JOURNAL : Feb. 2005
1 February 2005 :
A lot of backtracking today, as I drove along State Highway 6 (SH6) from Fox Glacier all the way back to Wanaka.
One thing youll see in New Zealand is an abundance of road signs, not just the ones aimed directly at motorists for road safety, but all bridges, culverts, creeks etc also have their names on display. (There are bridges that havent been named, but they still have signs showing their own individual numbers). Although I noticed a lot of the signs when I drove the same route towards Fox Glacier the day before yesterday, it suddenly dawned on me that the various names on the signs must have had something to do with the original discovery and tracking of the region.
Of course, it may be that the various names were just picked out of a hat when the original explorers journeyed through the region. However, I think its much more likely that the names were given either in recognition of one of the explorers, or a place they already knew, some of the wildlife or terrain, or just a situation or predicament they found themselves in.
So, along the way back to Wanaka, I passed (incomplete, and in no particular order) : Kiwi Creek, Dawn Creek, Hostel Creek, Venture Creek, Cole Creek, Grant Creek, Windbag Creek, Mi Mi Creek, Ka Ka Creek, Boom Boom Creek (ok I made that last one up, although theres probably one somewhere !), and Bishops Folly (not a creek, but no sign of a folly either). Carrying on SH6, I passed Snapshot Creek, Roy Creek, Joe Creek, Dismal Creek, Dizzy Creek, Gunboat Creek, Imp Grotto, Roaring Billy Falls, Solitude No.2 (I didnt spot No.1, so I expect its on its own somewhere), Gunboat Creek, Pivot Creek, Chelsea Creek, Moa Creek, Muddy Creek, White Creek, Cemetery Creek, Dancing Creek, Roaring Swine Creek, Chink Creek, Depot Creek, Thomas Bluff, Clark Bluff, Pleasant Flat, Cameron Flat, Burke Flat, Gout Creek, Serpentine Creek, Evans Creek, Boggy Creek, Sawmill Creek, Station Creek, Flaxmill Creek, Half Bridge No.2 (there must be at least 3 other halves somewhere?), Sheepskin Creek No.1, Camp Creek and Waterfall Creek.
Its a good job I wasnt on State Highway 1 today, as I would have hated being up its creeks without a paddle !
I had a successful return visit to the photo shop once I arrived back at Wanaka all the technology was working, so I was able to get all the pictures I wanted printed off that I couldnt get done on Sunday.
Since the beginning of the year, Channel Ones breakfast television programme has showcased many of New Zealands tourist destinations, whether towns or cities. A couple of days ago, I caught the fact that the presenter Kay Gregory would be visiting Wanaka on 2 Feb. Knowing that I would be there at the same time, I smiled and thought how funny it would be if our paths crossed. Well, the said Kay Gregory turned up at the hotel I was staying at, and ended up just three rooms away from me. Being polite, I said hi to her in reception when she was waiting for faxes (no doubt the weather report updates), but shes no Natasha Kaplinsky. I think this will be the closest I will get to an NZ celebrity. Definitely D list.
2 February 2005 :
Another earthquake was reported in Wellington, so many people had milk shake for breakfast this morning. And neighbour Kay was on the breakfast programme, live from the lakeside just half a mile away.
I spent the morning catching up on e-mails, postcard writing, bringing the website back up-to-date, as well as sorting out the laundry. Its a hard life.
With all the water around, it seemed sensible to take another boat trip. So I got booked onto the two and a half-hour afternoon trip on Lake Wanaka. Very pleasant, as I was able to sit outside in the sun. The trip did include one stop, at ('v', not 'ph')* Stevensons Island, but it has nothing to do with Robert Louis treasure island. Its home of the Weka, another one of New Zealands rare birdlife. With only 20 minutes for a walk around, there was little hope of spotting one of the elusive birds. And, as with my attempt the other day with yellow-eyed penguins, I came away disappointed.
*My East Grinstead chums will understand the above note !
However, it was perfect trip just for being on the boat for a few hours and enjoying the summer sun. The temperature reached 34 degrees.
I wonder what the weathers like back home ?
