Interislander Ferry & Nelson

On the morning of Wednesday, 10/7, I left Nomads Capital Backpackers in Wellington early in the morning, but just in time to make a free pancake.

Fortunately, a few of my hostels have offered free pancakes in the mornings. Unfortunately, I have yet to create an editable one.

The shuttle bus picked me up at my hostel at 7:20am for the 9am departure. The final check-in for the ferry was 8:15am. I had a bus booked from Picton (south island ferry terminal) to Nelson but it was supposed to leave 15 minutes after the ferry was supposed to arrive in Picton. I was nervous I'd miss my bus so I asked if I could keep both my backpacks with me on the ferry. The woman said no, I had to check my big one. After giving her some worried looks, she said she'd put my bag under priority luggage so it'd come out of the carousel first in Picton.  


I got on the ferry and it was huge! I think the maximum capacity said about 1,000 people. There were cafes, restaurants, lounges, a playground, and movie theater. I decided that I'll pick a seat near a window and just camp there for the 3.5 hour trip. An older couple sat next to me and it sounded like they had American accents. After about an hour we started to make conversation. Apparently, they used to live in Media, PA, my home town!

We were talking about our routes and where we were hoping to hit while in the south island. Les and Dianne were going to Montueka which is just passed Nelson. When I told them my concerns about catching my bus, they told me to not count on catching the bus and go with them in their rental car. They said they'd drop me right off at my hostel.  

View from the Interslander ferry from the north to south island

View from the Interslander ferry from the north to south island

Well, this will be easy.

The ferry ride was quite gorgeous. I didn't realize how many tiny islands were between the north and south island of New Zealand. It was quite exraordinary.  

When we got off the ferry, my bag, like promised, came along the carousel first. I could have easily made it to my bus but I figured it'd be nice to talk to Les and Dianne more. Plus, they'd drop me off right at my hostel and I had no idea the distance between the bus stop and hostel or how to get there.

Driving with the couple was actually hilarious. Les drove and Dianne backseat drove. They had to use "teamwork" as they called it to navigate New Zealand on the left side of the road. At every intersection or roundabout, Dianne would say, "OK, look right, look left, look right, stay left," without fail. They basically said everything Les had to do outloud to make it clearer to him how to drive on the left side of the road. I'm just glad I'm busing it everywhere. 

Again, like promised, Les and Dianne dropped me off right outside Paradiso Backpackers. I walked in and the receptionist asked my name. I had booked two nights but I asked, like I always do when I show up to a new town, "So, what is here to do here?" 

Her response was basically, "Nothing." Great. I asked if I could only stay one night but it was too late to cancel my other booked night. Well, I guess I'll make the best of it. I spent that afternoon by the pool, laying in the sun and trying to figure out what I could do for the next couple days, as well as researching flights via Skyscanner from Queenstown to Auckland so I'll be able to catch my flight to Brisbane about 2 weeks from then.

To my surprise, along with the free serving of instant noodles they gave me at the time of check-in, Paradiso hostel also provides free breakfast and vegetable soup for dinner. By 6pm, everyone was crowded into the big kitchen to grab their bowl of vegetable soup, side of bread and dessert (usually cake or cookie). It wasn't the best soup I ever had, but it was free!  I sat down next to a girl staying in my dorm, Jen, and another guy, Toby, both from England. It is so easy to make friends in hostels, especially when traveling solo. 

Later on in the night we got in the hot tub with a couple beers and just relaxed. There were 4 other American girls studying abroad in New Zealand and were on their school holiday. Let's just say, they didn't represent the States in the classiest way. But, hey, you win some, you lose some. America needs as many travelers as possible to get out there and show that the States aren't full of dumb, helpless, fat people who want to shoot up the place.

(Like I said in an earlier post and may elaborate in a later one, foreigners are not very happy with the American gun control system right now and they make it very apparent).  

