Tag Archives: Magic Bus

Duendin, Lake Tekapo and Christchurch

22nd to 27th of October, 2011


After my super cool flight in the cockpit of the Stewart Island Flights, followed by another long wait at the Information center for a bus, I arrived in Invercargill and looked lost. I was meeting family, my cousin’s dad and his wife. I had never met Marlene and only had a vague memory of Vic, so it proved to be interesting. Luckily there weren’t too many people and so I simply glanced around for 2 other people looking as lost as I was. It didn’t take long. They greeted me like an old friend and I was ushered into the car and told of the weekend plans.

Back at “home” I was shown to what can only be called my “wing” of the house, with a large double bed, a tv room and a bathroom with a MASSIVE tub, that has jets. I know what my plan for the evening is. I had some dinner and we watched the end of the Wales vs Australia game. Then bed time, well first long soak in bath followed by bed.

Dunedin Tour

The next morning after a yummy breakfast, Vic and I headed out for a bit of a tour of the peninsula. We went up to a great view point and he pointed the outline of the volcano crater that created the lake Dunedin now sits around.

Me and Uncle Vic

Lunch and a wander through the amazing botanical gardens completed the morning half of the tour. The Rhodedendrons were spectacular.


Then we drove around the lake to the peninsula and past the only castle in the Southern Hemisphere. We would have gone in but the cost was an arm and a leg so we skipped it. Back home along the water with a stop at the university, very beautiful grounds.

Dunedin Uni

My afternoon involved naps, blog and uploading photos, you can’t get much better than that while on the road.

We had planned to go out for dinner but instead decided to stay in have roast lamb and then watch a movie. I found it delicious but Marlene was disappointed that she hadn’t seasoned it properly, the cook is always the worst critic. The movie we got was 127hrs, about the young man who got trapped while hiking and had to cut off his own hand. The movie was really fantastic and except for 2 spots where we had to skip to the next scene as the DVD was scratched, all was good. Vic and Marlene now swear never to go back to that movie store as this has happened before.

Rugby World Cup 2011 Final

The main plan for sunday, other than packing, again, was to go over to some friends and watch the final of the rugby, New Zealand vs France. This was a repeat of 1987, the last time the All Blacks won the web ellis trophy, so tension was high. Most felt that France did not deserve to be in the final as they had lost 2 of their pool games, including one to Tonga, while NZ had won every game so far. Either way, France has a history of upsetting the Kiwis at vital games, so well people feel pretty assured that they will win, there is always the high possibility that the Frogs will wake up and suddenly wreck the home nations plans of victory.

Excitement was high and we all sat on the edge of our seats as the haka began. During the haka the frenchies got a bit of an attitude and crossed the imaginary line moving closer to the All Blacks, they were later fined for this act. In my opinion other teams should be allowed to face down the challenge.

From the start the game was tense and the frogs seemed to have found their stride as they were playing really well. The All Blacks were battling to keep up the pressure and missed quite a few kicks (to be fair so did the French). Nearing the last 15min the All Blacks were forced to send in a 4th string reserve, essentially the bottom of the barrel, everyone groaned until he converted a penalty that ultimately won the game for the team. I think he should just retire now as its not going to get any better.

While it wasn’t the fantastic win the nation hoped for, and some say the French deserved to win, it was a good tense game and the best team won. Go All Blacks. In any case ifthe French had won everyone would have said they didn’t deserve to even be in the final, so this way, its a win win, the French prove their worth and the Kiwis can stop whining about not having held the trophy for 24yrs.
See song on youtube:
24yrs waiting

Return to Magic

Early the following morning, I said farewell to everyone and Vic drove me to my next pick up point for the Magic Bus. I had two more journeys before the end and only 3more nights in NZ. Where has the time gone. Originally I had planned to go with Magic from Invercargill to Dunedin on their Catlins tour, they were even willing to give me a cheaper price as I was missing the first half. Unfortunately the tour only started in November and I was leaving the country before that.

As we headed out of Dunedin we made a stop at the world’s steepest street. Nope that doesn’t mean we flew to SF, cause it turns out that the steepest street is in this sleepy little University town.

Some of the others ran up but even just standing made you worked muscles you never knew you had. I am pretty certain they must be stranded if there is even a hint of snow or ice.

steepest st

Moeraki Boulders

We were told we were stopping to see large round boulders on the beach. Well that didn’t stimulate the enthusiasm but hey you never know. And they are officially the coolest boulders ever!!! They just seemed to “grow” out of the earth. At first glance you might think they are perfectly round drop stones from a glacier but on closer inspection you see they are not.

Moeraki Boulders

According to Wikipedia:
The Moeraki Boulders are concretions created by the cementation of the Paleocene mudstone of the Moeraki Formation, from which they have been exhumed by coastal erosion.

The main body of the boulders started forming in what was then marine mud, near the surface of the Paleocene sea floor. This is demonstrated by studies of their composition; specifically the magnesium and iron content, and stable isotopes of oxygen and carbon. Their spherical shape indicates that the source of calcium was mass diffusion, as opposed to fluid flow.

The larger boulders, 2 metres (6 feet) in diameter, are estimated to have taken 4 to 5.5 million years to grow while 10 to 50 metres (30 to 150 feet) of marine mud accumulated on the seafloor above them. After the concretions formed, large cracks known as septaria formed in them. Brown calcite, yellow calcite, and small amounts of dolomite and quartz progressively filled these cracks when a drop in sea level allowed fresh groundwater to flow through the mudstone enclosing them.

