There are some things I have a really difficult time writing about and the trip I took around New Zealand is one of them. I could never write anything summing up my time in Rome; the incredible things that happened, coupled with the sadness that it was over left me with too many feelings to put anything coherent on the page, and this trip is just about the same.
I was tempted to just briefly mention the trip in some coming post, but it seemed like I would be doing myself a disservice by not writing everything down to read later. So knowing there's no way I can possibly describe how excellent the whole trip was, I'll begin.
I can easily summarize the logistics of what happened on my trip: I left Auckland February 11th and began a bus tour around the North and South Island. During that time, I went to the beach, took a mud bath, went on a 20k hike, bungy jumped (yes, I did spell that right), ate a burger the size of my face, among many other things. But my trip was so much better than all the individual parts because I ended up traveling with the best friends I never knew I had. It sounds cheesy, but if you spend literally 24/7 with people for over 3 weeks with very fleeting wifi and cell service, you're either going to love or hate each other by the end of it.
There were about 40 people on the bus at any given time, and while I definitely didn't get to know everyone, there was a solid group of us who stuck together from mostly the beginning to mostly the end of the bus-Auckland all the way down to Queenstown.
|It's grainy, blurry and probably the best photo ever taken.|
I have to admit when I started the trip, I was a little nervous. I can't quite tell you why, but for all the traveling I've done, I'd never truly backpacked. So this was definitely a new experience. I didn't really come into the trip expecting to make very good friends. I knew I'd meet people, but I figured I'd mostly be independent. And what I got was, wholly and wonderfully the opposite.
It was one of the best cultural exchanges I've been a part of, because, for weeks, we had so much time sitting on the bus or sitting around hostels to just share what our lives are like wherever we come from and ask questions about people from all over the world. Since we were all on a forced internet cleanse, having only a few hours of connection every few days, we relearned how to talk to people without just looking up YouTube videos (hint: you just end up telling someone about "this video I saw this one time" instead of being able to look it up.) But I also learned about everything from what it's like to be an electrician in London to Zwarte Piet to how addresses are written differently in Sweden. Is it super useful information? Maybe, maybe not, but the whole of it has taught me even more about different cultures.
To remember the journey, a lot of people kept trip diaries; they wrote a bit about what happened each day. I wish I did that sometimes, but I did write down a list of things in my phone that I wanted to remember and share in my blog.
So here is a list of some of the cool/weird things that might happen to you if you take a Stray bus around New Zealand. You might:
- lose your cell phone charger and find it in the fridge because you had to pack up at 5:30 am.
- take an inappropriate number of bus selfies.
- forget that bathrooms generally come segregated into mens and women's and get confused when confronted with separate bathrooms.
- pour wine into an empty 2 litre to drink without being judged.
- have a difficult time falling asleep without the steady thump of the bar's bass and the shouts and giggles of those damned Kiwi Experience kids.
- realize that en suite hostels are better than any other sort of amenity imaginable.
- spill peanut butter over all your food and scrape it back into the jar because you can't afford to buy more.
- discover just how long it's possible to eat rice crackers, muesli bars and noodles (college kids ain't got nothing on backpackers.)
- play "never have I ever" until you run out of interesting things to say.
- (inadvertently) develop more inside jokes with your bus than you did with your best friend in middle school ("Like I said, it was okay. I don't like repeating myself.")
- learn to speak Dutch and/or German and/or Swedish. Or at least sing the Zwarte Piet song.
- become an expert at packing by cellphone torch light.
- do a load of laundry in a sketchy hostel that comes out questionably more dirty than when it went in.
- know that as long as you change your underwear, the rest of your clothes are clean enough.
- keep track of time in hostels, rather than a form that anyone outside of the stray bus would undersatnd. Ex: "Three hostels ago, at the one where the woman cried, we shared a room with the rando guy and...."
- make some of the best meals you've eaten with only half the things you need because: hostel kitchens.
- get weirdly and beautifully sentimental during a group rendition of "Wonderwall."
|Eating Fergburger! In Ferg We Trust.|
|Nevis Bungy Jump|
|Here's a hint. If you take a sulfur bath. BURN those clothes. Sulphur is the herpes of smells|
|Sea tour in Raglan|
|Looks can be deceiving; this is another sulphur lake.|
And now here is the fastest possible tour of where I went in the South Island
|Franz Joseph Glacier: Four years ago it extended almost to where I was standing, but is melting at a startling rate.|
|Lake Matheson has tea-colored water|
|A scenic overview. The likes of which can be found all over NZ.|
|Hanging out of the side of the road just 'cause.|
|Milford Sound: Cool, but not as impressive as anticipated/hyped.|
|It snows in the hottest months here.|
|I repeat it SNOWS in NZ's equivalent of August way down south. Friggin' Antarctica|
|Queenstown is heaven on earth. If heaven is quite cold and rainy a lot...|
|Views from the most dangerous road in New Zealand.|
|Definitely worth risking a 100m fall down the cliff.|
I could go on and on about traveling especially around New Zealand. I could continue listing all the amazing things that you could experience. I won't, but what I will say is: Go. Go and get out there. If you want to travel, don't let anything stop you. It's never going to be the best time and you're never going to have enough money, but you'll always regret not going.