Here are some notes from our travel log:
nz - general comments
-no screens on windows. very few bugs
-some liquor stores have bulk liquor - excellent!
-many restaurants don't open til 6. they may open for breakfast. larger cities have McDonalds, Burger King, kfc, dennys, pizza hut
-most two lane roads marked with broken white line, regardless of passing areas. Headlights are usually not on during rain.
-cell phone - set up acct 1wk ahead of time. apparently good coverage.
-gps - 7940 miles Mt manganui to home, 96.5 mi mt man to akl, 71 mi to taupo.
-phones - all touch-tone, frequencies same as US. wall jack are a non-compatible fat RJ11-like connector. connector on the phone itself is often a real RJ11. to connect a laptop, visit a electronics specialty place for a NZRJ11 (my name) to RJ11 converter or bring a RJ11 to alligator clip adaptor (which I used to clip to the surge suppressor inside the wall jack). the modem seemed to work fine. MCI DOES have access to US contrary to MCI's info.
-currency has different colors for denominations. many coins - 5,10,20,50,$1,$2,schilling. bills are 5,10,20 no 1 or 2.
-220v w different outlet. each outlet is switched.
-every hotel room stocked w/tea and milk. owners often will cook for you.
-driving - Hertz car was $NZ137/day ford futura 4d very zippy. road signs sometimes sparse. "motorway" - main highway has no speedlimit signs but it's proably 100km/h. The local motor club is AA which has reciprocal agmt with AAA. AA agent told us that we are traveling the "golden triangle". maps are often misleading.
-tv sky channel - apparently UHF subscription. auckland. cnn int'l, bbc, local.
-Qantas lets bus class let us use their lounge while waiting. free snacks, self-serve cocktails, only 2 phones, 1 has RJ11jack. allow at least 2 hrs for flt xfr at LAX - it's a zoo!
-bring temp conversion chart
-Auckland airport - small. just big enough for 747 - used entire runway, unlike lax where we had a mile to spare
-tipping - none expected anywhere.
- allow 1 full day to recover from 27 hours of travel (11am from house, 8am arrival at motel)
-very friendly folks!!
-NZ is 6 hours earlier than EDT, add one day. this means you send email to NZ/AU one day in the future - I asked for stock quotes so I could buy knowing tomorrow's prices, but it didn't work. (you can say 18 hours later, but it harder to compute)
-coastal areas don't have the salty air that we have - esp CA. very little corrosion.
-lots of rocks in water - tricky and dangerous boating, but more boats per capita than anybody (?)
-huge tides - apparently 6 or 8 feet.
-drive on left, right hand drive, turn signal lever on right (that was the worst!). practice in cayman, jamaica, bahamas. if you've never done a clockwise "roundabout"(traffic circle) it's a tweak to the brain. left turners yield to oncoming right turners.
-toilets don't flush CW or CCW - it's a straight chute down. Bart simpson was wrong.
relations - relatives
roundabout - traffic circle
righto - ok
straight up - ok
prezzies - xmas presents
crawler lane - slow traffic lane
something akinder - something's wrong
scorched almonds - roasted almonds
nappies - diapers
hire - rental
12/15 Friday - leave house in Florida at 11AM. get to TPA, go through security, they ask about one of my bags. I expect them to be curious about the one with all the electronic toys (GPS, scanner, computer, small tv, etc etc etc), but they want to look in the scuba bag. They won't allow the dive knife. oops, I forgot all about that. It is pretty nasty looking, Even though they do give you metal knives on the plane. so i take it back to the ticket counter and check it, praying it really makes it to auckland (it does).
1PM flight to CLT leaves late, but connects OK
FL to LA late due to headwinds. get to Qantas ticket counter, who says reservation was cancelled. We get on OK, with seats upstairs in 747-400. 12 hour flight. 3 course meals, toiletry kit, cabinets by windows for stuff and use for leg rests.
buy 1.114L liquor(bacardi 12.50, citron 13.50 - pretty good deal) each from Duty free shop. forget to pick it up at gate, but they bring it to our seats.
Very classy gentlemen was the flight director. pancakes were under cooked. filet dinner was great. ice cream desert - too full, this is the second dinner. periodic rough air and excitement of trip - can't sleep but 2 hours at best.
difference between 1st class (talked to the fella who serves 1st class and other crew members)
1. seats recline more and are motorized
2. 8 course meals
3. personal vcr w/tape libarary
4. located in forward most room.
top section is business class, not 1st. coach is supposed to have slightly wider seats than typical coach, but a peek in the back reveals a cattle bin.
I brought GPS to track flight progress, but they have way cool nav display with lax-akl map showing plane in progress, speed, alt, time countdown.
small tv's in front of armrests have a bunch of movies including Santa Claus w/timallen, Waterworld, etc.
breakfast at 4:30am. we look like we've been run over by a truck, but attendants still look great - they wouldn't tell me how they did it, swore there wasn't a secret shower on board.
12/16 Never happened - crossed date line.