Lake Tekapo

We stopped at a couple of other lakes and such and were awestruck by the color of the water. Due to the copper sulfate in the rocks, the water is a stunning milky blue. It quite literally looks like someone has dyed the water. Getting into Lake Tekapo we stop first at a tiny little church on the far side of the “town”, or rather small collection of gift shops and restaurants.

tiny church on lakeside, about 100yrs old

We also visited a statue erected to honor collie dogs, who without their help the sheep farmers would never have been able to run their farms.

Finally we dropped all relative travelers off and made our final stop at Lake Tekapo Hostel. I was put in a 4 bed dorm while the others were put in a 6 bed, but it meant we all had bottom bunks.

Braai/BBQ time

When we stopped in Oamaru our fearless driver had picked up a few things for the BBQ. Only a very hungover scotsman, the driver and me were participating, but with $10 each we got a fair amount of meat and even a small thing of coleslaw.

Dinner time

The hostel had the sweetest cats and every now and then when a rabbit was killed (they are serious pests in New Zealand), the cats were given a treat. In truth I don’t think it knew what to do with it but it was awfully cute watching the reaction.

Weather issues

Had hoped to go horseriding, but the weather was downright foul and so spent most of the day writing and reading. Mailed a parcel and just chilled, always a good day when you can take time out, so it wasn’t a total loss. The walk to town was always fun as the wind blew so hard it nearly took me with it. The Magic bus arrived with a whole huge group all of which had put money in for the BBQ, so they had a downright royal feast, which left the rest of us drooling. They even had icecream. It also brought with it a pair of Dutch who seemed to have gone a bit sour our last meeting and did not seem enthused to see me. Oh well, I wasn’t enthused to see them either. There is always 1, or 2 in this case.

Off to Christchurch

My last morning in Tekapo and my last full day in New Zealand. Can’t believe it has been 2 mths and that tomorrow I would be heading to scuba diving!!!! The hostel cats seemed determined to claim my bags and were soon making themselves quite comfortable and using them as a playground.

Hostel Kitties

Arriving in Christchurch I checked into my hostel, Jailhouse. It used to be an old jail and the rooms are the actual cell. The only thing they had was a 10bed or a 2bed. The twin was double the price but it was my last night so I figured what the hell.

Jailhouse Hostel


I have always wanted a tattoo, but love the Maori designs and spirals (my favorite shape), and always promised myself if I ever got one it would be in New Zealand. Well I had barely 24hrs left in the country so figured I would go check it out. I had picked up a flyer 2mths before during my first visit to Christchurch and now I headed out to have a meeting with an artist. I had checked their website and asked around and they had a very good reputation. I hoped to chat and maybe even get a rough sketch of what the tattoo might look like.

I was super nervous walking to the store, but kept reminding myself of all the insane things I had already done, shaving my head, paragliding and so much more. Have always wanted one so this was the perfect time. At the office (which seemed a little small from what I was expecting with only one chair and artist). The manager, I think, sat to chat with me and just wrote down notes then said come in at 11am in the morning (note I needed to be at the airport at 1pm) and it would be no problem. I felt a little rushed and since we hadn’t even discussed price I asked the question. He immediately launched into how good they were and they charge a minimum of $200 even if it is just a tiny spider tattoo, mine would cost around $350. I gaped a bit and tried to look composed. Definately not in my budget, I was thinking $100 at the most. I didn’t even want to tell him that, as he continued to say how the days of $50 tattoos were over and how they are now works of art. Am sure they are, but $350 is another 2 days diving on the oil rig in Borneo… I asked about a small sketch and he said he would do me a deal and charge me $200 for that. I politely said thanks and I would think about it, stepped outside walked away and then almost gagged at the thought of that.

Was feeling a bit down as all the nerves I had had were now completely let down and I was feeling unbelievably exhausted. I had some korean food for lunch, which perked me up a little and got some passport photos for my Nepal Visa, then walked around before heading back to the hostel and collapsing in a heap. I felt like I had just run a marathon. Amazing how much disappointment can effect you.

Emily from England

After about a 2hr nap my new roommate showed up. I had hoped that I would not get a roommate and could spend my last night in New Zealand curled up in a ball sleeping and reading.

But Emily, who was just starting her trip in New Zealand, and I soon hit it off and were chatting about places she should go and things she should do. Then we headed out for a quiet dinner, not! She had stopped in at this small restaurant the night before and had ended up sharing a bottle of wine with the bartender. He was very happy to see her again and soon we were drinking jam jar cocktails and eating delicious pizza. While most bars have pool, this one had a putting range. It was a fantastic night, and I had a feeling that after 4 jam jars and something called Agua mixed with red bull, I might feel it in the morning. But may as well go out with a bang on your last night.

Emily and me

Agua (not water) and Red Bull shot

Farewell NZ

Last morning, feeling more than slightly rough, both of us consumed copious amounts of water and while Emily headed out to start her tour I headed out to the airport, to hopefully survive my 11hr flight to Malaysia. Why did I break my rule of no flying with a hangover… oh well at least it was fun.

I love NZ and hope to come back, have made some amazing friends and seen amazing places. Thanks to all those who helped me on this leg of my journey.

