Saturday, February 27, 2010
Finally ~ An Update
10:58 pm est
It’s been a while
since we updated the blog. Not for lack of writing the blog notes but for lack of willingness to carry the computer to our
free WiFi spot up the hill. It’s a steep hill!
been using our phones for our internet access and blogging from there isn’t easy. But, now we are in a hotel with free
WiFi. So here are the missing blog entries. Thomas, now you can go back to armchair’ing our vacation. Hope we’re
living up to your expectations.
(Having problems loading photos; will
try again later.)
Thursday February 24, 2010
Butt Sliding, Flip Flop Wearing Backpacking
After negotiating with ‘Jolly Roger’ for a campervan we ended up deciding on a late model Toyota
Corolla, late being “late 1990’s”. The choice was driven by 3 main factors; first, price. You can’t
beat the price we got on the Corolla (19 bucks NZD). Second, rental contract. The ‘just bring it back in one piece and
all is well’ clause was very attractive when reminded that they drive on the left here. And third, campervans are much
smaller than American RVs and the thought of sleeping in one was not so attractive, especially considering all the spicy food
we are ingesting.
So after spending the morning negotiating and
signing the contract we headed into the city on one of our last car-less days. We travelled up the Sky Tower for awesome views
of the Auckland area and then went to see Avatar in 3D at the IMAX theatre. As expected it was awesome. It was interesting
that there was no butter or salt for the popcorn in the movie theater. This along with no fries with sandwiches and no chips
with burritos must contribute to the slimness of the Kiwis. Not to mention the endless hill climbing to navigate the city.
Kiwis have great legs!
While exiting the theatre we heard some loud chanting by a large
group of people. We managed to get outside just in time to catch the University of Auckland freshmen crowd. They were dressed
in costume (read men wearing skirts) and parading through the streets chanting. Somehow Jeff is always a target. A young man,
dressed as a woman proclaimed to the crowd that he ‘really had to pee’. Clearly some alcohol was consumed before
the parade. The alcohol seemed to make this young man lonely. He approached Jeff saying, ‘I just need a hug from one
of these foreigners from other nations’. Nothing like having a guy in a skirt, proclaiming to need to pee want to hug
On our last car-less day we got a cab ride to public
golf course. Add in that all golf courses in Auckland are walking courses to the Kiwi slimness recipe. And remember, this
is a hilly town. We had a great day on the course with a local plumbing company owner Simon. [edit
by Jeff] Jeff kicked my ass and shot 78…. He has plans for a tattoo. [edit by Karen; 78 from the girlie tees]
Yesterday we ventured out with the car; it was quite the adventure
with both of us driving. Karen from the passenger seat where the steering wheel should have been and Jeff
from the right lane where the car should have been. We quickly learned the significance of the “bring
it back in one piece clause”. Jeff is still trying to figure out why the Kiwi’s would want
to turn the windshield wipers on to signal a turn, Karen still feels obligated to remind Jeff to “stay left “Pops
would have loved it, considering all the times we spent telling him to “look left” after his strokes.”
We are adapting and in a few more days we should be fully acclimated.
plan was to drive through wine country and stop in a small town called Helensville for lunch and head on to Shelly Beach.
Helensville didn’t look all that interesting for lunch options so we continued to the next town. Let’s just say
we ended up turning back to Helensville to eat at the most run down ‘southern fried chicken’ place you can imagine.
We were hungry. Now we pack sandwiches when we go.
up on grease we continued on our way to Shelly Beach. We missed the turn and decided to keep going. It looked like the road
would end at the coast and there had to be a beach or at least a great view. So we winded up and down the hills, admiring
the views (not you Jeff!). Oddly enough when you suck in going around turns the car doesn’t get any narrower. More winding.
More turning. Surely the road must end soon. We were certain we would be treated by a great view. Finally the road ended …
and we were just at the end of a road. No view. No beach. Nada! But, wait! Jeff spotted something. There were some ‘benches’
beside the fence and an entrance sign to the regional park. Great! Climb the fence to enter the park. In flip flops. …
No problem. Over we go. On the other side? A steep hill. A very steep hill. Covered in pine needles. But now we must
see what is at the bottom. So off we go. If only I had a luge sled I could have avoided slipping in the flip flops and sliding
down the hill on my butt! Sure are glad we brought our hiking boots.
Alas the winding, turning, climbing and sliding were all worth it. We found ourselves on
a gorgeous black sand beach on the Tasman Sea. In the entire time we spent playing on the beach we saw 3 other people. Fabulous!
