Monday, March 31, 2008

March 30, 2008 - Whangarei

We've spent the past few days getting stuck back into our boat projects while we wait for our parts to make it up here from Auckland. Since boat work is so uninteresting, I thought I'd share a few of the lessons we learned about traveling around New Zealand via car, as at least that info might be of use to somebody out there.

We primarily stayed in double rooms in hostels. Use the BBH guide, which is available free at information centers, and pay attention to the ratings - there is a big difference between the 90%+ places and everywhere else. We much preferred the smaller hostels and tried to avoid the ones that the tour buses frequented. Bed linens were always provided for double rooms and occasionally towels. We brought our own pillows with us, just because we really like our creature comforts.

Most of the kitchens at the hostels had everything we could conceivably want for cooking breakfast and dinner. Some provided tea and coffee and a few even put out freshly baked bread in the morning. We brought the following things with us and used them all the time:
  • French press
  • Stemless Riedel glasses
  • pepper grinder
  • Maldon salt
  • Wicked sharp chef's knife
  • Long tongs for grilling
  • Chilly bin (aka cooler bag)
  • Freezer packs to keep the chilly bin cool
We wish we had brought a corkscrew with us. In this land of screwcaps, we managed to keep buying bottles of wine with corks in them and not every hostel had a corkscrew in the utensil drawer. We also wish that we had brought more socks with us. We spent much more time wearing cold weather gear than we expected to.

The vast majority of the rooms we stayed in were lit by a single bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. If you like to read before going to sleep, bring your headlights or buy some cheap bedside lamps that fit in the kiwi outlets.

We wish that we'd brought snorkel gear to dive for paua and crayfish. Sten is also suffering from the delusion that he would have found gold in the rivers if he'd just had the right gear. And he wishes that he'd brought a lightweight fishing rod. Several times he considered buying one to use along the way.

We primarily stayed at hostels, but we also spent two nights at motor parks. One had pots and pans available in the communal kitchen, one didn't. At the latter, we wound up drinking wine out of our stemless crystal glasses while sprinkling sea salt and applying a liberal dose of freshly ground pepper to the reheated leftover pasta that we were eating out of old yogurt containers with plastic forks. Classic.

There is very little traffic on the South Island, so it is a good place for a novice left-hand side of the road driver to get the hang of it. The only trouble we had were a few times when we pulled out onto a section of road with no signs or traffic and Sten would forget that he was supposed to be driving on the left. A quick "left, Honey, left," from me and he would be back on the correct side of the road.

New Zealand strikes us as a very safe place. We never felt uncomfortable about our personal safety (except while sledging . . .). A few times we were concerned about having our car broken into, but nothing ever happened to it. All in all, New Zealand is a very easy and comfortable country to travel around. And if the dollar ever recovers, it might actually become an economical destination again.

No comments: