MP3 track of the day: King of the golden Hall- Lord of the Rings
Weather: A beautiful day in Auckland
I had a lovely nights sleep followed by a nice leisurely morning with sausage sandwiches and the F1 qualifying on the TV … could it be any better? Alex went out to compete in his clubs golf competition (which he came 5th overall … lookout Chris) and Sarah and I went to Devonport.
The weather was perfect and we first went up Mount Victoria to get some pretty views of the suburb of Devonport and city of Sails. After this we went for a walk around the town where I purchased some very (and I mean very) expensive chocolates which are made in Devonport. Those chocolates were probably the best I've ever tasted (even better than Belgian chocs, even though the Kiwi's have taken the ingredients, and cooking techniques, for their chocolates from the boys from Brussels); the balance between the chocolate and the content was perfect and each one I bought was mouth watering … certainly worth £5 for four.
After this we stopped in a cafe shop where I had a hot chocolate and a Lamington strawberry New Zealand cake, with cream, which was lovely. Sarah then took me in her MX5 sports car (very nice it is too) for a ride around the northern part of Auckland to many different beaches. One beach in particular, long beach, saw Sarah and I walk along the beach chatting. As I looked around and saw that the beach was pretty empty, the skies were blue and the sand was white I thought 'this is the life'; how great would it be to head to the beach after work, before heading home for a BBQ (which is exactly what Alex and Sarah do). I am pretty jealous of the Kiwi lifestyle.
We headed back to Sarah's house for lunch before heading north, near to where Alex was playing golf, along the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. At the end of this Peninsula (which is quite a long Peninsula) is, get this, 'Shakespear Park' which is very pretty.
It was 5pm and we then decided to head for home where we met Alex and a fantastic Sunday roast … yum. My time in New Zealand is drawing to a close and, I have to say, I am totally gutted to be leaving. I've thoroughly enjoyed my time in New Zealand, The country has been everything I had expected it to be and more, five weeks was certainly not enough time to enjoy this amazing country but I have got a lot of memories to treasure. In fact my top five New Zealand experiences are...
1) Mount Cook – The scenery around this area was just stunning; beautiful mountain ranges with lakes and great walks, all helped by the great weather I had.
2) Seening Penguins and Dolphins – Seeing the Blue penguin in Oamaru and the Yellow-Eyed penguins also in Oamaru and in Milford Sounds was very exciting. I loved watching the dolphins (in Milford Sound) play with the bow of the ship that I was traveling on.
3) Franz Joseph – It was a joy to walk to the glacier everyday and do some amazing hikes which showed the true beauty of this amazing natural wonder.
4) Queens Town – A lovely town that again I could happily live in; also Furg Burger was amazing.
5) Taupo and Wanaka – Two beautiful towns with loads to do locally and with great views of the two most beautiful lakes within New Zealand, backed by beautiful mountain ranges and national parks … what more could you want?
Below is a little more in-depth detail into certain aspects of New Zealand
Why would you want to stay in a hotel when the hostels are this good? Seriously, the hostels in New Zealand are super clean, great locations and reasonably priced. Most hostels have private rooms so privacy isn't a problem. To date New Zealand's hostels have been the best that I have stayed in within the world.
Whilst here I've stayed in both YHA and Base hostels and, even though Base have a 24hr reception and make your bed for you (unlike YHA), I have spent most of my time in YHA's because firstly they tend to be cheaper for me and secondly the YHA's in New Zealand have less of a party atmosphere where as Base hostels usually have their own bar attached. It's personnel preference, however if you do get stuck choosing the type of hostel you would have preferred not to stay in, you won't be disappointed.
Just like the accommodation, the normal Intercity buses here are so clean it's, frankly, incredible. The services are cheap and tend to take you where you want to go, when you want to go; the online discounts seem to work out cheaper than the 'flexi-pass' which seems a little odd to me. The drivers are friendly and they stop off at tourist sites as well as, sometimes, dropping you off at your accommodation. Most of the coaches that I have traveled on have been less than full, resulting in me usually having two seats to myself and no one reclining their seat into my knees … very comfortable.
The only downside is that, to keep the coaches spotless, they don't allow you to have much food on board; sweets and cold drinks are fine but no meals. The problem with this is that the rest stops usually happen at a cafe, which can be rather expensive. Most cafes have a sign reading 'only food purchased here can be consumed here' making it rather difficult to bring your own food to eat to save on the pennies.
The climate here is very similar to the UK. I arrived in spring and the weather has been hotter than I had imagined; add to this the combination of less tourists and better deals on accommodation, car hire etc I think it makes spring the perfect time for budget travelers. I've only had less than perfect weather a couple of times whilst I've been here, but I've still manged to enjoy myself.
My budget has worked out at £37.97 per day. Yes! I've actually stuck to budget for once in my life and I'm really happy about this because I had tried so hard. The £76.00 I didn't spend in New Zealand can help to pay for my over spending in Fiji. Prices for things are very reasonable over here but you do have to watch it when you get to tourist destinations with little competition (Mount Cook Village for example). At these times it pays to be prepared, especially food wise.
