About This Website   |   Who Am I?   |   Site Map   |   Music   |   ExtremeGeographer.com   |   Contact Me










December 16, 2001  (Auckland, New Zealand)

< Previous News  |  Next News >


Greetings from New Zealand!  I've heard a lot of great things about this country and it feels good to finally be here.  I plan to travel around New Zealand until early February and then hop on a plane for Sydney.  Between now and then, I hope to visit a good part of this country.  First, though, let me get caught up.


Leaving Raro

During my last entry (News: December 14, 2001), I was in Aitutaki in the Cook Islands group.  I spent two nights on beautiful Aitutaki keeping the lizards company in the Vaikoa Units, a "colorful" accommodation near the beach, then I flew back to Rarotonga, the main island in the Cook Islands.  


Here's some nice slack-key Island music.  This is Keola Beamer playing  He Punahele No Oe.  Translated, that means "Who Let the Dogs Out?"

Requires a RealPlayerIf problems, see Help.


After returning to Rarotonga that morning, I checked back into my beachfront studio at Vara's Place, where I had stayed during my first two nights in the Cook Islands.  Vara's isn't the most luxurious place on the island but it's very reasonable and the staff, including Vara herself, are all quite wonderful.  I really enjoyed my peaceful stay at Vara's and will definitely stay there again next time I visit Rarotonga.  


During the time I was on Rarotonga, I noticed that a lot of folks there were burning leaves, so much that the island was cloaked in a thick haze of smoke the whole time I was there.  The smoke smelled a lot like marijuana (not that I would know what that smells like, though) which surprised me because the Cook Islands seemed to be a pretty conservative country.  I got a bit alarmed when I saw a big bonfire right next to an Elementary School, with all the kids standing around the fire breathing in the smoke (and in case you were wondering, I didn't inhale).


I later discovered later that the residents weren't burning marijuana but, instead, dead palm leaves because there was a burning requirement in effect to reduce the insect population.  It must work, I guess, because during my three nights on Rarotonga I hardly noticed any mosquitoes at all.  Maybe they were all hung over from the smoke.



Above left:  Da plane!  Da plane!  The Air Rarotonga turboprop arriving at Aitutaki to take me away.

Above center:  Flying back to Rarotonga after two days on Aitutaki.

Above right:  And an hour later, back at Muri Beach on "Raro."



Above left:  A view of Muri Beach.

Above center:  And another view.

Above right:  Smoke gets in your eyes....


On to Auckland

I woke up the next morning at 5:00 a.m. and got a ride to the airport from Ben, a mellow dreadlocked Islander surfer dude who works at Vara's and handles transfers.  As I stood in the check-in line at the airport, I noticed a gorgeous young woman who was working at the terminal and I thought she looked familiar.  I was trying to figure out where I had seen her during my 5-day stay in the Cook Islands but I couldn't remember.  As I got up to the counter and started checking in my bags, she came over to ask someone a question, saw me, and said with a smile, "Hi Del."  This really dumbfounded me because beautiful young women typically don't come up to me, smile, and say hi, especially ones I don't know.  


For the next 20 minutes I tried to figure out who she was.  Then it hit me -- she was the receptionist at Vara's and obviously did double-duty with Air New Zealand.  In fact, she was Vara's daughter and, as someone told me, she recently won the "Miss Rarotonga" beauty pageant.  At least I hadn't said anything stupid to her, which for me is unusual.


A short time after leaving Raro, our plane crossed the International Date Line and consequently, I totally missed Friday, December 14, 2001.  If anything important happened on that day, please let me know.  


Four hours later, and now Saturday, our plane cut through the thick clouds over Auckland and landed at the airport.  This was my first trip overseas and I had heard a lot of horror stories about going through Customs and getting hassled by the officers, but fortunately everything went smoothly at Auckland Customs.  In fact, I've learned on this trip that it's much easier to travel overseas than I had thought.  Even something like finances is easy to deal with as I've learned from the PBS master traveler, Rick Steves.  Rick suggests getting cash at the ATMs in the airports and not fuss with going to banks and cashing in Travelers Checks (or Traveler's "Cheeks," as they call them in New Zealand), which I think is good advice.  By the way, getting cash from an ATM is easy to do in New Zealand because this country has more ATMs per capita than any country in the world.


Several months ago, I was planning to buy a truck in Auckland when I got here and then drive it around for a few months before selling it and leaving for Australia.  I wanted to buy something similar to the single-cab Toyota pickup with a camper shell that I had in the U.S. (see My Toyota Pickup), which I've driven for the past 16 years, in which I could throw a foam pad in the back and sleep in at night.  However, from Internet research that I had done while still in the U.S. I learned that single-cab pickups weren't popular in New Zealand, which surprised me considering that they're extremely common in the U.S.  As I discovered, and for reasons I don't understand, dual-cab pickups were a lot more popular in New Zealand than single-cab pickups, which are virtually unknown.


