Last Days in New Zealand
last entry, I had just arrived in the pleasant tourist town of Taupo in the
central part of the North Island. I spent most of Saturday in Taupo
working on my website and that evening watched television as the New Zealand "Black
Caps" lost to South Africa in cricket.
It seems that all of the New
Zealand national teams contain the word "Black," a tradition that
started with their national Rugby team, the "All Blacks" (so-named for
the color of their jerseys). Rooting for New Zealand Black Caps
in cricket is a bit like rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers in baseball... or
rooting for Brooklyn back when they had a team. The Black Caps are perennial losers against stronger teams like South Africa and Australia
but they have a lot of class and character. Besides, I always like pulling
for the underdog.
is the most volcanic region in New Zealand, so after leaving
Taupo Sunday morning I checked out a few geothermal areas. With all the mud pots, geysers, and fumaroles
here, this area is similar to Yellowstone National Park and is about the same
size. The major difference, though, is that each little geothermic area is
privately owned and charges its own admission, so your wallet starts taking a hit
after a while.
leaving Taupo, I stopped at a place called "Craters of the Moon" and, while the
numerous steam vents weren't that impressive and although it's much smaller than
the like-named National Park in Idaho, at least it was free.
After that, I headed on to Hidden Springs which received rave reviews in my
Lonely Planet guidebook. The colorful geysers and mud pots were
interesting but, at US$8, it was also pretty expensive by New Zealand
standards. Still, I thought it was interesting and I'm glad I saw
it. If you want a real volcanic experience, though, go to Whakatane, fork
over US$40, and ride out to White Island (see News:
December 24, 2001).
left: Lake Taupo, the largest lake
in New Zealand, in the volcanic highlands of the North Island.
center: At Hidden Springs, you
ride a boat across the Waikato River to visit the geysers.
right: Geothermal formations at Hidden Springs. This place
is kind of like the Mammoth area of Yellowstone.
left: Bubbling pools at Hidden
center: Back on the highway,
this is quite possibly the
world's largest dog... and tongue.
right: Back in Auckland after driving around New Zealand for two
months. This is Waiake Beach on a Sunday evening.
The Super Bowl: New Zealand Style
back to Auckland Sunday afternoon after a congested 3-hour drive from Taupo and
got a motel room north of Auckland where I spent that evening packing up. My
plane for Sydney didn't leave until Thursday, but I wanted to get packed up and
ready to go a few days early so I could spend some time visiting the northern
tip of New Zealand called, not surprisingly, The Northland. I stayed in
the motel room the next day, as well -- which happened to be Super Bowl Sunday (or, because of
the time difference, "Super Bowl Monday" in New Zealand) so I watched
the Patriots beat the Rams Monday afternoon while packing two big boxes of camping gear to send off to Sydney and
another box to send back to the U.S.
||Left: In an Auckland motel room,
packing up for my trip to Australia and watching the Super Bowl. They
didn't show any commercials, though, darn it.
as I discovered, New Zealand television stations broadcast only the "European
Version" of the Super Bowl. They're the same video feeds as the American
version, but they use a couple of second-rate American announcers and some
hyperactive Scottish guy (folks in Europe apparently understand football better if
it's translated by a guy who sounds like Scotty from "Star Trek.")
Throughout the game, the announcers painstakingly described many of the game's intricacies, such as the
between "Holding" and a "First Down," since football is, I'm
sure, a mystifying sport in Europe, just as cricket is in America. The biggest disappointment, though,
was that they didn't show any commercials -- undoubtedly the best part of any
Super Bowl broadcast. Frankly, without the commercials the game was
pretty bland, despite both the close score and the sputterings of the lone
Scotsman: "Captain, the Patriots have lost their dilithium crystals!
They can't take much more of this!"
announcers, it actually turned out to be a pretty good game, which is
unusual for a Super Bowl. Still, though, it just wasn't the same
without the ads.
Through the Northland
out of Auckland the next morning and spent the next few days exploring the
Northland. There are some pretty amazing places in the Northland, including the Bay
of Islands and Cape Reinga, and I really wished that I had more time to spend
here. At first, I wasn't sure if I wanted to drive all the way up to Cape
Reinga on the northernmost tip of New Zealand, especially since the last 20 miles
of the drive were on a dirt road, which my car wasn't insured on. However,
since I had driven to the southernmost tip at Bluff four weeks earlier, I
figured I better make it up to Cape Reinga, as well. I'm glad I did,
too, because this is one of the most spectacular parts of the country. Standing by
the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, you really feel like you're at the end of the
On my way
back to Auckland that afternoon, I dropped by the town of Waitangi, one of the
oldest European settlements in New Zealand. As luck would have it, this
was February 6, also known as Waitangi Day, New Zealand's national holiday and
similar to the 4th of July in the U.S. As I discovered, being in Waitangi
on Waitangi Day is a bit like being in Philadelphia on Independence Day, or in
Punxsatawney, Pennsylvania on Groundhog Day.
already touched on the Maori situation in New Zealand, but I'll fill in some of
the details here. On
February 6, 1840, the English and the Maoris signed a treaty in Waitangi bringing the Maoris under the protection of the English. By signing the
treaty, the Maoris didn't give up any land, but they did allow
English agents to act as intermediaries to buy land from the Maoris and then
sell it to English colonists -- not at all like the land-grabs that took place
in North America between the American settlers and Native Americans.
general, the relationship between the Maoris and the whites was (and is) much
smoother than the situation in American between whites and Native Americans.
