New Zealand – South Island with Stray (Day 44-61/207 Dec 12th – Dec 29th)

Stray bus

Day 10 cont…

We arrived off the ferry in Picton and drove straight to a winery/ café  where they did a mini wine tasting for $5. There were ×2 whites, one rose and one pinot noir.

We then drove onto Abel Tasman to our accommodation called ‘the barn’.

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TIP

You can stay in a tipi for a bit less and it’s really nice, got all the same facilities as a normal bunk room.

Day 11: Abel tasman

Today we got up early as we were doing a long day trip: the abel tasman canyoning. This is a whole day experience and includes a roll lunch and all the photos. Would definitely recommend the trip,  especially if you haven’t done anything like it before. It had ×2 abseils, ×2 zip lines, ×2 rock jumps (6m and 8m) and lots of cool rock slides. The trip is really pricey but probably… good value for money.*

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*Tip

try and work out all the activities you think you’ll want to do ahead of time to manage your budget and to ensure your doing the best activities in the right places.

Day 12 : Westport

We then headed to Westport, arriving in time to do some surfing. *

*Tip

maybe not the best place to surf if your a beginner.  Pretty strong currents and really big waves that were close together. You could always just ask to check the conditions before you sign up.

That night we stayed separately to the rest of the group at some where called Waynes world. We really recommend this accommodation: it was only $20 for the night and all the facilities were great. The lady running the place was so lovely and made us feel so welcome and offered for us to use the washing machine for free! The whole place was so clean: great bathroom and kitchen.

 

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New Zealand – North Island with Stray (Day 32-43/207 Dec 1st – Dec 11th) Hahei and Raglan

Stray bus aka George the reindeer bus

Day 1 : Hahai

We left Auckland at 0730 and arrived at the holiday park in Hahai around 1500 after having a couple of stops for coffee and food shopping.

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TIP

Buy your food and alcohol before you arrive (pac n save in Thames) as it’s very expensive when you get to Hahei and not many shops around.

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We then went to hot water beach and spent an hour or so digging around in the sand and lounging in the fascinating hot water pools, you need to experience it to believe it! It can get up to 70+ degrees Celsius so make sure you find a half hot, half cold pool or it just gets a bit too much.

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TIP

Take a small spade with you as they can be pricy on the beach, a kiddies one will do unless you want to dig a Jacuzzi.

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Day 2

This was a ‘free day’ in Hahai. We walked from the hostel to cathedral cove which took a bit over an hour. The walk was picturesque; the cove and beach were lovely, luckily we caught it on a warm day so had a nice little sun bathe and swim.

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Day 3: Raglan

About a 6 hour drive took us into Raglan town centre where we had a quick mooch around and then went to the beach for surfing. Danielle hired a board as she’s done it before and I had my first ever lesson. The water conditions were great and I managed to stand up a couple of times…just!

 

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TIP

Word of warning: there were loads of people in the lesson and not many instructors so you don’t get a lot of 1:1 attention unless you ask or look for it.

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That night we stayed in a really cool hostel up in the hills called Kauri lodge; quite far from anything so you’d need transport to get here.

They run a sunset yoga session on an amazing platform on the hill overlooking the sea. Definitely worth the trek, we didn’t do it but it looked beautiful.

If you want to see glow worms at the lodge they line the left mud bank after dark… such an amazing sight.

 

 

 

 

New Zealand North Island with Molden (Day 28 – 32/207 Nov 27th – Dec 1st)

As mentioned our very kind and generous friends lent us their super awesome Holden V8 Sandown and two man tent so we could go camping in the northlands of New Zealand.

1st stop

A lovely country house, looks like an old English country estate!

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Then driving about 3 ish hours from Auckland we arrived in:

Kawakawa and found some free camping.

We experienced the Hunderwasser toilets and behind these is a car park and small patch of grass where you can freedom camp.  Simple camping!

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We also experienced a local Sunday night in the only bar in town: cheap bourbon and cola and free pool tables with lessons from the local kawakawa billiards team.

2nd stop

(1 hour ish drive from kawakawa)

From Paihia where we took the ferry (return for $24) to Bay of Islands (Russell). Very cute seaside like village. We Camped in Russell at top 10 holiday park which was not the cheapest site ($42 for two adults) but was the nicest and closest to the pier where we were getting our dolphin boat trip from the next day.

