Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Wristband display frame

Having outgrown our last one last year, I've finally got round to buying a much bigger frame for the dozens of music festival wristbands my girlfriend Emily and I have accumulated. Our wristbands are now pinned into an A1 frame and we really love how simple it is to do, but how awesome it looks! I'm hoping to completely cover the white background after another season of music festivals this summer, bring it on!


Sunday, 18 January 2015

Art of the Brick, London

lego art exhibition

The Art of the Brick Lego Exhibition is taking place in Shoreditch, London, with the closing date recently extended to 12th April 2015. I heard about this exhibition a long while back and though we'd miss it due to travelling abroad, so I was glad to hear we'd now get the chance to see it, when I noticed the exhibition extension date. Emily and I were visiting London on New Year's Eve to visit friends to see in the new year, so we decided to check out this exhibition with our friend Stefan. 

art of the brick

I wasn't sure what to expect from this exhibition. I'm a huge fan of Lego, but wasn't quite sure what to expect from what I perceived to be a bit of a serious display of my favourite little plastic bricks. We booked tickets online for £14.50 each, selecting a specific time slot in advance, which added to my assumption that it would be quite formal.

lego brick art

When we arrived, there were lots of kids excitably queuing up in reception, so I started to think the exhibition wouldn't be as serious as I had first thought. All of the art is created by one man, named Nathan Sawaya. He has made a name for himself around the World as being a leading Lego artist, although I don't believe his claim that he is the only person creating art with Lego. Visitors are shown a 3-4 minute introductory video when you enter the gallery, which I thought was quite a self-indulgent and unnecessary celebration of the artist.

art brick lego

Different categories are displayed in different rooms as you wander through the exhibition, which was presented very well and with lighting that really enhanced the displays. The pieces vary in style, including 2D portrait type pieces and 3D pieces of people, animals and other things. There's no doubting that most of the pieces were very impressive, especially the giant fossilised Dinosaur. As I wandered round, I tried to work out if the artist really did take himself seriously, or if it was all a bit tongue in cheek. Many of the exhibits had arty sounding names, with many descriptions that I found quite pretentious and philosophical. Despite that, I thoroughly enjoyed the artwork and highly recommend you check it out.

lego art

As I mentioned, there were many kids there, probably outnumbering the adults, as we went during the school holidays. I think the exhibition would be enjoyable kids, but the entry fee is quite steep for a family visit and it doesn't take long to explore. We took less than an hour to walk through, but I think kids would race through a lot quicker than that.

lego models

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Moving back to Cheltenham and Emily's 24th Birthday

After 14-months of being nomads, whilst travelling the World and staying with friends and family inbetween, my girlfriend Emily and I moved back to Cheltenham last weekend. It's been a busy week moving our stuff, filling bare cupboards [it's amazing how much stuff you need to buy when you start from scratch!] and settling back into working life [and job hunting for Emily]. 

cheltenham home

It was Emily's birthday on Thursday, on which we started the day with an epic breakfast, which I cooked at home. I made poached eggs [and bacon for Emily] on a bed of spinach and avocado slices, on top of English Muffins, which was a delicious combination. Love is being a vegetarian and cooking bacon for your carnivorous girlfriend on her birthday! 

birthday breakfast

Emily's birthday was also a perfect opportunity to catch up with lots of our friends, who we haven't seen since before our most recent three-month adventure. We decided to go bowling, as we thought this was a fun way to hang out with lots of people and we wanted to check out the new Hollywood Bowl at The Brewery in Cheltenham. 

