02.02.2009 25 °C
It is Monday evening here where we are, on a very isolated campsite overlooking Goat Island on the Northeastern coast of New Zealand. These past couple of days has involved a whirl of travel and absorbing the newness of our first experiences in the Southern Hemisphere. We have already experienced remoteness and will not always be able to connect with internet to post our travels. What we will do is write when the urge hits and post when the opportunity arises.
It is strange writing all our thoughts and experiences down. I am learning to write like no one is reading the way I learned to dance and sing without the worry of eyes and ears.
We headed out to Honolulu very early on Friday January 30. Our original plan was to catch the super ferry and make the travel between the islands of Ohau and Maui by water but after talking with a couple of fellow travelers who have made the voyage on the ferry during the winter months when the surf can be up and heard that most of the travelers spent their time barfing over the railing we declined and hopped over by plane. Good decision, starting the long New Zealand flight already suffering with motion sickness is not a good idea. We rented a car at the Honolulu airport and by 8.00am sat on Oahu’s famous North shore beach outside the town of Haleiwa watching the surfers in their morning workout. The rest of the day was spent sightseeing around the whole island, stopping to take in the beaches (naps) and eating the local food. Honolulu is amazing but so busy. We walked over Waikiki beach and I chuckled at the sings posted there.” Passive beach enjoyment encouraged” followed by all that cannot be done there which would interfere with passiveness. All must have taken note, since the beach was very crowded but very quiet overall. It appeared most were hypnotized by the stillness and clarity of the water and staring off in the great distance. We drove way up Pali Highway to get a good view of the island and when again we became stuck in another traffic jam on H-1, gave up and headed to the airport 4 hours before our take-off time. We needed the rest. While we left at 9.45 pm on Friday and the flight was only 9.15 hours long, we did not arrive until Sunday morning 6.00am New Zealand time. Jetlag way, that was great. We lost no night, only a full day. It is a very strange sensation to lose a day. Where did it go and will we get it back? I am one to take day light savings time very serious. When in fall we gain back the hour lost in spring I make the best of that one special hour and do not set back our clock when told to, instead I wait until later in the day when I can honor and do it justice with a special event.
Going back to our flight to Auckland by Air New Zealand. Great airline, great service. They even managed to get us there early, serve nice meals with wine on real plates and glasses and thanks to my sister’s great booking we had the best seats with extra leg room. During the flight we were handed a New Zealand Passenger Arrival card with a warning attached that failure to make a correct declaration can result in an instant fine of $200 or more and imprisonment. We have of course nothing to declare but very honestly marked that we hiked in the past 30 days and are bringing in hiking boots. Immediate red flag at customs and we were sent to gate 1. New Zealand operates very strict biosecurity procedures at airports to prevent the introduction of pests and diseases of animals and plants so they now need to see our hiking boots. In Tom’s case that was easy, he wore them and lifted his feet and they passed. Mine was a different story, they were at the bottom of my back pack, stuffed with and surrounded by my dirty laundry but they had to be shown. One look at the bottom of my boots cleared them but I was left at 5.30 am with having to repack my pack and since I now am missing some dirty laundry, not all was picked back up. It was a fun, different but understandable Haere mai (welcome) to New Zealand. Next came a trip in the super shuttle van for a 45 minute ride to the down town Auckland hotel where Tom had made reservations for our first night stay. With us in the shuttle was a young Dutch mother with her two children and I had great fun chatting in my native tongue with her and learning about New Zealand and its customs. She and her family have resided in Auckland for three years. The shuttle driver shared that he was a child of two Dutch immigrants and how his parents held on to their Dutch nationality since in their words “ Born Dutch, die Dutch. In no time we arrived at our City Central Hotel where amazingly they let us check in at 7.00 am. The rest of Sunday was spent walking and exploring the city of Auckland, by far New Zealand’s most populated area known for both its cultural and geographical diversity. It is an amazing city where ancient trees, historical buildings and an old harbor share the space with impressive glass skyscrapers, thousands of stores and determined traffic. Auckland combines all the sophistication of a world-class city with extraordinary natural wonders right on its doorstep. The names of the streets gave away its connection with the United Kingdom; Wellesly, Victoria, Queen, Trafalgar. The first couple of hours we walked confused and lost with map in hand but started recognizing landmarks later in the day. While Tom took a nap I found Albert park next to the University of Auckland, only blocks from our hotel. Beautiful resting place on a sunny Sunday afternoon and I was not alone. It was while snapping pictures that I noticed the closeness of the Sky Tower, totally unexpected and when returning to the hotel I asked the hotel concierge of its location she looked astonished and told me it was on our same block” Had I not noticed?”