Day 13/14: Franz Josef
The drive to Franz Josef was really nice, we stopped somewhere called ‘pancake rock’ so we had a good walk and then went to the cafe where they serve awesome pancakes :).
It really is the wet west! It didn’t stop raining the whole 2 nights we were there, but it was cool rainforest rain with big fun droplets.
This was a quiet couple of days for us as the weather was too bad to do any of the glacial activities.
However, we did go to the Hot pools which were really fun especially in the rain; being in the (covered) hot water watching the rain pour down. Very relaxing!
The place we stayed was pretty fun and had a bar attached, that night we had a fancy dress party where our outfits were chosen and bought by someone else (like secret santa style).
Day 15: Wanaka
Wanaka is a stunning little place. It’s centred around a beautiful lake and has a great atmosphere. Again we chose to stay away from the group as we got a slightly better deal and a much better view at a hostel overlooking the lake, we would 100% recommend this hostel called BBC. We didn’t have the time but we would suggest hiring some bikes and having a good explore around the lake, there looked to be some nice trails.
We did have time for a hike up Mt iron though which was a pretty good climb; got a sweat on! It took about an hour and a half return: beautiful views.
Day 8: Tongoriro
Tongoriro National park. Long walk (6:45 hrs). No words. It speaks for itself, check out the stunning pics. $35 NZ for the shuttle bus to/from your hostel, you may find a better way of doing this as we just did it through stray who don’t always offer the cheapest option but always the easiest!
Day 9: Wellington
Capital of NZ. Smaller than Auckland. It has a more creative feel here rather than the business feel of Auckland. It’s known for its museums, music and film production scene (Lord of the Rings of course…. aghhhhhh).
It was very wet and windy here, had to go out and buy a new rain jacket and long trousers (NZ is expensive so be prepared for the weather before you arrive).
Day 10: South island commences
Early ferry to the south island. Everyone (but us – too busy sleeping) saw dolphins swimming next to the ferry 🙂 The scenery was amazing on the way in – it sets up the south island well.
In the afternoon we drove to Lake Aniwheniwer which is a cultural stop. A Maori family own a hostel and have close links with the local community and mori for their tribe. So in that afternoon they take you to look at some stone wall carvings and then to the mori where they welcome you onto the land by singing and everyone completes the hongi.
That night they cook a hangi which is a traditional meal cooked in the ground. This was pretty tasty; mainly the stuffing!
This one night stop costs $95 dollars so it’s pretty pricey but quite a unique experience. If your tight on money, work out your alternate route (Rotorua to Taupo) in advance otherwise you won’t end up saving money. Unless you plan to hitchhike!
There were great (paid) activities you could do throughout the afternoon such as bracelet weaving, bread making, poi making and in the late evening eeling.
Can definitely recommend the bread making as it tasted so good ( its fried like doughnuts) and the late night eeling – used to feed the next stray bus so no waste.
Day 6 AM: Lake Aniwheniwer day trip to a maori school.
This was a very unique and nice experience to share with the kids from the school. Their school was fantastic and it was lovely to hear about their progress with their academic achievements because of the visits.
Day 7: Blue duck station (farm)
Quiet day just enjoyed being in the middle of nowhere. Did a long and very muddy walk to a waterfall.
If you are not on the Stray bus it’s not necessarily worth the detour. There are hikes there but we couldn’t do them due to the bad weather.
Day 4: Lord of the Rings tour on route to Rotorua
From Raglan we drove onto Rotorua. We didn’t have much time to do anything that night because we spent 3 hours wandering around Hobbiton – so fun. Definitely for everyone and not just the hard core LotR fans.
Use bookme.co.nz for this trip
Day 5 Rotorua
The next morning we went on a geothermal walk. It was interesting to learn about and see all the pools but the walk was a bit lengthy and sometimes difficult to hear the guide.
We tried to stay in Rotorua a bit longer as one night feels really rushed, however, the bus behind us was full so we had to stick on our bus.
Before you get on the Stray bus have your route completely sorted with all the buses booked in where you want to have extra stops because unless you’ve got months to play with, time starts to constrain you to the same bus. We loved our bus, the people and the driver, Lolly, were great, but we did get a but stuck!
That eve we booked another uber *successful* to our hostel in Ubud. This cost us 100,000 IDR. The hostel was lovely ‘Dormy Inn’ but a little bit out of the way so we rented a scooter the whole time which was great for us as Danielle is a confident driver but if your not so keen maybe stay somewhere closer or ask about taxi hire. Our friends hired a car for 400,000 IDR (2 people) for the day to take them round to all the attractions they wanted to see.
