and peaceful here, they it was just like Queenstown before it blew up with commercial tourism - and became the "adventure capital of the world".. I'd take Wanaka over Queenstown any day.
While we were chilling on a small dock at the lake, a random old guy was desperately trying to form a crew for a regatta happening in 30 minutes.
Do you girls know how to sail?
ummm *looking at each other* no
that's fine do you wanna come on my boat to help me out?
*everyone looking at me* go! ... (me) ok! Elsie come with me!
Best decision ever.
Funny thing though.. if you're familiar with the show Friends where Rachel teaches Joey how to sail, it was like that at some moments 😂
I had sky high expectations for this city. But comparing it with the incredible experiences prior, it was kind of a letdown.. So I spent a couple days resting and working, laundry, eating good food again, and enjoying the nightlife. Mara and I took a hike up to see the city from above:
As we scampered up some steep parts of the trail, we knew we'd have to hike down in complete darkness. Wasn't the safest idea but it was worth it for that twilight view!
It was the last nights of our little group being together 😢
I decided to hop off Stray bus at the gateway to Fiordland National Park (my DREAM come true) to properly take in this beautiful destination..
I knew Milford Sound was a bucket list item, so instead of taking the average cruise I felt like turning it up a notch and signed up for a sea kayaking tour. and it. was. amazing...
Being able to look into the water, touch the water, hear the birds and come inches from the foot of these giant cliffs exploding out of the water made me feel so much more connected to the fiords than any cruise ship could..
Some stops we made on the way back to town:
Gunn's Camp/Invercargill and surrounding areas
By this point (as you'll judge by my lack of photos) I was exhausted from constant Stray-ing around and couldn't wait to reach the end of my itinerary (Christchurch). Arriving at Gunn's Camp I heard there were glowworms so a group of us took a mini outing to see them in their natural habitat. Def quite an adventure finding them under the moonlight 🔦
Other than that.. it was starting to get really cold as the seasons changed. The sun made spotty appearances.. I was lacking vitamin D big time :(
Excerpt from my travel journal:
very tired and weather was still shit, didn’t do anything at all, everyone was annoying me, shitty beds and skin flaring really badly.
Looks like Jessica was just not having it 😂
So throughout our Stray travels most of us brought around these cooler bags to store food, because 90% of the time we'd all have to cook in order to eat. My meals usually consist of lentils, potatoes, carrots and celery. Then oats and fruits for breakfast. sometimes bread and hummus. Because of the constant moving around, lack of sleep, lack of space, and this ridiculous diet (I was trying to be ... errr.. healthy), I lost nearly 10 pounds and was borderline underweight at 13% body fat after two months. Sure I would eat at restaurants when I had a chance. What I didn't realize is that I was doing all these hardcore physical activities and putting myself really far out of my comfort zone but didn't take care of myself properly. I saved money but at the expense of my physical health and mental well-being. Crazy!
Ultimately, New Zealand is a nature lover backpacker's paradise. The people are proud to take care and preserve their land. What a thrill for the child in me to experience the entire country in such a way - hardships and all. Two months around New Zealand: check.
Do you have any outstanding experiences with Stray? Let me know!