Around the World 1997 Travel Diaries. Part 13, hello New Zealand! Arriving in Christchurch, and having a bad taste party in the bush!

1 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

Up at 05:00 to get the bus to the Sydney airport. The flight was 2 hours and 15 minutes to Christchurch, New Zealand. Lots of immigration checks and we were not allowed any Australian produce into NZ. This was the first time in a while that we felt cold, it was like Norwegian spring, warm but cold wind. Bus from the airport took us to Cathedral Square in the city centre. Walked first to Backpackers Inn at the Square right in the middle of the square like the name implies. Always a bad sign when they do not want you to see any of their rooms before you make a reservation, so we walked out again. Left Tanja on a cold café by the church and had a wander around to find other options for accommodation. I ended up back at Backpackers Inn, and we just had to take the chance. I showed them my travel agency credentials and to my big surprise they showed me a room without bathroom and in the end, they gave us a room with bath for free! I walked to get a frozen but beautiful Tanja at the square. The hotel is pretty run down but the location is perfect, and the Kiwi Experience office is at the hotel, perfect! Having checked in to our room we huddled under a layer of blankets and had a nap. Had a nice dinner before having to call the Oslofjord radio station and give them an update.

The wizard of Christchurch in front of the cathedral

2 December 1997, Backpackers Inn the Square, Christchurch, New Zealand:
Landed in New Zealand yesterday, didn’t get any breakfast on the flight due to some catering problems, so we were really hungry. Nice to fly over the alps coming into New Zealand though, high, pointy peaks covered in snow in some places and with green trees in other places. Then the landscape changed, and we saw lots of fields going all the way down to the blue sea. Exchanged some money at the airport and took a bus to Cathedral Square. Hadn’t booked a place to stay, and first went into this place, but the receptionist didn’t want to give us the chance to have a look at any of the rooms. Then we went to a YHA where they wanted NZD 22 for a dorm. After having something to eat Ørjan went around on his own to try and find a nice place to stay, while I was waiting and feeling very cold – it is quite cold here – we need to buy some jackets. At least Ørjan got back with a smile on his face, he’d ended up where we started, and watched as they filled in some Kiwi passes for some Kilroy tourists, upon which he’d shown his Kilroy card and his letter of recommendation and ended up getting a twin with shower/toilet either free of charge or at half price. It looks pretty shabby, but it’s still ok. Going out to try and find some jackets now, then visit Kilroy’s partner agency, and maybe see a doctor, have struggled with headaches for a couple of weeks. It’s 10.30 p.m. talking to the radio station again. Have done our packing and are ready to leave again, will be back in Christchurch in about a week and have booked a room here already. Got the two nights here for free which is great, because we’ve spent some extra money today on fleece jackets for both of us. Looked around in different places, very expensive everywhere – from NZD 100-200 for a jacket, but finally got into a shop where Ørjan got his fleece at sale for NZD 29,-  and mine cost 59,- – not too bad. Went to a very nice doctor, checked different things, didn’t think it was anything dangerous, but asked me to call if it got worse, and told me to take some pain killers to see if that would get rid of the headache.


We sorted out a few things today. First, we found some cheap and warm fleece sweaters for both of us, we needed them! Tanja went to the doctors to check out a headache she has been having for a while, the doctor told her to take some painkillers, and the headache disappeared. We booked some legs on the Kiwi Experience bus, they had no records of our tickets or our first leg that we booked in Sydney. Tanja had an eyelash colouring, and I washed some clothes, starting the session with filling the tumble dryer with washing powder, great job!

3 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

After a bit of stress in the morning we got to the Kiwi bus. Only 3 people on the bus and our driver Deano. Today was mostly driving with a cool stop at some thermal pools, it smelled like rotten eggs, and we decided against swimming in the warm water. Picked up 7 people at Nelson and drove through Buller Gorge on the way to Westport. The nature in New Zealand is so green, with lush valleys and high mountains. In Westport we checked into Basil’s Backpackers, a great place with a fantastic communal kitchen. We did some shopping and made spaghetti for dinner. We walked to watch a seal colony in the afternoon.


4 December 1997, Bazil’s Backpackers, Westport, New Zealand:
Packed and ready to move on again. Left Christchurch with Kiwi Experience and the driver Dino yesterday and drove through beautiful green mountainous landscape with valleys in between in partly rain and partly sun. Some really heavy showers now and then – almost felt like being at home. Went by some thermal pools where it smelled like rotten eggs, the others (one passenger and the driver) went into the pools for a dip, whilst we didn’t, but had some lunch instead. Then we picked up ten more passengers coming in from Nelson and went here to Westport. Really nice hostel! Went out to Cape Foulwind, named by captain Cook, where we saw a colony of fur seals. It smelled quite bad, and it was difficult to get good photos of brown seals resting on brown rocks, but nice to see them. Beautiful and rugged coastal landscape with big wild waves. Made some dinner at the hostel, watched telly and then bed.


Our trip continued down the west coast with its stunning landscape. Large limestone formations green with trees and plants that grow in this southernmost rainforest. We had a great trek along a river, and it was nice walking knowing that no poisonous creepy crawlies could come and bite you, compared to Australia, this is bliss! We drove on to Pancake rocks and blowholes, rock formations that look like pancakes with blowholes whooshing and blowing water with the huge waves that pounded the shoreline. The other Kiwi Experience bus that was travelling the same route as us left a message at a gas station that there was to be a bad taste party at the next overnight stop. We made a stop at a thrift store on the way and bought some cheap stuff to make our outfits. The stop itself was in the middle of nowhere, basic, and pretty cold in the rooms. We got a great dinner and changed into our bad taste clothes, Tanja was a hippie girl, and I was the disco boy. The other bus had some younger kids that behave a bit childish, but it was a great party. It was a bitterly cold night with little sleep and one of the boys in the dorm snored like a wounded bear.


