The ferry across to the South Island took roughly 4 hours. The girls and I found a little corner cubby hole and tried to catch some sleep – not the easiest thing to do with all the swaying! We ended up watching one of the passengers do the most awkward singing show I have ever seen – at least it passed the time a little! We also popped up to the top deck and admired the fjords as we came into the South Island.
When we arrived off the ferry our new bus and driver, Guy, was waiting for us. It was a whole new bus of people so lots of new faces to get to know. Guy asked us if any of us fancied a stop off at one of the vineyards in the Marlborough region to do a spot of wine tasting. Obviously the answer was a big yes!
We stopped at Whitehaven Vineyard where we tried four different wines (a Sauvignon Blanc, a Pinot Gris, a Riesling and a Pinot Noir).
Most of the group I was with didn’t like fourth wine, the Pinot Noir, so my glass was constantly topped up – all I can say is I did pretty well out of the wine excursion. It was so much fun and the perfect introduction to the South Island. I must admit I snoozed for pretty much the rest of the journey…
After the vineyard tour we had quite a long drive in the bus on the way down to Kaiteriteri where we would be staying for one night. Kaiteriteri literally translates in Maori as (‘food’ ‘quick ‘quick’). Legend has it that a Maori tribe was running away from another tribe when they decided to take a very quick break at the beach in Kaiteriteri to have some food before dashing off again up the hills.
Kaiteriteri is a really small seaside town with the most beautiful golden sandy beach at its forefront. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great when we arrived and it was getting dark so we couldn’t really appreciate where we were until the next morning.
The main beach in Kaiteriteri is called Golden Bay on account of the the bright gold sand that lines the shore. Historically however the bay was known as ‘Murderers Bay’ on account of an unfortunate encounter between Dutch explorer Abel Tasman and the native Maori settlers. Abel Tasman and his crew arrived in the cove of Kaiteriteri when they were spotted by a local tribe. Curious, the tribe boarded their wakka (canoe) and paddled out to get a closer look at the new arrivals. As is Maori etiquette, the tribesmen blew their conch shell to determine whether or not Abel Tasman and his crew came in peace or war. For the Maori’s any reply to this call is a sign that you come in war – any peace coming visitor must remain in plain silence. Unfortunately for Abel Tasman, he was not aware of this custom and instead thought the natives were being friendly – he therefore picked up his trumpet and replied with a large blow. Error. The Tribesmen instantly thought that he was there in war and proceeded to kill a number of his crew. Abel Tasman managed to escape the tribe and reported back to the western world about the so called ‘Murderers Bay’. His warnings obviously held some water as no explorer set foot in Kaiteriteri until Captain James Cook 127 years later. Nowadays the name Murderers Bay has been kept just in the history books – I’m not sure it would do the tourism in the area much good!
Rose had already spent a couple of nights in Kaiteriteri so it was so nice to be reunited with her at our hostel, the Kaiteri Lodge. We had dinner that evening and headed to The Beached Whale for a couple of drinks and watched the rugby. That night we were in a big dorm room with lots of the other people from the bus. With the amount of snoring in the room there was no way any of would be getting very much sleep…!
The next morning, bright and early, the girls and I headed to the beach where we were picked up by our water taxi and taken across to the Abel Tasman National Park via a little stop off at the Split Apple Rock.
Over in the National Park we undertook a two hour hike over the hills and across the beaches. We’ve all caught a cold in our room (I guess it’s the travellers equivalent to Freshers Flu!) so we all really struggled with the uphill climbs! We were exhausted.
After a couple of hours admiring the beautiful scenery we hopped back on the water taxi and back to the mainland. We met up with the rest of the group and climbed back on the bus and got back on the road.
Our first stop off of the day was at Lake Rotoiti in the Nelson National Park. This lake is absolutely stunning with its crystal clear waters and snow capped mountains in the distance.
Some of our group braved the cold and jumped of the jetty – I’m not sure I would have wanted to share the waters with the 100 year old Eels which were lurking in the shallows.
