the weather in New Zealand is finally improving!
Me and about 3.8 million Kiwis are thankful that the skies over New
Zealand are starting to dry up and that summer has finally arrived -- just in
time for the kids to go back to school. Because the weather has improved, though, I havenít had much time to
work on my website because Iíve been traveling around the country instead of
hunkering down in some motel room typing away, like I did in soggy Christchurch for a week and in
even soggier Dunedin for another week.
I recently plunked myself down in the town of Palmerston North and started cranking out some updates,
then finished them here
in Taupo (pronounced "TOE-poe"),
which, according to a huge sign on the outskirts of town, is the ďTrout Fishing Capital of the
Along with this
page, I've got three new updates in this round, including:
updates in this round include over 100 photos of New Zealand and, of course, my
the way, I occasionally get e-mails wondering why I havenít updated my website in
a while. Each update page takes me about 4 hours to put
together with all the
text, photos, captions, maps, and link updates -- and, of course, it doesnít help that Iím a slow
thinker and even slower writer.
Add that to e-mails and data backups -- not to mention the traveling and
sightseeing -- and I've been pretty busy. Sometimes it's a choice between
working on my website or actually getting out and seeing and doing things, so it
may take me a while to post updates.
and Crowds... Situation Improving
this has been one of New Zealand's rainiest summers in a long time, especially
on the South Island where I spent most of January.
During the past three weeks since my last update, it's also been pretty crowded here, which is a
real bummer. I guess
if you like big crowds, noisy parties, loud bars, etc., youíd probably enjoy
visiting New Zealand during the summer school holiday from mid-December through
late January, but being a pretty quiet
person who enjoys nature, crowds arenít my thing and Iíve gotten a little tired of the experience.
Like I said earlier,
The Monkees are really popular in New Zealand for some reason, and I
hear them all the time on the radio stations. Here's
RealPlayer. If problems, see
the trails are crowded, and as Iíve discovered, some even require reservations
during this time of year. I donít
mean reservations to CAMP on the trail, I mean reservations just to HIKE on the
trail. It doesnít matter though,
because Iím a wimp when it comes to hiking in the rain, so crowds or not,
backpacking (or "tramping" as they call it here) hasnít been a very palatable option.
the bright side, though, the weather during the last week or so has been pretty nice and itís been
quite warm with daytime temperatures
usually in the 70ís or low 80's and dropping down only to the 50ís at night, so Iíve
been wearing shorts and t-shirts during most days.
The only times I had to wear jeans during the past week were when I was
dealing with sandflies, nasty biting creatures with which Iíve become all too
familiar. For some reason, New
Zealand doesnít seem to have a lot of mosquitoes, a bothersome niche that has
been filled here quite effectively, as ecologists might put it, by the pesky
with the improving weather, the
crowd situation has also gotten better recently because the kiddies all went back to
school this week after six weeks off, and things have quieted down a bit.
On the other hand, Iíve heard that February is the big month here for
international tourists. I've already run
into a lot of German, Japanese, and American tourists and I guess
I'll be seeing a lot more of them in the near future. In case you were
wondering, the September 11 attacks have had quite an impact here on tourism. As
crowded as its been, a lot of people I've talked to have said that there are
usually even more Americans here than there are now.
Left: The cloudy skies
Left: ... as
are the crowds. This is a tour group on the "Kiwi Experience"
bus which travels around New Zealand.
Why New Zealand is a Great Country
is my first trip to New Zealand and, now that the crowds are starting to
diminish and the
weather has improved, I'm really starting to like this country. However, my
experience here continues to be a bit polarized.
I got pretty drained during my first six weeks here by dealing with the massive crowds and the crummy weather,
but Iím glad I came to New Zealand so I could see what all the fuss was
The crowds and the rotten weather were the "Bad," but there's a lot more that's "Good."
best part of New Zealand is definitely the people. The
Kiwis here, young and old, have all been really terrific. Not to sound
stereotypical, but without hearing a person speak I can usually tell if
theyíre Kiwis, Americans, or Germans just by the way they react to me.
