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.
- 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.
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.