With Rangitoto in the Background.
Last day today. Checked out, took some pictures at St. Helier’s Bay, got a tall flat white at Starbucks, parked downtown, wandered around, did the SkyJump two more times, wandered around some more, had fish & chips at the Occidental Cafe (formerly the Occidental Hotel, built in 1870), wandered around some more, got some gelato at the ferry building, and took the rental car back. Now I’m at the airport with three hours to kill. My flight has a status of “Relax.”
SkyJump. I did it once with the photos and video, and as soon as I landed, he said I could go again for free if I wanted. So I did. No photos that time. Then they told me that all subsequent jumps would be $75…for life. So I did it again the next day and I got the same offer. He said they could do that because it was a light day, so I think it’s like when a restaurant is slow and they seat you near the front so you can attract other customers. On the third and fourth drops, I dangled for about ten seconds and waved at the kids on the observation deck before dropping.
Also: The minimum age for abseiling in the cave is 15. The minimum age for the SkyJump is 10. So the SkyJump is only 2/3 as sporty as the cave thing. But I did the SkyJump four times, so that’s 6/3 or double cave sportiness.
Took the ferry to Devonport and wandered around. Looked at stuff. Got some ice cream. It’s interesting how many of the plants are familiar: Moreton Bay Fig, magnolia, jacaranda, those spiky things that I don’t know the name of, and the ubiquitous agapanthus.
Took the ferry back. Did some other things.
Driving on the left was surprisingly easy to get used to. Multi-lane roundabouts took a few tries, but after a couple weeks I’m now yelling at other drivers when they’re too timid. Bloody tourists.
The hardest things are:
- Remembering to get in on the right side of the car. There’s no steering wheel on the left.
- Remembering to reach for the seat belt with my left hand.
- Remembering to signal with my right hand.
So I turn on the windshield wipers when I want to go left. No one seems bothered by it. Kiwi drivers seem pretty mellow, for the most part.
Outside of the major cities, there’s nothing like an American freeway. There are two-lane roads, and the major highways are somewhat less unstraight than the country roads, and they have fewer one-lane bridges, and you’re less likely to encounter sheep.
But there are no guarantees. Even the main highways pass through towns and you have to slow down. Outside of towns you see roadside stands selling honey or cheese or whatever, and you get the occasional crazy programmatic architecture.
It’s a lot like traveling in the US before the interstates. It’s fun if you allow the time for it. It’s sort of like going back in time.
Some other things:
There are few stop signs and few traffic lights outside of the major cities. What they have are Give Way signs, usually with roundabouts. If there’s no one else there, you don’t have to stop. The “California Stop” is not only allowed, it’s encouraged. And it seems to work just fine.
It would be difficult to speed. You would need a car that handles a lot better than the Aotearoaramblemobile, for starters. That thing drives like a tractor. But even so, you couldn’t go much over the speed limit or you would die. Consequently, I never saw a cop giving a speeding ticket.
What they have are propaganda signs everywhere. They say things like “Drive to the conditions” or “Drink, drive, die.” I drove all over the North Island and I don’t think I ever saw the same one twice. I don’t know how effective they are, but it probably doesn’t matter if all the bad drivers get themselves killed anyway.
And some complaints:
People of New Zealand! What do you have against street signs? You have them on some corners; why not put them on every corner? Finish the job!
If the parking garages in Auckland are any indication, New Zealand could learn something from California. Say what you will about California, they generally make very nice parking garages. Just don’t try to copy Seattle.
Update: The Britomart parking garage is pretty good. I give it a B+.