This venue has been empty for ages, since Gala Bingo spectacularly flopped there years ago. It's great to have a bowling alley in Cheltenham and they've done a great job inside. There's a decent bar, food, pool tables, arcade games and of course bowling. The only downside is that the bar staff weren't really up to scratch, but I guess we should cut them some slack as the place didn't open so long ago. I liked that bowling has moved in the 21st Century, with iPads to enter your names, rather than those ancient computers that most places have, that are notoriously difficult to use!

hollywood bowl

Twenty of us bowled over four lanes and showed off our varying levels of bowling competence or utter incoordination! I was surprised that it's not compulsory to wear bowling shoes, which of course I did wear as that's half the fun of bowling! Even if they do look a bit silly...

bowling cheltenham

Friday, 9 January 2015

Sydney, Australia

After a lovely few days in Melbourne and travelling along the Great Ocean Road [both of which you can read about here], Emily and I flew to Sydney. The flight was short, taking just over an hour and it was super speedy getting from door to door, with really easy connections both ends. We headed straight to our pre-booked hostel, Elephant Backpacker, which turned out to be by far the most unpleasant place we've stayed in seven months of travelling this year! Definitely one to avoid: dirty, rowdy and generally very badly maintained. We were lured in by the cheap price and decent location. 

airplane view
Flying from Melbourne to Sydney

We spent most of our first full day in Sydney exploring the harbour area. The Sydney Opera House is one of the main things I associate with Australia, along with Koalas and Kangaroos, cork hats and "throwing another shrimp on the barbie"! Emily and I spent ages shamelessly taking selfies in front of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Botanic Gardens situated next to these huge sights in this harbour is very beautiful and it was lovely to walk through them and enjoy the view. We walked all the way along the water to Mrs Macquaries Chair, which is another great place to enjoy the view. By chance, there was a sailing event taking place in the harbour, which we sat and watched for a while. It was a pretty big competition, with international teams competing, including a team from Great Britain with captain Ben Ainslie!

sydney opera house
Sydney Opera House selfie!

sydney harbour
Sydney Harbour views, including the Opera House and Harbour Bridge

We walked to the foot of the Harbour Bridge, where there is a small grassy area to sit and enjoy the amazing view of the harbour from a different perspective. There were chairs and a bamboo altar set up near us in this area, ready for an Asian wedding, which guests started to arrive for while we were there. The backdrop was amazing for this wedding, but it did seem like a strangely public place for such an intimate ceremony!

A video posted by Josh Kinnersley (@joshkinnersley) on

We met up with our friends Kim and Stew later in the evening, both of whom Emily used to work with in Cheltenham. They've been living together in Sydney for the last six months and were in Melbourne for six months before that. Stew has been travelling for two years in total and they're travelling around China and Japan together as the grand finale on their way home to the UK. Really looking forward to hearing about their travels there as I'd love to visit both countries, especially Japan. 

The four of us went to a Malaysian restaurant called Mamak, which is popular and apparently always very busy. The food was pretty good, but the service was rubbish, including them forgetting to put our mains order through, so it took a very long time to eat! We all then headed over to Darling Harbour to meet up with Janie and Sam, who we met in Pai, Thailand [read about Pai here] and travelled around Thailand with them for a few weeks earlier this year. It was Sam's birthday the day before, so we celebrated with a few drinks at a couple of bars.

darling harbour
Darling Harbour

We met up with Kim in Hyde Park on the Monday morning. The area was chaotic, as lots of business people has been evacuated from nearby buildings, which we assumed was due to a fire drill or bomb scare. As dozens of emergency vehicles of all varieties continued to race to the area, we discovered that this was all due to a hostage situation unfolding in nearby Martin Place. We decided it would be safest to head further out of the city for the day, so we walked a fairly long distance, before relaxing in Centennial Gardens. These huge gardens were very pretty and the three of us had lunch at a little cafe before heading back into the city early in the evening.

nitrogen ice cream
N2 'Extreme Gelato'

We wandered around the city and did some window-shopping in the city on Tuesday, before heading to N2 'Extreme Gelato', which Kim had said was an absolute must place to go. They make ice cream in front of you with Liquid Nitrogen, which is very cool to watch. We ordered a Brokeback Moment to share, which was topped with chocolate and honeycomb, with a syringe of salted caramel in it to pour over the top ourselves. It was super delicious and a fun experience.