5 December 1997, Bushman’s centre, New Zealand:
This is what I don’t like about OZ and Kiwi Experience – unnecessary stops where we have to pay admission fees. The others are on a round trip learning about how they managed to survive before, and they’ll learn how to throw knives, hunt with bow and arrow etc., but I didn’t feel like going. Drove from Mahihapua about 1,5 hours ago. We stopped there at a pub in the middle of nowhere where the rooms were so cold that we had to rent blankets, and the toilet was outside, so we had to get fully dressed every time we had to go. Good food last night though, BBQ for NZD 7, a good-sized portion too. Got in before the other 50 people staying here, so we didn’t have to stay in a long line to get served, and had nice salad, boiled vegetables, potatoes and a big steak – tasted really good! Bad taste party afterwards, stopped by a second-hand store on our way there, and spent around NZD 3 each on clothing for the party. I got a really colourful dress and a white fake-leather jacket which actually didn’t look that bad, together with white socks, military boots and my hair in plaits I looked real nice… Much more people in the other bus – 42, while only 7 in total in ours, many of them young people ready for a party. Went for a walk by a river in the rain forest, some were meant to go canoeing, but the currents were too strong. Very beautiful place, we found a place by the river and had lunch there. We also went to Pancake Rocks with its blow holes – high waves hitting the rocks, a really beautiful coastline!  


After a cold night we woke to the sound of heavy rain. We drove to the Bushman’s Centre where we were shown how the old timers survived in the bush. Mildly interesting. Before the white man came to New Zealand there were no mammals here other than 3 kinds of bats. Now there is an estimated 70 million possums who were introduced by the fur industry. Possums are now public enemy number 1 because they ruin the rainforest and the native animals’ habitats. The only good possum is a dead possum they say. We were supposed to go to a gold mining camp, but our driver Deano took us to a great walk instead at the Forks. We walked up a lush and green hill and got a great view toward Franz Josef’s Glacier, our overnight stop. While we walked, Deano went down to the beach to surf, I suspect that was why he dropped the gold camp. The drive to Franz Joseph was not a long one. Deano helped us book our onward journey. You can take a full day excursion up on the glacier itself, but the cost was high, and we have glaciers in Norway combined with a changing weather situation, we dropped a trip onto the glacier. Tomorrow we will just relax, take a walk up to the glacier and see what happens.


6 December 1997, Black Sheep, Franz Josef, New Zealand:
After Bushman yesterday we went further along the coast and went for a hefty walk up to a viewing point from which we could see the Franz Josef glacier. We should have seen Mount Cook too, but New Zealand’s highest peak of around 3000 metres hid behind clouds, so we couldn’t see much of it. Great view over a big lagoon coming in from the ocean though. Deano was surfing while we were walking – nice job! Were supposed to have visited a gold mining place, but the seven of us were persuaded not to go there. Came here later yesterday, no double rooms available, so back in a 4-bed dorm with two who snored all night… Nicer place than yesterday though, an oven in the room, so not so cold, didn’t need the duvets we borrowed, and toilet/shower is inside, just beside our room. Went for a short walk towards the glacier, it was cloudy and raining, so didn’t see the glacier in the best weather either. Decided not to take the glacier tour, cost NZD 30 per person and 66 for a full day tour, probably quite hard, too. Anyway, we’ve got glaciers in Norway too. We’ve talked to people who’ve done the tour though, and they say it’s really nice. We slept in, then went shopping, did some reading, made food and went for a walk along the river – nice and fresh air, green and lush, high peaks – reminds me a bit of Norway, we don’t find the tree ferns and the palms at home, though.


We slept until 13:00, took a walk to the small city centre and used the rest of the day to read, walk and watch Trainspotting on TV in the evening.


7 December 1997, Makarora, New Zealand:
Got up early today, left Franz Josef at 7.30 a.m. and went to Lake Matheson where we went on a 1.5 hour walk around the lake and got some great photos. The sky was clear and blue, and the peaks of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman covered in snow mirrored in the lake. Quiet and nice area – a beautiful morning! Had breakfast there before continuing along the coast, and lunch at the beach where we turned inland for the Haas-pass. Looked more and more like Norway, high snow-covered peaks surrounded by green forest, beautiful clear watered rivers with round rocks. We drove into Mt. Aspiring national park and watched the top of this mountain from our Wilderness stopover at Makarora – a beautiful place. Managed to get a double room for NZD 17 and had quite a nice BBQ for 7 per person. Fresh air and beautiful scenery!

Lake Matheson

We got up early to get going before the other buses. A short drive to lake Matheson, a lake that with the right conditions you can get the reflection of both Mt Cook and Mt Tasman in the lake. We were lucky and the lake was like a mirror when we got there. The reflection of the surrounding landscape was amazing. Hope my photos turn out well. From the lake we continued towards the coast and had lunch at Shipwreck Creek. We continued up the Haast pass that runs under Mt Aspiration. Great photos were taken we hope. The landscape has big similarities to Norway, only it is greener and more intense. We got to see 3 great waterfalls on our way to Kaikoura, and this was one of the more enjoyable “forced” stops we have had. Nature was great and it was peaceful and quiet. Tomorrow we head for Queenstown.

New Zealand was love at first sight, and we have been lucky enough to be back one more time in 2005, going by car instead of a bus, read more about this here. We feel a deep connection with New Zealand, it is similar but very different from Scandinavia.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Up next: nearly bungee jumping in Queenstown!

Categories:Around The World 1997, Travel

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