Kiwis are definitely the friendliest and will often come up to
me and start chatting away. Germans tend to be the least outgoing and friendly, while Americans are somewhere
in between; usually pretty nice but often a bit arrogant and sometimes obnoxious.
During my Doubtful Sound cruise last week, I ran into a group of
60-somethings from the U.S. who epitomized the phrase ďUgly AmericansĒ -- loud, crude, and rude. Jeez,
is it any wonder that Americans have such a bad reputation overseas?
also really like the geographic diversity in New Zealand.
Iíve said it before, but this country is just about as scenically diverse
as the U.S. but in a much smaller package.
During my 6 weeks here, Iíve seen areas that reminded me of each of the
50 states Ė all in a country the size of Oregon.
New Zealand seems
like it's a heck of lot bigger than Oregon though, probably because of the diversity and
because of all the narrow, winding roads which seriously restrict how far you
can travel in one day.
I've driven about 5,000 miles around the country so far and yet there
are a lot of places that I haven't seen. In contrast, although Oregon
is beautiful, driving 5,000 miles around the state doesn't sound very
appealing to me -- I can hardly imagine driving 500 miles around
Oregon! Although I've been here for
almost two months, it would probably take me at least another two months before
I got a really good feel for this country. There is a HECK of a lot to see
and do here.
The towns and cities here are great and are much more
vibrant and interesting than towns and cities in the U.S. Partly, I think that's
because they are more oriented to pedestrians than to vehicles. The
U.S. is dotted with plenty of towns and cities that have decaying
downtowns while the strip malls and Wal-Marts on the outskirts flourish.
There's hardly any of that here in New Zealand. Urban planners in
the U.S. could learn a lot by coming over here and studying how cities are
supposed to work.
thing I really like about New Zealand is that every town or village, no matter
how small, has at least one fish & chips takeout shop.
Fish & chips are even better, dare I say it, than bratwurst, my staple back in the
U.S. And they're infinitely better than the mutton sausages, which I was living on during my
first week here (yes, they taste as bad as they sound).
Best of all, fish & chips are really cheap. Most
fish & chips shops charge fish by the piece, usually about 75
US cents each. Chips -- which Americans call French fries -- are charged by the scoop,
usually about 75 cents per scoop, with each scoop equivalent of about three
large orders of McDonald's fries. Largely thanks to the very weak NZ
dollar, you can usually get a large meal of fish & chips (three pieces and a scoop of
about US$3. The same takeout meal in the U.S. would cost
about six or seven dollars. What a deal, huh? Just remember, though,
to bring along ketchup -- oops, I mean "tomato sauce" -- and, of course,
malt vinegar. I carry mine in the trunk of my car. Oops, I mean the
other thing I like
here is the game of cricket, which Iíve gotten
pretty hooked on. I watched my first
televised cricket game a month ago in Whakatane and, being well-steeped in
American baseball, I sat there all afternoon completely dumbfounded. It
was an interesting experience, though, trying to figure out a sport just by
watching it on T.V. without having the luxury of someone, including the
announcers, explain it to me. Over the next several weeks, I watched
cricket almost every night and learned the rules bit by bit, and now I think I
understand it fairly well. Iíve been
pulling for New Zealandís national team, known as the ďBlack Caps,Ē in
their current televised series against Australia and South Africa.
Watching American football is a great way to waste three hours,
watching Kiwi cricket is a great way to waste eight hours.
Honestly, once I turn on a cricket match at 4 p.m., I usually end up
watching it until itís finished at midnight, especially if the Black Caps are
playing. Cricket is something like American baseball except that each team
bats only once (until all 11 players are out), there aren't any foul balls, and
best of all, the players
don't go on strike every four years. And because the teams in cricket
don't alternate at-bats like they do in baseball, it's not unusual to
hear the announcer say that one team is ahead by "only" 273 runs.
Above left: Every town in New Zealand has
at least one Fish & Chips place. Lord Thompson's restaurant, here in Picton, is the best
one I've eaten at, so far.
Above center: You place your order at
the counter, they cook it and when it's done, they wrap it in brown paper.
