New Zealand – South Island

We only had ten days planned for New Zealand´s South Island and wanted to see a lot so we looked into joining a hop-on hop-off touring bus (after chatting to a few people who´d done the same) and ended up going with Stray. There are quite a few companies that do these trips in New Zealand, but this one had the reputation of having a slightly older crowd (with the average age being about 25 instead of 19 – sometimes when you´re at the other end of your twenties you really notice it!). We and about twelve others were whisked around the South Island over ten days by a bus driver and guide called Spike who proved to be a blessing, as he was an ex-driver for the company who was filling in for someone for a few weeks and didn´t hesitate in telling us what was worth going to see or do and what was a complete rip-off (something that most of the other drivers don´t do apparently). He also had a diploma in Maori and knew every legend and story about the place, kind of like a younger, less hairy Eddie Lenihan ;-)

Dirty Glacier

Ten days to see the main sights of the South Island seemed like a very short time at first, but it worked out pretty well as New Zealand requires a healthy budget if you want to spend any amount of time there.

Stray Bus Another Lake

The cliche is true, it´s an adrenaline junkies dream, but unless you´re fairly well off, there aren´t too many of the traditional activities you can do (like bungee jumping, sky diving, jet-boat trips etc). We stuck to the less expensive ones to get more of them in and ended up doing a half day´s kayaking trip in Abel Tasman National Park, a days hiking on the Franz Josef Glacier, a bone carving workshop in a funny little town in the middle of nowhere called Barrytown (where we made ourselves some nice little necklaces out of a cows leg) and some luging in Queenstown which was great value and a really good laugh (see below!).

Kayaking in Abel Tasman Glacial Cave

Bone Carving, Barrytown Born to Ride

Just Beaten!

New Zealand is a lot like Ireland to look at, only everything is on a much larger scale. The people are really nice and there´s a real laid-back feel to the place, in particular to the South Island where most of the locals we met were that little bit different, a little bohemian. There were lots of artists around the place, and one village in particular near Abel Tasmen had a little commune of sculptors living in it who worked primarily with big dead trees, turning them into great pieces of art.

Tree Carving Big Eyes Punakaiki, South Island

After ten days on the road with a great bunch of people, our time had come to leave for the North Island. Although expensive (about 400 NZD each for the bus pass, which didn´t include accomodation), the Stray tour was definitely worthwhile for having a local guide alone and we wouldn´t have seen half as much had we rented a car or gone by public transport.

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