By James Cook
Jade and I do not normally take tour buses. Instead we choose to hitchhike or at a push get a regular bus that just goes from point a to point b. For our current trip around New Zealand however, we are on a bus tour with the Stray bus company. We are trying out the Stray buses as part of their blogging outreach program.
We joined the bus in Motueka, it was my first time on a tour bus and as I got on I was greeted by the friendly bus driver/tour guide Salty. I was expecting a regular bus ride where everyone was plugged into Ipods or reading. Instead there was music playing over the bus speakers and people were talking amongst themselves.
After an hour or so of driving through the Kauracagapui national park we pulled onto a small side road. This led to a stunning vista overlooking a mountain range. Were we not on the Stray bus, we never would have come down this side track and discovered this viewpoint.
The Seal colony at Cape Foulwind was the next big stop. Jade and I had both been to this seal colony last summer but it was nice to see it again at a different time of year. The bus dropped us off at the start of the 45minuite walk and drove to the end to pick us up after. This gave us ample time to do the walk and take lots of photos of the seals that were busying themselves playing on the rocks and sunning themselves. There were also Weka with Weka Chicks which was a bonus!
The last stop of the day was the famous Punakaiki Pancake rock formations. These are limestone rock formations that have eroded to look like stacks of Pancakes (although you have to squint and use a lot of imagination to see this). The fact that they look like pancakes is not the only thing drawing people to Punakaiki. The rocks have also had many small blowholes eroded in them by the might of the Tasman Sea. If you come at the right time (high tide with stormy seas) you will see these blowholes in action. I had wanted to see these rock formations before but did not have the time on our last trip to the South island. Due to their ‘out of the way’ location we were unable to as without your own transportation or being with a tour company such as Stray, it is almost impossible to go and see them.
When we arrived at our destination of Greymouth the accommodation (for those who had not pre-booked) was arranged by Salty. He also arranged a discounted Montieths Brewery Experience which included tasting some of the finest beers (in my opinion) that New Zealand has to offer. He even arranged the meal at the end of the tour so that all us passengers had to worry about was enjoying ourselves.
Our first impressions of the Stray bus were that it offers a very friendly atmosphere. It was more like traveling with a group of friends rather than on a bus of strangers. One thing that we did notice about the Stray buses was the amount of time they took to get to their destinations. Today for example we went from Motueka to Greymouth. This drive normally takes 3 hours. Stray bus takes 9. The reason for this is the amount of stops that we took at various points of interest along the road. Stops that were we hitchhiking or taking a regular bus, we would not have been able to see. I wonder where we will stop tomorrow?
Have you ever been on a bus tour? What were your first impressions?
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