Friday, February 26, 2010
We decided the temp fate with the Golf Gods again. We played at Tiger Woods Caddie’s
home course. What a great course, nothing fancy just ‘typical’ NZ golf. We
had fantastic vistas, a great wind and some of the worst golf scores ever . It was a bit hilly but it turned out to be good exercise considering all the places we hit golf balls.
Jeff actually had a shot go into a tree and stay there. We also had a runaway cart but nothing damaged.
View from the 14th Green:
The driving is getting better, Karen still reminds Jeff to stay left, and still slams
on the brakes and turns a non-existent steering wheel, but we are venturing out more. Renting a late 90’s
corolla sure makes us appreciate our “Old” Honda and Land Rover.
that night we decided to head out to another movie. This time we went to our ‘local’ theatre. It was fantastic!
Assigned seats, WIDE seats and fully licensed. ‘Would you like a bottle of wine with your popcorn?’ … Duh!
Saturday, February 27, 2010
We just hung around today, read some books, checked out a few shops and
packed up to head north tomorrow. We walked into a bike shop that specialized in triathlon gear.
We didn’t get 3 steps in and the guy said “Welcome to NZ, where are you from?” I
can’t imagine what tipped him off? Me in my Tilley hat and camera tied to my waist or Karen in her
hippie shirt and her giant purse?
For the evening we planned to take the bus to the Lantern Festival. Apparently it is associated with the
Chinese New Year and it typically has a good turnout. The park it was being held in was easily accessible
from the bus. We set out early and got on the Link bus, which makes a giant loop around the city.
We were both engrossed in our books and when we looked up we have missed our stop…. No big deal, we’ll
just go around again, about 30mins later we came to where we thought we should have stopped and noticed the bus was not on
the normal route…. No big deal, we’ll just hop off and walk the rest of the way. So we walked
about a mile, got some directions from some locals and were at Albert Park enjoying the Lanterns and some great Asian Food.
The park was packed! There was a travel agent advertising trips to China…after that crowd
and the chance of a crowd 1.3 billion people could make we decided against it.
While standing up on the hill enjoying the food and crowd we turned to notice that we could see our
apartment. Right from the park. So for the past week we have been taking the bus into the city when all we had to do was cross
the street and climb the hill. Since we were up and the apartment was down we decided to walk back. In ten minutes we were
back in our room. LOL!
Sunday February 28th,
Today we left Auckland and headed for the ‘Northland’;
the top part of the North Island. We enjoyed Auckland but we were ready to venture out and see some of this great country.
The Northland is the area where Kiwis come to vacation. This is their beach hot spot. School just started again last week
so their holiday season is over and we expect to encounter a small crowd. We got the ‘kids’ (suitcases) loaded
in the back seat. Jeff refused to let me buckle them in. I’m still not sure why. They’re like little people in
the back. Off we went.
We were so happy, making our way easily
out of the city listening to some tunes in our fancy rental car. Then the news breaks in. There has been an 8.8 earthquake
in Chile and as a result there are tsunami warnings on all east coast beaches and ports of New Zealand are closed. And we’re
headed … to an east coast beach. Wohoo!!! But short of climbing a mountain it is kind of tough to get away from the
beach in New Zealand. So, off we go.
We are now in our hotel room
in Paihia, The Bay of Islands. It’s great! Much more spacious than our apartment in Auckland. It is a bit old but, spotless.
We’re about to head out for a walk and check things out. Apparently the tsunami warnings have been lifted. Or, at least
that’s what the hotel staff has told us. We’ll spend three days here exploring the ‘Northland’.
from our hotel:
View from dinner:
Full Moon; No Tsunami:
Sunday, February 21, 2010
5:20 pm est
We've been in Auckland now for three days and have been having a great time, relaxing and getting acquainted with
NZ lingo and ways.
We were lucky that our planned day to Devonport, across the bay, coincided with their Food and
Wine Festival. It was a great experience of the Kiwi lifestyle. They are very social, happy people. They hang out in crowds,
the women outnumber the men by a long shot. The men have to keep up appearances to have a chance with the great number of
women; oh darn! The women aren't dressed fancily but they mostly were wearing sundresses. People go barefoot in public
places.They take their sunscreen very seriously; there are huge pump bottles everywhere for public use. We can see why.
They say the ozone layer is very thin here, a fact we can't personally verify. But we can verify that this is a very
hot sun. The difference between standing in the sun and shade is amazing. A quick stop in the shade will cool you down quickly.
Overall life is not taken so seriously here.
