New Zealand: Kiwi Experience

If you have read my last post you’ll know that I’ve already started my Kiwi Experience trip so with me being on the move everyday or two it’s impossible to keep this updated as I go!r2rzjjfuslr8rpbnijto

I purchased the Kiwi Experience Super Funky pass for around $800 NZD (I should have purchased it in Oz!) which takes me around the main New Zealand spots, including Bay & Cape and Milford Sound.  Due to having to purchase an onward ticket, I am travelling for around 7 weeks on the Super Funky route below:

Auckland-Paihia-Cape Reinga Day Trip- Paihia-Auckland-Hot Water Beach-Waitomo-Rotorua-Taupo-River Valley-Wellington-Abel Tasman-Westport-Mahinapua-Franz Josef-Fox Glacier – Wanaka-Queenstown-Milford Day Trip-Queenstown-Tekapo-Chirstchurch-Nelson-Wellington-Taupo-Auckland.

Unlike Australia where you get taken from A to B, with Kiwi Experience the driver isn’t just your bus driver but also an informative tour guide.  You’ll do walks and activities on route to your next destination as well as stopping for food and alcohol…they don’t say Kiwi is a party bus for nothing!  Throughout the journey you’ll be given information which allows you to decide which activities you want to sign up for and how many nights accommodation you want the driver to pre-book. With Kiwi you’re guaranteed at least one nights accommodation in each destination and three nights in Queenstown. However, if you’re tight for time I recommend booking your bus itinerary and extra accommodation in advance because during peak season they will fill up rather quickly.

With regards to the driver pre-booking your accommodation, it can be more cost effective to ask where you’ll be staying and book the hostel online yourself (most of the time it’ll be Base or Nomads).  Alternatively, you can save money by purchasing a Base Jump Card for $269 NZD which gives you 10 nights accommodation for the price of around $27 NZD per night. The only downside with the pass is that the maximum usage at each hostel is 2 nights so any extra nights you’ll need to pay for yourself.

I purchased my Base Jump Card and some activities in advance with Peterpans Travel which I regret doing just because once they have your money their customer service isn’t so friendly afterwards. I paid $789 for the Base Jump Card, Hobbiton, Kaitiaki White Water Rafting, The Tongariro Alpine Crossing shuttle, Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland (Headfirst Travel), Tamaki Maori Village, Waitomo Glow Worm and Ruakuri Caves.

If you want to save money, don’t make the same mistake which I made of using Peterpans but instead check out www.bookme.co.nz  because it is so cheap! I wish I’d discovered this website sooner. However, if you’re feeling lazy you can always book activities on the bus because they offer discounted prices too.

Okay I’ve had my rant, let’s focus on Kiwi again! If you want to stay longer somewhere you can always call the Kiwi Experience toll free number on 0800 364 286 (NZ) and change the date you’d like to leave. The process is very easy because it is a hop-on, hop-off bus, and even if the bus is full on the date you’d like to leave you’ll be put on standby – just make sure you don’t miss your scheduled bus as you’ll have to pay a $50 admin fee.

Last but not least, if you like sleeping you aren’t likely to get any on the bus because not only is the music always blasting but clipboards (activity sign up sheets) are flying around everywhere.  However, if you’re looking for a more relaxed adventure (which also doesn’t also involve getting pissed every night) I have heard you should check out the bus company Stray instead.

I hope this post is informative because  at first I was a bit confused with how it all works but once you get on the bus you’ll realise it’s not as complicated as it sounds.  P.s New Zealand is amazing!!

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New Zealand : Auckland

After my airport fiasco (see previous post) I arrived during the night in Auckland on Monday 13 March.  For the first two nights I stayed at YHA because it was close to the airport shuttle stop and included free WiFi. Normally I don’t stay at YHA hostels because there’s never much atmosphere but it’s always  nice to relax after a hectic day.

I then moved to Haka Lodge hostel on ‘K Road’ for five nights which was nice and environmentally friendly.  K Road is full of bars, quirky restaurants, vintage shops, strip clubs and kebab takeaways so depending what you’re into you might enjoy it up there!
During my time in Auckland I explored the city, checked out Mt Eden, unfortunately spent money shopping and took advantage of the free library computers (exciting times).  At night I did the usual backpacker things like pub crawls and free pizza/punch nights. I also went to the Sky City Casino which would have been fun if I didn’t loose money…thankfully it wasn’t that much.
If you have time you need to check out Sal’s for an 18 inch pizza and Joy’s Ice-cream, delicious.
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George in the park festival

 After hosteling it up I spent the weekend at my friend Emma’s flat which I am so not jealous of at all!  On Saturday we headed to a free music festival which was fun, although watching Emma trying to get through her St Paddy’s Day hangover might have been the best part.
On my last day in Auckland I organised a rough itinerary for my Kiwi Experience journey over the next 7 weeks. I will explain all this in my next post because if you haven’t noticed by my snapchat (xsarahscott) or Instagram (Sarah_scott1) I’ve already started my trip,  I am just unfortunately behind on Facebook and of course here!
 