Above right: Cricket is my other passion here. Cricket games are
long, though, typically lasting 7 or 8 hours. Now you know why I haven't
updated my website in a while.
travel plans have always been fluid but here's the current itinerary: Iím
going to fly to
Sydney, Australia on February 7 and will rent a
car there. I plan to travel around Australia for about 2 months, more if I
really like it and less if I really don't. After that, I'll fly back to the U.S. in
early April, possibly stopping over in Hong Kong along the way.
I was thinking
at one time about going around the
world, but I'm now planning
to return to the U.S. this spring. It's nice here, but I'd rather
spend the spring traveling around the U.S. than going around the world.
There are a lot of things I miss about the U.S., including my truck, camping in the
West, and most of all, seeing my friends and family. This has been a good experience but I think
two months here in New Zealand and another two months in Australia will be just
about right. Besides,
I've gotten pretty drained from dealing with the crowds and from "living out of a suitcase,"
having to find a motel every night then packing up every morning. I don't have that problem really when I travel
around the U.S. in my pickup truck -- a much easier way to travel.
of that, the theme of my 4-month U.S. trip this
coming spring will be
ďNational Parks and American HistoryĒ, two of my greatest interests. Iíve been to about half of the 400 National Parks in the
U.S. and hope to visit many of the remaining parks during this trip.
Iíll plunk down $50 for a National Parks pass at the start of my trip
and will put it to good use.
Three Cameras Enough?
you may know, my digital camera developed some problems in Dunedin, so I bought
a film camera, a Canon EOS Rebel, which Iíve been using ever since.
The main problem with shooting film, though, is that you canít post photos very
easily onto a website. With some
careful cropping, though, I decided that I can still use the photos from my
digital camera to put on this website. They don't look great but they're
good enough. In
case you were wondering, thatís why my photos are now square instead of
the way, Iíve also brought my camcorder along on this trip, so Iím actually
shooting with three cameras now (film camera for my slide collection, digital
camera for my website, and camcorder), which can be a bit of a hassle.
Sometimes itís been a real juggling act and Iím sure I look pretty
silly toting around two cameras and a camcorder and shooting the same scene
Additions and This Update
you've been following my website, you know that I've alienated most everyone in
Indiana, which I consider to be the most boring state in America (see
1, 2002). Now I'm going to alienate any Mariah Carey fans out there
with my latest entry under Humor. Actually, I
think Mariah has a pretty good voice and admit that I have several of her
albums. Nevertheless, she has a way of putting her foot in
her mouth, as I recently read about in a New Zealand newspaper.
page is getting pretty long so I've posted photos and stories for this update at:
I say, I've also added three other updates in this round. They're at:
2, 2002 -- Part 2 (Taupo, New Zealand)
25, 2002 (Hokitika, New Zealand)
20, 2002 (Geraldine, New Zealand)
16, 2002 (Te Anau, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 2 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 1 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 1 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
24, 2001 (Wellington, New Zealand)
20, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
16, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
14, 2001 (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)
10, 2001 (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)
3, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bellingham, Washington)
3, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bellingham, Washington)
18, 2001 -- Part 3 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
6, 2001 (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
September 15, 2001 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 (Webster, South Dakota)
18, 2001 (Watertown South Dakota)
17, 2001 (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)
14, 2001 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)
6, 2001 (Manlius, New York)
23, 2001 (Middleton, Massachusetts)
22, 2001 (Boston, Massachusetts)
20, 2001 (Pomfret, Connecticut)
18, 2001 (Denton, Maryland)
16, 2001 (Cumberland, Virginia)
14, 2001 (Roanoke, Virginia)
9, 2001 (Sevierville, Tennessee)
8, 2001 (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)
5, 2001 (Manchester, Tennessee)
30, 2001 (Hohenwald, Tennessee)
29, 2001 (Corinth, Mississippi)
27, 2001 (Natchez, Mississippi)
24, 2001 (Austin, Texas)
20, 2001 (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)
18, 2001 (Clay Canyon, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 2 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 1 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
14, 2001 (San Diego, California)
11, 2001 (San Jose, California)
2, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
19, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
30, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
19, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
5, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
* * * * * * *
Travels (2001-02) >
New Zealand Trip
> February 2, 2002 (Page 1)