The kiwi bus trip down the west coast
16.01.2012 - 20.01.2012 17 °C
Day 84 (Mon 16/01/2012)
The bus journey from Kaiteriteri to Westport took about 4 hours. This was the bus I’d be staying on now until Queenstown, my only option is to stay an extra night in Franz Joseph but I want to get to QT as soon as possible to meet Jan and Extreme and hopefully head off on a road trip.
The bus is quite average, seems to be a trend in NZ. I wish I had a time machine and could go back and change my plans for NZ and how I did it all. I can’t do that so anyone reading this; I hope I can make a difference to your trip.
I’ve had quite a bad experience in NZ for a number of reasons but before I continue I have to say I have met some cool people and had some fun times with what I did, Jan, Fredrick, Extreme, Jenna.
Firstly, the weather has been awful; rained so much, when it is sunny it burns very quickly so you have to wear sun screen all the time, and even if it’s sunny it’s not actually been that hot here and the evenings are always cold; it’s midsummer and it’s pretty dam cold in the evening now.
Secondly, NZ is generally a massive rip off for any activity you want to do or hostel you want to stay in. The place is so small and remote, there is no competition anywhere and people charge stupid prices for everything. This isn’t helped by the Kiwi Experience bus, they try to rip you off at every turn, most of the people on the bus are so dumb they don’t even realise it. I can’t stand the Kiwi bus now and would not recommend it to anyone. There are far better ways of getting around and meeting people. Most of the best people I’ve met have been randoms in hostels. You can take the naked bus or hitchhike easily to get around.
If you are coming to NZ alone, you don’t need a bus tour to meet people. It’s so easy. The worst mistake I made was committing to a rigidly set bus trip; you have no freedom and are always at the mercy of the bus.
Thirdly, the people you meet make the trip and in NZ I’ve met a lot of people but very few good people. I’m really hoping my time in Asia will more than make up for NZ. It’s safe to say I’m counting down the days before I leave and it’s unlikely I’ll be coming back. I keep imagining myself on the plane out of Christchurch and how happy I’ll be. I can’t wait for my week in Sydney with Harry and Emma and I can’t wait for Singapore and the gateway to Asia.
In Westport we only had an evening, yet again the hostel was a rip off and like every hostel the kiwi bus takes you to it doesn’t have internet. I hate the kiwi bus. Any other hostel you book with separately all include wifi, not the kiwi hostels. It’s all part of the big rip off scam, once you’re on the bus you can’t break the circle and book your own cheaper hostels. I have to find a way of booking a different hostel in Queenstown. I’ve now just resigned myself that I just have to suck it up, stay at the rip off kiwi hostels until I get to QT, then I can break all ties with the kiwi bus and just take it for one more journey to Christchurch.
So that evening mainly consisted of socialising at the hostel and eating dinner. That night was my first experience so far in 3 months of travelling of rude people coming back into the dorm late shouting and making loads of noise. I feel the blog may be down as it gets more depressing for a few days now until I arrive in QT.
Day 85 (Tue 17/01/2012)
We left Westport at 09:00 heading to lake Mahinapua. The journey pretty much took all day because we took 3 long stops and a coastal walk. The coastal walk was really impressive scenery along the cliffs of the west coast. We did another similar walk at lunchtime to see the pancake rocks and blowholes, where the waves rush into holes and force the water vertically upwards shooting it high out the top. It’s actually quite a scenic drive along the coast and through the rainforest; it does seem to be true the landscape is more impressive in the south island.
We didn’t get into lake Mahinapua until after 17:30 which was a bit of a shame because the area was pretty cool. We were staying in a random pub / lodge in the middle of nowhere. In one direction you had a really nice lake and in the other you had the huge awesome west coast beach. The lodge was owned by a whacky 82 year old man who had been running a fancy dress party here for kiwi experience every day for like more than 20 years. The walls of the pub were covered in Polaroid’s of previous nights parties dating back for years, pretty impressive really.
Most people headed to the lake, when I arrived the boys were just starting a game of football. I forgot how much fun it was to play football. Playing barefoot I eventually smashed my big toe and had to stop.
I took a walk down to the ‘swimmers beach’ at the lake. This was probably the smallest most disappointing beach ever, the water was a bit red from all the stuff at the bottom but I still went swimming. When I arrived there I met 2 randoms who were camping nearby. I got chatting to them and lost track of time; this meant I was 25 minutes late for dinner, for which I was specifically told to be on time for. Luckily there was some left so it was all OK. At dinner I met a guy called simon which it turned out was on my 1st bus in the north island. He’d just got back on the bus after randomly meeting a family here who invited him to stay with them for a month and even go on holiday with them. It turns out he has a very similar time schedule to me so it’s likely we’ll travel the rest of the way together until I leave.
