Presenting our very first New Zealand ‘Stray Days’ story featuring George Clayden from London, United Kingdom, who recently got off the beaten track in New Zealand on the Maximus Pass.
What are your personal hotspots in NZ?
This first question is probably going to be one of the hardest to answer…New Zealand has been a whirlwind of amazing sights, new experiences and good times. As far as absorbing some culture goes, I really enjoyed the more traditional stays at Mourea and Lake Aniwhenua. I think its important when you go to any country to learn about its history, especially being taught the Haka and getting to try a Hangi. That’s what we loved about Stray – it’s not all about the partying.
Having said that, we had some awesome nights. Blue Duck and Franz Josef were hilarious, and hats off to our driver Lantern for getting everyone involved. What better way to cure a hangover than jumping into a helicopter to hike on a glacier! I have to mention Queenstown too. The location is breathtaking, and there’s so much to do. We ended up staying there for over three weeks, and even if you budget doesn’t stretch to skiing, the luging and mountain biking were awesome. There’s too many bars to choose from, and you can top it all off with a Fergburger – perfect!
What is your favourite group selfie you took on the bus?
Part of me really wants to say the selfie we took at the top of Roy’s Peak in Wanaka, just because it was such a mission to get to the summit! But my favourite has to be in front of the Stray bus in Greymouth, as we’ve got the whole crew together, including Lantern. Part of the reason we had such a great time was down to Lantern, and we decided to stay on his bus pretty much the entire way around NZ. Best decision we made, and he will hopefully be a friend of ours for a long time. We were a pretty tight group from the start, which is one of the best things about travelling. You quickly bond with people as you share these amazing experiences, people from countries all over the world, all different ages, each bringing something different and new to the group.
What will you miss the most when you return home?
Experiencing something new everyday! Having been away for a year and a half, through Asia where we first met Stray, then over to Australia for a year before heading to New Zealand…each day presented something new, something exciting and crazy, stunning nature, total culture shocks, new foods, new languages, new people. The great thing was that I didn’t know what was coming, it kept us on our toes, and has definitely given us the craving to keep travelling. Whenever we stay somewhere for more than a few weeks, we definitely get itchy feet to continue the adventure!
What is the most interesting thing you learnt or did whilst on tour?
I’m tempted to say skydiving over Lake Taupo – the views were insane, especially of Mount Ngauruhoe, used for Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and was strangely relaxing once I was out the plane! I have to say though, exploring the untouched areas of jungle and mountains in New Zealand has to be my highlight. The epic waterfalls, the sheer cliffs of Milford Sound, all the snow capped mountains of the South Island, especially Mount Cook, the fern forests of Abel Tasman, even if I did drop my phone into Cleopatra Falls – I love the nature, and always try to seek it out. Proper exploring.
What’s your top tip for anyone travelling for the first time?
Everyone wants to get the most out of travelling, so I would say to anyone travelling for the first time: get involved and try to get out of your comfort zone. That’s where you discover the best. Every once in a while you need one of those chill days where you eat your favourite food and binge watch TV, but when you’re exploring beaches, trying new foods, wandering around cities, chatting to new people, you discover so much more. Who knows, it might become your new favourite thing! One thing I struggled with at the beginning of travelling was not planning too much and just going with the flow. You meet people, hear about where they’ve been, or decide you want to change your itinerary and travel with them for a while – it’s all part of the fun, and when you’re living out of a backpack you can afford to be a bit flexible.
Want to feature in an upcoming Stray Days: Stories from the Road? Email lisa