The Travelling Series
Unfortunately when we arrived in Mount Cook it was raining and miserable. This meant we had to spend the afternoon abusing the wifi instead of going on the many bush walks we were told we could do in the area.
We were saved from boredom at night though, when the hostel put on their weekly 'Mount Cook Backpackers Quiz'. Our team came second which meant free drinks all around! It was great fun.
The next day the sun came out, so we did the Tasman Glacier walk. Huffing and puffing at 8am is not usually my idea of a good time, but it was so worth it when we reached the lookout point at the top of the hill as the views were stunning.
We then headed to Rangitata where we had the opportunity to do a horse ride at Peel Forest. I used to horse ride religiously when I was younger - it was my favourite thing to do in the whole wide world. I'd been dying to get back on a horse for years and when I realised that we'd get to horse trek through the Rangitata landscapes which featured as Rohan in Lord of the Rings - how on earth could I resist?
My horse was called Debbie and she was a jumpy little thing who always had a spring in her step - if I hadn't ever ridden before I would have been nervous. The whole thing surprised me actually as it was pretty much like riding a bike. We trekked through the rainforest, around the river, up and down rocky terrain, through the river and back again - all with the beautiful snowy mountains as our backdrop. It was an incredible experience!
We stayed in Rangitata for the night before we travelled on to Kaikoura, which is famous for it's whale watching activities. It's a shame that the whales were too far out the day we were there but, to be honest, it was just nice to have a little mooch around the town. It reminded us of a typical small Cornish beach town in England - but with much nicer fish and chips! (It was actually quite possibly the best fish I've ever had.)
I've just realised that I keep talking about food in these blog posts - you can tell how much I love to eat!
After Kaikoura we made the trip on the ferry back to Wellington in the North Island. Our Stray bus tour was basically a big circle as we needed to get back to Auckland for our flight out of New Zealand.
On the way back up, we stopped over in Wellington for a few days as we really liked the feel of it when we were there for one night previously. This also allowed us to meet back up with Jasmine, one of our friends from our original Stray bus, as she lives there. It was so nice to see her again and it just reminded me of how lucky we are with some of the people we've had the chance to meet on this trip. You guys are amazing!
When we got to Auckland, we also got to meet back up with Aurelia (our German friend from a previous bus) and had Christmas coffees in Starbucks - which was just lovely!
I'm usually so excited about Christmas but it's difficult to get in the festive spirit over here. In both New Zealand and Australia, Christmas falls in the peak of their summer time which means it's warm (totally not the same, in my opinion)! I'm so glad I'll be home for Christmas so I can celebrate it in the cold English weather - the way it's meant to be done! (Sorry NZ and Oz.)
Anyway, I digress. Back to New Zealand - the experience with Stray has been nothing short of amazing! I'm so pleased that we've done it as it's been nothing like anything we've ever done before. Parts of it did feel a little rushed but that was just because we had so much to do and see in the limited time that we had! I would recommend Stray to anyone as it's a great way to meet like-minded travellers, as well as get off the beaten track!
Thanks to our drivers - Leftie, Panda and Keys - and thanks to everyone we met aboard Stray. It was so nice to meet you and spend time with you all - you certainly made the experience very enjoyable for both myself and Kane! We will miss you!
Coming up after the break: Australia!