east new zealand

What a day! 12:30PM pick up in Rotorua with a whole new group of Stray Bus travellers – eager to venture to New Zealand’s East Coast – surf, sand, culture and far removed from the hustle and bustle of New Zealand’s mainstream backpacker trail.

My new travel buddies and I were picked up in a Stray East Bro minivan – I love small groups as I find that by the end of the tour a close, multicultural family is formed. Used to being the only Aussie on tour – and used to the banter I get from my Kiwi cousins – I joined Germans, a Swede, Dutchies, English, Canadians & a cheeky Irishmen.

We ventured East towards Gisborne where the busy city streets began to vanish as we ventured through farmland, surf coast and rainforest. The drive was absolutely stunning and reminded me of Fiji. With a few beach stops along the way, toilet breaks and history lessons from our driver – we made it to Gisborne – claimed by locals to be New Zealand’s surf capital.

Huge cliff faces lined white sandy surf coast. Gisborne was the first place encountered by Captain Cook and his statue overlooked the main beach. We reached our accommodation for the night – a sweet little surf shack overlooking the ocean. We prepared a group dinner, downed a few ‘frothies’ (excuse the Aussie slang), and made our way down to the beach for a bonfire.

Songs were sang, beers were downed and stories were shared: Mans the Swede shared his passion for eggs, our Canadian Megan told us of her love story with a local in the Bay of Islands & we learnt close encounters with Lady Boys in Asia are quite a common occurrence.

Gisborne is the first place in the world to see the sunrise. A few of us made it until 4AM to watch the Sweden VS Canada Hockey Final before hitting the sack – amazing day!

Read about Day 2 here.