Saturday October 24, 2015 (New Zealand, Oceania)
We made it safely to New Zealand! Unfortunately it hasn't been a photo bonanza thus far due to a combination of less-than-ideal weather (lots of overcastness and rain) and our velocity of travel. The first day we landed in Auckland we immediately picked up our rental car, had an obligatory stop at an Icebreaker store to stock up on thermals and other merino goodies, then continued on our merry way to a really cool Airbnb homestay in the small town of Cambridge, just outside of Hamilton. Strange that those are both relatively close to each other in our home province of Ontario! But the combination exists here in New Zealand also.
After Cambridge we've passed through New Plymouth and Whanganui. In New Plymouth we had a super-huge run along the beautiful Coastal Walkway – an 11km trail that follows the rugged coast of the North Island. I managed to get a minor sunburn on my neck in positively gloomy conditions. Such is the power of my whiteness. And the power of the southern sun, it would appear. We've also received a lovely welcome from the Kiwis. When we walked into a coffee place on their first day of operation and their point of sale machines weren't working correctly, they asked us to take the coffee for free. When we grabbed a pizza at a local joint in Bell Brook, the proprietor decided to give us a coupon for free focaccia bread for our next visit. And in New Plymouth, a coffee truck run by a fellow Canadian (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan!) gave us both free coffees. We tried to pay. He wouldn't take the money. Granted that last example is perhaps more a demonstration of Canadian generosity as opposed to Kiwi generosity, but everybody we've encountered have been really interested and supportive of our journey. So friendly! I think perhaps a large part of it is the ease of interaction with primarily English-speaking people. We can have conversations that go deeper than "I want this piece of food I just pointed to on the menu. Thank you. Yes. That one. One. Yes. Thank you."
And now we're here in Wellington preparing to catch the ferry to the South Island the day after tomorrow! Once we're down there our pace should slow down a bit and hopefully I get a bit more opportunity to bust out the camera. We've just been haulin' our rental car directly south at such a pace that there hasn't been a lot of opportunity to explore. Roaddd trippp!
Sandra has repeatedly expressed her thankfulness for both clean drinking water (straight from the tap!) and the general availability of well-maintained public toilets (Canada should learn from this!). Accommodation prices have skyrocketed with respect to our time in Southeast Asia, so things are looking rough from a budgetary perspective. I'm not entirely clear how we're going to make it through this segment without overspending when each night's room costs us a third or more of our daily budget. Add in gas and some basic meals and there's not much left for doing anything! Let's see how we make out.
Here's hoping in a week or so we should have some pretty pictures for you. Suffice it to say our experience of the North Island has been rolling green hills with lots of sheep and cows. Charming, yes. But things are about to ramp up significantly as we continue south. Be prepared!