- Picton – Nelson
- Nelson – Abel Tasman
- Abel Tasman – Westport
- Westport – Greymouth
- Greymouth – Lake Mahinapua
We were one of two buses heading south that day as Kiwi were trying to account for everyone held up in Wellington over the previous few days. This meant that we had to stop in Nelson for a little longer than intended to pick up all those who flew across that morning (and missed the views). Typically, they miscounted the numbers for the second bus, and our one had to turn around to collect the stragglers. This put us behind in the journey. Something that we underestimated the importance of!
After a food stop and very windy roads, we finally rocked up at Kaiteri Lodge, in Kaiteriteri (Abel Tasman) about 6pm. The queue to check-in was long due to the volume of people and it meant we were left till the end. The “room” that we were left with was a shipping container with four bunk beds, a port-a-loo and port-a-shower, a funny plastic smell, but we must not forget the BRAND NEW MATTRESSES!!! This room was a pile of dog sh*t, but it was a comfy bed and one that we had to make do with.
Instead, us girls made a chicken stir fry dinner and re-fuelled with thousands of vegetables, before heading across to the bar. Although we were too late for the pub quiz, the live music afterwards proved to be enjoyable and the continued drinking and DMCs on the beach even more so.
The following morning, Monique and I went for a run (my first since Auckland and it felt so great to be back out exercising again).
The day was beautiful and the bay was very peaceful early in the morning. We had perfectly timed the work out to finish with the bus leaving that morning, containing many from our original group, so we got to say goodbye. It also meant we had the kitchen to ourselves for once!
The kitchen and staff in the hostel then became my pals for the day as I had to complete some work in preparation for Teach First and left the girls to head off on a hike. Upon their return, Emily and I cooked up a storm of cod, sweet potato mash and beans, to put in more of the goodness our bodies were craving! After a short sunset trip to the beach, everyone was completely knackered that evening and after a few calls home, we called it an early night in the container household.
The following morning I had yet another Teach First call, but it was the last of the job admin I had to deal with. After checking out of the container, we headed to the beach cafe for coffee and muffins before the bus departed at midday. The sun was shining beautifully today, with not a cloud in the sky. Naturally, we were on a bus (this time with Murray).
We were first headed to Nelson Lakes National Park and Lake Rotoritti (the Maori meaning for “little lake”, as opposed to Rotorua, “big lake”). This was our lunch stop and was beautiful. The lake contained drained glacial waters from the surrounding Southern Alps and a jetty from which the brave amoungst us jumped in. I was not ‘the brave’ on this occasion! But Morgan was and provided us with possibly the most hilarious slapstick slip off the jetty in to the water. One of those videos you watch on repeat and still cry with laughter every time!
With us recovering from the tears of laughter, the bus headed onwards towards Westport, following the Buller River along its stretch from source to mouth. Westport itself seemed a little deserted, like an apocalyptic Wild West town. However, Bazil’s hostel proved to be fabulous, with a really relaxed feel, free wifi and a pay-as-you-go 24-hour gym, comfy 4-bed rooms, 2 kitchens, surf lessons and a big bald boss guy who could not do more for you. They also offered a meal deal at the local grill house in which we paid $17 for cook-it-yourself steak (on the hot stones), chips and a drink of choice and this was exactly what we wanted after a day or so of giving ourselves some TLC.
When we returned, the sun was near to setting. Bazil’s big bad boss guy showed us the way to the beach (about a 20-minute walk winding around various woody tracks), and Emily and I headed down to watch the sunset and make a bonfire! We proved to be fabulous Bear Grlls (see what I did there?!) and had our fire roaring within minutes. As the sun came down, we sat back relaxing and chatting, wine (for Emily) and water (for me – trying to give my liver a rest!) in hand.
Our favourite crazy Dutchy, Puck, had messaged to say she was joining us, but 45 minutes later and she had still not arrived. Knowing she had no wifi, we became concerned and went in search of her, unsuccessfully. We decided to put out our fire and head back and as we were kicking sand over the embers, we heard “HEY”, “HEY, YOU GUYS” and out the bushes emerged a Puck! Considering her trek to find us, we made another fire, with Puck also proving to have impeccable survival skills (although it has to be said we used a lighter to start the fires).
About 11pm, after 3 hours down at the beach, we wandered home using our phone lights and the “party cup” as our make-shift entertainment system. I hopped in to bed fairly quickly as I had paid for the gym in the morning and wanted to make the most of it.
At 6am, the alarm went off and Monique and I headed next door to the gym. My legs and bum were crying out for a squat rack, my abs for a Swiss ball and my arms for some boxing pads and gloves. I was greeted by all of these at the gym! And it felt really great to get a proper sweat on, get back in the boxing ring and work my legs hard.
We showered, had breakfast and piled back on the coach before heading out to the part of New Zealand closest to Australia. The coastal walk was very similar to that of the Irish or Scottish coast and there were even seals on the rocks! The weather had come in but it was still nice to walk off our stiff legs.
The second stop for the day was at the Pancake Rocks. This time it was just a short walk but the blow holes and coastal views were equally as stunning as the previous walk.
Following our lunch stop, we headed to the West Coast’s biggest town, Greymouth. This is where we could costume shop ready for our fancy dress night at Lake Mahinapua. The theme was good vs. evil against the two buses and we were the ‘good’ bus. I set about finding an Easter Bunny outfit and here was the finished result:
At Lake Mahinapua, we seemed to be at the only form of civilisation around! The Mahinapua Hotel was a crazy little place though. Perfectly located between the beach, 300m right, and the lake, 10 minutes right, run by an extremely welcoming family and offered jade carving workshops on-site. We first decided to walk to the lake, with Emily and I realising that it was about time we went for a kiwi swim and got our GoPro’s wet! After some umming and ahhing, we did brave the (relatively) warm waters of the lake and found it pretty refreshing, although freezing once you got out!
Next up was the jade carving. You chose your stone and shape you wanted to make and then hopped on the sanders and filers, much like being back in resistant materials at school. Once everything was smooth and shiny, they punched a hole through to make you a necklace or bracelet. I chose a curved triangle shape in a piece of jade that had a gradient colour running through. It was pretty fun but the sanding got a little tedious. All in a day’s work!
After showering off and hitting up happy hour at “Poo Bar”, we were ready for our feast. The hotel put on a giant spit roast, complete with all the roast trimmings and a chocolate brownie desert. I think it was their ploy to get you to eat enough before the costume party, but nonetheless, it was delicious.
We then prepped our outfits. I covered just about everyone and everything in glitter decorating my Easter eggs and then painted my face with the correct bunny-like attire. We were all set for our night of “good”, as the Easter Bunny, Barbie and an Elf:
The night was fun, with a kind of cheesy wedding DJ-style vibe, lots of alcohol and plenty of fancy dress! Much like an old hockey night in Bristol or Kings. We ended the night walking to the beach and spotted some of the little blue penguins New Zealand are known for, and then to the lake where a few others had gathered. My night ended about 2.30am when I physically couldnt keep my eyes open following my 6am gym that morning but we did get a lie-in (or sleep-in if you are Monique, bloody aussies!) till 9.15 the following morning.
In a similar feast-style fashion, breakfast was a mass of toast, pancakes and bacon, and sorted outed many a sore head. It’s safe to say that lack of food was not an issue here, or really anywhere along the West Coast of New Zealand!
Buses departed at 10.30 to Franz Josef to end my 4-day journey down the West Coast, which was beautifully scenic.
Now 20 days in to ‘life from a bag’ and so far, so full!