Trying to get out of Australia

I woke up on Sunday 12 March feeling positive about my next adventure, until I lost my passport on the way to the airport and was refused my flight to New Zealand.

Whilst on route to Cairns Airport I received a call which made me realise that I was in the wrong shuttle bus – for once it wasn’t actually my fault and the drivers mistake.  As we weren’t too far away from the hostel he dropped me off and picked up the poor lad whom he was  meant to collect, which seemed easy enough, until I noticed that I’d left my small backpack with my passport, money and valuables on the wrong bus.

Thankfully the bus operators were sister companies so it wasn’t too complicated to liase with them.  Finally, we were reunited and the panic was over, well you would think…

When I went to check-in I was refused my flight to New Zealand because I didn’t have an onward ticket. With limited time and getting myself into a panic, Quantas allowed me to board my flight to Brisbane because I wouldn’t be leaving the country. I tried my luck again in Brisbane but unfortunately the same situation happened, I needed proof that I was going to leave New Zealand.

I quickly tried to find a cheap flight online which would be useful in a few weeks but with the check-in desk almost closing, I had no choice but to let the Flight Centre book a “cheap” ticket back to Australia.

Now that means I’ll either have to apply for my second working holiday visa (if you get investigated it can take weeks), apply for a tourist visa and buy a flight out of Australia, contact Quantas to try change it or don’t get on the flight at all.m

Although most countries I’ve been to  don’t seem to ask for your onward proof of travel (in my experience), New Zealand appears to be really strict in enforcing this rule. Therefore, to avoid any hassle make sure that you have one or you could end up spending a fortune like myself! Alternatively, you could purchase a fake ticket but because I was so rushed I didn’t think about that option until it was too late.

On a positive note my two Qantas flights were really good and they included nice meals and drinks.

With regards to my blog, you’d think being on buses and planes etc would give me all of time in the world to keep this updated, however, attempting to write whilst trying to get through a hangover mixed with motion sickness all of the time isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Plus if you could see the state of my smashed up phone you’d understand why I hate using it.

East Coast Trip: Cairns

On Friday 3 March I finally arrived in tropical Cairns, the last stop of my East Coast trip and Australia for a while!

17201449_10212455988897022_4718621595032718282_nFor the first five nights I stayed at the infamous Gilligan’s. I decided to stay here because I’d heard it was amazing and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. The hostel itself is clean and the nightclub is pretty cool (it’s not your typical dingy backpacker bar) but to be honest it’s just another massive hostel that doesn’t really offer anything else apart from free entry to the club –  I prefer smaller hostels with events as they tend to not only have a better atmosphere but usually include free WiFi and breakfast etc.

For the remaining five nights I moved to Mad Monkey backpackers which in my opinion is much better than Gilligan’s.  For the same price you get extras like really good free WiFi (most hostels in Australia make you pay), air-con, nice bar/pool area and sociable events.  The best part though is the free hot breakfast which they offer as it’s honestly the best free breakfast I’ve  everhad from a hostel, and I’ve stayed in a LOT of hostels.

Apart from my rant about hostels, if you’re in Cairns you need to book a Atherton Tableland or Cape Tribulation tour with Uncle Brian’s because it’s informative and hilarious…the reviews don’t lie! I did the one day Cape Tribulation tour  which involved a crocodile tour; exploring the oldest tropical rainforest in the world, the Daintree Rainforest; swimming in freshwater streams; visiting Port Douglas and seeing the spot where Steve Irwin died, lovely. Seeing Stingrays whilst snorkelling is actually really common, you gotta be careful in these Straya waters!

With Cairns being the last stop of my East Coast trip it’s been really nice as I’ve actually have time to relax – sometimes travelling can feel exhausting when you don’t spend more than two days in one place. Although it’s cyclone season, I’ve been lucky with the weather as I’ve spent everyday reading and tanning by the lagoon (I’m pretty impressed with how brown I am now!). If you’ve never been to Cairns, the heat can get a bit intense because of the humidity (it reminds me of being in Asia) so be prepared to feel like you’re cooking alive!