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Posted by on November 14, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Nelson to Greymouth to Franz Josef to Wanaka

4th to 7th October 2011

Our Coach Captain

Moving onto my second Magic driver, we met Soap (apparently because he is so clean – or so he says). However, don’t call him a driver, he is our Captain, and our bus is a coach, nicknamed Snowflake as she has no markings on her yet. In fact he even has his own theme song (pilfered from an Aussie artist), everytime we hear the word “captain” we have to shout out SOAP! . All rather amusing and gets everyone in the right mood. He also plays games along the way and hands out small bars of soap to the winners.

As we headed towards Greymouth we crossed over Hope Saddle and marveled at the inversion fog covering the valley. We are now heading into the West Coast of New Zealand, famous for its friendly residents and laid back attitude. We also stopped at Cape Foulwind, named by Captain Cook after he was blown off course and gazed down at the fur seals. Greymouth is a required stop over and we all planned to head into town for the Monteith’s Brewery tour.

Kilkenny Lookout

Our captain stopped at the lookout to show us a feat of human engineering. The road that has been cut into the mountain. It was only wide enough for a single vehicle and just barely high enough not to take the paint off the top of lovely Snowflake the coach. As we walked along the route, Captain Soap drove through and met us on the other side.

Driving through...barely

Pancake Rocks

Just outside of Greymouth we had a speedy 30min stop at the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks.

Pancake Rocks

The rocks were formed their pancake like appearance after immense pressure was exerted on alternating hard and soft layers of marine creatures and sediments millenia ago. The subsequent erosion has created these stacks and also have numerous blowholes that can be quite impressive during high tides.


After getting ourselves reasonable settled and dressed warm, we headed out to grab the complimentary taxi to the brewery. As the brewery was going through and overhaul you don’t actually get to go through it. But you pay $25 and watch a video then get to enjoy some samples and finally a dinner at a local diner. The video was informative, the samples were non stop. Our “guide” was fantastic and full of jokes. He sampled each of the main Monteith line, but let us keep refilling our glasses with the one we preferred if we weren’t too into the other beers. I focused on the apple cider, wish they had had the pear cider on tap though. Then we all got a chance to try and pour. Good fun and we were all pretty sozzled by the time we left to dinner.

Learning to pour

Group shot

Mmmm dinner


As some of you who have kept up with this blog from the beginning will remember, my bag was attacked and made holy by mice in Australia. This morning I woke up and went to get some breakfast, rather confused as to why my food bag seemed to be leaking its contents as I walked… Yup, the mice struck again and managed to get into 2/3’s of my food. Bugger it all!! I went and told reception and their response was:
“mmmm will have to put the cat in that room then”. Ahhh yes this is Greymouth!

Panning for Gold

After discovering holes in my food, we packed up and hopped on Snowflake to head into Franz Josef. Our little stop along the way was the town of Ross, famous for its gold reserves. The big companies have been making yearly offers to move the town 2km down the way, moving the actual houses, paying each resident double and giving them a share in the mine. But change comes slowly to the West coast and each had been turned down, although the vote is getting closer.

We stopped at the wee information center and I decided to “pan for gold” for $10. I thought we were going to go to the stream, but they had a set up outside the center for those on a time limit. It is actually a lot harder than you think and you have to be sure to keep your fingers out of the water as the oil makes the gold flakes float. But eventually I managed to slosh out all the rocks and discover the flakes at the bottom, also found a small piece of jade.

Woohoo GOLD! I think...

my little vial of gold

Return to Franz

We pulled into Franz around 1pm. The weather seemed ok, and I had planned to go kayaking. But I was seriously in the dumps. Felt really tired, still cranky after the mouse incident and in general just being a grumpy sod. I went down to check out the kayaking and still couldn’t decide. I was staying at Montrose Backpackers, where Andre and I had stayed before, so I went to Arlene (the Scottish Manager) and asked her opinion, she looked at me and said exactly what I needed: “quit whining and get out there, you will love it”.

I went to pick up some food and take a nap. When I woke up it had started raining and my mood still hadn’t improved. I hate it when I feel like that. But after 2 weeks of being pretty sick and not being able to do anything, I knew that kayaking was just what I needed, I just didn’t want to admit it. I went down and checked in and met Ben our guide. He’s from California and a right hoot. As soon as we got to the lake the bad weather remained over the town. It was beautiful and the minute we were on the water of lake Mapourika, I felt much better. Ben took one look at me and said “yup kayaking works everytime”. We crossed the lake and moved into the kiwi sanctuary. We saw a white heron fishing, you are considered blessed if you see one as they are quite rare. He let us come quite close.

White Heron

We had to go in single file for the next section as it was through a rather tight waterway in the sanctuary. We also spaced out so that we could see the amazing reflections caused my the mirror like qualities of the water. At times I couldn’t tell where the path turned to steer and had to ask my partner in the front to tell me left or right.

The mirror effect

On our way back the heron was still there and still seemed relatively unperturbed by our presence. Returning across the lake the weather remained clear and calm and it even seemed to have improved over the town.

passers by

The Crew

On the way back it looked like the running of the bulls. One of the local farmers was moving is herd, down the only road in town.

Running of the bulls??

Met our fearless kayak leader for a beer that evening then headed out for an early night as the bus leaves at 7am the next morning.

Lake Matheson

The next day we headed out early with a stop at another small glacier town, called Fox Glacier. We picked up a few and then went to walk to the scenic view of Lake Matheson, our driver… sorry I mean captain, was Soap again and he played his theme song and we all sang along. One chap won a small bar of soap for best singing (he was not overly impressed).

