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Beyond the Pale - A 'pale' is a fencepost. The English Pale was a boundary in Ireland marking out the part of Ireland under direct English rule circa 1450 (which included Dublin and environs). Those that lived 'beyond the pale', outside of English rule, were considered out of control and uncivilised. You decide...

Sunday, November 5, 2000

Fragments from the Australia Diaries 2000 (part 24) - NZ North Island

Great seat, lots of leg room
NEW ZEALAND, ADVENTURE PLAYGROUND OR LARGE SHEEP FARM?

New Zealand is the BOMB Baby, having said that...
at this point in my life, I couldn't see myself living here. It's great place for backpacking adrenaline junkies but to actually settle down here…maybe if I met and found true love with 'Shane' and his flock of 10,000 sheep, who knows! (Every guy in New Zealand is called 'Shane', every guy in Australia is called 'Steve' - fact!).

Come back to me in ten years and I might be all about the quiet life and desperate to live here. Maybe with all the greenery and scenery it reminds me too much of home, (well, if Ireland had a tan, and went to the gym loads, and was ridiculously good looking).

Auckland is lovely; it’s quiet, very spread out, in fact second only to LA in geographical size (who’s been reading the Lonely Planet - Dom, lent us his book and it's become our bible, hope he doesn't mind it coming back in ribbons!). Despite Auckland's size you can pretty much see the highlights of the city in a couple of days (if you're pushed for time). Walk along Queen Street, take a cruise of the harbour (SO many boats, hence the nickname "City of Sails"), catch a ferry and go explore a different neighbourhood. There are lots of parks, skytop views, little islands to keep your camera snap happy.



After a while we were content to move on, especially since our random Canadian roommate in our hostel was proving to be a tad psychotic (think, The Shining). Top tip - If you can get/afford a private room in a hostel, go for it, it will still be cheaper than a hotel but an extra piece of privacy makes a difference. You can still meet people and make friends, hostels in Australia and New Zealand are generally very well run and focus on promoting local tourism and creating a collegiate atmosphere (Happy Hours, BBQ Nights, etc).

We wanted to head north and explore The Bay of Islands. Due to a mixture of laziness and frugality we didn't want to hire a car, so we had no choice but to join up with the Kiwi Experience. Most backpackers to the Antipodes at some point join an organised tour. The most popular being the New Zealand Kiwi Experience Tour Bus. Fearing forced camaraderie and organised 'fun', we were reluctant to join a tour aimed at 'young people'.


It was exactly as I imagined, lots of intense people desperately trying to befriend others with talk of how M. A. D. Krazee they are. A lot of travelling stories one-upmanship, "Hello you say, that reminds me of the time I was in Burma, excuse me, Myanmar, there I was, arm wrestling with a phyton when Aung San Suu Kyi grabs me, folds me into her arms and whispers in my ear 'you make me want to be a better person'". Give me strength.

(I was never going to admit it was a super convenient way to fully embrace what the country had to offer).

The bus included the pained “getting to know each other” games (groan). Maybe on another day I might have been more into it, and in fairness it is what these backpacker tours are famed for, but there should be an opt-out button for recluses like me. They swapped everyones tickets around with the intention that you find the person with your ticket and then, I dunno, talk about their troubled childhood, feel their pain and other such tripe. Of course John Wayne had my ticket, he was clad in cowboy boots, ten gallon hat, wranglers, leather waist coat, he looked like some outlaw on the run from the sheriff. We exchanged our tickets in silence. 



Oh, I just remembered, possibly the most painful part of the journey was sitting behind this Canadian girl who after an hour of voluminous drivel about how shy she was to an unfortunate German bloke sitting beside her (even after he donned his “feed-the-world” earphones). She took the only option available to her and started reading out loud passages from The Catcher in the Rye. I don’t mean the odd paragraph here and there I mean full chapters! Good God.

Thankfully the Bay of Islands lived up to its glowing reputation. It was nature at its best. It's where the first European settlers arrived and once you see it you can understand why they settled. 

Hhmm, maybe New Zealand as a place to live is growing on me afterall :o)

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