I've found the people over here very reserved, even more so that the British. Striking up a conversation (even a passing hello) has been difficult at times but once you get a Kiwi out of their shell, they are a pleasure to talk to. Travelers here seem to have caught the 'reserved' bug off the natives and I've found it harder here to get chatting to travelers than anywhere else in the world. Still, it hasn't been too difficult.
As you would expect from a developed nation, New Zealand has an excellent infrastructure reaching almost all parts of the country. This, I feel, is no mean feet if you think that the country is roughly the size of the UK but with ten times less the population, spread out and disperse all over the country.
There is very little rail service here, but frankly it isn't needed due to the size of the country, and the population, the coaches do a fine job.
The only issue for me is the internet, cost and speed. Enveloped by this 'global gossip' company internet charges are very high for a weaker service than you get in the UK. It's cost me, roughly, £2.50 per day for the internet (about £75.00 for my trip) which is a hell of a lot. However, within my last week here, I have noticed that libraries give people free internet access; top tip, locate your library within the town / city you are staying, the libraries are usually open late too.
The food is the same as in the UK and, with the exception of Furg Burger in Queenstown, nothing to write home about. The cake over here is just as good as in the UK, which is great after missing cake in North America.
One small tip is that if you plan to shop in the 'Count down' supermarkets then pick up one of their leaflets for their loyalty card. The leaflet has a temporary card included, you can't apply for a real card as you need a New Zealand address but there's nothing stopping you using your temporary card as much as you like.
Even though Alex warned me that driving in New Zealand is a little accident prone, I've rarely seen an accident and everyone seems to behave themselves. The Kiwis drive on the correct side of the road (the left) and seem to follow the UK laws apart from one crazy one that they have added (and I've been told that they might soon scrap).
If you are at a junction and you want to turn right across traffic then, if the car coming towards you is turning left, you have right of way. In theory it sounds like a great way of easing congestion, in reality I wouldn't want to be the driver turning right.
Would I come back?
Yes; I've loved it here and there are so many other things (mostly in the North Island) that I've missed that I want to see. I think the biggest attraction I ran out of time to see was the Bay of Islands, right in the north of the country.
Would I recommend New Zealand to others?
I would have liked to of done a scenic flight over the southern alps and possibly a glacier hike. However this would have resulted in me missing out on something else that I did, and there isn't really anything I didn't enjoy. I suppose my main regret is only having five weeks here as another week or two on the south island, and another month on the north, (a total of ten or eleven weeks) would have been a perfect travelling time for New Zealand. In regards to the topic of time I think I regret staying so long in Te Anau as that cost me four days; the other regret was heading to Queenstown, after Te Anau, instead of Dunedin. If I had gone to Dunedin I could have taken the scenic train through the mountains to Queenstown; this would have saved me the coach journey's I've done this past week, given me a scenic rail ride and saved me a few more days.
However I can say this looking at it with hindsight, but I've had great weather most of the time when I've needed it … maybe if I had changed my plans to the above then maybe the weather might have been terrible, who knows? Also I would have missed Oamaru and the penguins.
The other thing is that if I don't get on in Asia I can always come back (though I think I'm going to love Asia). Oh and there is nothing stopping me coming back to New Zealand in the future.
Overall I've loved traveling in New Zealand; I've seen a lot and I've loved the country. Five weeks isn't enough time but maybe seven or eight would be perfect. I could certainly see myself living in New Zealand and I am tempted, once home, to see what the immigration criteria is. You see, New Zealand is like the UK; everything is pretty close and it has some beautiful scenery, but there are far less people and so the towns are smaller and more beautiful. It will come as a little a bit of a surprise to say that New Zealand isn't my favorite country that I've traveled in, that crown still belongs to Canada. The reason for that is mainly because Canada is so huge you get such a diversity of things to see within it's borders; as New Zealand is so much smaller in comparison you don't get that same range of diversity. Secondly the wildlife is so much more interesting in Canada with Bears, Whales, Elk's and many, many other animals. New Zealand doesn't have the variety of wildlife that Canada has, New Zealand mainly has a lot of birds which are very difficult to see. Finally as New Zealand is quite like the UK in many respects, traveling through Canada was quite different and this does make for more of an experience. However none of this is New Zealand's fault and this is by no way a message to not come and visit New Zealand, Canada only wins by the narrowest of margins.
I suppose the best way of describing the above is having to choose between Rachel Wize (New Zealand) and Angelia Jolie (Canada); Angelia will probably be a lot more fun for a shorter period of time; however for a long term relationship, and a family, Rachel wins hands down due to her being a bit more 'normal' ...a bit more of what is the norm where as Angelia is a little different … you see?
There are very few annoyances here in New Zealand, with the internet being the biggest one, but the use of the word 'sweet' in slang sentences is starting to grind on my tiny brain.
I now move onto Sydney, for two nights; it's not a great deal of time granted, but I reckon I should be able to hear at least one 'g'day' within that time period.
Finally I would like to say that there is no perfect country in the world to live in, however I feel New Zealand is as close as you are going to get.