Our Coach Captain

Soap had expected the whole return trip to see the lake would take a total of 30min, giving us another 30min to relax and grab a cup of very expensive coffee at the cafe. Turns out it was 30min one way, so we all did a fairly brisk walk way too early in the morning. But the view was stunning and I saved myself some money on the very expensive coffee.

Lake Matheson


The drive today was absolutely stunning as we headed along the west coast. There were a number of breathtaking lakes along the way.

lake views

The coach was continuing with our captain to Queenstown, but a large number of us were hopping off in Wanaka. Said to be a smaller version of Queenstown, it is a very quaint village on the shores of a stunning lake. We were staying at the Purple Cow backpackers and loved it immediately, from the views out of the main window

The view

To the cat named Smokey, who was known for his rather disgruntled personality, unless you had food.


Sun bathing in Spring???

The temp was barely 15C, but it felt way warmer and Amy, Amelia, Pompom (aka Tom) and I found ourselves sunbathing on the shores of the lake. All too soon someone had the idea to run in and take a dip. It was bloody freezing but hilarious at the same time.


The very cold lake

We spent the rest of the day walking around town, picking up some food and then sitting and talking pretty much all night. It was great fun. Then it was time for bed and a bit of a sleep in the next morning, as the bus only picked us up at 1pm.

My good deed

That morning we went and hunted down some face paint at the $2 store and then the others went hiking. I headed back to the hostel to work on my blog. Well I was there I noticed a guy holding something that look like an animal. It turned out to be a small bird, possibly a finch. He and his girlfriend had found it sitting on the side of the road. It looked dazed and had most likely been hit by a car or flown into a window. They were attempting to give it milk. I recommended sugar water and a dark box to keep it calm. It seemed to improve and didn’t have the death claws so there was hope. But when the bus pulled in a few hours later it was still relatively out of it and not ready to be released. I hope that it recovered after I left.

Back on the road again

All packed and boarded we headed out of Wanaka on our trusty Magic stead and off towards Queenstown.


Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Kaikoura to Nelson

30th September to 4th October 2011

Picton Pickups

On the way to Nelson we stopped off at the ferry terminal in Picton. We had around 10 folks joining us. As the passengers disembarked we saw a white pompom beanie come bobbing up and down towards the bus, enthusiastically waving and smiling. This turned out to be Tom from England, but I dubbed him PomPom. Got to love the folks you meet on the Magic Bus.

Mmm Icecream

The day was perfect, the drive was beautiful and the company great. At our lunch spot, in the middle of nowhere, the cafe owner gave us double scoops for the price of a single. Woohoo! I got Hokey Pokey, vanilla with honeycomb pieces, it was delicious. At this cafe they also serve a variety of interesting pies, such as rabbit, venison even possum. Then we hopped back on Marg’ the Magic Bus and headed the rest of the way to Nelson, the sunniest town in NZ.


Wwoof means – willing workers on organic farms. I had organised 3 nights of Wwoofing at a lodge just outside Nelson, not exactly a farm but they count as well. Nic and I figured out where it was and we organised for me to hop out of the bus along the road. We just hoped it was the right stretch of road, as it was a long walk into town. As I waved farewell to the crew on the bus I settled down on my bag to wait for my ride. Luckily it didn’t take long till Alan showed up. We picked up their son at school and then headed up the hill to the lodge. The view was breathtaking.

Stunning view

Within a short span I was given chemicals and sent to scrub the shower. It took me a good hour and I was fairly high after cleaning the glass with the water resistant coating…weeeeeeeeeeee

For dinner we had Thai Curry and watched the sunset. I great evening which was followed by heading into town to watch the SA vs Samoa rugby game. I walked in with James and Chloe dressed in my flag, with springbok paste on tattoos on our cheeks, to discover the entire bar supported Samoa. The others grabbed a drink and settled unobtrusively in a corner, I sat at the bar and supported the Boks, as much as possible without risking severe bodily harm from the Samoa supporters.

Sunset over Nelson

A weeding We Shall Go

The task of the day was weeding the elevated vegetable garden. Normally this would seem like a breeze, but considering it had spent a couple of seasons cultivating its weeds, the garden wasn’t too impressed when I was trying to pull them out. Add to this the fact that it is at a height of 4ft, meant some of the particularly stubborn weeds threatened to cause me to fall backwards. Luckily I remained somewhat stable and it only took me 3hrs to weed a plot approximately 10m by 1m. Wish I had taken photos, cause I was rather proud afterwards.

Later the 3 of us wwoofers went into town to check out the last few minutes of the market and walk around a bit. The Aussie vs Russia game was on and the atmosphere was electric, with the Aussies all decked out and everyone else (no matter of nationality) all supporting Russia. In the Rugby World Cup the motto is pretty much anyone but Australia/England or France. Unless you are from one of those countries of course.

Aussie Pride

With the rugby game on in the town of Nelson, Candace and Alan (our hosts) were running a snack cart at the game, the boys were watching it live, which left the house to us. It was great having a big house to relax in. We watched movies, I made Toad in the hole for dinner and when everyone did arrive home we watched the next game on the telly.

Chloe and I having "breakfast"

Nelson the sunniest town in NZ…REALLY??