After exploring more of the city on Tuesday, we met up with Sam, Kim, Stew and their friends Alicia and Jonny at the Dove & Olive pub in Surry Hills, for a pub quiz. Stew and Kim had been to the quiz before and said it was a good laugh. The quiz master had a field day with jokes about us being a table full of "Poms" and we did pretty well, considering some of the questions required good knowledge of Australia's current affairs! On the way home, Emily and I visited the Lego Christmas Tree outside Westfield Sydney, which my mum had seen online.

sydney pub quiz
Stew not impressed that they spelt his name wrong!

lego christmas tree
Lego Christmas Tree!

On Wednesday it was time to head over to Bondi Beach, where we had booked two nights accommodation at Noah's Hostel. This was actually a pretty decent hostel, and seemed like the Hilton compared to Elephant Backpacker in the city! It was very easy to get to Bondi, catching a bus from the city centre, which stopped just a few feet away from our hostel. We had lunch at a cafe called Bondi Massive, which was quite pricey, but very tasty food. The weather wasn't amazing, but it was sunny enough to relax on the beach for the afternoon and enjoy this world famous beach! 

We met up with my friend Craig in the evening, who has been living a few miles outside of Sydney for several years. Craig brought his lovely and excitable puppy Dolly with him, who wouldn't sit still long enough for us to take a photo with her! We ate at Moo Burger, walked along the beach and had a drink at a cool little beach bar. 

bondi beach
Chilling with Craig in Bondi

The following day we had brunch at Bondi Massive again, before doing the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. This is a well-marked route along this part of the coast, stopping at lots of beaches and small towns along the way, including Bronte, Clovelly, and of course Coogee. The day started a bit gloomy, but the sun came out later in the afternoon. We enjoyed the sea views and stopped several times to relax in grassy parks and on the sand. For dinner we had a bargain Dominos Pizza collection deal and caught the bus back to Bondi, to chill in our hostel for the rest of the evening.

We couldn't quite work out why Bondi Beach has such an amazing reputation. It's a nice beach, especially compared to most British beaches, but other beaches in the area are just as good, if not better.

coastal walk
Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

After dropping our bags off back at good old Elephant Backpacker on Friday morning, we met up with Kim, Janie and Sam at Circular Quay, to catch a ferry over to Manly Beach. This is a famous surfing beach and in my opinion a much cooler beach than Bondi. We had Moo Burger again [oops] for lunch, before spending the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sunshine on the beach. Sam and I hired body-boards and spent ages being battered by the waves, trying to catch a break. Not quite sure why I didn't do it as a child, but I hadn't body-boarded before, and I found it much harder than it looks! In the evening we went to Harry's Cafe de Wheels, a famous little pie shop in Wooloomooloo, not far from our hostel. This is highly recommended locally and by our Lonely Planet guide book, described as being a Sydney institution and having served famous people including Frank Sinatra and Elton John. We thought the pies were alright, but they certainly didn't live up to the hype.

manly ferry
Ferry from Circular Quay to Manly 

On the Saturday, the end of our year of travels was in sight, with just two full days left before flying back to the UK for Christmas. We decided to do something special on our final weekend and we were really excited to go to Taronga Zoo, which is a short ferry ride away from the harbour. We bought a ticket which included the ferry, zoo entry and a gondola ride, which takes you from the bottom of the hill near the ferry port, over the top of the zoo and to the top of the hill, where you enter the zoo. Check out the photo below of the awesome views from the zoo: it's in such a nice location overlooking the harbour! 

taronga zoo view
Sydney Harbour views from Taronga Zoo

We paid extra for a 'Koala Encounter', where we were able to get up close to an adorable Koala Bear called Charlie. Koalas sleep for an astonishing 20 hours of day, which sounds like an ideal lifestyle to me! We also got a professional photo of us with Charlie included in the encounter fee. 