Overall, one of the things I've been impressed with in New Zealand is how much
better the native tribes have assimilated into the white culture compared to how
Native Americans have been treated in the U.S. Maybe "co-exist"
is a better word than "assimilate" though, since, although more evident in the
north than in the south, the Maori culture is very strong throughout New Zealand
and Maoris are treated much more as equals than Native Americans are in the U.S.
driving over 500 kilometers (300 miles) that day on narrow, winding roads out to Cape Reinga
and down to Waitangi, my one-hour drive to the Auckland airport the next morning
was downright leisurely. I filled up the Corolla's tank and dropped the
car off with Sigit at Easy Rental who was happy to see me, and his car, back in one
piece. After we had a nice chat, Sigit drove me out to the airport where I said
goodbye and bade farewell to the trusty Corolla, which had carried me 8,000
kilometers around New Zealand without a lick of trouble. Sigit's a good guy, he runs an efficient company, and if you want to rent a
mid-1990s car in New Zealand for a few weeks or a few months at a much better
rate than you can get from Hertz or Avis, I'd recommend contacting him at
left: Heading through the
Northland (the peninsula north of Auckland) the next day. This is near Dargaville.
right: Check out the license plate: "Dels V8".
left: Typical vista in the
center: Heading up to Cape Reinga,
near the end of Highway 1.
right: Looking west from Cape Reinga, the northernmost point in
New Zealand. That's the
westernmost point in New Zealand off in the distance.
left: The lighthouse at Cape Reinga,
on a beautiful, windy afternoon.
center: The signpost at Cape
Reinga, and as far north as you can go in New Zealand. I've now been to
the northernmost and southernmost points of the country.
right: Cable Bay near Kaitaia.
left: I visited the Bay of Islands and Waitangi on Waitangi Day, New Zealand's national day. There
were LOTS of people there, including New Zealand's very capable Prime Minister,
center: Filling up my Corolla
in Auckland, just before I flew to Sydney. My faithful friend carried me
over 5,000 miles to all parts of New Zealand without any problems.
right: At the Auckland Airport, waiting for my flight to Sydney.
It All Together
waiting in the Auckland airport for my plane to Sydney, I thought about my
through New Zealand. Although it was pretty rainy during my first month
there and was pretty darn crowded up until late January, I had a good time
overall and I'm really glad I saw the country. I did a lot of driving and
saw a lot of the country, having visited every large city in New Zealand and
every town with more than about 10,000 people.
Here are some trip stats:
Extremes Visited: Northernmost point,
westernmost point, southernmost point, easternmost city.
Kiwis Seen: 0 (well, o.k., one
stuffed one in a museum)
was more than statistics, though, because despite the rain and all the crowds
dealt with, I met a lot of really terrific people. I've said it before but
I think New Zealanders are, for the most part, the friendliest folks I've ever
met. They're more courteous, honest, and trusting than most Americans.
They're also more naive -- but in a good way, perhaps the way Americans were 30 or 40 years ago
before they got so damned rude and suspicious.
Not every person
here greeted me with a smile and a handshake, but I can count on the fingers of one hand the number
of rude Kiwis I ran into during my two months there -- even if my hand were
missing three fingers. And during all my travels, I encountered only
one rude driver: a bumper-riding truck driver north of Auckland. Looking
back on my trip through New Zealand, I'd say without a doubt that the best part of it was
meeting the people, even more than eating the fish and chips! Even though
I was 8,000 miles from the U.S., just about every Kiwi I met during these
past two months made me feel like I was home.
saw a lot of amazing places. Trying to describe New Zealand to someone who
has never been there is difficult, but I'll give it a shot. As I've said
many times, the scenic variety in New Zealand is incredible and there isn't any
single state in the U.S. that New Zealand can be compared to. If I had to
choose, though, I'd say that in terms of vegetation, climate, culture, attitude,
and geography, New Zealand is like a combination of Oregon and Hawaii.
It's not like Oregon and it's not like Hawaii, but it's somewhere in
between. As I've said before, though, you also have to throw in parts of
Alaska, California, and the Midwest.
New Zealand is only as large as Oregon, it seems much bigger because of the
variety of scenery and because of the narrow, winding roads, which makes any
trip long and slow. Believe me, you can't see all of New Zealand in a few
weeks -- or even in a couple of months. I know because I tried, and as much
territory as I covered (over 5,000 miles worth), I still don't feel that I
saw it all.
number of activities here, if your budget allows, is also incredible, and much
more so than anyplace in America. I didn't go on as many adventures as I
wanted because the main goal of this trip was to see as much of the country
as possible in two months (the rainy weather and the crowds didn't help either). But if you like adventure activities, like hiking, bungy-jumping,
jet-boating, helicopter rides, or just about any other imaginable amalgam, like
bungy-jumping-jet-boating-helicopter rides, New
Zealand has it.
As far as
when to visit, don't make the mistake that I did by visiting between mid-December and
early February unless you enjoy crowds or have lots of reservations. Next
time I come, I'll visit either before or after the summer peak, such as November
or March. The weather
during those times is still pretty nice and the crowds are gone, so from what
I've heard, it's a great time to see the country. Even the winter here (June and July) can be a good time to visit because you'll have
the place to yourself, although some accommodations and activities will be
ever come back to New Zealand? Yes, definitely. But now it's
on to Australia.
18, 2002 (Bega, Australia)
2, 2002 -- Part 2 (Taupo, New Zealand)
2, 2002 -- Part 1 (Taupo, New Zealand)
25, 2002 (Hokitika, New Zealand)
20, 2002 (Geraldine, New Zealand)
16, 2002 (Te Anau, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 2 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 1 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 1 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
24, 2001 (Wellington, New Zealand)
20, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
16, 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)
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Travels (2001-02) >
New Zealand Trip
> February 7, 2002