Woke this morning to torrential downpour. It was actually rather impressive. The region did need rain so we didn’t mind the rain too much. It also meant that Alan’s plans to redo the whole garden were put on hold. Instead we worked on changing the beds and cleaning the bathrooms, which took just under 3hrs and gave us the rest of the day off. I worked on my blog and then we all went and sat in the hot tub in the rain. Felt fantastic. A little afternoon nap and then time to make dinner. I had offered to make the Schmidt’s famous Spaghetti Bolognese. In between brownouts and thunder and lightening we sat down to enjoy the meal, followed by icecream. After the rugby game I asked Candace to take a look at my back in exchange I would make her a necklace. She had me stand and bend and squat, then announced that my pelvis was out of line, she gave me some stretches and assured me that would help. Well then, now that I know whats wrong I can work towards fixing it… but then again I am terrible at remembering stretches.

Return to Paradiso

I had been offered work trade at Paradiso hostel for a few days, so ended my time with the lodge and was able to get a ride into town. It was still pissing with rain so moving bags was fun. But I managed with minimum rain dampness. I was put into a small 4 bed dorm and had to quickly dump my bags and slip out as there was someone sleeping. My chore for the day was reorganizing the chemical cupboard. The dilemma – the chemical cupboard was not under cover…and it was still raining, buckets, in fact, cats and dogs. Luckily around 3pm there was a short break in the weather, so I quickly went about tidying and sorting the chemical cupboard. All of 20min for a nights accommodation. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, doing my strings and my blog.

Unpacking for Painting

Trade work for this day was to help unpack the tv room for repainting. This involved removing all detachable items, gathering the furniture in the center of the room and sorting through the VHS tapes and book trade shelves. Its always dangerous going through the book shelf, so far I have managed to keep my book baggage down to one for reading, one for journal and one for guide. But now found myself with 3 extra for reading, and I just couldn’t decide which one to leave behind. So now I found myself with 4 for reading, 1 for journal, but no guide. However, I did have my next journal ready in the wings.

But it was an enjoyable couple of hours of trade work!!

As far as weather went, it was still raining. Nelson is the sunniest town in NZ and it had rained for the last 3 days, solid. Without even a glare to call sunshine. The first time I was here I was sick, and now it was raining constantly. I decided to head out the next day, if nothing else I was fairly certain my departure would ensure the sun’s return for others. Murphy’s Law.

The good news was that during the crappy weather I had managed to secure work trade at a hostel on Stewart Island for 10 days. EXCELLENT!!!

Tomorrow is was off to Greymouth and then Franz Josef on the Magic Bus.

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Posted by on October 16, 2011 in Uncategorized


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The Start of the Southern Discovery with Magic

28th September 2011


On February 22nd, 2011, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit barely 5km beneath the surface of Christchurch with devastating results. Today, almost 8mths later, the city center is still fenced off, monuments and historical buildings, churches remain rubble and repairs will be ongoing for many months to come, if not years. There continue to be after shocks every day.

It is therefore disturbing on many levels, when you discover in the morning that there were 2 aftershocks during the night. The only time you want to hear the word tremors is in relation to the movie. Luckily they were very mild ones, and most of us just assumed our bunk mate had rolled over… but its still nerve racking.

Christchurch to Kaikoura

After a good breakfast and sorting of bags, I headed outside with a group of other travelers to await the first of many Magic Buses. This would be the second trip I would do with Magic, the Northland 4 day tour being the first. Waiting with me were cousins from Sweden, friends from England and a few Germans, promising a good mix on the bus.

Nic with his trusty sidekick, Ross, was our driver and our chariot was Marg’ (Margery). Nic, with his baby face and near comical Kiwi accent (I mean that as a compliment), was full of enthusiasm and soon had us in stitches as he rattled off lines from the NZ movie “Boy”.


Co-Pilot Ross

We stopped for lunch at the Antarctic Center and low and behold who do I see coming out, but none other than Andre. His flight had been delayed and so he had wandered over to check out the center. It was good to see him again.

The center is an interesting stop, there isn’t enough time to go through it but there are some fascinating exhibits and information boards scattered around outside and in the lobby. We then continued on our journey up the East coast.


Listening to a bus driver rattle off his typical meal plan is like spending a day at a fast food joint. 3 of us, Jen (Scotland, been with Nic’s bus for a while), Tamsin (UK, dietitian) and me, spent a majority of the trip to Kaikoura trying to convince him of the benefits of eating healthy and that chewing 7 vit C tabs a day isn’t an alternative. We eventually got him to eat an orange. Oh the small victories!


The weather was beyond spectacular, it was in fact, PERFECT! Clear skies, cool but not cold and warm sun. We pulled into Kaikoura and marveled at it’s beauty. Nic drove us through town and then to a fur seal colony. They are so close you could almost touch them, you would most likely lose your hand, but hey its up to you.

Fur seal in Kaikoura

Our hostel, Dusky Lodge, came with spa tub, heated pool and a sauna. Pure heaven to a backpacker. The front desk was great as they didn’t overcrowd the rooms, and Tamsin and I ended up having a 4 bed dorm to ourselves.