Taronga Zoo is very well presented and the enclosures were mostly very spacious. We went to a Seal show, which seemed like the seals were well looked after in spacious tanks, unlike the terrible conditions whales live in at places like SeaWorld. The penguin tank and enclosure was particularly impressive. I love penguins and have seen them at many different zoos. These penguins seemed to be looked after particularly well and we were lucky enough to watch them being fed, when they were busily swimming around their tank to catch their food.

koala bear
Selfie with Charlie the Koala Bear at Taronga Zoo

taronga zoo
Feeding time for a bear at Taronga Zoo

penguin zoo
Penguin feeding time at Taronga Zoo

After a busy day of watching animals being awesome, we had dinner at the Opera Bar, which is part of the Sydney Opera House. The food was tasty and although a bit pricey for the kind of bar food it was, it was worth it for the bustling location and great views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. 

sydney opera bar
Dinner at Sydney Opera Bar, overlooking the Opera House and Harbour Bridge

We met up with Kim, Stew, Janie and Sam on Sunday, which was sadly our final night in Sydney and very nearly the end of our travels [for now]! We all had a picnic together in the beautiful Botanic Gardens, before heading into the city for a couple of drinks. On the way back to our various homes/hostels, we all visited Martin Place, where tens of thousands of floral and written tributes had been laid for the victims of the Sydney Siege earlier in the week. The scale of the tributes was overwhelming and I'm glad we visited, to reflect on the terrible situation that unfolded so close to us while we were in Sydney.

martin place
Martin Place tributes

sydney friends
Our final night in Sydney and the end of an incredible year of travelling

After this, it was time to say goodbye to everyone after a very enjoyable week in Sydney. Our final weekend was lovely and a great way to end our 11-week trip, which was the final trip of a total of 7-months exploring 10 countries this year. 

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Home for Christmas and New Years' Eve

After a year of adventure and working abroad away from family last Christmas, Emily and I were delighted to be home for festive fun with our families this year. 

We spent Christmas morning opening presents and having fun with Emily's Aunty Lisa, Simon and six year old Jack. In the afternoon we headed over to Emily's Aunty Linda and Uncle Alan's house, where we enjoyed the rest of the day with Emily's Nanny and cousins. Having eaten mostly junk food or cooked very basic meals ourselves for the last five weeks in New Zealand and Australia, it was especially nice to have a big tasty dinner on Christmas day. Emily and I were both pretty shattered quite early in the day, having only flown back to the UK from Birmingham three days before, but we battled on as best we could!

In the evening we played silly games and had a good old fashioned singalong, with Emily's dad Nigel playing the guitar, while we all sang along ever-so tunefully! Check out the short video below.


A video posted by Josh Kinnersley (@joshkinnersley) on

Every year my family celebrate Christmas a few days late, so Emily and I enjoy two Christmas celebrations. We pretend the 27th December is Christmas Eve and wake up on the 28th December as though it is Christmas Day all over again. This year my brother Michael joined us for Christmas for the first time in many years. It was nice to spend Christmas with him and also to spend Christmas with my nephews Eugene [6] and Elliot [8] for the first time. My mum bought the European cheese mountain as always and it was lovely to spend time with my parents after I've been away for so much of the last year.

Emily and I got my parents' cat Tigger this daft Catplane, which we spent ages trying to entice him to use. My mum just sent me this picture of the cat finally using it and you can tell he loves it...

cat toy fun

We travelled to London for New Year's Eve, to see in the New Year with our friends Stefan and Jemma. Emily, Stefan and I visited the Art of the Brick Lego art exhibition in Shoreditch, which you can read about here. We spent the evening eating lots of awesome curry and playing silly games including Cards Against Humanity. Later in the evening we left the house to go and watch the fireworks over London at midnight.

You may have heard that 'they' started charging £10 entry per person to watch the NYE fireworks along the Thames for the first time this year. Having watched the fireworks from Primrose Hill with only a few hundred other people the year before, our friends suggested we watched from there as the view is great. It seemed that the due to the new ticket cost, thousands of other people had the same idea as us and it was incredibly busy on Primrose Hill. We didn't get a very good view of the fireworks and we missed the countdown as it was so hectic around us. It wasn't a very nice atmosphere and it felt a little dangerous due to it being overcrowded and not at all managed.

Despite the midnight anti-climax, we had a very lovely New Year's Eve with friends, which was the first time in seven years that I haven't worked on this night! Thanks for reading, happy new year!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Kiwi Experience review and tips

In November and the beginning of December 2014, my girlfriend Emily and I spent three weeks travelling around New Zealand with Kiwi Experience. We booked this through STA Travel back in the UK, when booking the flights for our round-the-world trip. You can read my New Zealand blog posts here

Kiwi Experience is a flexible travel network, with your ticket being valid for up to year. You choose a route package, then you can hop on and off the bus, staying in each location on your chosen route for as long as you want. This is great if you want to travel around New Zealand, stay with friends or find work in a particular place for a longer period, before continuing your route at a later stage. You can check out the various route options on the Kiwi Experience website here

Before booking we had considering hiring a camper van for the New Zealand leg of our adventure. Although I'm sure this would be a lot of fun, I don't actually enjoy driving all that much. Emily and I also thought the Kiwi Experience option would be much more sociable, plus it was likely to work out being a little cheaper. You need to weigh up the cost of the camper van hire, fuel and paying for camper van pitches at holiday parks against the cost of the Kiwi Experience package and hostel cost. Kiwi Experience regularly have special offers available, which we took advantage of when booking through STA Travel.

The Kiwi Experience bus stops in several places each day on the way to the overnight location. If there isn't a supermarket near the overnight stop, the bus stops at a supermarket along the way. Other stops are mostly photo opportunities, along with a walks of up to an hour, around scenic areas on many of the days.

We booked the Sheepdog route, which starts in Auckland, where we flew in, and travels through both the North and South island, before looping back up to Christchurch in the South island, from where we flew to Melbourne, Australia. We found this route covered all of the main places we wanted to see and was ideal for the three weeks we had time for during our three month trip. The minimum time required for each route is listed with each package, so you can weigh up which route suits you best versus the amount of time you have. I'd recommend you allow several more days on top of the minimum route, as there are several places you'd want to stay for more than one night, which I'll list in more detail below. 

Some of the route options continue from Christchurch, which was our final stop and head back to Auckland, for travellers who want to do a full route. Having spoken to other people who did this route, it sounds like it was good fun, but there is only actually a couple of extra places to see, with further stops being the same as stops on the southbound route.

Overall I found Kiwi Experience to be great fun and good value for money. I've written about the overnight stops, along with a few tips below, to help you get the most out of your trip.


Please note that the stops listed below are the ones we did on the Sheepdog package. There are other stops on other packages.



A sprawling concrete jungle where we started the route with many other passengers. We felt like we could have been in any other major city in the world here. A few touristy things to do, but not worth sticking around for long, in my opinion. Most people we met said the same thing.

Recommended length of stay: 1 night

cathedral cove


The Hot Water Beach Holiday Park is a pleasant and modern place to stay, situated very close to Hot Water Beach. You can head to the beach at low tide and dig your own geothermal hole, or make use of someone elses hard work when they're finished with it! Low tide was at 11pm when we were there, so expect a fairly late night, followed by an early start the next day. We also travelled to nearby Cathedral Cove on the bus, on the afternoon we arrived.

Recommended length of stay: 1 night

waitomo caves


Waitomo is famous for one thing: tubing through caves. This is highly recommend, with various caving options available depending on your budget and how brave you're feeling. There's not a huge amount else going on locally [think one bar, one shop] so go caving when you arrive in the afternoon and jump back on the bus in the morning. See tips section below to save money on caving trips.

Recommended length of stay: 1 night

rotorua smell


The Kiwi Experience accommodation is Base Rotorua, which has the awesome bonus of a naturally heated swimming pool. Hot geothermal springs can be seen all over this town, which produce a rotten egg smell, which thankfully you get used to pretty quickly! The Tamaki Maori Cultural Evening is highly recommended, as it's very interesting and well presented, with a very tasty dinner. We stayed here for one night, but I think there's enough to see to spend an extra night here if your schedule allows. The Hobbiton trip is also en route to Rotorua, so worth staying an extra night if you want to go there and to the Maori evening, as it's squeezing a lot in if you do both.

