Heading back to Auckland


  • Christchurch – Kaiteriteri
  • Kaiteriteri – Nelson
  • Nelson – Picton – Wellington
  • Wellington – Taupo
  • Taupo – Auckland

I woke up in my lonely room at 6am, ready for a 7am bus out of Christchurch. The bus was about half full, but only with 4 of us who were heading back north as everyone else was new to the bus and ready to go South (lucky people!).

The day was long and dull, driving until 5pm to reach Kaiteriteri with only a few food and toilet stops along the way. Most of the bus off-loaded at Kaiteriteri, outside of our beloved container, and I warned a few girls near me to get in quickly so that they didn’t also suffer #containerlyf.

Finally, we reached Nelson at 6.30pm. I checked in to the YHA, knowing it offered free wifi where I could chill out for the evening and sort out forward bookings. After freshening up, I forced myself to head out for a wonder of Nelson considering the long day sat on the bus. The walk took me through a few recreational parks and down to the port, which was really pretty. Although it was a Friday night, much of Nelson seemed very quiet.

I got back to the YHA about 9pm to find people in my room already asleep. This YHA was full of old and dull people but at least I knew I’d get a good rest. I paid for my Whitsunday’s and Skydive trips then got myself ready for bed, put on a film and rewarded myself with a much-needed early night and time to myself.

The next morning, I made my food early and went out to meet the bus and the grand total of 5 people taking the ferry with the bus that day! Luckily they were all normal and all lovely and we still had crazy Dave to keep us in good spirits. It was another long day of driving and ferry-ing so good company was a great bonus. It also prepped me for the future friends I’d have to make in Australia and how I wouldn’t always have my kiwi family with me (sad times. Em, hurry up already to meet me!).

We arrived at the ferry terminal about 12.30pm but had to wait a few hours before our 2.30pm departure. It gave me a chance to get to know my new companions a bit more even though I was the only solo traveller. On the ferry, this time not hungover, we picked seats right at the front and saw dolphins and orcas in  the bay as we sailed through the coastal inlets. Typically, the Asian photographers hogged all the window space but it was still incredible to see.

I checked in to a 4-bed room and went to unpack my food stuff when I bumped in to Kitty’s uni friend, Ben, on the stairs. It was great to see a familiar face after leaving the family and we had a nice catch up over the free hostel meal. He invited me out with his bus, and although I’d not planned to drink before leaving New Zealand, I did accept the offer.

I met them back down in the bar, which I have to say was odd given how drunk and family-orientated my two previous encouters there were. Still, Ben’s bus were all really lovely and welcoming which made for another good night. We headed out to a local drum and bass club for a while which no one was particularly feeling and so after some aimless wondering, I called it a night with Ben’s group, said a lovely goodbye and head back to the hostel.

The next morning whilst getting ready, I bumped in to yet another familiar face. This time Sasha who lived above us in our second year at Bristol! She was travelling back north too and therefore on my bus that day. We stopped at several cafes en route where I had a catch up with Sasha and arrived in Taupo at 2pm. The sun was shining beautifully and the town and lake looked stunning.

After checking in to the Urban Retreat hostel, which had a good ambience and sweet set up, a girl from the bus, Mary, and I decided to head to the lake to sunbathe, swim and chill out. It was the first time I’d got to sunbathe properly since leaving Rotorua on the way South! I had to remember to lather on the suncream although still managed to get burnt.

The lake was stunning in the sun. Whilst sunbathing, we were also highly entertained by a local and his energetic dog playing frisbee with the boys nearby. They were in awe of this local’s throwing technique and sought to copy him long after he’d walked on, acting like they were part of a GCSE PE assessment and focussing on progression! After a few swims and the first time I’d sat to read my book, we went back to the hostel and I decided to make the most of the evening sun and go for a lake-side run. Luckily, my fitness isn’t massively deteriorating however, my waistline is certainly expanding!

My evening consisted of making dinner, watching ‘Made in Chelsea’ and chatting with the people in my room. It wasn’t a very exciting evening but we were all poor, tired and happy to chill out.

We woke up sweating in our super stuffy room and caught the bus. My card still wasn’t working so I was getting concerned about how I was going to pay for any future endeavours but crazy Dave assured me it’d be fine and on we loaded to the bus. Taupo in the sun had been beautiful and was wonderfully decorated for Christmas, despite how un-Christmassy I still felt.