After a store run, dinner and a dip in the hot tub and the pool and the sauna, we all got ready to go to the pub quiz in town. Nic, Jen, an Irish guy and I went to quiz night, all very excited for the game. It was due to start at 8.30pm but the rugby delayed it till 9pm, it started at 9.30pm. We had 7rounds with 1 of them being a joker worth double points. We chose the Cartoon round. All was going well until we got to the cartoon round. The last question was replaced by an obscure sports question because they thought no one would know who the actual voice was of “Chef” in South Park. Turns out we knew that answer but not the sports question. Now, I tend to take my quiz nights a bit too seriously and got a little annoyed that we lost points when we knew the answer to the original, Isaac Hayes. Add to that the long delays and that it was almost 11pm and we weren’t even half way… the lot of us got up and left. Oh well it was fun while it lasted.


After such a stunning arrival day I was sincerely looking forward to some walking in the morning and exploring along the coastline. The weather, however, had other ideas. It was cold and grey and miserable. I walked into town once to look for coffee and explore. I also stopped into a pharmacist to see about getting my 3rd bottle of cough mixture. The pharmacist recommended against it, saying I was wasting my money and just to let myself cough till I was over it. As long as there was no fever or blood I was fine.

Back at the hostel I worked on my blog, uploaded photos and read my book. Going into town once more to mail a postcard. In the evening a bunch of us watched “Eat, Pray, Love”.

In the morning as we drove out of this tiny town on a stunning wild coastline with gorgeous snowcapped peaks in the distance the weather was clear and sunny and promising to be just like the day we drove in. Go Figure!

Nic and Marg' on the way out of Kaikoura

Next stop Nelson!


Posted by on October 12, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Return to Auckland – Day 216

6th September 2011

Meeting the Lord of the Forest

Today we jumped on the Magic Bus and headed back to Auckland. We stopped in at the info center of Hokianga Harbour hoping to watch a short video on Opo the gay dolphin…in terms of his happy temperament which I am sure is what all of you were thinking. But alas the video machine was glitching so we had to settle with skipping rocks across the bay. After a brief breakfast stop we headed to the Waipoua Forest to meet Tane Mahuta.

Tane Mahuta, or Lord of the Forest, is New Zealand’s largest known living Kauri tree. It is believed the tree was discovered around 1920.

Trunk Girth 13.77 m (45′ 2.12″)
Trunk Height 17.68 m (58′ 0.06″)
Total Height 51.2 m (167′ 11.74″)
Trunk Volume 244.5 m3

Tane Mahuta

According to Maori Legend, Tane is the son of Ranginui, Sky Father, and Papatuanuku, Earth Mother. His parents embrace prevented light from reaching earth and it was Tane who tore them apart and clothed his mother in the forests of today. All living creatures are considered the children of Tane Mahuta, whi is estimated to be between 1250 and 2500 years old.

Kauri and Pioneer Museum

The last stop is a truly interesting museum. Most folks don’t check it out, but since I had a ticket with the all inclusive ticket I thought what that heck. It turned out to be downright fascinating and a place more people should take the time to see. It showed the history of kauri logging and also kauri gum collection, quite valuable in the past. The most awe inspiring aspect of the museum were the cross sections of log showing dates. You truly don’t get the concept of a 1500yr old tree until you see that this tree was growing when Tasman discovered NZ in 1642 etc…

That was an old tree

Cross section of very large Kauri

Back in Auckland

Pulling in to Auckland mid afternoon we said cheers to our driver and the other folks we had met on the bus and basked in the glow of our Magical Journey… ok a little corny but it had to be said.

We decided to hang out, run some errands and take pics with some of the Rugby World Cup Landmarks.

The Countdown to the start

In front of the giant inflatable ball

All too soon it was time to catch trains and busses and say farewell till next time. The other 3 were heading to the Coromundel for the weekend and then traveling South on Magic. We planned to meet up in Wellington and continue our travels from there.

All in all those 4 days were just what I needed and I truly thank Magic for making it possible.

Here’s to good friends!

Good friends were made

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Posted by on September 23, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Exploring Paihia – Day 215

5th of September 2011

A Walk in the Sun

Today we have a free day from the tour. Due to the Magic Bus pick up schedule we can only be picked up on Tuesday. But that was fine with me as it gave a chill out day to explore this stunning town and take a walk in the sun to the Treaty Grounds.

The girls, all skilled in bike riding, decided to borrow hostel bikes and head to the Haruru falls.

Haruru Falls

Me, being slightly less adept at the art of bicycles, opted to take a walk and use the free entry I had to learn about some important New Zealand history, the Waittangi Treaty.

Waitangi Treaty

It was about a 2km walk from the hostel to the treaty grounds and all I had were my boots, and they were not hiking boots. But luckily they are wearable and only need new insole now and then. It felt great to walk along the waterfront, listening to music and contemplating…nothing.

stunning bay views

When I got to the Treaty Grounds I learnt that it was the Official Welcome for the Canadian Rugby Team. Bonus! But before they arrived I wandered around the treaty grounds and took in the beautiful forested areas. The Treaty was signed on 6th of February 1840 by the British Crown and various Maori Chiefs from the north island of New Zealand.It established a British Governor of New Zealand and recognised Maori ownership of land and gave them rights as British subjects. The treaty was written in both English and Maori… besides the fact that the Maori had no written language at the time, it was quite a remarkable event.

The Treaty Grounds are set amongst beautiful native bush and right near the water. The ceremonial waka (canoe) is open to the public to walk around and see the stunning workmanship. It was made out of 2 giant kauri trees.


The area is home to numerous species of native birds and as it was spring, I came across a number of young ones.

