Hokitika: Buses and Boots

Trip Start Jan 18, 2011
Trip End Dec 01, 2011

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Friday, April 29, 2011

In Chile we'd booked this particular magic bus pass with the understanding that we could hop on and hop off. In our 3 and a bit weeks we could take our time as the pass required a minimum of 16 days. Unfortunately for us we later discovered that it wasn't as flexible as their slick marketing would have you believe as there are enforced overnight stays and a winter schedule. 

If I had to review it, I'd say – read the sneaky small print on their site! We would have loved to experience a bit more of Wellington but the stringent schedule had tired us out..

 The schedule being: 

 * Get up really early to get the bus 
 * Pack
 * Eat brekkie and make sandwiches
 * Get on the bus and tour all day, choose a hostel and take pictures of stuff (it's a hard life)
 * Arrive at destination about 4/5pm
 * Go to the supermarket
 * Make dinner often involving a hunt for utensils in hostel kitchens
 * Eat
 * Maybe have time to do something in the evening
 * Sleep

 ....Rinse and repeat.... on to the next town.
Exhausting! Especially with our jetlag, but I think we've more or less got over that now. Oh yeah, at some point in amongst all of that we may need to find time to do some of the activities that they've flogged us.. Their winter schedule meant that we could either vist town upon town on a daily basis, or if we wanted to do any activity during the day we'd have to stay 4 days! Some of these kiwi towns are really quite small... it made us think that the service wasn't actual magic and simply crafty sleight of hand. Moaning aside! It is really great to have the driver guide us and tell us what's what along the route.
So our stay in the Nelson area was a welcome break.

The first night, we arrived at our hostel, Accents on the Park, only to discover the dopey staff had somehow lost our online booking. The patronising manager ('I want you to know, you haven't done anything wrong') took us to another hostel which resembled a youth club. It's worth noting that the New Zealand 'Fush n' Chups' aren't as good as back home!

Being given the boot

The next day we got off the beaten track by jumping on a bus to the small town of Tasman to check-in to The Boot. On their extensive patch of land, Steve and Judy Richards have a lovely family house, and sweet little cafe with all kinds of homemade fare. There's a little stream with tame eels, giant chess board and  plenty of magic gardens that is the sort of place that would be swarming with young families in the summertime. Further down the garden they've also chosen to build a 2 storey building in the shape of a fairytale boot!

It's a real laugh, with a cosy little fire in the comfortable living area and large bathroom. There was a workeable kitchenette and well-stocked minibar – nice touch since we natrually thought the cupboards'd be bare. The bedroom is upstairs and to keep Lisa happy there's a barbecue :)

It was the little touches that made the stay for us.. the baked treats, the chocs, the robes, the almighty breakfasts! I have never seen such a big hash brown, with all trimmings on top. Decadent. And made a change from toast with honey/cereals.
We took bikes into the small port village of Mapua and bought stuff for a BBQ and after another comfortable, serene night it was time to return back to Nelson. In New Zealand's sunniest city (it was raining) we stayed in the clinical YHA.
 Early start for bussing the next day in glorious unbroken sunshine and our best day of driving yet. We travelled through autumnal farmland, temperate rainforests and lush gorges. Before lunch we park up at foulwind seal colony and then drive down NZ's rugged west coastline. There's dramatic geology and great views of Mt. Cook (NZ's tallest - 3754m) in the distance before we stop off in the gold mining area of the grey valley for the evening. A pleasant surprise as the owner of The Neptune backpackers upgraded us to a double room! Foruitous feelings fizzled after a night in the drafty car park portakabin that was being masqueraded as a double. We went on the Montleith brewery tour that evening so all's well that ends well!
 The aforementioned schedule continues with our driver, Pommy Tony. Nice guy, talks a lot, says whatever comes into his head actually. I write this on the bus and we've all just had an explanation of the finer details of his own home insurance policy in reference to earthquake cover. A true Alan Patridge moment!
Jonathan Edward James Whittlestone
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