Planning the Abel Tasman Coastal Trek

I met another person from Yorkshire (Oh, you're a Yorkshire lad!) named Andy. We started calling him Bear Grylls because he was explaining how he has been sleeping in trees and on picnic tables with his hammock and sleeping bag, using his solar powered charger for electricity. That night I was trying to research how to experience Abel Tasman but it seemed very difficult and expensve. Nakedbus wouldn't go there and you could either do the 5 day trek and camp out, or you could do expensive day trips to see the national park. I was nervous I wasn't going to be able to see Abel Tasman at all. That's when Andy invited me to do the whole Abel Tasman Coastal Tek with him. He said he'd help me get the supplies I needed and we could plan it out the next day. I haven't camped out in years so I wouldn't trust myself to be prepared and to do it on my own, but Andy seemed very experienced. So I said sure! 

Andy figured we could do the whole trek (32 miles) in two days. We'd take a bus up to Marahau to start our trek, make our first camp at Bark Bay and our second at Toturanui. Then I could take a water taxi back to Marahau so I'd be back at Nelson in 3 days. 

The next day, a few of us went into town to do some shopping, Andy and I focusing on gettin prepared for the trek. I found a used sleeping bag at a thrift store for NZ$2, a tent for NZ$16, and a sleeping mat for NZ$10. All very cheap! We then headed to the Nelson i-SITE to book our campsites and transportation. After that, we got all the food we would need. This included a loaf of bread, crackers, peanut butter, hummus, brie cheeese, beef jerky, meal replacement bars, apples, oranges, nuts, tuna, etc. I was a little nervous about the trek--we'd have to walk about 16 miles a day!  But I was committed now!

Check out my next post and experience the Abel Tasman Coastal Trek with me! 




Tauranga & Mt. Maunganui

The best thing about backpaking and not having a definite itinerary is that you can change plans within minutes and it's OK. I was in Rotorua but decided to take a trip back up north a bit to Tauranga so I could see Mt. Maunganui, a destination that was highly recommended to me.

I booked one night at Harbourside Backpackers which had a gorgeous view of the harbor right in town. I arrived at my hostel before check-in time so I decided to do my Mt. Maunganui experience right away! I dropped off my big backpack and took my day bag over to the i-SITE (NZ information centers in each town) to wait for the next bus to Mt. Maunganui (buses 1 or 2).  

On my way there, I heard a kiwi woman talking to two girls around my age. She was giving them tips on where to eat and the best way to hike the mountain. I couldn't hear the conversation too well so when we got off the bus, I asked them their plans. Their names were Mel and Diane. They said they were going to eat before the hike and invited me along. 

We went to this small garden cafe/restaurant right in town called AstroLob. I realized that I hadn't eaten a single vegetable in about a week so I ordered a huge spinach salad with pulled pork (of course not as good as NC pulled pork, but still good), candied walnuts and apples. The other girls ordered beers but I stuck with water because 1, we were about to hike a mountain, and 2, NZ beers are awful from my experience. 

After lunch we started the walk. It wasn't an intense trek but some parts were quite steep. The view all the way up was gorgeous, looking out over the Pacific Ocean. It took about an hour or so to climb to the summit. I had my hiking boots on (which I normally do), but I could have easily done this hike in sneakers. At the summit we could see the whole penninsula and islands surrounding it. We walked up to the summit, back down the other side, and around the base. Sometimes we were passing the ocean crashing on huge rocks on the beach and at other parts, we were surrounded by sheep grazing in huge rolling fields. It was all so diverse. The gils and I made great conversation, as well. Mel is from England and Diane from San Paulo. Diane was a bit older than us and explained that she was in New Zealand trying to get a visa for her and her 11 year old daughter who was back in Brazil with her mother. Basically, her whole goal of coming to New Zealand was to find someone to marry and aquire a visa for her and her dependant. She said she wanted to go to the States to do so but the process is much more complicated and expensive. 

Before we got the bus back into town, we grabbed a coffee from a cafe along the beach. Chai Latte for me!

By the time I got back to the hostel Nicole, the Swiss girl I met in Rotorua, was checking in. It was so nice to see a familiar face. We settled in to our (cramped) 4 bunkbed dormroom and went up to the terrace overlooking the harbor. There, we met some people from South America, Marco from Argentina, Lupe from Chile, and Papu from Uruguay. Nicole and I wanted to get a bottle of wine for that night but the nearest grocery store was at least a 15 minute walk away and it was already getting dark. Lupe said they needed to go to Pack'n'Save as well so he offered to give us a lift. While I was there, I grabbed some apples and fruit so I didn't have to rely only on Cliff bars like I have been. 