12/17 Sunday arrive 7AM AKL. it's actually a 12.5 hr flight due to 90 mph headwinds
customs, even after getting dive equipment - no line. have to go to "red area" cause we have used sporting eq (scuba) and some almonds and dried apricots. almost no line, cruise right on through. after customs we encounter a huge crowd of awaiting friends and family - none for us. they're real friendly. Hertz - no line. bank machine - gives only $NZ300, no line. Deb exchanges curency - no line. reconfirm QF departing flgit - no line.
we are smelly ragged and wide awake - we're here!!
it's rainy and gray. land in the rain, thick cloud cover, lots of cross winds making landing rather exciting for a 747.
business class worth every damn penny.
get to hotel at 8:30 - even the temporary room won't be available until 10:30, so we drive through auckland and find a cafe for another breakfast (it's 5 hours later, so we really deserve another meal)
at the cafe, the lack of sleep begins hitting us hard. we drive right by a flea market which would be great for gifts. rats. we also skip kelly tarletons adventure (for now) - cool snow machine ride. we are totally vegetated and useless.
1030 we get back and they gave us a temporary room for shower/nap. ahhhhh.
we then get our regular room and I work on getting the laptop hooked up to the NZ phone system. get mail, etc.
chinese restaurant - authentic - but no rice w/food. byob is typical for restaurants.
12/18 Monday - 7am check out, look at point Chevalier (great park) and head for k-mart to pick up cooler. buy food. ice is only at petrol stations. gas is .88/Litre - full serve (only?). bought 4 lotto tix for a special $NZ3M game - normal jackpots are $NZ300K
get on "motorway" and head for Tauranga (tare ane' ga), home of Mt Maunganui (Mane' ga newey)
lots of traffic circles - apparently very efficient. stop lights only in heavy traffic areas, mostly Auckland.
. stop at AAA place for info, guy says we're traveling the golden triangle and Australia is a dust bowl except for perimiter, contrasting with NZ which is very lush (and soggy).
stop at scenic outlook for lunch from cooler. very windy roads, folks tend to drive 120% of speed limit (100km/h).
often see "speed camera area" signs - one had a small station wagon w/a photo radar unit. apparently they mail the car owner a ticket but no points.
stop at whangamata - it's like northern exposure - the radio station is on the main street corner. not busy at all considering it's tourist season - this was the nicest town we found Monday.
stop at Waihi beach - almost as nice. stop at Athenree, kind of a surf bum area.
arrive at mt maunganui - a small town on an island with a huge shipping port, then a little mountain at the end. a small spit of land sticks out in the ocean - it's about 90' high.see pix
lots of tourist shops. a new alchohol ban this year due to out-of-control partying (rats!): 3Pm - 3Am no alcohol on beach. we're at Wainui thermal lodge, 1 block from beach, 2 blocks from sound side beach, 2 blocks from mountain. good central loc, but one motel is across street from beach - outrigger. no other hotels (!?!)
about 5 blocks of shops. t-shirts were $NZ30!! not very fancy, either - so we tried k-mart who had no souvenir shirts.
motel has hot salt mineral water. also a spa which they fill on command - we did it - a huge cement hot tub.
tv has 3 channels, all suck. spacious place, w/kitchen
none of the towns visited today were crowded, despite expectations of holiday crowding.
there are many creeks and rivers. stop at some redwoods and find sides scratched up - apparently from bears(!). in these creeks there are supposed to be semi-precious gems (amethyst, rose quartz, etc.)
12/19 Tuesday - wake at 4:30am - doing better at syncing body clock. Drive thru xx to Taupo. thermal park, thermal power generation. check into brett thermal hotel cool thermal pools. next time try Oasis motel on lake taupo beach. lots of beach pkg spaces, no meters.
river scuba dive 4 minutes - abort due to tight suit and excess weights.
learn that over 500 died in auto accidents this yr - tricky roads. often tourists driving on wrong side. population 3.5M not very crowded.
12/20 Wed - drive to Hamilton. check in, drive to Raglan on the west coast, then 28km of dirt roads, well banked and groomed, not a single pothole. one car went into te toto gorge. tides appear to be 8 feet or more.
3 tv stations. 3 pay channels "sky tv" hbo, discovery, cnn intl. two more.
12/21 left at 7am for whangerei ("fangeray"), thru auckland at rush hour (a few miles of 20mph traffic), arrived 11am. lots of rain, mostly light. north of auckland, lots of offshore wind and spray. stopped at orewa's "life's a beach" cafe for breakfast - killer meat pies.
Pembroke lodge is the only modern hotel so far - kitchen, lr, br, in-room spa. went up to tutukaka, another cool beach place w/big marina. channel markers appear to be backwards (green on rt return).
whangerei has a very busy shopping district - good t shirt prices. first parking meters. younger, more ethnically diverse crowd.
water is distinctive green, almost as clear as carabbean. deb caught a bug - sore throat.
12/22 Fri - checked out some beach drives, then on to one of Telecom's earth stations. Two huge dishes surrounded by electrified fences, one regular uplink dish, a separate tourist center w/multimdedia stuff. no entry to real building or any humans.
buy some crayfish (lobsters) on the way back to auckland. check out kelly tarleton's - cool penguin place, all underground. check in a backpacker hotel near airport. deb makes lobster/pasta shells/peas w/mint flavor/chicken. found shopping center nearby (poor side of town) great prices.
found cool tv show - ice tv - look for web page. used scanner to find sky tv and ATV (not Advanced TV) 5 pay channels - regular tv cant tune to them (600Mhz or so).
rained all day on/off, mostly on. breakfast - steak and cheese pies, bacon and cheese tarts, crab stick, spring roll.
12/23 am. got up at 5:30am, out the door at 5:45. The airport is a maze inside. Qantas has a separate room for business class check in, then pay departure fee when you have boarding passes, then to floor "1" (actually second floor) for qantas club.
3.5hr flt. to Melbourne