Published: September 3rd 2012September 3rd 2012
Stray Travel -The Jill Pass
I travelled on the North Island of New Zealand with the Stray Bus. I’m doing my internship in Auckland at the moment, and I wanted to travel the week before I started this internship.
It was an amazing week. I expected it to be nice, but this week went beyond my expectations. I met so many nice people, I loved the spectacular views and I did things I thought I would never do, such as skydiving from 15.000 ft, horse riding (which I never did before), tubing in caves and so much more. Auckland to Raglan
The bus departed from Auckland, near to the Stray shop in Fort Street. When I arrived at the bus (which was very easy to find due to his lovely orange color), I met my friendly driver and my fellow travelers. There were a lot of nationalities on the bus: American, Dutch, German, Canadian, Australian and Italian people.
After a short introduction we went to the Stray Office in Penrose to get a quick explanation how everything works, for example what to do when you want to hop off the
bus for a couple of days and how to get on again. After that we headed to Raglan. On the way we stopped to get a coffee and a real NZ pie (recommended by our bus driver). Further down the way to Raglan we stopped at the Bridal Veil Falls, a plunging waterfall of 55 meters.
After we made some beautiful pictures, we arrived at Raglan, a beachside town on the west coast. It is famous for it’s perfect surf waves and laid-back lifestyle. We arrived at our accommodation; an eco-lodge in the beautiful nature near the beach. Although it was winter (end of July), we were able to take part in surf lessons in the afternoon, which we decided in the bus after the sun began to shine. We met our surf teacher, who gave us a short briefing about how to stand up on a surfboard and what surfing in Raglan is all about. After we practiced on land, we went to the beach. We got our wetsuits and surfboards and went in to the water. We had heaps of fun and we even caught some waves. After a few hours we were exhausted and
went back to the lodge. The lodge included a sauna, where we relaxed for a while. Our driver cooked for us with some help of other travelers, so after we took a shower we all enjoyed a lovely meal. We played cards afterwards and had a couple of beers and a good laugh. Before we went to bed, we were told we could see glowworms in the trees near to the lodge. We went to see them and it was pretty cool to stand in the dark and see all the little shining spots of the glowworms. Raglan (via Waitomo) to Maketu
After a good night’s sleep in Ralgan, we hopped on the bus in the morning, heading to Waitomo, with the well-known Waitomo caves. We were able to choose between different packages, the most people did the Tumu Tumu Toobing package (walking, swimming and black water tubing through the caves of Waitomo), and so did I. It was an amazing experience. We had two really nice guides, who told us all kind of information about the caves. It was so beautiful and peaceful out there and once we were out, it was hard to believe
there’s such a different, beautiful world under the surface.
After we were back from our cave trip we drove to Maketu, for a very special evening in the marae, a real Maori meetinghouse. We had a traditional dinner and afterwards they showed us all kind of Maori traditions, such as the Haka and Poi. After we watched those performances, we had to do it ourselves. They taught us how to do it and gave us clothes we had to wear during our performance. During the night we slept in the meetinghouse with all of the travelers. We had a lot of fun and it was an amazing experience to get in to the Maori culture. This unique stop was all due to Stray, as you never would experience something like this when traveling by yourself or another tourist bus. Maketu (via Roturua) to Taupo
After our breakfast, we went to Rotorua, a town that’s known for his geothermal areas (which you could smell immediately). Some people walked around town, other went zorbing, and some (including myself) walked around in the Red Woods. After our driver picked everyone up, we headed further to Taupo.
On our way to Taupo we made a stop by the Huka Falls, some powerful waterfalls along the way, worth taking a picture of. Once in Taupo, we had the option to skydive above the world’s largest crater lake. I was scared to death, but I did it and I really recommend it to everyone. It’s such an amazing experience. When the little pink plane went to a height of 15000 ft, the adrenaline was pumping through my body. But with the thought of jumping together with a professional who jumps a couple of times every day, I was able to overcome my fear. Once I jumped out of the plane I enjoyed the kick of jumping out and enjoyed the amazing view.
In the evening we had a lovely dinner at our hostel. After dinner, our busdriver ordered a taxi that took us to some hot natural springs. That was one of the nicest things of the trip. It was really cold outside and the natural springs were very warm, so it was really nice to enjoy the warmth of the water with a cold beer. After a few hours, the taxi picked us up
again. Afterwards we went out in town and showed our karaoke skills. Taupo to National Park
The next morning we went to Tongariro National Park. Unfortunately the weather was too bad to do the Alpine Crossing or go skiing/snowboarding, so we did a really nice walk along some very cool waterfalls and beautiful scenery. Back in the hostel our driver made a very nice meal (lamb casserole) and afterwards some people enjoyed the hot tub of our lodge. National Park to Whakahoro
Our next destination was the most remote part of the North Island: The Blue Duck Lodge, a country farm in the middle of nowhere. There were a lot of activities we could do, such as an eco-warrior 4WD tour, a horse trek, a kayak tour, axe throwing, claybird shooting, goat hunting and some great walks. I chose for the horse riding and claybird shooting. Never rode a horse before so it was pretty exciting, but with some good instructions we made it to the top of a hill, where we had the best view ever.
When we came back the claybird shooting began. We all had to try to
shoot 10 clay birds. After an instruction how to hold the gun we all had to practice 5 times. After everyone tried, we had a competition, where everyone had to shoot 5 times more. Unfortunately I just shot 2 out of 5, but it was really fun to do. That day was also the birthday of one of the girls on the bus. So we had a really nice meal with everyone wearing party hats. Afterwards we had some more drinks. Whakahoro to Wellington
After a good night’s sleep, we headed to Wellington, the capital of NZ. We arrived in the afternoon and went to the national museum – ‘Te Papa’. We saw a massive squid in the museum, which was quite impressing and a lot of other stuff about New Zealand. Afterwards we went shopping in the main streets of Wellington and had some dinner. At 9pm everyone met in the bar of our hostel for a drink and we had a little goodbye party, as most of the people were heading south and a few (including myself) were heading back to Auckland the next day. Wellington to Auckland
day had come. Heading back to Auckland, with a quick stop in National Park to pick up some other travelers. Pretty tired from the exhausting, but amazing week, I had a good sleep on the bus. When we arrived in Auckland we saw a beautiful sunset. Auckland
Once back in Auckland, my driver told me he was doing an Auckland day trip the next day and asked me if I wanted to join the bus. As I was in Auckland anyway and I really would like to stay longer on the Stray bus, I took the offer. The next day I went on the bus with 43 au pairs, who all wanted to explore Auckland. We visited the Sky Tower, Harbor Bridge, Auckland Museum, Mission Bay and a lot of other cool places in Auckland. We were told where we should go out and a lot of other useful information.
That night we went out with the group and had a blast. That was the end of my adventure with Stray on the North Island. In December I’m going to do the South Island. Can’t wait! I definitely recommend Stray to all adventurous travelers who want to explore New Zealand in the best way possible. Cheers, Nicky