Pukeko and chicks

After exploring I headed over to the museum area where the Canadian Team would be welcomed. In traditional Maori fashion as the team walked up, there were numerous challenges by young men from different tribes. They would run up screaming, do an intimidating haka type dance and then lay some leaves on the ground. The team captain had to pick up the leaves and continue walking until confronted by another warrior. At the end the had to present the leaves to the chief and then were allowed entry. It was all very impressive and the young warriors did a fantastic job.

Welcome Ceremony

After enjoying the cultural experience and listening to speeches I noticed the weather becoming a bit threatening so I decided to head out. On the way I stopped for a coffee and cake, just as the girls were cycling past, so they joined me. As we sat down it started to rain, good timing. But luckily it was a short storm and it had stopped by the time we headed out. Back at the hostel we made a great dinner and relaxed for the evening. Tomorrow we head back to Auckland with a few interesting stops along the way with the Magic Bus.

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Posted by on September 23, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Cape Reinga – Day 214

4th of September 2011

Cape Reinga Bound

One of the great things of doing an all inclusive package with the Magic Bus is the fact that you don’t need to organise a thing! At 7am, only slightly hung over (somehow managed to down some ibuprofen and water at 1am in preparation), we were all picked up and driven along a scenic route through a land rich in culture and legend.

Stunning vistas


90 Mile Beach

Due to the tide being high earlier in the day we had to change the regular schedule and head straight towards 90 mile beach. Technically speaking the beach was misnamed and is truly only 55miles. But 90mile beach has a much nicer ring to it and so the name has stuck.

Driving along the beach swerving to avoid incoming waves, we headed to the sand dunes where we were to do some sandboarding, with a brief stop to enjoy this stunning section of beach.

90 mile beach

Good friends and Rachel the "hairy coo"

Go Springboks!!


After exploring and running around on the beach we headed slightly inland to the dunes. Sand boarding sounded like a blast and I couldn’t wait…until I saw the size and angle of the dune to boarded down. It was huge, massive, steep! And, I am sad to say, was struck by fear. I opted for a slightly less deadly dune while the others braved the monster taking their lives in their own hands. It didn’t help when our guide told us about a girl who had broken her leg, and how he had lost his bottom front teeth, all to the dune.

boarding down the mini dune

A bloody big dune

Lunch Spot

For lunch we stopped at this stunning, secluded bay, that made you want to pitch a tent and stay for ever. The sun was shining, the breeze was cool and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Lunch spot

While Jen (England), Freya (Scotland) and I were eating, Lissy (Germany) came over to the rest of us and asked if we had seen the seal. We quickly packed up and went to have look. The thing was massive! And the closer we got the more I realised it was a leopard seal, a sub-antarctic creature that was hundreds of miles away from home. The poor creature did not look very well and had even attempted to swim away but had returned to shore. It was either sick or overheated or both. Our driver said he would call the authorities but there wasn’t much to be done. I never thought I would ever come face to face with a leopard seal in the wild. Goes to show you never know what you may see on the magic Tour.

Leopard Seal

Leopard Seal

The Northern Most Point

After getting our adrenalin rush we headed to the Northern most point of New Zealand, Cape Reinga. The Cape gets its name from Maori legend and the word Reinga means “underworld”. Another Maori name for the area is Te Rerenga Wairua, meaning the “leaping off place of the spirits”. Both of these names refer to the belief that the area is where spirits of the dead leap off and enter the underworld. The place is very Tapu, or restricted or forbidden. No food is allowed to the point and visitors are asked to be respectful.

Cape Reinga

The area is unmistakably powerful and amazing and the views are tremendous. Its also where the two bodies of water meet, the Pacific Ocean and the Abel Tasman Sea. This is one trip everyone should make.

Beautiful Views


Kauri Museum

Kauri trees are native to New Zealand and were almost cleared out in earlier years due to their strength and beauty. The trees are also self limbing, meaning they drop lower limbs as they grow and therefore do not have knots in the wood like other trees. These trees are impressive to say the least and it is now illegal to cut them down. The only trees available for use are those blown down in storms or what is known as swamp kauris, trees that feel many years ago and have been buried in the swamps. The wood is still good though, preserved by the swamp itself. The museum was fascinating, but expensive, there was even a stairwell built out of an entire trunk.

Kauri stairwell

Tree Huggers

Our next stop was a kauri forest and man were the trees big. All I can do is show a photo.

Tree Huggers

Tall trees

Homeward Bound

After a long day of touring and fun and discovering we headed back “home” to Paihia. It was a tremendous day and again I am thankful to have discovered the route on Magic Bus. After a dip in the hot tub and some dinner we curled up to watch number 2 and 3 of Lord of the Rings, after a further 6hrs…. we headed to bed.

Tomorrow promises to be another fun filled day with the girls.

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Posted by on September 22, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Hi Ho Hi Ho its off to the North I go… Day 213

3rd September 2011

Early Starts

Luckily the snoring in my room meant that my alarm did not wake the others, as it was a fairly early start. Despite the fact that the early morning is probably my most favorite time of the day, I really do not like getting up to enjoy it. But when the reason is to start a 4 day tour to the North of New Zealand… well then, I am happy to drag myself out of bed and enjoy the morning.