Seeing as Cairns is backpacker central, I’ve spent my nights taking advantage of all the events involving free food and booze! My favourite was with Paradise Travel/Woolshed on Friday’s because there was lots of free goon, beer, cider, champagne, sex on the beach cocktails and a crazy amount of pizza!  With girls drinking free in The Woolshed and Gilligan’s, it’s definitely a North Queensland thing as you’d never get that in New South Wales…or if you’re boy. 😛

With my Australian visa ending on March 13th,  I was going to go back to Asia before using my second year visa. However, after spending the last 17 months in the sunshine and on beaches, I’ve decided to have a change of scenery and check out New Zealand because it looks so beautiful and I really enjoy the outdoors.  Until next time Oz!

East Coast Trip : Magnetic Island National Park

After an extremely hungover journey on Wednesday, I arrived at Bungalow Bay Koala Village in Magnetic Island where I had booked to stay for two nights.

I was a bit apprehensive about visiting Magnetic Island as I’d recently met a lot of travellers who told me that they hated it. However, if you like all things nature, forest trails and fancy staying on the Koala Sanctuary site then you’ll really enjoy the hostel and Magnetic Island.

20170302_171145Due to Bungalow Bay being in the forest you’ll say hello to a variety of  insects and geckos (sometimes even in your room) so if you’re not a fan of bugs I’d stay in Base which is on the opposite side of the island.  If you’re anything like me and get bitten alive by mosquitoes wear mozzy spray regardless of where you stay!

On Thursday I did the two hour tour around the Koala Sanctuary. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but it’s basically a tour where you learn about some of the wild animals which are on the island and throughout Queensland. You can also hold and take pictures with the animals…apart from the venomous spider. The main selling point of the sanctuary is the $18 koala cuddle souvenir photo but if you’re looking to save money I’d skip it because as you can see below, you can pet and take selfies with another koala anyway.

After the tour myself and another girl did the Forts Walk which took us about an hour and a half. Most people hire cars or scooters and spend a whole day doing the walking tracks, but to be honest, it was unbearably hot so we just did one and rewarded ourselves with an ice cold cider.

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The other benefit of visiting Magnetic Island is spotting lots of wild Koalas!

We then bumped into another girl who was on our Whitsunday’s trip so we all went out for dinner and spent the night talking about every backpackers favourite conversation, travelling.

 

East Coast : Whitsunday Islands and Airlie Beach

As I’ve been moving further North almost every second day and doing lots of activities it’s been getting quite hard to keep this blog updated but I’ll catch up eventually.

After a lovely 18 hour bus journey from Rainbow Beach, I finally arrived in Airlie Beach on Friday 24th February.  Airlie Beach is a small tropical town which I thought was really nice because it has a lot to offer, especially for backpackers. It is also the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands so that obviously was a plus too. 

 

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Airlie Beach Lagoon

 

I spent two nights at Nomads Airlie Beach and I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was because every Nomads I’ve stayed in hasn’t been the greatest of hostels. 

 
On Sunday, 3rd of March I packed my cider and bikinis and headed towards the harbor to board the sailing boat, Spank Me! If you’re anything like me and suffer from motion sickness, I highly recommend buying Kwell’s from your local pharmacy.
 

 I spent two nights and two days sailing and snorkeling around a variety of islands in the Whitsundays.  Despite constantly looking out for sharks, swimming in the Great Barrier Reef was such a beautiful and amazing experience. I only have one underwater picture but I’m sure most of you have seen it already on documentaries.

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Luncheon Bay

 
Unfortunately I can’t remember the names of every place we stopped so I’ve stolen this list from their website to give you an idea : Whitehaven Beach, Hayman Island, Hook Island, Whitsunday Island, and Boarder Island, with snorkeling stops at Blue Pearl Bay, Luncheon Bay, Caves Cove, plus plenty of other top locations.
 

 At night you could fall asleep on the  deck whilst watching the stars (which was stunning because you were in pitch blackness) but it was so windy I always just went inside after a while.The food on board was unreal and  as someone said, it was literally enough to kill someone so I was extremely happy that I never got hungry!

On Tuesday we sailed back to Airlie Beach where I  ripped half of my hair out trying to brush it (there’s no showers on board).  At night  I headed out for the Spank Me after party and because it’s ladies night on Tuesday’s I drank for free all night. Unfortunately drinking shitty cheap wine seemed like a good idea until the next day when I almost died getting myself to Magnetic Island.