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.
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?"
RealPlayer. If problems, see
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.
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
Above right: Smoke gets in your eyes....
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
Above center: My
room at the Amberley. Mary and Michael were very pleasant hosts.
Above right: Devonport
(foreground) and Auckland (background) from Mt. Victoria.
20, 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
> December 16, 2001