Devonport Food and Wine Festival:
We've explored most of Auckland by now, on foot. That is quite a feat considering Auckland
is a hilly city; think San Francisco like. It is a great city. We've had fun. But we are itching to get out of the city
and explore the country. We had planned to stay in Auckland for 2 weeks but are considering ditching out of here after just
1 week. Jeff has been negotiating with 'Jolly Roger' on a camper van. They are reasonably priced. But then we found
we can get a late model mini-van for much less. And, there is no charge for 'dints and scratches'. Not a bad idea
remembering that they drive on the other side of the road here.
Jeff just found that we can get a 'backpacker
car' for about $10 a day. I veto that idea. Our luggage won't fit easily and lots of cussing and throwing will take
place. It would bring a whole new meaning to throwing your clubs.
Today we plan to visit the Sky Tower, the tallest building
in the Southern Hemisphere, to get a good view of the city and surrounding area.
Friday, February 19, 2010
The Longest Day Ever!
3:34 pm est
Friday February 19,
2010 ~ The Longest Day Ever!
Followed by the longest nap ever.
We *had* planned on the trip to New Zealand being long and weary.
And, it was. But for the most part is was as expected and uneventful. We had a 2-hour delay in Las Vegas but with a planned
6-hour layover in San Francisco it didn’t matter. In fact, it helped break up the trip a bit more. Air New Zealand was
great. The service was great, the plane was fine and the food was as good as you can expect. Our row mate ‘Charlie’
was a perpetual traveler. He gave up his home, by choice, three years ago and travels perpetually. Our kind of guy.
Only 12.5 more hours to go:
What we hadn’t planned on was how long the day would
seem when we arrived. We arrived at 5:00 am Friday morning. After going through immigration, customs and the biohazard checkpoint
our NZ adventure had officially begun. We got stopped at the biohazard checkpoint because of our golf shoes. They had to be
dipped and cleaned.
We found our way to our apartment and by 7am
we were enjoying a coffee in Parnell with a WiFi connection. We knew we had to stay awake until local bedtime to beat the
jet lag. We made it out of the apartment building without trying to sleep … well, okay the fact that we could only
drop our luggage and not check in yet helped.
in and unpacking we headed out to the harbourfront. Already it had felt like a full day and we were beginning to unwind. 8:30!
It’s only 8:30. Oh my! How are we going to make it until bedtime?
We enjoyed the walk to the harbourfront, checked out the bus
and train station, got some info on how to get around and started to orient ourselves. Great! We must have killed some good
time by now. 10:00! What! Good grief!
So we carried on to
the Viaduct, the hot spot on the Auckland harbourfront ~ fantastic. We found a nice bar with a second story view of the harbour
and enjoyed watching the activity below. I was surprised by the size of the yachts in the harbour; they were huge! I suppose
we shouldn’t have been, after all these are pretty big waters around New Zealand. Ah! We enjoyed some good food and
decided to head back for a bite and to turn in for the night. We made it! … 12:30!? It’s only 12:30.
We could not believe how long this day was feeling and we were exhausted.
Short of whatever sleep we managed to grab on the plane we had been awake for 31 hours.
So, off we went. Found a grocery store, got some essentials and headed back to the apartment. A short
stop and then we would go grab some dinner. By then surely we could call it an early night and survive.
By 4:30 we were watching some TV and gave in. ‘Just a short nap’. We’ll get up in
2 hours to get some dinner and then call it a night.
the longest nap ever. We woke at 6:30 … AM! WOW! But we are refreshed and heading out for the day.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Less than 48 Hours to go!
6:28 pm est
We are officially packed, Mikey (the dog) is at Nana Camp and we are running our last errands. Want to track us as we go?
Here's the timeline from leaving our house to arriving in Auckland. Auckland is 18 hours ahead of us here on the East
In Eastern Standard
our house: 5:00 am Wednesday Feb 17
Orlando airport: 7:55 am Wednesday Feb 17
Arrive Las Vegas: 1:20 pm Wednesday Feb. 17 (10:20 am local LV time)
Leave Las Vegas: 1:55 pm Wednesday Feb. 17 (10:55 am local LV time)
Arrive San Francisco: 3:45 pm Wednesday Feb. 17 (12:45 pm local
Leave San Francisco: 10:00
pm Wednesday Feb 17 (7:00 pm local SF time)
Arrive Auckland New Zealand: 11:19 am Thursday Feb 18 (5:19 am Friday Feb 19th local NZ
Friday, February 12, 2010
5 Days until we leave for our New Zealand adventure!
5:36 pm est