I got dropped off just before 11:30am at Jailhouse Accommodation, a backpackers in the old jail, now converted, of Christchurch and the pick-up point for the Magic Bus.
Nervously I waited on the pavement wondering if I’d got the pick-up point correct, what would the driver be like, how many people would be on the bus and just all the unknowns. There was another person who arrived with bags in tow so I figured they were also on the bus which arrived shortly after 11:30 and the driver, Scott, jumped out apologised for being slightly late because of traffic, loaded our bags into the storage below the bus and we were off. There were only about 12 people on the bus which I expected what with it being winter and all but it was actually nice as we could spread out on the seats.
Scott then put on his microphone, welcomed us newbies on board and discussed the route, stops, estimated time of arrival as well as the clipboard system for booking accommodation and activities in Kaikoura. While the clipboards were going around Scott filled us in with details of the activities such as whale watching, dolphin swimming and deep-sea fishing which he was very knowledgeable about having done most of them himself. I however was saving my cash as I had 5 weeks ahead of me and some other activities I already had in mind.
The drive north was beautiful with rolling hills and the Southern Alps off to our left. I didn’t take any photos from inside the bus as they never come out well with reflections and water spots on the windows so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Our first and only stop today was a small café in the small town of Cheviot. Here I plucked up the courage to speak to some of the other travellers a group of 3 Irish teachers who had been travelling with the Magic Bus for 2 weeks and they had some good tips and advice. Where I should spend more time and what I can skip. As a result I decided to change my itinerary and head up to the North Island first and then come down and do the South Island on my way back to avoid any double backing and maximising my time.
After a while the road became twisty and windy as we worked our way towards the coast. It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies as we finally reached the Pacific Ocean. It was a magnificent coastline and the road would narrow every so often to go through single lane tunnels through the mountains. We pulled into the town where Scott pointed out the i-site (information), told us some of the history of the place, how the Maori name means “crayfish” (Kai) “eating” (koura) which is why this fishing village was established there and then dropped us off at our respective hostels.
I chose the Dusky Lodge like many of the other as it had the best review along with free breakfast, a jacuzzi and sauna at the back as well as spectacular views back towards the snow-capped Kaikoura Range.
I checked-in, dumped my stuff and immediately went for a walk along the pebble beach with my, still relatively new Canon 550D wanting to capture some of the superb beauty of the area.
Unlike China, the hostels in New Zealand all have kitchen facilities for you to cook your own meal but I hadn’t prepared for that so I headed down the road to a fish and chip shop that Scott had pointed out and was reputedly the best fish & chips in New Zealand. It was a great little restaurant, looked to be family run, and the food was great with massive portions – just what a backpacker wants. After that I headed back to the hostel where I changed and despite it being 3 degrees outside went to go and relax in the heated spa while looking up at the stars in the night sky.