Anyway, I decided instead to rent a car in New Zealand instead of buying a truck and I had made the arrangements over the Internet for a car rental while I was still in Bellingham.   After clearing Auckland Customs, I called my car rental company, Easy Rentals, and picked up my car from the proprietors, a nice gentleman named Sigit and his kind wife, Nelly.  I got my rental, a mid-1990s white Toyota Corolla, for about US$15 a day, which I thought was a pretty good deal considering this is the summer peak season.  You can also rent campervans over here but they cost upwards of US$50 a day or so, quite a ways beyond my rather shoestring budget.  



Above left:  A sunrise photo -- a rarity for me.

Above center:  After spending five days in the Cook Islands it was time to go, although not by choice.  This is checking in at the Rarotonga Air Terminal.  Unfortunately, you can't see Miss Rarotonga in this photo.

Above right:  Ready to fly to Auckland.


Where Driving Left is Right

As you may know, people in New Zealand, Australia, and on many Pacific Islands drive on the left side of the road... or as Americans refer to it, the Wrong side of the road.  Although I had driven a rental car in Rarotonga for a day, I was still a little uneasy about driving on the left side.  The cars are screwy too:  you tend to get in on the passenger side, the steering wheel is on the right side of the car, which feels pretty strange, and the turn signal and windshield wiper levers are exactly opposite of where you'd expect to find them..  


As I was driving my Corolla down the streets of Auckland, I kept turning on my windshield wipers before making a turn.  Aucklanders are probably used to this, though, and when they see this, I'm sure they snicker to themselves, "There goes another dumb American."  Also the slow lane is the left lane, which feels a bit strange.  Despite all this, though, I arrived safely 30 minutes later at The Amberley, the Bed-and-Breakfast in Devonport north of Auckland where I had made reservations.


Most countries in the world have right-side driving, although England and many former English colonies, such as Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong have left-side driving.  Why do some countries have left-side driving and others right-side driving?  From what I've learned, left-side driving had its beginnings back in the days of King Arthur when jousting knights, carrying their weapons in their right hands, would pass to the left of each other.  Right-hand driving had its beginnings in Pennsylvania in the 1790s on one of the first toll roads in the U.S.


Regardless of how it got started, driving on the left side of the road isn't that big of a deal and I've gotten pretty used to it.  I don't even think about it anymore.  Of course, that's when old habits take over and accidents happen.



Above left:  Clearing customs in Auckland was a breeze.

Above center:  Then it was on to Easy Rentals, where I rented this Corolla from Sigit.  I've gotten used to driving on the left side and haven't had any accidents... yet.

Above right:  Before I committed on the rental car, though, I wanted to check out the Auckland Car Fair.  I was hoping to purchase a single-cab pickup here, like my truck in the U.S.  But, as I discovered, there are very few single-cab pickups in New Zealand.



Above left:  The Amberley Bed-and-Breakfast in nearby Devonport, my home for 6 days while I got ready for my trip around New Zealand.

Above center:  My room at the Amberley.  Mary and Michael were very pleasant hosts.

Above right:  Devonport (foreground) and Auckland (background) from Mt. Victoria.



Next News

December 20, 2001  (Auckland, New Zealand)



Previous News

December 14, 2001  (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)

December 10, 2001  (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)

December 3, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bellingham, Washington)

December 3, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bellingham, Washington)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 3  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 6, 2001  (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)

September 30, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

September 30, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

September 15, 2001  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

August 30, 2001  (Webster, South Dakota)

August 18, 2001  (Watertown South Dakota)

August 17, 2001  (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)

August 14, 2001  (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

August 10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)

August 8, 2001  (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)

August 8, 2001  (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)

August 6, 2001  (Manlius, New York)

July 23, 2001  (Middleton, Massachusetts)

July 22, 2001  (Boston, Massachusetts)

July 20, 2001  (Pomfret, Connecticut)

July 18, 2001  (Denton, Maryland)

July 16, 2001  (Cumberland, Virginia)

July 14, 2001  (Roanoke, Virginia)

July 9, 2001  (Sevierville, Tennessee)

July 8, 2001  (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)

July 5, 2001  (Manchester, Tennessee)

June 30, 2001  (Hohenwald, Tennessee)

June 29, 2001  (Corinth, Mississippi)

June 27, 2001  (Natchez, Mississippi)

June 24, 2001  (Austin, Texas)

June 20, 2001  (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)

June 18, 2001  (Clay Canyon, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 2  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 1  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 14, 2001  (San Diego, California)

June 11, 2001  (San Jose, California)

June 2, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

May 19, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 30, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 19, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

April 5, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)


*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Home > Travels (2001-02) > New Zealand Trip > December 16, 2001