New Zealand Photo Pages: 1
photos to enlarge
arrived in Auckland on October 31st, gaining an hour (by
flying west from Tahiti) and simultaneously loosing a whole
day to the International Date Line. Checked into a
backpacker's hostel and partied that first night with half a
dozen fellow travelers from as many different countries.
Great fun, but I woke up with a hangover. Ponsonby
Backpackers is a pleasant hostel just outside the city
center. I was paying NZ$40 per day, which was about US$28, a
lot cheaper than Tahiti!
became friendly with the owners and enjoyed the
company of the young backpackers that came and
went. We all shared a communal kitchen, so the end
of the day was a real social occasion. It was fun
to hear viewpoints from other nationals. My
companions included Brits, Aussies, Chinese,
Japanese, Irish, German, Malay and one or two
whose origins were unclear.
was the first week of November and everyone was
keenly interested in the approaching US
presidential election. We were able to watch news
coverage on a big color TV in the common room
(when the guys weren't glued to a soccer game).
George Bush and his foreign policies are very
unpopular in Europe, New Zealand, and just about
photos to enlarge)
bought a kick-around camper
van in Auckland and immediately headed to
New Zealand's South Island, which is by reputation
the more beautiful half of the country. I may
write some details about this leg of my travels
before long and post it (on www.tor.cc), and I'll
have plenty of photos to share. Until now, though,
I've been fully occupied with the traveling
itself, seeing (or at least glancing over) the
entire South Island and parts of the North during
the month of November, before the holiday season
releases the tourist hoards. So traveling has been
a full time job these past weeks.
of today, December 4th, I'm back on the North
Island heading to some areas I want to see here,
still racing against the beginning of the holiday
tourist season when most of the places I want to
visit are likely to get a lot more crowded..
I'm finding New Zealand attractive, but a bit bland. Not
boring, just bland. Culturally, it's as Americanized as most
other white countries these days, so besides the accent and
the fact that they drive on the left, this could almost be
the states. McDonalds, Starbucks, and giant supermarket
chains are everywhere. New Zealand even has its own, very
tacky version of Wal-Mart called The Warehouse, and like its
American counterpart there's one in just about every town of
find the urban Kiwi mentality to be as superficial and
materialistic as it is in America, and the advertising even
more tasteless. (No offense intended towards either country.
If you're reading this you're probably exempt anyway.) Of
course, there is no time like the weeks leading up to
Christmas to bring out the very worst extremes of these
global maladies, but somehow I had expected better of New
Zealand. Rural people tend to be less afflicted.
the bright side Kiwi's, as they call themselves, are mostly
friendly, courteous and Nice, as I find people to be almost
everywhere I travel. On the dim side, I've only met a few
really interesting, dynamic Kiwis (see www.billyblack.co.nz
). It's as though the country's blandness seeps into the
mind. Then again, I don't socialize all that much so no
doubt I'm missing a great deal..
South Island does boast some very beautiful, even a few
spectacular areas. They would have impressed me even more, I
think, if I hadn't just come from a season in the northern
Rockies and Alaska. That's a pretty hard act to follow.
Still, to their enormous credit I would rate the wilder
parts of New Zealand as scenically comparable to northwest
North America and Alaska, but without the animals.
birds here are phenomenal! Wonderfully varied,
many completely unfamiliar to me. Around much of
the South Island they continually chirp and
whistle and squawk, filling the air with
overlapping songs. It's one of my favorite things
about this country.
Zealand's foliage (in the small pockets where it
has been allowed to grow) appears exotic to Yankee
eyes, quasi-tropical and wildly profuse in the
rain forests. This is a hiker's heaven, with
hundreds of well-tended trails. Tragically, the
original European settlers clear-cut 99% of the
original Kauri forests that once covered this land
and replaced them with grass for sheep.
fact, much of New Zealand is an enormous sheep
pasture, thousands of square miles of grass as
monotonously trim as a suburban lawn. I appreciate
pastoral scenes as much as the next guy, but here
they seem to go on forever. If one can fall asleep
counting sheep, then you might say a hefty portion
of New Zealand is one big yawn.
New Zealand, at least South Island and (from what
I hear) Northland, is worth seeing and I certainly
don't regret coming. As I said, there are some very
attractive areas, the birds are wonderful and the
natives are friendly. Still, I donít feel
inclined to spend the entire season here. So...
this point, my plan is to hide out somewhere and maybe write
a bit during the second half of December while the holiday
crowds commence swarming. Then I'll spend January in the
country's Northland. By the end of January I think I'll sell
the campervan and fly to SE Asia for a couple of months.
Iíd like to re-visit Thailand, and perhaps get into
Vietnam. I'm scheduled to fly back to the States in early
I was in New York in October my 23-year-old nephew inspired
me to buy an iPod, one of those small electronic gadgets
that can store and play back a zillion sound files. He then
proceeded to load it up not only with lots of his current
music, but also with a whole bunch of self-improvement and
real estate investing "how to" audios he's been
studying. I added a decent variety of classical, ethnic,
jazz and oldies music. Now while I cruise along the New
Zealand highways I listen to this eclectic assortment
through audio earplugs, often setting the player to shuffle
the sound tracks randomly. I'll be swingin' to some African
rhythms, then relaxing to a Mozart sonata, then maybe
singing along with some Stones or R.E.M. rock-n-roll, then
it'll suddenly switch to a 45-minute lecture on equities
investing, or an audio book chapter about building wealth
through real estate, or a Tony Robins' personal growth
series (he's pretty good).
is also a series by a self-proclaimed Canadian guru named
Eckhart Tolle who shares profound insights into the nature
of being and enlightenment. I'm getting lots of really
worthwhile information, some of which seems to be just what
I need to be learning at this point in my life. Hell, I wish
I'd learned some of it 30 years ago! Anyway, I sense it's
all leading me to better places.
the iPod will skip to a ballsy Ernestine Anderson
number and I'm groooovin' down the road in
overdrive, sheep on one side of me and the
tempestuous Tasman Sea on the other.
Life is good.
Visit my New Zealand Photo Pages: 1