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February 2, 2002 -- Part 1  (Taupo, N.Z.)

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Good news, folks: 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.


However, 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 World.Ē  


Along with this page, I've got three new updates in this round, including:

The updates in this round include over 100 photos of New Zealand and, of course, my sparkling commentary.


By 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.


Rain and Crowds... Situation Improving

Unfortunately, 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 Daydream Believer.

Requires a RealPlayerIf problems, see Help.


Even 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. 


On 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 sandfly. 


Along 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.


2-1808_Car_at_Pullout.jpg (32093 bytes)



Left:  The cloudy skies are gradually diminishing...

  2-1829_Crowd_at_Viewpoint.jpg (55395 bytes)  

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

This 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 about.  The crowds and the rotten weather were the "Bad," but there's a lot more that's "Good."


The 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?


I 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.


Another 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 fries) for 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 "boot."


One 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, but 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.


2-1889_Fish_and_Chips_Shop.jpg (43508 bytes)    2-1891_Fish_and_Chips_Shop.jpg (33533 bytes)    2-1894_Cricket_on_TV.jpg (26205 bytes)

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.


Current Plans

My 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.


Speaking 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. 


Are Three Cameras Enough?

As 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 rectangular. 


By 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 three times.  


Recent Additions and This Update

If 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 News:  January 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.


Anyway, this page is getting pretty long so I've posted photos and stories for this update at:

Like I say, I've also added three other updates in this round.  They're at:

Happy reading!




Next News

February 2, 2002 -- Part 2  (Taupo, New Zealand)



Previous News

January 25, 2002  (Hokitika, New Zealand)

January 20, 2002  (Geraldine, New Zealand)

January 16, 2002  (Te Anau, New Zealand)

January 12, 2002  -- Part 2  (Dunedin, New Zealand)

January 12, 2002  -- Part 1  (Dunedin, New Zealand)

January 1, 2002 -- Part 2  (Christchurch, New Zealand)

January 1, 2002 -- Part 1  (Christchurch, New Zealand)

December 24, 2001  (Wellington, New Zealand)

December 20, 2001  (Auckland, New Zealand)

December 16, 2001  (Auckland, New Zealand)  

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)


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