Recommended length of stay: 1-2 nights

lake taupo


Taupo is built around enormous Lake Taupo, which is very pretty by day and at sunset. You can do the Barbary Sails sailing trip here, where you can take your own booze on the boat and chill out with other Kiwi Experience passengers, in groups of up to around 20. Taupo itself is a nice little town, with lots of street art and a few nice bars. We stayed here for one night, but there's definitely plenty to do if you want to stay for two. Taupo is also the cheapest place to skydive in New Zealand. Bad or cloudy weather can postpone skydiving trips, so if you're really keen to jump, you might want to schedule a couple of days here to make sure you don't miss out. Worth noting that some package options take you back to Taupo on the way back up to Auckland, so don't stay here longer than the one night if you're going to end up revisiting anyway.

Recommended length of stay: 1-3 nights

new zealand sheep


This overnight stop is at a cabin in the middle of nowhere, pretty much as far inland as you can go in New Zealand. This stop is for one thing only: Grade 5 White Water Rafting, which is the highest grade you can commercially take part in without training. You arrive at this stop late in the afternoon, drink reasonably priced booze from the bar, sleep in an enormous dorm and go rafting in the morning, before leaving at lunchtime. This is a really lovely stop, but there's not much else there other than scenery and a couple of walks, so only one night needed.

Recommended length of stay: 1 night

wellington cable car


Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and offers plenty to do, catering for all budgets. We stayed for two nights, but I think there is plenty to do for 4 nights or more in Wellington, if you have time to stay longer. There are plenty of great places to eat and drink, lots of free activities [there are lots of must-do lists online] and some cool paid-for activities too. I recommend the Wellington Cable Car and Botanic Garden walk for a cheap afternoon out. Make sure you check out Fidell's Cafe on Cuba Street and go for a free tasting at the Parrotdog Brewery too.

Recommended length of stay: 3-4 nights

interislander crossing


You don't need to book the interislander ferry between the North and South islands of New Zealand in advance. A few days before you are due to make the Cook Strait crossing between Wellington and Picton, your Kiwi Experience driver will take a cash payment from you and stamp your Kiwi Experience ticket. All you then need to do on the day of the crossing is hand your ticket in to your driver, who will arrange everything else for you.

new zealand wine


When we arrived in Picton, after crossing the Cook Strait between the North and South islands, our driver Jared took us to a Vineyard where we did wine tasting. I don't think this is a stop every driver makes, but if you do, this is a very nice and picturesque stop. Kaiteriteri itself is very small, with a little beach, a bar attached to the hostel and a couple of activities available including horse trekking. Only one night needed, I don't know what you'd do if you had two!

Recommended length of stay: 1 night

westport surfing


Westport is a sleepy little town, where the Kiwi Experience bust stops at a great hostel called Bazil's. One of the owners of this hostel was previously a New Zealand surf champion, who offers surf lessons. We also went for a beach bonfire with our driver, although this isn't something which is officially a part of the itinerary, so you may or may not get to do this. This is a fun little stop, but only one night is needed, unless you're keen to do a bit more surfing.

Recommended length of stay: 1 night

franz joseph glacier


The Franz Joseph glacier draws people to the small town of Franz Joseph, from where you can book a short helicopter ride to access the glacier, which can no longer be accessed by foot. This will cost you around 300 NZD, including a hike on the glacier. Our friends did this and loved it. These trips are often cancelled; while we were there in November, there had been only a handful of trips during the last 10 days. Our friends got lucky with a 'weather window' and were one of only a few groups who managed to go that day. Some people on our bus stayed longer in Franz Joseph at last minute, to have another chance at being able to do the glacier trip.