The rest of the night was full of red wine, mate and dancing to Latino music (I've missed it all so much since I left Argentina).

The next morning I had a bus to Taupo. Sorry I did these blog posts a bit out of order. I already posted the Taupo post but it's OK! As long as its all there for me to read later.  

View from the summit of Mt. Maunganui

View from the summit of Mt. Maunganui

Do you like my incredibly awkward stance?

Do you like my incredibly awkward stance?

Sorry for the sideways photo. I'm speed traveling and don't have time to fix it right now.

Sorry for the sideways photo. I'm speed traveling and don't have time to fix it right now.

Where green meets crystal blue

Where green meets crystal blue

Lambs everywhere!

Lambs everywhere!


In every town I visit, I wish I could stay longer. 

Taupo was definitely one of those towns. I arrived in Taupo by bus from Tauranga on Monday 10/5. I knew I needed to get down to the south island as soon as possible so I started planning out my ferry tickets.  

When I was researching Nakedbus trips and ferry trips, I realized that they didn't work out with the times. I wanted to stay an extra day in Taupo to do the Tongarriro crossing but I decided to start south instead. The Tongarriro crossing is a bit dangerous this time of year and you need a guide that will provide you with equiptment like crampons and an ice pick. The cheapest one I could find was NZ$170 (there were no discounts for backpackers). I knew it would be amazing; it's considered in the top three day treks in the world. However, I knew I wanted a full 2 weeks in the south island so I decided to book my tickets.  

The next day, my Nakedbus to Wellington wasn't until 3:30pm so I decided to do some exploring in Taupo. I took a public bus to Huka falls and walked back to town.

Huka Falls is a must-see when visiting Taupo. The power of the water is mesmerizing.  

About 500 feet upstream from Huka Falls

About 500 feet upstream from Huka Falls

Huka Falls

Huka Falls

About 200,000 liters of water plunge nine meters over the great rock face of Huka Falls every second. All of that water rushing so fast creates a dangerous undertow at the bottom of the falls. I read that this has claimd the boats of many river users foolhardy enough to try to navigate the falls. The falls pick up masses of tumbling air bubbles which create breathtaking colors and give the falls their name, after the Maori word for `foam'.


As I walked upsteam back to town, the Waikato river looked crystal clear and reflective. The flow over the falls is so strong it prevents the upstream migration of trout and native fish such as eels which is why there are no eels to be found in Lake Taupo.

I heard in town that there were thermal hot pools on the way back to town from Huka Falls so I brought my bathingsuit just incase. Thank goodness I did because the hot pools looked irresistable.  


The pools were so warm and inviting. I just relaxed for about an hour. 


I got back to town in time for my 5 hour bus ride to Wellington, the capital. I stayed in Wellington for probably a total of 12 hours because I had my Interislander Ferry from Wellington to Picton (south island ferry terminal) the next morning at 9am. I do wish I could have stayed longer in Wellington. Apparently the nightlife is amazing. However, I was extremely tired and really needed a long shower after my day of walking. On the bus, I met a girl named Holly who was born in England but now lives in Wellington. She graciously offered to give me a ride to my hostel because it would be dark by the time we arrived and it would have been a 20 minute walk. I truly have not met one mean or ignorant person in New Zealand. It's very refreshing.

Check in for my next post about the ferry ride to the south island and my adventures in Nelson/Abel Tasman Costal Trek!




Day 1: September 29th

Well, I made it! My kiwi adventure has begun. 

I got in to Auckland around 6am on Sep. 29th (because of flying, I skipped Sep. 28th). After customs I waited around the airport a bit because I knew my hostel locked its doors until 8:30 am.   Customs really was not that bad. However, NZ customs is quite strict. I overheard a guy saying that they almost fined him $400 for not documenting his hiking shoes which had traces of American dirt on them. The customs man asked to see the bottom of my hiking boots, too, which I thought was strange. I'm sure they need to have strict customs, being an island and whatnot. 

