For both North and South Island of New Zealand, I began my first solo trip at the age of 18. After travelling around Australia with my best friend for four months, I felt more than prepared. Apart from arriving in Christchurch airport and nearly getting arrested for bringing walking boots with mud on them, (long story but just make sure you clean your boots Kiwis are REALLY pro environment), as well as living like Harry Potter under the stairs at my Couch surfers’ house who acted like he was going to murder me, I was okay. The best way to explore the entirety of New Zealand is to rent or buy your own van and create your own adventure around the country. With its jaw dropping remarkable scenery varying from volcanoes, to ice glaciers, white beaches and rolling hills one finds in a famous hobbit movie, travelling at your own pace and time is the best way to see NZ.
If young, wild and free- like I was, and wanting to take an easier and more organised way, buy a coach ticket. Coaches here are in the form of hop on hop off buses, which combines the ease of travelling around the country and taking in the ever changing landscape at each stop, meeting new and interesting people in a manageable environment, a personal tour guide, and unique stops within the country on your chosen route. Before my trip, I organized the latter with a coach company called ‘The Kiwi Experience Bus‘, and boy was it an experience. The drivers and tour guides are equally as bonkers and care free as those who decide to join the bus, meaning the entire trip is a manic and enjoyable ride. Each night the driver makes sure the entire bus is fuelled with alcohol, and those who don’t join in, are shamed until they do so. Developed for a young crowd, or for those who are young at heart, the trip is a blur of incredible sights, and incredible hangovers. If partying every night inst you thing (after 2 months of my trip it surely wasn’t), then there are other buses such as Stray and Magic that offer similar packages.
My first day in Christchurch I wandered around the city and booked myself to see a Haka Maori Dance in a small centre. It was one of the most cringe worthy things I’ve ever watched. Seeing teenager’s who weren’t even Maori dance out of time for around the world tourists was awkward and made me think if each performance around NZ would be like that. Thankfully it wasn’t, but as a recommendation, don’t settle for any old Maori performance, watch the best in Rotorua, North Island.
The sights in Christchurch are pretty ordinary, as it is basically a small city town with little attractions. Walking around I peered into the ancient cathedral, the art gallery exhibiting Maori style of art, and the botanical gardens filled with blooming buds of roses, and an ideal place to relax in. Although Christchurch has mainly, boring sights, what sets it apart from similar cities, are the numerous earthquakes that occur here and cause great destruction. Walk a little further from the main tourist sights, taking yourself down a few side streets and you will find buildings with giant gaping holes standing erect, most of its materials crumbled and destroyed on the floor. Pieces of tarmac have been stretched and expanded as if stretch marks on a pregnant women’s skin, which highlight the aftermath of the horrific disaster.
Although little to do in Christchurch, head out to Hamner Springs, an example of NZ’s fantastic geo-thermal activity. Here you can lie in varying temperatures of natural baths relieving yourself of any stress or worry. The most mild temperature baths are packed with local families, so I advise going during the week to avoid congestion.
Kaikura is a beautiful small town where snow capped mountains and the wild freezing sea come together as if long lost relatives. Many tourists come here to spot the humongous beasts of whales whilst they gasp for air, or dolphins jumping in excitement with their friends, however Kaikura is also a fantastic spot to see sea lions huddle together and cry out in unison, as if at their own personal musical festival, at the piece of coastal path titled: Seal Walk.