3 February 2005 :
Another lengthy drive today as I headed back east, towards Christchurch, across the middle of the South Island. It was a shame to leave Wanaka after just two days. I just hope that future development does not turn this pretty lakeside town into another Queenstown, which is far too brash and commercialised for my liking.
I thought that over the past couple of weeks I had already seen the best of the scenery that New Zealand has to offer. I was mistaken.
First was the view at Lindis Pass, looking down into the valley, where I could just make out the road disappearing into the distant mountains.
Onwards towards Omarama, then the road turned north to the town of Twizel (I now know that its pronounced Twy-zl, rather than the Twizzall I had mistakenly called it previously, much to peoples amusement).
You cant help but stop at the edge of Lake Pukaki with the backdrop of Mount Cook (Aoraki), its the milky turquoise colour of the lake itself that is truly amazing. Fortunately there are a number of lay-bys where you can park the car in order to absorb the breathtaking views.
About 50kms further on, and you reach Lake Tekapo, along with the village of the same name.
Theres a pretty stone church (dedicated to the Good Shepherd) on Pioneer Drive. I was surprised to see it so close to the town, as the postcards I had already seen led me to think that it was situated quite remotely. I was also taken aback by the size of the car park positioned outside the church, to accommodate all the tourist coaches.
And just round the corner from the church is a bronze statue of a sheepdog, a tribute to the hardy dogs without the help of which the grazing of this mountain country would be impossible.
The remainder of the drive took me through Burkes Pass, Kimbell, and Fairlie, before arriving back at Geraldine thereby completing a loop which started on 21 January. Shortly after leaving Geraldine, I re-joined SH1 for the drive back through the Canterbury Plains, finishing up just under two hours later at Christchurch.
4 February 2005 :
A relaxed morning in the Garden City, before dropping off the hire car, and then catching the flight back up north to Auckland. A smooth flight.
Im glad I had chosen to fly back from Christchurch. I felt sorry for the passengers trying to use Wellington airport, which had been closed for two days due to fog.
The heavy rain outside meant that I knew that I had definitely landed at Auckland. Fortunately, it stopped by the time I got to Sky City, when I got off the airport transfer bus with my luggage.
It was good to be back.
5 February 2005 :
Glad for a quiet day, since the past few weeks driving had caught up with me, and I was feeling fairly tired.
It was great to catch up again with Jill and Wendy and we spent a very pleasant evening with drinks and curry, discussing the experiences on my recent travels as well as their forthcoming trip to Melbourne.
6 February 2005 :
Today is Waitangi Day, marking the anniversary of the signing of New Zealands founding document in 1840. It still causes controversy some 165 years later.
The document was prepared twice, once in English and once in Māori, and the two translations dont exactly say (or mean) the same thing. Many of the Māori signatories only signed the Māori version. From what I can gather from the books and articles Ive been reading, the Māoris who signed at Waitangi believed they had signed up to something that was quite different to what they actually ended up with. Another argument made is that the Māoris involved in the signing of the treaty knew what they were getting, and its only modern reinterpretation of the document and different emphasis on some of the wordings that has highlighted areas of disagreement.
Whatever the rights and wrongs, any legislation being passed these days is certainly scrutinised carefully to ensure Māori cultural, historical and financial needs are taken into account. And its also a good job that there is a Commission set up to look at resolving the various Treaty issues that are still causing problems. There certainly appears to be a desire to create a fully harmonious One Nation society here in New Zealand for all concerned.
7 February 2005 :
With confirmation that friend and ex-colleague Babs will be in Auckland later this month, it was time for another visit to the QANTAS office, to review and re-book my future flights. It was good to meet Denise again, who sorted out my tickets when I was there before. But this time I was served by her very helpful colleague Karen we had a good laugh over the 90 minutes I was there trying to organise the new flights and connections. They're a great bunch at QANTAS - and in my experience far more helpful and friendlier than their counterparts at British Airways.
I would now be in New Zealand until 26 February. I will then be heading north all the way up to Hawaii. Originally, I had thought about visiting Fiji and/or Tonga, but the non-availability of suitable flights within the timescales I wanted for visits meant that this was no longer practical. It also turns out that the region is still in Cyclone and Hurricane season so probably best not to tempt fate.
