Monday, 25 January 2010

2010: Finally A New Look

I'd made a resolution in '09 that I was going to improve the look of my blog and this a.m. I finally got around to doing it - well, with a little help from Dave it got done! I took lots of pictures of clotheslines in NZ so I hope to change the picture periodically. The title line shows our laundry in Upper Hutt, NZ, just north of Wellington. It seemed important to start with a picture of personal laundry! I don't like the white space beside the picture and we think we know how to change it. But after fiddling with this thing for about an hour, I was ready to quit and type something. Thank you, Dave, for your help with photoshop. There are some advantages to having you lie around with a hamstring injury. I'd love some comments about the new look and you can do that here or send me an email. It feels a bit like getting a good haircut - or perhaps a new clothesline and pins!

Friday, 22 January 2010

#19: Summing It Up

I feel that it's time to bring some closure to the NZ holiday. I've sorted through my pictures and will post a link in the future, possibly on this post. It's always good to take some time afterwards to "process" the holiday. Even though I felt slightly disappointed in my travel during the first couple of weeks, overall, this was a wildly successful trip. The South Island was spectacular. The friendliness of the people and the way everything is set up for tourism makes NZ a really good place to visit. It's wonderful to be able to get on a plane and be there in less than 14 hours. With all the airport hassles these days it makes an ideal journey because it's single stop. This photo of our last sunset at Raglan, NI, shows the sun setting over the Tasman Sea. The quality of sun, sky and sea in the South are unbeatable! Thank you NZ!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

#18: Tourist Equipment

We did this trip "on the cheap" and our camper van was at the low end of the scale of things that one could rent. We found it to be pretty small and not all that comfortable for the passenger in terms of seating arrangements. If only one person had to be inside, it was okay. Lying in bed for two people was fine. However, I do have to say that it was well-equipped for the tourist. I was thrilled to learn that a piece of clothesline wire and 20 clothespins were included!! And what negative could one say about a hot water bottle?? We found that some of the equipment was useless when we didn't have electricity but most of the time we did have it and it was rather nice having toast on a camping trip, especially when it is of 6 weeks duration. The bed was comfortable. All bedding and towels were supplied. There was enough room for us to store everything adequately. I felt that we were well served by the company we rented from (Tui Campers) in that we got transportation from and to the airport in Auckland. Any minor complaints we had where we spent a bit of money were fully reimbursed. NZ knows how to look after its company.

Monday, 11 January 2010

#17: How Green Are the Islands?

When I first arrived in NZ I was pretty impressed with all of the low flush toilets, the amount of local food available and the tiny, but functional hotel room we stayed in in Auckland. NZ is also really great about recycling - well, it's available, but like here in Canada, at no time did I talk to someone who actually know how much stuff is really being recycled or how much ends up in a landfill. However, it's available in many forms throughout the islands.

I have to say that I was a bit surprised at how much logging goes on in NZ. I don't know why I didn't expect that. This picture shows logging along the Marlborough Sounds area of NZ and it's supposed to be one of the world's scenic ferry rides. It looks pretty similar to all the stuff we get here in B.C. Clearcuts are visible a lot of the time.

What did concern me is the lack of wildlife on the islands. Pretty much everything is an imported species. And the scary thing is those species have been very successful. Now that has posed a huge problem and poison to kill weasels, stoats and possum is pretty common. There was a fair bit of trapping going on as well, but poison seemed to be abundantly used. The use of herbicide to keep down roadside growth is also pretty widely used. I'd say that is less "green" than cutting it down, but I don't know the costs. NZ is doing a lot of things in the right way to make itself ecologically friendly. I hope someone can find a way to get rid of some of the invasive species without having to resort to poisons. It's too beautiful a place to become more contaminated on a very polluted Earth.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

#16: Scenery

I had an anonymous comment on the blog a short time ago about not mentioning scenery. NZ scenery is gorgeous. However, I'd have to say that it took nearly 3 weeks for me to actually find things that I felt were drop dead gorgeous. I needed to get to the west coast of the South Island before I really felt that I was seeing something that was equal to parts of North America. Fiordland is stunning. The drive over Haast Pass on a blue sky day is like driving the Banff-Jasper on a blue sky day - unbeatable. In my defense in not mentioning scenery right away I'd just have to remind readers that I now live in the Kootenays of British Columbia. I used to think Canada's west coast was the best there could be. Then I went to the American Southwest. It ranks right up there at the top. But the Kootenays on a blue sky day is truly amazing and has to be considered my number one place. NZ is gorgeous, don't get me wrong. But when one travels away from one of the most beautiful places in the world, everything is a bit distorted, I guess.

Monday, 4 January 2010

#15 Friendly!

I couldn't resist taking a picture of this sign on the men's washroom at a Maori campground we stayed in on the North Island. It was another one of these places with an unusual laundry room and kitchen. NZ is a very friendly place. Most of the time we found we were meeting tourists and it seemed less congenial than I'd been led to believe by people who visited here in the '70's. However, it's still a very friendly place and is totally non-threatening. After all, the fear factor doesn't even exist while hiking - there are no snakes, crocodiles, grizzly bears or cougars. The people control their dogs very well and the D0C is basically a "no dog" zone because they don't want the bird, kiwi or penguin eggs disturbed.

I met a couple of hikers a few years older than me where I was able to get tons of information about how the country governs itself and how the average person feels about taxation, the policies of the gov't, etc. My seatmates on the way home from NZ were a couple of Kiwis from Christchurch and they had different opinions about some of this stuff, but I've got to say the people are relaxed, straightforward and very friendly. Although I didn't get invited out to dinner with any of the locals, this couple did suggest that if I wanted to experience Christmas in the tropics I now had a place to stay. What could be friendlier than that?

Sunday, 3 January 2010

#14: Money

Let's face it - we all think about money as a New Year begins! I loved NZ money. It's very attractive and sensible. There are no 1 cent or 5 cent coins and they make use of the $1 and $2 coins. (They don't have "fun" names for these coins - I mistakenly asked someone for a 'twonnie' and got a pretty weird look.) They use something called 'Swedish rounding' to avoid all those extra coins. It means that if something is $0.6 above the decimal, it goes to the next 10. Otherwise, it is rounded down. The 'change' coins in use are a 50 cent, 20 cent, and 10 cent (which looks just like a Canadian penny).

Dave and I constantly have this argument about whether it's good to have the tax added on to items. In NZ a 12.5% GST exists. It's on everything, apparently, and is included in the cost. I really like knowing what something is going to cost in total BEFORE I go to the cashier. I like the cost being the cost. I can probably attribute that to my Alberta upbringing.

Tipping is not encouraged in NZ and that is another practice I really liked.

Getting our Visa bills these days is actually kinda fun - everything costs LESS than we expected. For us, the cost of doing things in NZ, with our 20% gain on the dollar, ended up being very similar to Canadian costs. We love kiwi dollars!

Friday, 1 January 2010

#13 Coastal Features

NZ has a gorgeous coastline and two of my favorite spots, which were a bit unusual, were the Blowhole found on the west coast of the South Island at Punakaiki, and the Moreaki Boulders found on the Pacific coast fairly near to Christchurch. Generally, the west coast of the South Island is as nice as the Oregon Coast and has stunning rock outcroppings. The force of the sea is also amazing.