The accommodation is at a cool place called the Rainforest Retreat, which has an awesome bar and restaurant on site. Make sure you ask for the backpacker food menu, as this is considerably cheaper than the main menu, for the same food! We stayed at a place called Southern Laughter Backpackers about a three minute walk away, where our double room was much cheaper [plus none were available at Rainforest Retreat] and this also included a hot tub, free WiFi, free breakfast, free soup at 6pm and free popcorn from reception.

Recommended length of stay: 2 nights

wanaka kayaking


I'd highly recommend staying in Wanaka for a couple of nights, as I think a lot of people overlook it, eager to get to Queenstown. It's an incredibly pretty town and a great place to go kayaking without a guide, much cheaper than the other kayaking options on offer around New Zealand. There are lots of nice places to eat and drink and a couple of very cool independent cinemas. There are also lots of free-to-use BBQs around Wanaka.

Recommended length of stay: 2 nights

queenstown cable car


Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand and possibly the World! There are tons of awesome activities on offer and you may end ups spending a fair bit of money here! Queenstown is the home of bungy jumping, with loads of great options on offer. There are lots of activities on the lake, including jet boating and the incredible shark experience [look it up]. The Skyline Gondola offers great views and the Luging at the top is great fun. There are plenty more activities, along with countless great places to eat and drink. Every night is a Saturday night in Queenstown. Make sure you visit Fergburger, although I think it's hard to avoid it!

Recommended length of stay: 4-7 nights

milford sound day trip


This is a one day trip from Queenstown, leaving at around 7am. It's around a 4-hour drive each way, plus a few stops. The actual boat trip around Milford Sound is around an hour and a half to two hours. They say that going to New Zealand and not visiting Milford Sound is like going to Egypt and not seeing the Pyramids. I have to disagree, I don't think Milford Sound lives up to the hype. Don't get me wrong, it's very beautiful, but so is most of the scenery in this stunning country! I didn't think the long day and the scenery made the cost of the trip worthwhile.

lake tekapo church


This overnight stop is at a holiday park in a small town. The bus drives a very short distance to visit the Church of the Good Shepherd for a lovely and brief photo stop the following morning. The only activities on offer here are a visit to the on-site spa, or stargazing trips at a nearby Dark Sky Reserve. The latter are weather dependent and were cancelled when we visited. Definitely only stay here for one night, unless you want to guarantee you get to go on the stargazing trip. There's not a whole lot going on here.

Recommended length of stay: 1 night

earthquake christchurch


This city was hugely damaged by earthquakes around four years ago and is under major reconstruction. There are many large empty spaces in the city where buildings once stood and the city has a bit of an eerie feel about it. Visiting the damaged cathedral, along with the cardboard 'transitional cathedral' and the Pop-Up Mall are a must and there's a lot of cool street art and 'gap-fillers' in the city to check out. You could spend an extra night here if you wanted to do some paid activities, but I'd only really recommend you stay for one night.

Recommended length of stay: 1-2 nights



Kiwi Experience guarantee you a bed for the night, but only for the night you are on the bus. You sometimes pay more than the going rate for the hostel, as the hostel want to cover the commission they are paying Kiwi Experience for bringing you there. If you're only staying somewhere for a night, it's hardly worth finding your own accommodation for the sake of a few dollars. If you are planning to stay somewhere for more than one night, it's best to book ahead, even if it's in the same hostel that Kiwi Experience books you into. The hostel need to keep enough beds available for the Kiwi Experience bus arriving the next day, so you may find that there isn't a bed available for you for more than the night you are on the bus if you don't book ahead, especially in the summer. We also found much cheaper private rooms online in many places, so it's worth checking it out.

We travelled as a couple and wanted to stay in a double private room each night, rather than dorms. This only cost a little more than two dorms beds, so if you're travelling as a couple, it's worth checking the difference in cost between these two options. Double rooms usually have towels and toiletries and often have an en-suite, offering a little bit of luxury whilst backpacking.