8 February 2005 :
Another day to relax, and a chance for me to potter round the city. Spent quite a bit of time in bookshops, with the aim of buying a good guide on Hawaii ended up with the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide, which will make a change from my usual Lonely Planet purchases. I must now sit down and start working out the next stages of my trip.
News from Dunedin Overnight they had suffered flash floods following 25mm of rain in just 15 minutes. Thats a lot of rain.
News from Auckland Cherie Blair had arrived to deliver a speech on a charity tour of New Zealand and Australia, and was controversially being paid $200k for her services. Thats a lot of money.
9 February 2005 :
Woke up at 3am. Aargh !
I couldnt get back to sleep, so decided to switch on the TV, and tune into BBC World.
I was pleased to see the Israeli and Palestinian leaders shaking hands.
I was even more pleased to see Ellen MacArthur breaking the record for solo circumnavigation of the world (71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes, 33 seconds). You can do it when you B&Q it.
Returned to Titirangi today, where I would stay for the next two nights. I hadnt seen Mitch since just before Christmas, so it was really good to catch up with him again. I was also able to meet up with his daughter Julie and her family. They had kindly invited me to dinner at their house, and it was a very enjoyable evening. Theyre convinced Ive now seen more of New Zealand than they have, but Im not so sure.
10 February 2005 :
Visited MOTAT this morning with Mitch, but not before a quick walk round the Western Springs Lake.
Theres no tat at MOTAT, just transport and technology. Its split across two sites, and houses a wide selection of old cars, trams and buses, and (at the MOTAT2 site) planes and other aviation-related items.
I found out about Richard Pearse, a New Zealand farmer who claimed to have been the very first person to have completed a successful manned flight. Apparently, the flight took place early in 1903, just a few months before the Wright brothers own historic flight its just that no-one knew about it, due to the remoteness and isolation of New Zealand. There were some eye-witnesses, but their testimonies arent fully proved, and the claim remains controversial to this day.
Another New Zealand aviation pioneer was Jean Batten theres an interesting exhibition at MOTAT about her life. She was the first woman to fly England-Australia-England (1935), the first woman to fly across the South Atlantic to South America (1935), and was the world record holder for 44 years for the England to New Zealand solo flight (set in 1936), 14224 miles in 11 days 45 minutes. She became a recluse by the time of the Second World War, only to emerge in the late 1960s to lend her support in promoting the Concorde prototypes. In 1982, she left New Zealand, telling friends she was going to ground in Majorca. It wasnt until five years later that it was discovered that Jean died just a few weeks after arriving in Majorca, from the effects of an untreated dog bite.
The collection of planes includes an Avro Lancaster Bomber (you cant miss it), a Solent Mark IV flying boat (the only one left in the world), as well as a Tiger Moth.
Chocks away and Tally Ho red leader !
Another place visited today was One Tree Hill. It offers great 360° views of the city. Theres a monument on top of the hill, but alas no tree it was cut down some time ago by a Māori protester. A few people have taken it upon themselves to plant a replacement, but the local council have objected as they believe the people are damaging the soil. One person even planted a Swing Ball game at the spot !
I expect a permanent replacement will be planted eventually, otherwise theyll have to re-name the place No Tree Hill.
In the evening, we went to Mitchs son-in-law Marks sister Peatas house (hope that makes sense) at the other side of Titirangi, to join in the 8th birthday celebrations of son Matthew. When we arrived, Matthew was sat on the armchair, with leg up, bandaged with a bag of frozen peas, following a trampoline accident out in the garden.
It reminded me of the time I ended up on the office floor at the bank in East Grinstead with a bag of frozen vegetables on my leg, having just walked into a desk drawer. Ouch.
Great conversation ensued, especially with Marks dad Tom, who was well-travelled, and gave me some great tips for Hawaii and Canada.
Back home, a quick look at the late news before retiring for the evening gave the first reports of the announcement of Charles and Camillas forthcoming wedding. My friends Jan and Roy have clearly set a trend.
11 February 2005 :
Mitch kindly dropped me off down by the harbour on his way to doing his voluntary work at the hospital. The P&O cruise liner Oriana was in port, dwarfing all the other vessels. It looked very impressive.