So FYI--clean your outdoor gear before you come to NZ. 

I got Airbus Express for about NZ$16 that took me to my hostel, Oaklands Lodge. My hostel was in Mount Eden, just a short 10 minute public bus ride from the city center and the ferry terminal. Mount Eden Village is a nice little town with a few bars and amazing coffee. Here, you can get a short black (espresso), tall black (double espresso), or flat white (espresso with the heated fluffy latte milk). I got so confused on the flight with Air New Zealand because when I asked for coffee, the flight attendant asked if I wanted white coffee. I quickly figured it out but that was my first exposure to kiwi lingo. Here, they also say "yous" instead of "your." It kind of reminds me of Philly slang... kind of...

Anyway, I had to wait a bit after I got to the hostel to get my room so I put my bags down and went into the kitchen. By this point it was around 9am because the bus from the airport took about 40 minutes.

There were some people eating breakfast in there so I started making conversation. Most of the people I talked to (from Swizerland, France, Scotland, and England) were staying there somewhat longterm. The Swiss guy, Surya, is taking a gap year after high school. He traveled to Thailand for a month and got his 1 year working visa in NZ. He just got job at a local coffee shop so we went into the city center to get him new work clothes.

Auckland is a pretty small city, comparatively, but it seems very metropolitan. There are tons of stores and great restaurants.

We then got some (really cheap and yummy) sushi from a roadside restaurant and took it to the University of Auckland park. It was so beautiful but that side of town is so hilly--the streets almost look like San Francisco. Surya wanted to learn more English adjectives so teaching him the word "steep" was appropriate.  

Because it is going into the spring here, schools are just now finishing up the year. We saw tons of people in their graduation gowns with their families. I guess they just had their ceremony that day. Their graduation robes were much different than ours. They have a black robe but instead of having cordsand sashes like in the USA, they have different colored furry hoods.

It seems like most of the pople here are either white or Asian with a couple Indians thrown in there. I don't think I've seen one black person here yet. Maybe because of the emmigration from Britain and how close it is from Japan and China?

A Kiwi who sat next to me on the flight to Auckland said that the Maori people are the indigenous people from NZ. He said that the Maori people are probably one of the best cases of a native people resisting colonizers, but at the same time, assimilating themselves into the new culture while still keeping their traditions. Walking around, I saw some people that had darker skin and looked Polynesian. I'm wondering if those people are the Maori or if I'll see more the further into the counry I go. Give me a break, people, I'm still learning!

When I got back to my hostel I was exhausted. But I saw I had a new roommate in my 10-bed hostel dorm so I figured I'd introduce myself. Her name is Heather and she's from NYC. She's here on a working visa and rented a caravan to travel around in for this month because she has a friend coming from Norway. She is super cool and seemed to be down for anything. So I asked her If she wanted to go to Waiheki Island the next day with me. Of course she was down. That night, me, Heather, Surya, and a German girl, Patricia, all went to a Belgium bar for a couple drinks. It wasn't long until I got really tired. I was up for about 48 hours (with little awful cat naps on the plane).

The worst part is that I keep waking up around 4 am and can't go back to sleep! It happened both nights so far and it's so annoying. 

Day 2: September 30th

Heather and I got up the next day and headed for the ferry which is just in the city center. The ferry ticket to Waihehi Island was about NZ$34. They asked us if we wanted all-day transport but we figured we'd just walk or figure it out. The ferry ride was about a half hour.

Pulling up to the island was magical. The water was beautiful green that seemed to turn to deep blue right before our eyes. There were huts for kayaks and boats everywhere anchored in the bay. You could see mansions on the top of the mountains ovelooknig the bay.


We unloaded and paid NZ$4.50 each to grab a public bus. Turns out, the island was bigger than we thought. We knew that the island was famous for its wineries so we asked the busdriver where we should get dropped off. He said Stonyrdge is a beautiful winery.

He wasn't kidding. 

This winery was possibly the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. The small winery overlooked incredibly green rolling hills with cows grazing. I went right for two lounge chairs and that's where the booshing began.  

