The purpose of this blog being to document my travels in New Zealand, I must begin with a sort of apologia (or, if you prefer the legalistic term, disclaimer). Prohibited by rationed internet access at my first hostel, various bureaucratic obstacles, and my own inclination toward laziness, I have not begun this blog until my tenth day in the country. As a consequence, many of the impressionistic observations I might have related of my first days here are now lost–refined and clarified to commonality by the lens grinder of experience. Here, instead, are sketches of the blog entries that might have been:
High Planes Drifter
On my first flight, Des Moines to Denver, I sat beside an excitable woman (she of the three-exclamation-point txt) who was surprising her daughter by whisking her away to Las Vegas in celebration of the latter’s twenty-first birthday. I also had a brief but intense moment of panic when I saw that the expiration date on my visa was 4/10/13, but I recalled after landing that New Zealanders use a day/month/year format for dates, and I was free to enter until October.
On the second flight, I sat beside a Japanese girl who was at least five-foot-six and weighed at most eighty pounds. She also spoke about half that many words of English, leading her to violate every instruction at almost the exact moment it was issued. We were instructed to turn off all electronics, and out came her iPod. We were told to put our tray tables up, and she decided to take a nap on hers. Etc. We’re lucky we didn’t crash and die, frankly.
On the third flight, LAX to Auckland, each seat was furnished with its own touchscreen, which allowed customized viewing of TV shows and movies, as well as tracking the flight’s progress and ordering snacks. It was some fancy stuff, and I might have watched several movies except for the level of static in the audio almost deafening my left ear.
I soon arrived in New Zealand–or, as it is known here, New Zedland.
My first bewildered hours in Auckland. The plane landed just before dawn, and I wandered away from the airport instead of taking the bus immediately. I found a small cafe and ate some breakfast before giving up on locating anything for myself, so going back to the airport and asking all the bus drivers where they would take me.
I made it to Oaklands Lodge, a first-rate hostel in a charming if somewhat expensive neighborhood. I then went up Mount Eden, about three blocks away, where I had a view of nearly the whole city–and it is a vast city.
And I walked around the rim.
After that . . . well, I spent the next day sleeping and combing out the various officialistic snaggles that one must comb out. Then I met a couple of French girls, M and L, and, in the following days, two German guys, D and B.
Observations of New Zealand so Far
There aren’t crosswalks everywhere, but where they are, they are serious business. They emit a steady “boop” noise until it comes time for pedestrians to cross, and then it becomes a kind of space-laser machine gun “peeeeew-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh”. Frequently, traffic is stopped in all directions, so that pedestrians can cross diagonally if it suits them.
If you intend to eat a hot breakfast, you had better like eggs or mushrooms, because you’re going to get at least one of the two. The three ways eggs can be prepared are fried, poached, and scrambled. If you order your eggs over medium, they’ll ask if you want them fried, poached, or scrambled. If you don’t order your eggs over medium, they will be awfully jiggly when they arrive.
The natives (in the broader sense) are casual all the time, almost to a fault. A consumer who purchases an item at a shop is likely to be seen off with an almost indifferent, “See ya.” or, “Take it easy.” On my second trip up Mt. Eden (with D), we saw a couple of people struggling to climb out of the crater, having been caught in the act of descending by some figure of alpine authority. As they neared the lip, the ranger told them, “Come on now, guys, there are signs all along here saying ya can’t go down there.” Whereas in the U.S., the police would have been there and tasering their eyes out.
The currency takes some getting used to.
The smallest bill is five dollars, and the smallest coin is ten cents, so there is a bit of rounding going on, and a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to make any given sum. It doesn’t help that the ten-cent coin is copper and sized suspiciously similarly to a penny, while the twenty is silver and nickel sized. For the first two or three days, I would glance at the one silver and six copper above and see it as eleven cents, instead of the eighty it actually is.
It’s a Hostel World
On September ninth, I switched hostels within Auckland, leaving the nice, bright, friendly Oaklands Lodge and finding my new digs at K Road City Travellers . . . and finding this when I first looked up the stairs:
That’s right, the hostel is not merely beside but actually attached to–sharing the same address with–a good, old-fashioned rub-and-tug massage parlor.
Bare bear in mind that prostitution is legal here, but Sensual Relax insists that it provides only “hand relief”. Insists on its website. This website.
Appy Polly Loggia
And now that that’s out of the way–or at least hastily overstepped–I should finish with my beginnings, formally disclaiming that I cannot expect to maintain a steady rate of updates to this blog, given the uncertain situations in which I am and will be living for the next near-year. The best I can recommend is that you start an office pool about when the next update will come.
Tomorrow, Saturday the 14th, I will be going to a
football game rugby match at Eden Park, the big stadium here in town, between the New Zealand All Blacks and the South Africa Belatedly Integrated Blacks and Whites.
Oh, that’s another thing about New Zealand. Rugby.