The highlight of my day was going to see Quidam, a show by the Cirque du Soleil, being held under the grand chapiteau at the Auckland Showgrounds. The storyline was a bit vague Quidam, a nameless passer-by, a solitary figure lingering on a street corner, a person rushing past, a person who lives lost amidst the crowd in an all-too-anonymous society. Eh ??! But the show was visually stunning a lot of French surrealism interweaves with clever lighting, amazing acrobatics, comedy, juggling and other non-animal circus skills. All from a front row seat. Magnifique !
12 February 2005 :
A relaxing day, including a visit to the Central Library, a pleasant walk down to the harbour and up to Albert Park, and a catch-up on my journal writing. Time is travelling fast, and I suddenly realised that 10 days had elapsed since I last updated the website. Oops.
13 February 2005 :
Set off for a walk up the Domain. I had good reason, as it was the venue for the Red Bull Trolley Grand Prix. With a number of the Domains roads closed off, and lined by thousands of spectators, eighty-four different trolleys (go-karts) competed in pairs down the course over a four-hour period, aiming for a place on the winners podium. Each trolley is built within length and weight limits, but originality in design is also an important factor. It was a bit like Wacky Races, but no sign of Penelope Pitstop or the Anthill Mob.
Later in the afternoon, I enjoyed watching the exciting conclusion to the Holden New Zealand Open, held just up the road at the Gulf Harbour golf club in Rodney District. Niclas Fasth from Sweden ended up the eventual winner, but only after two play-off holes with the Englishman Miles Tunnicliff (who on the first play-off unfortunately knocked out a spectator with a misguided ball).
Finished off the day by watching Billy Connollys World Tour of New Zealand, which started tonight on TV2. It was great for me to see some of the many places Ive been lucky to visit recently, including Bluff, Stewart Island, Invercargill and Dunedin. I hope that I manage to see some of the other programmes.
I particularly liked the moth joke, short and simple, which went something like :-
Doctor, Im really worried, Im convinced Im a moth
Really? said the doctor
Yes, its very troubling for me.
Well Im sorry replied the doctor but Im only a General Practitioner your condition is a bit outside my area of expertise
have you considered seeking advice from a psychologist ?
Funny you should say that said the man, I was already on my way to the psychologist when I passed your surgery and saw the light on.
14 February 2005 :
Bad news for England on the breakfast reports this morning, following its 18-17 loss at Twickenham at the hands of the French in the Six Nations tournament. Two losses out of two games, the world champions clearly need to try harder.
Its great being back in Auckland, and little has changed since I was here at the beginning of the year. That is unless you count the wise (and sometimes strangely bizarre) prose and poems that have now been painted onto various sections of the pavements across the central business district.
Today, I discovered a little cinema underneath the central library, the Academy Cinema. It was screening a French film called Les Choristes (The Choir) by Christophe Barratier, and it was one of the best independent films Ive seen in a long time. Its a story of how a school of disadvantaged and disruptive pupils is turned round when a new teacher arrives and sets about getting the children interested in music. Worth seeing if you can, and dont worry because English subtitles are provided.
15 February 2005 :
Auckland Zoo was my destination today a short bus ride from the city, but a world away.
The zoo is spread over a large area, meaning that each of the animals have big enclosures to roam, crawl, walk, slither, fly, swim, and/or jump around. The only disappointment was that the Australian section was closed off, so I was unable to stroll amongst the emus and wallabies. The zoo is split up into zones, and there are plenty of open spaces to sit down and relax one of the best places was by the Band Rotunda, where youre able to watch the peacocks strutting around.
Elephants, zebras, giraffes, lions, hippos, a tiger, exotic birds, a white rhino, sealions, penguins, lemurs, tamarins, macaques were all part of the experience.
My favourites had to be the cheeky baboons and the cute red panda.
CLICK HERE for more info on Auckland Zoo (www.aucklandzoo.co.nz)
16 February 2005 :
Back on the water today, as I took a boat across the harbour to Rangitoto Island. It's the newest island in the area, being formed just 700 years ago as a result of a volcanic explosion.
Currently dormant (thank goodness), I took the 2-hour 4WD tour round the island, the driving and commentary being provided by Rudi, a South African on a working holiday. Halfway through, we had to alight to climb the boardwalk to the summit, a walk that takes about 20 minutes. I didn't count the steps, but there were hundreds.