The Magic Bus

I arrived before the doors were even open at the Magic Bus, but it didn’t take long before I was ushered in and invited to use the free internet. Shortly after I was introduced to my driver, Kate. Then we were off to round up the troops at all the various hostels around town. We had around 14 people varying in nationality from Japanese, to German, to Indian, to Dutch, to Scottish, to English. A great mix of people and ages. After heading out over the Auckland Harbor Bridge we headed straight North for the Bay of Islands, arriving in Paihia around noon. Kate gave us a bit of a drive by through town to give us the lay of the land and then dropped us off at our hostels. We had about an hour to kill before joining the “Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise”.

I had decided on the all inclusive package, that way I did not have to think about anything or plan anything, I could just go with the flow and that was exactly my plan.

Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise

Having been on quite a few dolphin cruises in my time, this would most likely have been an activity I would have skipped. But I am so glad that I didn’t. The cruise was fantastic and the views truly astounding. The boat doesn’t exactly cruise along like you might expect but actually speeds along at a decent pace, which is good considering the distance you cover.

Bay of Islands

While waiting to get onboard I met Lissy from Germany. She was also on the Magic Tour and we hit it off immediately. Our first stop was to pop over to Russell Island, once known as the Hell Hole of the Pacific due to the hellacious actions of traders and ships’ crews. Today it has a more quaint, old English port feeling.

After picking up some passengers we headed out to explore the Bay of Islands. We were very lucky and came across a pod of dolphins within the first hour, they were very frisky and were playing, jumping and rubbing themselves against the rocks and sides of the boats. As there were no babies in the pod we were given the option to suit up and swim with them. But, as the weather was on the grey side and the water very cold, no one took them up on the offer. It had to have been one of the best dolphin viewing I had ever done.

Best Dolphin pic ever!

We dropped off the mail with the caretaker of a kiwi family’s private island, and explored small coves and fishing holes. We learnt about Captain Cook first meeting the local Maoris when they stormed him on mass as he stood with his crew on the beach of one of hte islands. His ingenious reaction was to quickly draw a line in the sand, the Maoris stopped and stood there, only getting aggressive when one of the crew stepped over the line to present a gift, they killed him in return.

Private Island...

Then it was out into the open ocean to see the Hole in the Rock, which is precisely that, a hole in a large rock. It was spectacular and legend has it that if you go through it and a drop of water lands on your head then you will have luck and youth forever. So when the captain announced we were going to attempt it we all looked up and hoped to get blessed, to no avail.

Hole in the rock

Our last stop was the Grand Cathedral Cave, which appears to be eroding into a hole as well, as divers have reported feeling a surge coming from the far side. The acoustics were incredible and the water appeared to be a glorious shade of green.

Cathedral Cave

Returning towards the mainland we came across another pod of dolphins. We had the option to get off at Russel with a free ferry ticket back or to just head back to the mainland. Lissy and I decided to spend an hour or two and explore Russel. The free ferry ticket might have been a selling factor… We walked all around the tiny town and finally settled in to have a coffee and enjoy some live music at the local hotel.

Lissy and coffee

An Epic Night
It was a perfect afternoon and after an hour on Russel we decided to hop on the next ferry and go relax before dinner at 7pm. I had a dip in the hostel hot tub and walked across the parking lot to the next hostel where we were having the bbq. It turned out to be a great night and new friends were formed. Freya from Scotland and I had a fairly alcoholic night and I knew the morning would be rough when she started passing jaggerbombs around. The most amusing thing, other than the flourescent paint, was the Scotsman named Scott who was all hands. He first hit on Freya and when she extricated herself from him he immediately turned to me. After dancing a bit I ducked under his puckering lips saying I needed to find Freya. But fear not he turned around and found a new fancy without a second thought. Sometimes you need a good night out.

Me, Freya and Rachel the hairry coo

A great day with Magic and an even epic night with great new friends!

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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Returning to the land of Kiwi’s – days 209 to 212

30th of August to 2nd September 2011

Immigration and cab drivers

Arriving at 1am in the morning and being slightly less compus mentus, especially after having one of my full row seats given to someone else, the fear on my mind was getting through immigration. You may recall that I apparently have similar information, to a person of interest, who the government wishes to talk to! But turned out I had no worries, after joking a bit about the rugby, I walked on through, got my bag and hopped in a cab.

I had exactly $45nz and had estimated it would cost $25. I had a great cab driver and we chatted all the way to Kirsten’s about his days on the boats that ran to Portland, Oregon. As we got closer I noticed we were at $45 and still ticking. In addition to the actual charge there is an extra $7 charge for the airport. At the house hte final charge was $52, but he was sweet and said the $45 was fine. Thank heavens!

Plans Plans Plans

After a rough month it was great having a good friend to bounce ideas off of and figure out what to do next. Its amazing how emotionally draining things can be. I was at the point where I just needed to go and do something fun and not have to worry about costs or transport. Kirsten recommended a tour of the Northland and up to the very point of NZ, Cape Reinga. We looked at just doing a basic bus service up there, at Kiwi Experience and at Magic Bus. Magic won the day as they had exactly what I wanted and included a dolphin tour, sandboarding, Kauri tree museum, visiting the giant Kauris and much more. Normally I would have run in the opposite direction of the cost, but right then and there I didn’t care and it sounded like the perfect trip to get my mind off things. Not to mention that my cheapskate ways now mean that I have a bit extra to do something fun!

So its off to Auckland to stay in the Surf ‘n Snow hostel for a night and then an early pickup Saturday morning. I am so looking forward to this you have no idea.

Look out Northland you are about to be invaded by a Schmidt!!!

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Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Uncategorized


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