I’m sad to say we’ve reached the final full day of the Contiki tour, my friends. It really is a sad, sad situation – but not as sad as it was in three days from this moment, when I had to say my final goodbyes to the remaining stragglers hanging around Christchurch after the tour ended (you have that to look forward to). Suffice to say, the mood was very much ‘fuck it’ on the coach as we drove away from our hotel in Dunedin and headed to the ‘world’s steepest street’. It was our final full day, we were going to have as much fun as humanly possible and relish our last few hours of living life with #noregrets.
As mentioned, we began our final day with a visit to the world’s steepest street – Baldwin Street in Dunedin. And, before you ask, yes this street has been certified as the steepest in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records, so I don’t wanna hear any ‘but surely San Fran has the world’s steepest street?’ No, that title belongs to good ol’ Dunedin. People love Baldwin Street, especially as it gives them ample opportunity for crazy pursuits (one year two students decided it would be a super awesome idea to ride down the street in a wheelie bin, needless to say this didn’t end well) One of these pursuits is the annual ‘Baldwin Street Gutbuster’, where lunatics run up the street and back down again in a calf-cramping race of pure torture. So, what did our tour guide, Monique, get us to do? Yeah, you guessed it – she made us engage in a our own ‘gutbusting’ race up the street. Just need to point out here that the race was entirely optional and something which I gracefully (okay, very vocally with lots of expletives) declined to take part in under any circumstances. I mean, it was like 30 degrees that day and we had a long drive ahead of us – I didn’t want to add to the already inevitable overwhelming scent of sweat this race would cause during our journey.Thus, whilst a good majority of my fellow tour mates pushed their alcohol-weakened bodies up the street as fast as their little legs could carry them, in the name of eternal Contiki glory – I took a much more sedate route up to the summit and watched in amusement as the competitors fell to the floor in agony at the finish line. All jokes aside, the view of the surrounding neighbourhood from the top of Baldwin Street is pretty awesome and, looking down at such a steep incline and knowing you actually made it to the top is pretty cool. Plus people actually live on this street so it’s quite fun to ponder how they manage to drive their cars up/manage not to slip to their doom every time they step outside on a frosty winters morning. If you’re short of cash and fancy a nice, free activity and want to get one over on your travel-mates, then a race up Baldwin Street is a neat idea. Or, you can do as I did and just take the slow route. After the race, and a lovely little group photo (which I have included below) it was back down the hill and onto the coach for our journey to our final destination – Lake Ohau.
You know when you’re having a super bad or stressful or unhappy day and you close your eyes and try and think of something or someplace happy? Well when I close my eyes I picture Koekohe Beach. I wasn’t even aware we were stopping at this beach on our last day (I hadn’t read the Contiki itinerary very carefully) but, being a massive fan of the sea and beaches in general and not having visited either on my trip so far, stopping at Koekohe beach for lunch on our way to Lake Ohau turned out to be one of the best detours we made. It took my breath away as soon as we stepped off the coach. Just picture this – it’s December, but the sun is beating down on your body, you’re surrounded by people that have made you laugh almost non-stop for the past week, and your view for lunch is a beautiful beach with the sun glinting enticingly off the sea – that was my reality for one perfect hour. We ate lunch on a glorious terrace above the beach before quickly rushing down to take a look at the reason Koekohe Beach is famous; the Moeraki Boulders. The Moerkai Boulders are unusually round and spherical boulders which are dotted all across the beach. They’re actually quite a weird sight to behold. So, what do you do when faced with unusually round and spherical boulders that have delighted and fascinated visitors to the beach for centuries? Why, you climb all over them of course! I embarked on my second adrenaline fueled activity of the tour and climbed atop the boulders (with help from both Holly and Mitch) and squealed my way over a number of them. It was hilarious. However, the real perfect moment was what came next. I just thought to myself ‘I’m never going to be on this beach, with these people, feeling this perfectly carefree and happy ever again’; so I kicked off my shoes, ran towards the sea and spent a good 15 minutes just frolicking in the waves and generally loving life. I even convinced Holly to throw caution to the wind and join me and, for that perfect hour, it was actually like nothing else on earth existed. I can’t really even describe how awesome it was, it feels like a dream looking back on it now.
Anyway, after the best lunch break of my life and a few hours of driving later; we arrived at Lake Ohau. Lake Ohau is spectacularly beautiful and, I felt, was the best setting for the final night of the tour. At Lake Ohau there is only one thing – the lodge we stayed in; which comprises of bedrooms, a games room, a restaurant and a bar. There is seriously nothing else. Much to my joy, after having to share the bathroom in Dunedin between four of us, the bedrooms at the Lake were for two to share (sadly Holly and I had to spend the night without Sophie). Also, because of the set up at the lodge, despite having your own room, there’s a very communal feel and we were all located down one big corridor where no one bothered to lock their rooms. It’s safe to say, what with it being our last night and all and everyone having access to everyone else’s rooms and being isolated in the middle of nowhere – everyone on the tour was in the mood for a rollicking good knees up. I’d like to say that I partied hard till the early hours of the morning but the reality is quite different. You see, I fancied some me time and there was a lovely hill overlooking the lake which I decided to take a bottle of wine out to, sit in the fading sunshine and read my book. This decision produced two consequences. Firstly, I got eaten alive by bloody sandflies (I still have scars on my feet from this) and secondly, I got fairly pissed from drinking a whole bottle of wine in a short space of time. Whilst everyone else partied it up in the hotel bar, Holly and I decided to host our own party in the room – complete with $15 jugs of sangria which we procured from the bar and carried back to our room. We were soon joined by a selection of our trip besties and had a fabulous time being sangria-guzzling hermits in the room but, I must have had one too many sangrias (coupled with my bottle of wine) because I promptly fell asleep on Mitch in the middle of a conversation. Still, I regret nothing cause our room party, I’m sure, beat anything else that was going on in the bar. Also, just want to point out I am not a lightweight – I feel the altitude played a part.
So that was it, our official time on the Contiki tour was almost over. Unofficially though, most of us stuck around in Christchurch for a couple of days afterwards so don’t start to feel melancholy just yet. I’ll see you next time to talk about our Christchurch escapades and the final final goodbye to all my Contiki lovelies.
P.S. If you’ve missed any installments of my adventure, please check out the links below to catch up!