After a bit of a drive we ended up in our final destination for the evening; Westport. We took a little walk along the jetty to the lighthouse before heading to out hostel for the evening; Bazil’s.
Westport, a sleepy coal mining town, is the surf capital of New Zealand so we had the option of taking a surf lesson if we wanted to. Unfortunately the waves were too large for surfing so all lessons were cancelled. We drowned our sorrows with a bar crawl organised by Guy. After we pre drank to Notting hill (drink every time you see Julia Robert’s teeth) we got back on the bus for the ‘selection process’.
Guy decided that we all had to mingle as a group so he picked names out of a hat and proceeded to tie us all together. I was paired up with a Korean guy from the bus called BumJae who was a good laugh.
It ended up being a very boozy evening which ended with shark and chips (yes, shark and chips) in the local fish and chip shop at 2am.
The next morning we woke up early and made our way back to the bus. We stopped off at Cape Foulwind for a stiff walk around the cliff edges past the lighthouse.
To say the walk was windy would be a complete understatement – our hats and scarves we’re flying everywhere! It was a really beautiful walk and finished with a seal colony spread out over the rocks for us to admire. The walk certainly woke us up from the bar crawl the night before.
After a little while longer in the bus we stopped off again to visit the Pancake rocks and Blowholes in Punakaiki.
The Pancake rocks were formed 30 million years ago from minute fragments of dead marine creatures and plants landing on the seabed about 2 km below the surface. Immense water pressure caused the fragments to solidify in hard and soft layers. Gradually seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed. Mildly acidic rain, wind and seawater sculpted the bizarre shapes. They really are fascinating to see.
The weather that morning was a little mental and the wind was so strong – this actually was to our advantage and we managed to admire the blow holes in their full glory. The waves crash up against the rocks and blow up through the holes caused by erosion – you get absolutely soaked if you happen to be standing at the wrong place at the wrong time..!
After we’d warmed up with a coffee in the Pancake Rocks cafe we got back on the bus and were given a debrief about the fancy dress party tonight at our final destination, Lake Mahinapua.
The ‘Poo Party’ is a bit of a Kiwi Experience tradition and is something that I’ve heard all about from friends that have done the trip before me. We were given a theme (something beginning with the first letter of your Christian name or surname) and told that we would be dropped off in the town of Greymouth to pick up supplies for our costumes – there would be prizes for the winners! We had a little while on the bus before we arrived in Greymouth so we all spent the time planning out outfits for the evening ahead!
We spent about two hours in Greymouth ransacking the supermarkets for costume inspiration. I picked up two hula hoops, silver tape, cling film, newspapers, sellotape and green napkins – any idea what my costume was yet?
All shopped out we headed back on the bus and made our way to the Lake Mahinapua Hotel, affectionately known as the Poo Pub. Lake Mahinapua really is in the middle of nowhere but is lovely and remote with beautiful scenery. The girls and I shared our own little cabin which was lovely.
Full, we made our way back to the costume room and made the final tweaks to our outfits. In the end we looked a little something like this:
I was a martini (although someone asked me a little later on in the evening if I was a pond!), Jade was a jelly fish, Corrine a deck of cards, Rose was roadkill, Brea was a beer pong table, Victoria was Jesus, Marcus a mop and Tabitha a turtle!
The evening was absolutely hilarious and made even better by the fact that everyone made such an effort.
A big mention has to go to our driver Guy who went ALL OUT. His alter ego, Tiffany made an appearance and all I can say is she was, erm, convincing. It seems Guy has done this whole thing before..
A little later in the evening it looks like Guy has sore feet from his heels so out came the cow onesie. A particular highlight was his solo performance to ‘my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard’. Hilarious.
The poo pub has a tradition to take photographs of each group at each party. The photographs of all previous groups are either displayed on the wall of kept in photo albums which are scattered across the bar. Funnily enough I managed to find a photograph of Miles and Olly when they did the exact same trip almost 10 years ago!
We crawled back into bed that evening and slept like logs – oh apart from me that is whose water bottle leaked over my entire bed. I slept therefore in a soaking wet mattress and woke up with cramp from avoiding the wet spots all night.