The first viewpoint is at the crater's edge - looking down, all you can now see is the foliage of the trees and plants that have managed to take root. (A bit different to Mount Eden which I visited at the beginning of my time in New Zealand, and where I was surprised to see grazing cattle inside the crater).
A further climb up more steps led to the summit, which as you would expect gave fine views, not only back towards the city, but also all-round views of the harbour and other islands below.
The peace was only interrupted by the constant clicking of the cicadas, and the occasional clicking of the cameras. There were lots of little birds at the summit, none of which seemed too bothered by the human invaders.
As we returned to the 4WD (actually a glorified tractor and trailer), I got talking to one of my fellow passengers, a lady from Sweden who was in NZ on holiday. She works as a tour guide, and had just been with a group of Swedish tourists in ... Edinburgh.
Although we had seen a lot of trees on the island (apparently the island is home to the largest number of pohutukawa - NZ Christmas - trees), there is no soil on the island yet. The whole island is covered with the lava remnants of the volcanic eruption. There are still many barren areas where nothing has yet grown, and we got to walk around on this weird uneven terrain.
17 February 2005 :
A quiet day in the city, followed by a noisy evening at Eden Park.
I was there with about 29,999 other people to watch the international cricket match between the New Zealand Black Caps and Australia.
The match was played in the Twenty20 format, the first time this has been used in New Zealand. Of course, cricket purists may not like this modern version, but it certainly attracts the crowds, many of which would not be able to commit (or suffer?) four+ hours to one game.
Australia batted first, notching up 214 runs over the 120 balls for the loss of just 5 wickets. A fine not-out innings by Ricky Ponting, who accounted for 98 of the runs. He would be subsequently chosen as man of the match.
New Zealand started well, and were keeping up with the run-rate required (although at times it was hard to tell as the electronic scoreboard kept having glitches).
Bearing in mind that I would estimate more than 95% of the spectators were cheering on the home team, New Zealand certainly weren't short of support.
But, Australia were to prevail, getting New Zealand all out for 170, the final wicket falling on the final ball.
New Zealand were dressed up in their beige kit of the 1980s, and many of the players were sporting appropriate facial hair. Australia also had the retro look, in their bright canary yellow - but they were the ones with the cricketing skills more suited to the present.
CLICK HERE for more info, including full scorecard, courtesy of the BBC Sport website
An exciting match, with a very enthusiastic crowd, and a good appetiser for the international tour starting for proper in Wellington on Saturday.
18 February 2005 :
Started to work on the family tree research again, in preparation for my visit in a few weeks' time to Salt Lake City, home of the world's largest family history information centre, set up by the Mormons.
Went to the flicks in the afternoon to see 'The Aviator', a film about the life of American billionaire Howard Hughes. Very enjoyable and I expect it will be winning a few Oscars at the end of the month. Lasting for nearly three hours though, it's definitely long-haul.
19 February 2005 :
Started off the day with good intentions, to sort out the first few flights for when I get to the US mainland.
Got extremely frustrated with the various American airline websites, as each time I tried to make a booking, I couldn't complete the process as I didn't have a US billing address for my credit card. Trouble is, you don't find out about this silly requirement until right at the end of the application process, so I ended up wasting a great deal of time. They should put some form of warning/notice on their home pages, to inform you that web bookings are only available to US residents, as I expect I'm not the only person who's tried and failed to make a booking.
Ended up down at the Air New Zealand office at the bottom of Queen Street, successfully booking three flights within half an hour. Great service, courtesy of Anne-Marie, especially as none of the flights were with Air New Zealand nor with the Star Alliance, of which Air New Zealand is a member.
In the evening, I made a return trip to the Domain, but it wasn't to see trolley racing again. I was there with Jill and Wendy to watch the Starlight Symphony, a free open-air concert. As with similar events I've attended at Petworth Park (Sussex) and Rochester Castle (Kent), thousands of people had congregated, with chairs, rugs and picnics.
The concert lasted about two and a half hours, with the first half comprising music from traditional Classical composers, such as Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Strauss etc. The second half included some contemporary music, from the likes of Lennon & McCartney, Deep Purple, Def Leppard etc. A good overall mix.
