After 3 very long and wet days living it up in Auckland, we woke early Tuesday morning to walk to the appointed meeting place for our North Island adventure! Upon finding Stray Bus, we immediately knew that this was going to be nothing like we expected. We watched as the bus slowly filled up with 20-30 something backpackers from mostly Europe while I silently prayed that my mother-in-law would not hate me by the time this was over.
As we headed south, we talked to some of our fellow passengers including a group of Stray Bus trainees, a Belgium girl on sabbatical, a Swedish boy traveling during his gap year and an English girl who just graduated from college. Everybody seemed really nice so we were happy. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad?
After 3 hours we arrived in Raglan, a small surf town on the west coast of the north island.
We had a short stop in town to visit the harbor and buy some food. I found a quaint little Japanese restaurant decorated with vintage surfing and Japanese art and ordered some salmon and rice to-go. Rice is definitely life.
We then hopped back on the bus and drove along the windy coast and into the jungle towards Karioi Lodge, our hostel for the night. The hostel was comprised of long wooden cabins situated up in the hills and deep in the foliage off the coast. Linda and I bunked with our Belgian friend Gaelle and English friend Stephanie in a tiny room with two twin beds and a bunk bed. We had a shared bathroom in another cabin and even had to rent a couple of towels. Pretty standard stuff for a hostel but I could tell Linda was feeling a little uncomfortable. So I suggested we go walk with everybody down to the beach and watch the people who elected to take surfing lessons.
It was a magnificent and steep hike down to the beach and I was finally struck by the absolute beauty of New Zealand. This was the pure, wild landscape I had always imagined. THIS WAS IT. The water was positively chilly but the sun was effective at blasting us with heat. So we buried our toes in the sand and walked down the beach, reveling in the warmth.
Honestly I don’t know how people an surf in cold water. BRRR.
We were surrounded by the most gorgeous landscape I have ever seen, straight from a fantasy novel or jurassic park. After days of nasty cold weather in Auckland, the sun was out, the sky was blue and everything was saturated with the perfect shade of GREEN and BLUE. This was the New Zealand of my dreams. And our trip had only just begun!
After a few hours, Linda, Gaelle and I decided to forgo the bus back to the lodge and walk back instead. That cliff was a bit more difficult to climb up but we eventually found the road which provided a blissful view over the coast. However we did have to dodge several cars speeding down the hill, including a van full of our fellow backpackers running into town for some beer. We did however see an actual chicken crossing the road which had us laughing our heads off while Linda tried to adopt the chicken and take it home as a pet when it began to follow us. I refused.
We made it back to the lodge before dark, showered and enjoyed a lovely dinner cooked by our guide and trainees. Linda and I played pool with our Swedish friends (hilariously winning after playing so awfully) before taking a walk to see the glow worms in the pitch black night. We found the glow worms lighting the path which Linda adamantly believed were just Christmas lights! I was insistent, those are the glow worms! Haha.
We joined a group of Danish friends to stargaze on a wooden mountain platform overlooking the ocean. We saw so many shooting stars and laughed under millions of twinkling lights till our bellies ached. It was an absolutely beautiful and perfect first night, one that I will always remember.
We eventually called it an early night in our steamy room with our little bunks and slept lightly. But it was going to be a jam packed day! Next up is the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves and Mourea.
Catching up? Don’t miss anything…
New Zealand 1: Rain, Wine and Waiheke in Auckland