Kiwi Experience sell bundle offers for many of the activities available, for example booking three water based activities as one package in advance, to save a little money. Do you research to make sure you are booking the activities you definitely want to do and also that you're doing them in the best place. For example, I noticed you can book a package that includes White Water Rafting. The place that you do this rafting is not at River Valley, which is where everyone does it [read about that in the section above] and even our driver said the other rafting place isn't the best place to do it, as it's not as long and epic. One package option also includes the Franz Joseph Glacier trip, which frequently gets cancelled, as I mention in the section above. I guess you be offered a refund if it did get cancelled, but you'd to have to check this out and also whether the saving offered makes it worthwhile.

Tickets for the Milford Sound day trip can be purchased in advance. I'm not sure of the price to purchase in advance, but you can buy from your driver a few days before [you do this trip from Queenstown] for 115 NZD. I'd recommend you decide nearer the time whether or not you want to do this trip. In my opinion, this is a nice day trip, but a very long day of driving for a short boat trip. There is so much nice scenery around New Zealand that you see already, that it's worth considering skipping this day trip if you're short of time or money, or if there are other activities you are thinking of spending your time and money on. It definitely didn't live up to the hype in my opinion.

There are several different kayaking trips offered by Kiwi Experience as you travel through New Zealand, most of which cost upwards of 70 NZD. If you spend an extra day in Wanaka, you can enjoy an afternoon of kayaking on beautiful Lake Wanaka and paddle to Ruby Island. You can hire a double or single kayak for around 30 NZD per person for two hours, which is considerably cheaper than the guided options offered elsewhere.

We booked the Waitomo Caves experience on the bus on the day for around 105 NZD for the Black Labyrinth option, with Black Water Rafting Company. Our friends booked a similar trip in advance from home in Canada on Groupon. This was with a different company, but they loved it just as much as we did, explored the same caves [albeit different parts of the same caves] and it cost them a whole lot less. You can also get much cheaper options for loads of activities including bungy jumping, by visiting Book Me here. Worth checking out special offers online in advance to save you some cash.


You can buy small cooler bags from supermarkets, which are really handy for keeping a few things cold during the bus journey. All hostels have fridge and freezer space, although this might be tight, so don't buy too much. There is always a supermarket near the hostel, or a stop made on the way each day, so you don't need to buy too much at once.


WiFi is rubbish and expensive in New Zealand. Remember the days of dial-up internet? It's about as fast and frustrating as that! Most hostels charge upwards of 4 NZD for 24-hours internet use. You are given a log-in card to access the WiFi, which can be very temperamental. Ignore what many hostels will tell you; you can use the same card to log-in on more than one device, as long as you only use one device at a time and log-out in between.

Check the Kiwi Experience handbook to find out where you'll be staying each night. Many hostels use the same internet provider, so you can work out if buying a week long card will save you money, which will work at any hostel using the same internet provider. All Base hostels use the same internet provider for example.

Visiting the local library and getting a temporary membership is a free and easy way to access the internet on a computer, rather than using your own device.

If you want to read more about by journey around New Zealand, you can check out my blog posts here

Friday, 2 January 2015

A year of adventure: 2014

In 2014 my girlfriend Emily and I spent 30 weeks exploring 10 countries: France, Switzerland, Thailand, USA, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore ,New Zealand and Australia. Our year of adventure also included going to 10 music festivals, snowboarding for 5 weeks and me being an Usher at two lovely weddings, one of which was for my awesome sister Sarah and Max, for which Emily was also a bridesmaid.

I created a photo montage video of our amazing year, which you can check out on YouTube below. You can click on the photo links on the right hand side of my blog, where you will find blog categories for each of the countries we visited, along with music festivals and a few other topics.

I write this blog to be able to look back on my experiences and I really enjoy knowing other people read it and hopefully enjoy it too. It's great seeing my page views steadily tick up and people letting me know that they've been reading my blog posts. My big year of adventure may be over, but I'm looking forward to continuing to write about my experiences over the forthcoming year, which will include days out, a snowboarding holiday in March, lots more music festivals [including some I haven't been to before] and hopefully a holiday with Emily at the end of the year.

Thanks for reading :)