The finale was Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, with the Auckland Symphony Orchestra and Sky City Massed Choir being supported by spectacular lasers, fireworks, and live cannons. Fantastic.
Lots of buses had been laid on to transport the crowds home. Great. Only one bus for Downtown, so it was a crush on the bus on the way home (once we had eventually found the right one). Not so great.
It had stayed dry despite the black clouds hanging overhead throughout the evening. Pleasant company, lovely picnic, fine performances, great fireworks.
Music to my ears.
20 February 2005 :
As the song goes "It was easy like Sunday morning". Good job too bearing in mind it WAS Sunday.
And Sunday afternoon was very relaxing as well.
21 February 2005 :
A phonecall started my day. It was from friend (and ex-colleague) Barbara Beeston, aka Babs, who had just arrived in Auckland, after a very long flight from the UK via Los Angeles.
We met up for lunch (with Babs' friend Shirley) down by the harbour. We both had to keep pinching ourselves, as neither of us could believe we were meeting up together so far from home. Fantastic. And so much to catch up on, bearing in mind I had last seen Babs just before I set off last September.
Beers and a Gin & Tonic ensured we completed the quarterly pub crawl - the first part of which Babs attended in East Grinstead just over a week ago. It's official - the "East Grinstead pub crawl" has now gone global.
Apart from catching up on all the news, we also both caught the sun. Ouch. I'd forgotten how strong it can be here, bearing in mind the general lack of pollution in the air.
22 February 2005 :
Babs and Shirley went on an organised tour of Auckland this morning, as the first part of their three-week visit to New Zealand.
They then had a free afternoon, so we all caught the ferry for the short ride over to Devonport. Another fine day, although quite a lot of grey clouds above. Perfect for a walk around as it wasn't too hot, followed by a drink and an ice cream, as well as an opportunity for a photo or two.
Once back in the City, we walked up Queen Street, took a right-hand turn up Victoria Street, continued past the New President Hotel (where Babs and Shirley were staying), and went into Sky City.
A trip up the Sky Tower was in order. Those of you who have read the Journal from Christmas Day will know that this was a return visit for me, but fortunately I felt a lot more confident so high up in the air this time round.
Babs wasn't so keen on the height, but was very glad she had made the trip. However, she still couldn't be persuaded to walk on the glass floor on the observation deck, or look through the glass floor of the lift either.
It was now early evening, so we decided to stay in Sky City and grab dinner at the ground floor restaurant. The service could have been better, but the food was excellent. The girls had mouthwatering steaks, and I had superb fish (snapper) and chips, served in newspaper.
That wrapped up the day, and sadly we had to say our goodbyes.
23 February 2005 :
A quieter day today. Babs and Shirley set off for their tour round NZ, and I set off down to the library to work on a bit more genealogy preparation ahead of my visit to Salt Lake City.
24 February 2005 :
First of two days of tying up loose ends.
Picked up my USA flight tickets from the Air New Zealand travel centre. Dealt with a lot of e-mails (thank you to everyone who's keeping in touch, it's always great to hear from you). Wrote a few postcards, and a couple of letters. Packed and sent a large parcel home, containing a pile of souvenirs, brochures etc that I had amassed over the past couple of months. And I got around to sorting out the outstanding laundry !
25 February 2005 :
Well, here I am on my last full day in New Zealand.
The second of two days of tying up loose ends. Wrote and mailed a stack of postcards, managed to find enough items for another parcel home (where does it all come from?), got my e-mail Inbox up-to-date and empty, and spent some time unpacking and re-packing my bag. Glad to say that it's now below 25kgs for the first time on this trip.
I spent my last evening in the company of Jill and Wendy - a lovely meal and drinks at the Mezze Bar in the centre of Auckland, followed by coffee at the stunning (38-storey) Metropolis Hotel.
We finished up with a walk through Albert Park. Although darkness had fallen, there were thousands of people about - all enjoying Auckland's annual Chinese Lantern event.
There were a few people dressed up in strange costumes walking round on stilts. Adding to the atmosphere was the smell of different asian cuisines, the sight of vietnamese dancers on stage, and the sound of contestants in an eagerly-fought karaoke competition.