We Booked the boat trip where you can swim with dolphins (if you see them). We were told this trip doesnt always spot let alone swim with dolphins so everyone had their eyes peeled. However, if you don’t get to see the dolphins don’t worry because seeing the beautiful bay of Islands by boat is still a wonderful trip and they give you a voucher to come back again.

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TIP

Use the money saving site bookme.co.nz in NZ and AUS to save money off loads of activities.

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In the last few minutes of searching for dolphins (its a four hour trip), we were so, so lucky and two very playful adults appeared jumping beside the boat!!! So after lots of screaming we all grabbed a snorkel and jumped in.

The water was so cold it was difficult to even breathe but made for an exhilarating swim and well worth it.  The dolphins swam with and around us for at least 30 minutes. WORTH THE SPEND.

BONUS; if you don’t get to see or swim with them you get a lifetime ticket to go back. Maybe organise your trip to pass by on way up to the cape and back again just in case.

 

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Sadly, we lost a lot of our photos and vids from the trip (memory card crashed) but we did have some decent footage of the dolphins swimming towards us unerwater, im sure you can find some on youtube just type in Russel eco dolphin trip.

From here we headed for Cape Reinga, stopping at some beautiful beaches along the way, including 90 mile beach!

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3rd stop

(Five hour drive from Russel)

Cape Reinga has a great little free camp area and an honesty box camp site for campervans and tents.  Be warned  its down a very long windy and dusty road so be mindful of the vehicle you’re in. You get to camp right next to the beach which is beautiful and there are lots of other campers.  This is quite nice if you have been driving without seeing another human for hours.  Some people were out surfing so take a board if you’ve got one!

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In the morning we took the short 20 mins drive to the cape Reinga lighthouse which is a great walk and awesome views.

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We then drove to the sand dunes surfing spot which is an hour or so south from the lighthouse.

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TIP

Hire your board before you get to the dunes (if youre coming from the south or just after if youre coming fron the north) for $10 as it is $15 when you get to the dunes.

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Be prepared for the best work out of your life in order to get up the dune.

It’s worth walking all the way to the top, taking in the spectacular view of 90 mile beach and doing the smaller dune a couple of times before attempting to throw yourself down the huge dune.  Definitely worth another slog up to get the amazing adrenaline rush on the way back down.

4th stop

We drove back down to Paihia and camped at a little hostel /campsite called the pickled parrot which was a sweet little spot.

On the drive back to Auckland we stopped to see some glow worms;

FREE glow worm caves. This was a great find using AA new zealand (great book) and maps.me (Cave Entrancege0://4deX9ZZjAz). This app is fantastic as uses a fraction of the storage than Google maps and can download vast areas. Downside is navigation is more challenging and the detail of the maps is limited,  however if you don’t have a data plan it’s great.

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We then got back for our final night in Auckland before starting the bus tour, stay tuned!

USA – Hoover Dam Grand Canyon South Rim (Day 4/207)

Day 4 we booked a trip to the Grand Canyon from Viator.

TIP

Use this site and book a few weeks in advance to get it almost 1/2 price.

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This trip entailed a pick up from your hotel in a shuttle and talking to the depot. You have to pay an administration fee for processing on top of your trip when there.

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There is a cafe here but is extremely expensive so buy/ make all of your bus snacks before you go.

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You jump on your bus and on our trip we went to Hoover Dam first. We got to stop off for 15 minutes on the way to run up the path and take a quick photo. Not really a lot of time but enough for a quick snap.

Back on the bus and a long trip to the canyon.

Disappointing:

We stopped to have lunch about 10 minutes from the canyon and had to wait nearly 2 hours for those people on the safaris, sky diving and helicopter tours.

There is definitely a better way to do this but hey,  this is the American way.

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We got to the canyon and had 45 minutes at the first point and another 45 at the second point.

This was everything before boarding the bus for the long trip home.

When back we split into shuttles and were dropped at our hotels.  This took 2 hours when it should have taken 1 as the driver was so indecisive.

Anyway,  the canyon was great and definitely a must see, just pick your operator well.

This was a GREY LINE trip to the South Rim.