. Nope, sometimes when one is too close to that which towers over us, we have to take a step back to see. Later on Sunday we went to the top of Sky tower where indeed breathtaking 360degrees views of Auckland and its surroundings can be seen. Lots of sailboats, yachting is a passion here. If one wants to, at a cost of NZ $200 one can have an adrenaline pumping Sky Jump adventure by being plunged over the edge tied to bungee cords. We declined that fall from the Southern hemisphere’s tallest building ( 60 stories high) and instead enjoyed others who dared and were willing to pay. Monday morning we rose early, ready to pick up our reserved “wicked campervan” at what we thought was a location only a kilometer or two from our hotel. Well in walking distance. Upon arriving we found a note tacked to the door to pick it up instead in the neighboring town of Onehunga and directions on where to find the bus which could get us there. Another couple of Kilometers or so we thought. Well, due to road repairs the bus stops were changed and after a while my walking through town was no longer enjoyable and we returned to our hotel where I knew the receptionist would take care of my problems and answers. For the past 24 hours she had all the answers. She came through again and directed us to the correct stop which was of course right across the street from the hotel. Figures! While waiting for the bus we met Nadine from Canada who moved here 20 years ago and was a well of information on how to learn to drive on the opposite side of the road. New Zealanders prefer for us not to call it the “wrong side”. When learning of my being Dutch she stated I belonged to the most stubborn nationality on earth and was surprised I had never before heard the saying; “ wooden shoes, wooden head, wouldn’t listen. “ I bet my friend Jeannie at home is chuckling over this and totally agreeing with the comment apparently well known here. We showed up at Wicked camper early in the afternoon and were ready to leave the city and start exploring in our quite original set of wheels. While waiting for the paperwork to be done I wandered around and observed the quite noticeable paint jobs on the wicked vans, some maybe a tad lurid and offensive for some . I took many pictures but the questionable images will only be sent to a selected few. Our van was the mildest on the lot and I asked the delightful young woman from Wicked whether it was done according to age. She denied it and said it was based on availability. I still wonder but am grateful to be the Kings of Lear. This van will now be our home for the next 27 days and it has all the comforts of home in a very tiny space. Bed, storage, seats, cook by small camp burner and ice chest. Leaving the city of Auckland over Motorway 1 Bridge was amazing. Too bad Tom missed the view since he was very busy learning to drive left. It is easier with traffic in a way so you can follow. Learning to drive left is like an intense defensive driving course. We plan to spend the first week driving by the coastline and go as far North as we can while camping along the way. On February 10 we hope to cross over to the Southern island by way of Wellington. If all the camping sites are as nice and relaxed as the one here at Goat island we will do well. It offers a great community room where everything is available for the guests and people come and mingle. Many languages are spoken here and the Germans are out en masse, as well as Canadians and of course the Dutch. There are so many ways of speaking English and I love sitting back and hear it spoken by the New Zealanders. They bloody well have their own way of speaking the Queens English. Upon arrival it felt like coming home to my native North Europe through recognition of certain customs, seeing queens on coins again and the traffic signs. While the universal triangular sign may mean yield to us, the New Zealanders added the words “give way”. I love the gentle meaning. Give way to others. Not only in traffic but in life. These past couple of days Tom and I have been strangers in a foreign country and often needed help, direction. We needed … given way… and we were., with grace and humor. The New Zealanders are ready to offer their help to all to make a stay in their country the best possible and we are gratefull.
We are ready to put on some snorkels and see for ourselves whether the swims and dives here are the best in the world. It is a marine protected area and Tom is in heaven with the life he found in the wading pools alone. Goat Island was the name early European travelers gave to these shore islands where they left goats as food supply for those who ended up shipwrecked. Legend here says that there were never any goats left on this island, only pigs who escaped their lot by swimming back to shore.
Tuesday February 3. We are sitting in an internet café in Whangerei , checking our e-mail, making contact with our children and friends before heading up to the Bay of Islands where we will camp tonight. Very remote and we have stocked up on groceries. These past couple of days we have lived on meat pies and felt the need for some fresh produce. No more phone for awhile but we hope to make internet contact while heading back south in a couple of days. This country is indeed beautiful.
Apopo, Tom and Els