Everyone was certainly enjoying themselves, and despite the crowds it all seemed extremely friendly. The event has been running for about five years - it's grown so much that I guess it won't be too much longer before the organisers have to find a bigger venue.
26 February 2005 (Number 1) :
D-Day (departure day) has arrived. After a final early morning walk around the city, it was time to hop on the AirBus. I still can't believe that the 10 weeks here have gone by so quickly. It only seems like yesterday that I was in Australia.
I remembered this time to show my Youth Hostel card to the driver in order to get a discount on the price of the ticket. Signing up again for YHA membership - after a gap of about 15 years - has certainly been worthwhile, and anyone envisaging a trip to either Australia or New Zealand should get themselves a card. Fortunately, age is not a barrier, and not only has it given me access to a large number of keenly-priced beds, but I've been able to secure many discounts and concessions as I've been travelling around. Membership has paid for itself ten times over. And the Scottish YHA is half the price of its English equivalent!
Arrived at the airport, checked-in, paid (begrudgingly*) the $25 departure tax, got through emigration (sadly, no new stamp in the passport) and settled into the QANTAS lounge for a few hours.
*I object to these taxes. It's fine that the authorities let you into the country, but you can't get out until you cough up this amount. I just hope my contribution really makes a difference to any airport improvements.
OK, calm down Jeremy ....!
Sitting here, armed with a G&T, gives me the chance to reflect on my time in New Zealand.
I've really enjoyed my time here, in the same way I enjoyed my time in OZ. I don't have a preference between the two, as they're so different. I like them both for different reasons.
I find it funny how both countries like to take the 'mickey' out of each other. But I get the feeling that New Zealand definitely needs Australia as its strong neighbour.
There's still a lot of disquiet about how the Māoris have been treated in the past. However, in my humble opinion this is nothing compared to the injustice that has been suffered by the Aboriginies in Australia.
Geographically, New Zealand is remote to the rest of the world. It seems that people try hard to overcome this, by up-selling the importance of everywhere. Signs declare the 'First', the 'Best', the 'Longest', the 'Oldest' attraction/town etc., but as it's done so much, it dilutes the effect. There's even a soft drink here ("L&P") which has the moniker "World Famous in New Zealand".
New Zealand needs to raise its profile further around the world. So, thank goodness for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as this has certainly put NZ firmly on the travel map for many many people. But New Zealand isn't all about hobbits, orks, and (come to think of it) sheep. There's also a great focus on sport and the arts. And it needs to do more to publicise its fantastic scenery. You'll often see adverts on UK television for Australia tourism - not sure how often a New Zealand promotion is aired ?
It's easy to get about (unless you use the train system, apparently). You drive on the right (correct) side of the road, i.e the left side - just watch out for the rule at junctions where you need to give way to the oncoming right-turning vehicle when you are turning left at the same junction. With a population of only 4 million people, with 1 million of them living in Auckland, the roads are generally very quiet.
Everyone is friendly. I've been very lucky and privileged to spend time with Mitch (and his family), Jill and Wendy (and their parents) and Clint (the international cricketer). I'm extremely grateful for their company, their help and their hospitality.
I've just about mastered the language. I don't mean Māori (watch out for those 'wh' words), I mean the New Zealand version of English. For instance, before I head off for the rest of my 'BigOE' (overseas experience) I might put on my jandals (they were thongs in Australia, but flip-flops back home) and set out for the shops, crossing the intersection (junction), and going into the Dairy (also known as the Superette) with my trundler (trolley) to buy some veges (veggies) including some red capsicums (red peppers). I then go to Farmers (a Store, but not a Dairy) to buy some manchester (household linen) for my bach (beach/holiday shack), making sure I don't forget the Jif (hooray, there's somewhere in the world where it hasn't been rebranded 'Cif'). Finally, I better just check that the WOF (warrant of fitness) is still valid. 'WOF' is the same as our 'MOT' - just try checking your Ministry of Transport for validity.
Oh well, on that point it's probably time for me to go. They'll be calling my flight soon, and I need to psyche myself up for the ordeal - not just the thought of returning to a Northern Hemisphere winter, but also for the two flights, totalling about 13 hours. At least 13 is my lucky number.
Bye for now.
© Jeremy Cousins, 2004-2014