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Sonoma Independence Day Parade

I’m in Sonoma for the Fourth of July, and that means a parade. And what says “Fourth of July” more than a giant fire-breathing iron horse vehicle?

Marauding horse of death

Except maybe someone dressed like a tube of toothpaste.

Toothpaste man

There were some other things too, but I didn’t get photos of them.

Aotearoa Wrap-Up

Home now. 12 hours from Auckland to LA, a surprisingly efficient pass through customs, a jog to another terminal, a few more hours to Seattle, and a crumpled note from the TSA in my luggage, and I’m back in winter.

What would I do differently?

  • Travel lighter. I could have brought fewer clothes, and I’m not sure if it’s worth it to bring a DSLR when you have P&S skills. And I brought five guide books. That’s at least four too many.
  • Less time in Christchurch and Napier, more time in Waitomo Caves and the Bay of Islands.
  • Don’t reserve or pay for things in advance.
  • I sat in the Invercargill airport for three hours. Why didn’t I take a taxi into town and go to the tuatarium? Didn’t think of it until much later.

Random Notes

  • Neil Finn wasn’t kidding. There really are four seasons in one day.
  • People really do say “Good on ya” and “Sweet as.”
  • What’s with all the tattoos? Definitely more than in the US. Is that a Māori influence? What’s called “tribal” in the US does look like it’s based on Māori designs.
  • Judging by accents, there were more German tourists than any other group, with the possible exception of Australians, who I can’t readily identify. After that would probably be British, American, and Chinese, with a smattering of Japanese, French, Russian, Spanish, and Mexican.
  • I looked in several places from Christchurch up to Auckland, but I couldn’t find any huhu grubs. I even ate at a place called the Huhu Cafe in Waitomo Caves Village, but they didn’t serve huhu grubs. So I had the lamb.
  • I never really figured out the New Zealand accent. They seem to add in extra vowel sounds, so that they often slide through several of them on the way to the next consonant. Whenever I talked to one who seemed easier to understand, they turned out to be Australian.
  • Gas was about NZ$2.12 per liter, which is NZ$8.02 per gallon, or about US$6.82 with the exchange rate I was getting. Roughly double what it is in the US.

I could easily spend another three weeks in New Zealand doing different things.

For anyone who cares, the entire flickr photo set is available. It includes many photos that weren’t good enough for the blog.