In Ubud we went to the monkey forest, 40,000 IDR, which we really liked. It’s a nice little walk as well as just being to see the monkeys. I was really scared about being attacked but didn’t need to be; if you don’t provoke them or have any food they won’t come near you.
In the afternoon we went to the trawangan waterfall. It was a fantastic scenic drive to the waterfall passing through jungle, rice paddies, hidden streets and dodging all the dogs! This was the best bit of the trip as the waterfall itself wasn’t really anything too special (this may be us in spoilt traveller mode as we have seen so many stunning things now, hopefully not!). The water was pretty murky so we opted out of the swim and it was just so busy.
After this we drove in convoy (at the waterfall we had met up with Katie, Charlotte and Daryl) to a silversmith. This was very cool as we got to see the ladies making the jewellery and then went into the shop for the finished products. Obviously they tried to sell us stuff but they let us walk around and have a good look and let us leave with no problems even though no one had bought anything. We then drove onto a local market where there was lots of clothes/local food. Whatever you do in Indonesia make sure you barter for everything, even if you think you’re taking the piss with the price, your not and try it anyway.
Next day we got the hostel shuttle (60,000 IDR pp) back to Denpasar airport and flew to Lombok. We had heard the weather was really bad for the boats going across to the islands so thought we would try this instead. It was only a 30min flight but travelling took most of the day with the faffing and the journey from our accommodation on both sides.
Off to Lombok!
From Hanoi we went to Halong bay on one of the ‘2 day, 1 night’ organised sleeper boat tours. We paid $69 USD each for this. It included; bus transfers to and from Hanoi, one night on the boat, one breakfast, two lunches and one dinner, entry to the cave, pearl farm and kayaking. The boat we were on was called ‘Golden cruise’ and was classed as deluxe. The quality of the boat and food was ok, it’s hard to tell without having seen the other boats! But we would advise go for the best standard you can and then try and haggle to the price you want. Looking back we may have paid a bit too much but we would do it again, it’s a really fun trip. Try and get to know the people on your boat, and take advantage of the free beer! We got chatting and completely forgot and then the free beer hour was up.
The kayaking was my favourite part, we went through a little archway into a secluded bay and saw a load of monkeys 🐒 swinging from the trees 😄.
Back on the boat we also did a mini cookery lesson, making spring rolls :).
We arrived back in Hanoi about 1800 and went straight back to our travel agent to book a tour to Sapa. We’d heard some good things from other travelers so wanted to fit it in.
Our agent got us on a bus that night which left at 2200, getting us to Sapa at 6am. Arriving in Sapa was a little stressful as we realised when we had got on the bus the night before we gave in our whole ticket for the trip which the bus driver then ‘couldn’t find’ the next morning. We called our travel agent who told us to go into the hotel next to the bus stop. They were really helpful and called our guide to come and meet us. There were a few of us in the same situation who had all given tickets in so if you do this make sure to get part of it back off the bus driver! A guide turned up and walked us about 20 mins to a hotel where we had some breakfast. We waited around a bit longer and a local Sapa lady called Zing then turned up saying she was now our guide for the two day trek. She was very sweet, only 19 but seemed much older! She was 7 months pregnant with her second child and managed to walk faster than any of us with a mountain 🐐 like ease. We left our main luggage at the hotel and packed a small over night bag to take with us on the trek. If your doing this in March make sure you have a raincoat, decent shoes and long trousers.
Once we were walking we were joined by about another 8 Sapa women. Who were just as fast and agile regardless of age or footwear (flip-flops).
We walked down the valley side and back up again through some stunning scenery until we reached two villages, we had lunch in the second one. At this point all of the Sapa women descended on us with their souvenirs which was mostly ‘silver’ jewellery. Stand up for yourself and try not to be taken in too much, they will all tell you how they need to feed their families etc.The lunch was great with spring rolls, sautéed meat and vegetables, rice and noodles – we are almost pro chopstick users now (practice makes perfect as there is often not standard cutlery available).
After lunch we trekked a little longer to the homestay where we all slept in one big room on mattresses on the floor, it was actually pretty comfortable and not too cold as there was a curtain to drape around each mattress. We helped cook dinner with the family which was a variety of Vietnamese dishes, and they tried to get us to do karaoke afterwards. We were a bit of a shy group and only Sam (an English guy) and two of the Vietnamese girls did it. More gin needed I think!
The next day we trekked for another couple of hours and then got a bus back to Sapa where we were catching the afternoon bus to Hanoi. We got to Hanoi about 2200 and crashed into bed.