We made a stop off at a geothermal mud pool outside of Rotorua which provided us once again with Rotorua’s signature sulphur smell and then dropped off those staying in the town, which included Sasha. It was nice to spend a few days with some familiar faces and feel more at home. I also felt reassured that my Milford Sound vomit incident wasn’t all that bad when a guy on our bus threw up and it leaked through the bag, making horrible gagging noises and Dave reacting in a seriously unhappy way.

We stopped off in Matamata and Mary, one of her previous travel companions, Huw (guess where he’s from?!), and myself went in search of coffee. The sun was shining and Matamata wasn’t far from Hobbiton so the town had suitable themed decor including their information centre:

And then we were en route to Auckland to end my Kiwi Experience adventure! I checked in to ‘The Attic’ hostel as I refused to go back to the awful Nomads. It was up on the 5th floor of a seedy apartment block but actually a lovely little hostel! It had a great roof terrace and real homely feel to it. Huw and I were both staying there and so after dumping our stuff, decided to head off for a wonder of Auckland (considering both of us saw about 200m of it last time we were there).

The walk took us to Prince Albert park and the museum and back around to the top of Queen Street. We also got to experience some of Auckland’s unique Christmas Decorations, although I’m still not really in the Christmas spirit.

After some dinner and a discussion of how to spend the evening, Huw and I decided to see Auckland in another light: sunset and darkness. It was like a different city completely! I always say there are 4 times of day at which time you’ll see 4 different cities, those being sunrise, daytime, sunset and nighttime. Auckland was a prime example of this in action.

The harbour looked stunning. It was buzzing with the passengers of a docked cruise liner and various other tourists, with many cafes, bars, sailing boats and small ferries. We sat in a Mexican restaurant with a margarita and watched the sun set across the harbour, and then continued our persist of the nighttime city.

Snaking through the side streets of Auckland, we found several little treasures and sweetly decorated lanes. And then we found Giapo, the world’s best ice cream shop ever!! Everything is purchased by taste so we got free samples of many gelato flavours before deciding on a avocado and macadamia flavour, accompanied by a vanilla with hazelnut praline, cookies and meringue. They topped the gelato with hazelnut praline dusting, mirengue cream which they blow-torched, and hazelnuts dipped in gold dust. It was devine!!

Before heading back to the hostel, we head back up the hill of Prince Albert Park and had a fantastic view of the Sky Tower through the trees (look at me getting artsy!).

And eventually, after a total of 6 hours wondering that day, we did jump in to our beds and get a good rest, in a very large hostel room without bunks (finally!) before the next day of Auckland adventure. I was so far impressed with what Auckland had to offer.

I’d planned to join the free walking tour the next morning as Huw was heading over to Waiheke Island and I couldn’t afford to. There I met a lovely girl named Leila who was airline staff and had to wait an extra day before she could fly back to Dubai. The tour itself was very informative, taking us around most of the downtown area, harbour, posher areas, the parks and art valley. See photos:

We snuck off a little before the end to do a spot of shopping, purchasing various souvenirs and birthday presents, before finding a lovely grassy spot outside the Britomart building and shopping area with bean bags, where we spent the next few hours chilling out and soaking up the gorgeous sunny weather. Ben and Sylvie, from my Kiwi bus heading north, also walked down to join us there whilst we made airport transfer plans.

About 6pm, I grabbed some food and headed back to the hostel to do my washing before Australia and sort out a few other things. Auckland had been such a pleasant surprise and I’m really glad I chose to spend my extra night there, having not seen the city much when I first arrived.

The lady at reception was sure glad to see the back of me after using the luggage room as my personal room that evening, packing and re-packing, showering, laundry, food etc.! I the. caught up on Huw’s day out on the roof terrace and watched a quick film in the lounge and about 12.15am, finally left the hostel to find Ben and Sylvie and get the bus to the airport.

We were playing tramp that night so caught as late a bus as we could and then camped on the airport floor before checking in at 4am the next morning. Traveller lifestyle and saving money and all that!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was New Zealand.

So, 37 days in to ‘life from a bag’ and so far, I’ve been wowed, I’ve laughed till my stomach hurts, I’ve sung and danced, and I’ve had the best 5 weeks of my life. On to Australia for this little backpacker now!

Gabby x

P.S. See below for a collection of my finest NZ moments!


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