After a day of planning my return to New Zealand (now less than three weeks until I’m on my way!!) I thought it would be perfect timing to reflect on my pretty perfect Kiwi Experience. New Zealand is famous for it’s bus tours, with options to suit all ages and price ranges, but I went for the famous big green bus for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was on a pretty sweet offer (and yes, I was starting to run out of cash on my four month trip). Secondly, after a few months of travelling on my own (for the vast majority of the time) I just wanted someone else to plan what I was doing. This seemed the best way for me to see the best bits of NZ without any stress. And unsurprisingly I fell in love with this amazing country.
I was lucky enough to get to see the north and south island, which are completely different but equally amazing, on the Sheepdog pass which cost me $499 on sale (I believe this is still the case, check it out here). That’s around £250 – maybe slightly more post EU referendum…no I’m still not over it either. Anyway, this hop on hop off pass enabled me to see so much of the country in a relatively short space of time. I had planned on staying in NZ for 3 weeks before heading back to the UK but quickly realised I wasn’t ready to go home and I absolutely had to see more of this amazing place. Several pleading Skype calls, numerous emails to STA and a slight dint in the bank balance later and my time in NZ was doubled. My aim in this post was to share my best bits and recommendations but in all honesty it’s hard to narrow it down. But I’ll give it a go anyway…
Hobbiton Movie Set, North Island
I’m going to avoid sounding too dramatic here but this was quite possibly the best day of my life. I’m a huge Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fan so as you can imagine I was in my element here. One of the many pluses to the Kiwi Experience bus is the option to pick any extras activities you want to do. Visiting the movie set was one of my priorities whilst in NZ but there’s loads of other options like skydiving and bungy jumping which I didn’t get round to doing this time (that’s all planned during my return in a couple of weeks). The best bit of the Hobbiton tour is undoubtedly visiting The Green Dragon Inn and having a cup of cider – living the dream, I know. Also, I just want to put it out there that they sell elf ears there. I’m just going to leave that with you.
Tangariro Crossing, North Island
Getting up at 4.30am to hike 19.4km for these views was 100% worth it. We were quite literally up in the clouds. I’m not going to lie, it was hard work but saying I’ve climbed Mount Doom (yep, that’s another LOTR reference) is definitely prize enough for me. The only downside to this is the climb down. Once you’ve seen these amazing views (which you stand dumbfounded in front of for quite some time) the descent can seem a little boring. Having said that I know of people who’ve made this monumental climb only to be greeted by rain clouds and not see a thing. So in that sense we were incredibly lucky with what we got. Like many parts of NZ activities are weather dependent.
Highlanders vs Waratahs Rugby Match, Queenstown, South Island
I am a massive rugby fan so NZ is pretty much heaven for me. I knew I was visiting out of rugby season though so really didn’t expect to catch any games. Luckily for me our arrival in Queenstown coincided with a pre season match between the Highlanders (NZ) and Waratahs (Australia). And yes, that’s a picture of me embarrassing myself while I met some of the players. Rugby in NZ is so cheap, even for national games. This is one of the main things I’m looking forward to whilst living there (I’ve got my sights set on the British Lions tour next summer).
More than anything Kiwi Experience was made so amazing by the fantastic people I met. One of the reasons I’m so excited to pack my bags and get off again is because I know I’m about to meet loads of new, interesting and exciting people as well as have the opportunity to meet up with friends from previous trips. Being lucky enough to have friends in every corner of the planet is a pretty special thing (soppy part now over, I promise).
Even though my next trip to NZ won’t be quite like the big green bus I can’t wait to try a different way of travelling around the country – which I’ll obviously keep you updated on!