Heather and I first did a red wine sampler then a white wine sampler. She ordered this bruchetta with fancy bacon, goat cheese, walnuts and honey on top. Then we got a bottle of their chardonnay and just rotted in our lounge chairs. Then we ordered an appetizer sampler with a bunch of bread, cheeses, meats, spreads, olives and grapes. Again, incredible.  

Stonyridge also provides yoga classes on the deck where we were so there were all these Buddhas and Ganeshas everywhere. Heather and I were in heaven.

Two guys from our ferry showed up so we offered them the rest of our food sampler--we were so full. Graeme and Greg, like us, met in their hostel in Auckland city center. Graeme is from Scotland and Greg is from England. We just drank and ate and tried to figure out how to work my selfie stick. They rented bikes for the day so they had to head back. Heather and I were planning on going to different wineries but we were honestly so content right there that we didn't move unless we had to pee or order more wine and food. 

Mom-- Please skip these next two paragraphs if you want to avoid reading what you don't want to read. lol.

We were going to head back to the ferry and realized we had no idea what bus we should take or when they were going to show up. So instead, we hitchhiked back to the ferry! It seems like the two most popular modes of transportation for NZ travelers is hitchhiking and buying an old caravan to drive everywhere. Hitchhiking was fun! We stuck out our thumbs for no longer than a minute and a half and a nice fellow with long gray hair picked us up. He said he couldnt't take us all the way to the ferry but he'd get us close. He was so hippie, I loved it. He had feathers all over his 13 year old car and he just talked about how much he loved living on the island.  

He dropped us off closer to town (and the ferry). We said thanks and he went on his way. We decided to get another glass of wine at a restaurant called Vino Vino because why not? After that, we decided to head back to the ferry. We could have walked there in like 30 minutes but we decided to try to hitch a ride again.  This time, a nice older woman pulled over to pick us up. She asked if we were going to the ferry because she was dropping off her mother and some other man there. Perfect!!

We finally got to the ferry and saw this woman that we just passed in a store in town. We thought she teleported or something because we literally just saw her before we got in the car with the older lady. 

I can't quite remember her name right now but she had ripped jeans, a bright pink sweater, messy, curly partly blonde dyed hair, and no shoes. Apparently, she only bought a one way ferry ticket because that's all the money she had on her. She just wanted to spend a nice day a the beach on the island and was hoping that they would let her go back without a ticket. Let's just say, she might have spent the night on the beach because we didn't see her on the ferry when it departed.  

Greg and Graeme were on or ferry and invited us for a beer with the rest of their friends at the bar connected to their hostel. They were having a sudden death pool tournament so we went! There were so many people at this hostel. I met people from Mexico and all over Europe. I told a guy from Mexico that I was heading to Rotorua the next day and I haven't booked a hostel yet. He said to book Crash Palace because they give away free food all the time and it was nice--sounds good to me! I booked two nights right on the spot. 

After I failed miserably at pool, Heather and I got a taxi and headed back to our hostel. Heather's friend from Norway was on her way and would be arriving around 3 am so she wanted to make sure everything was good with her room because she swiched from my room to a double downstairs.  

I finally got some rest. I was so tired. However, I woke up at 4 am again and couldn't get back to sleep! I can't wait when that stops happening.  

Day 3: October 1st

This morning I got up and started walking towards a beautiful hill called... wait for it... One Tree Hill. I'm pretty sure only Heather and I got the TV show reference. We love Chad Michael Murray.

Anyway, even though there is a mountain right next to our hostel I could have hiked, I heard there was sheep at One Tree Hill so I headed there instead. It took me about 40 minutes to walk there so I got to see more of town. I entered the park and climbed to the summit. It was very steep but not a difficult walk. There were a lot of people using this walk as their morning exercise. There were sheep everywhere, too!

 The summit was incredble. You could see all of Auckland. There was an obolisque at the summit but I'm not quie sure what it was for because I had to get back to the hostel to get ready for my 12:25 pm bus to Rotorua. 

The bus was easy to find--it was just opposite the ferry terminal (FYI). 

Anyway, I'm signing off from a window seat on Naked Bus. I can't wait to write about my next adventure.