After dinner 4 of us headed straight down to the beach and threw a ball around for a bit, again something I’ve not done for ages, good fun. The beach had millions of perfect skimming stones which we did for a while; I wanted to get some pictures but my camera run out of battery.
As usual I had to brave the sea so just before the sun set I went in. The beach was pretty stoney and there were big dumping waves. It was quite difficult to even get out to the break and when I did I realised that there was quite a strong rip pulling out so I stayed in the shallows being smashed by stone filled waves. We stayed to watch the sun set over the ocean.
That evening was a fancy dress party and the theme was pyjamas which was pretty easy. I stayed out for a bit chatting in the bar to some decent people I’d met. Again the same rude people coming into the dorm room late making loads of noise whilst other people are sleeping.
Day 86 (Wed 18/01/2012)
We had to leave lake Mahinapua at 09:30 to head to Franz Joseph. On the way we stopped at a place called the bushman centre. This is another part of the big kiwi bus rip off. They leave really early in the morning so you can’t make breakfast then head to a specific cafe they have a deal with and take a cut of the really expensive prices charged there.
Outside the bushman centre I got to stroke a baby goat which was cute; I wanted to steal it. When we arrived at Franz Josep we took a quick walk to a look out over the glacier before heading back to the hostel we’d stay at for 2 nights.
This hostel, the rainforest retreat was actually pretty decent. The rooms and facilities were nice, it had a big kitchen area and most importantly had a huge 20 person hot tub which was really hot and really good. The reason for staying here for 2 nights is to have a full day to do a glacier activity, one of the main activities in NZ.
That evening I just ate some food and went to bed, we had an early 06:30 start for the next 2 mornings.
Day 87 (Thu 19/01/2012)
Today was the Franz Josep glacier day and the weather forecast wasn’t very good. I’d chosen to do a more expensive activity than the usual full day hike; I was going to do the ice climbing activity. This had the appeal that you were still heading to the glacier, you would be the first group up on the glacier, there was only 4 people to 1 guide instead of 13 and you get to do probably a once in a life time experience of climbing up constantly changing ice walls including a new climb that no one had ever done before. All in all it was worth paying extra for.
The morning started early at 06:30 to prepare food and breakfast for a 07:30 meet. The first part was getting kitted up with all the right equipment (which was actually very good equipment), packing up a rucksack and jumping on a bus that took us up towards the glacier. It was about an hour hike from the car park up on to the glacier. Just before getting onto the glacier we changed into our ice climbing boots, harness, helmet, waterproof clothing and crampons. Walking with crampons on is amazing, walking over any terrain including sheets of ice with no worries at all.
We didn’t go to far onto the glacier because we spent a lot of time climbing. The first climb we did was very basic and everyone managed it without too much difficulty. I was with a German girl and 2 Irish guys. At the top of the climb you have to abseil back down, this involves leaning back and walking backwards down the ice wall however one of the Irish guys leant back too far and ended up upside down stuck with his back on the wall; it was so funny.
The guide was pretty impressed with us so he put us straight onto the hardest climb there was, it was mostly an overhang, which is so much more difficult than vertical. I got up to the top but it was pretty difficult, at the end my hands were stuck in the position I’d been gripping so tightly onto the ice picks. The second time we did this climb found it a lot easier and got up much faster as my technique got better. One of the Irish guys was also very good and flew up the ice.
We decided to go for a walk further onto the glacier and look for another climb. We found a new face to climb that hadn’t been done before. This wasn’t as hard as the previous one and whilst I was climbing I had a bigger audience from other hiking groups passing by and stopping to watch. Some people that saw it said they were gutted they didn’t do it instead.
Ice climbing is pretty awesome and quite different from normal climbing because the grip is so good but you are relying on the ice holding firm. Occasionally as you put more weight into your ice picks or take 1 out to move it higher, the ice they’re stuck into gives way and you instantly fall from the ice. It’s weird not knowing when you’re suddenly going to drop off the face.
The weather got progressively worse over the day, by the time we were hiking back to the car park the rain was very heavy and everything was completely soaked. It felt good to sit in the hot tub for hours that evening.
Day 88 (Fri 20/01/2012)
Today we had a very early start, the bus was leaving at 07:30 as we had a long drive to Wanaka and made a long stop at a place called Lake Matheson. The lake is perfectly still and creates amazing reflections of the surround mountains. Luckily the weather was very sunny so we had some great views. I’ve become very good at walking in flip flops and an hour hike over a gravel path in flip flops doesn’t phase me any more.
There was another scenic drive for the south NZ countryside before arriving in the beautiful Wanaka, a small lake township fairly close to Queenstown.
Day 89 (Sat 21/01/2012)