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January 27, 2007

New Zealand at last!

Well, I didn’t get a chance to update the web site log or photos before we left Melbourne and we have now been in New Zealand for four days. Our flight was delayed about six hours due to a problem with some electrical system so we arrived in Auckland about 12:30 AM Wednesday. By the time we got to the Aspen House hotel and checked in it was 3 AM. The next day was a very slow and casual one as we adjusted and recuperated from the travel.
Aspen House turned out to be modest but nice. Our only problem was that the windows in our room opened out onto a porch where other guests went to smoke so we got smoke in the room unless the windows were closed. It was warm and no A/C so we wanted the windows open. Auckland is very hilly and walking around was constantly up and down hills. It is lush and green with ore tropical humidity – a real (and welcome) contrast to Australia’s very dry hot weather.
After shopping around with different rental companies, we selected ‘Bargain Rentals” and have signed up for 71 days at $25NZ per day. This compares to about $75Aus per day for the camper van we had. The savings will go towards higher costs for B&B’s or cabins in caravan or holiday parks as they are called here. The car is a white 4 door Nissan Cefaro with A/C, automatic transmission, and a nice CD/radio system. It should get much better mileage than the van and with “petrol” about $1.25NZ per liter that should be another saving vs. the van. I figure that the car gives us more flexibility, comfort, and less concern driving. We can drop off the car at the “Bargain” location in Wellington, take the passenger ferry across the Cook Strait to Picton on the south island and pick up another similar car at the Bargain location there. This saves the $150NZ cost of taking a vehicle on the ferry. Our only issue will be getting all of our luggage to and from the ferry from the rental car locations but it is just a few blocks at either end so it should be manageable.
We checked out of the Aspen hotel yesterday and headed just north of Auckland to a Top 10 Holiday Park in Northcote. Our Big4 membership from Australia gives us a 10% discount with them so our cabin is $54NZ per night and has a double bed with linens, sink, a table and 2 chairs, and is all of 10 feet square! It is clean and well maintained and is just across from the rest rooms and the kitchen so I think this type of accommodation will work out OK. We will treat ourselves to a nice B&B from time to time along the way.
The “no plan” plan is to explore the north island first over the next 3-4 weeks and cross to the south island about the 22nd of February. This will give us more time on the south island that is bigger, more mountainous (longer driving times) and has more of what we want to see in NZ. We are going to come back to the north island about the end of March and spend our last three days back at Aspen House and seeing more of the Auckland sights before the flight to Los Angeles on April 9th.
Yesterday, after checking in at the holiday park, we drove to the local mall and shopped for some basic stuff we will need (sheets, towels, basic eating and cooking stuff, and our initial stock of food. We bought a plastic tub to hold it all and it will go in the trunk of the car and have to be unloaded at each stop. The car obviously doesn’t have a refrig/freezer like the van did so we may have to buy a cooler and get ice every day or so.
We went to the Auckland City library (beautiful and very friendly helpful staff) and signed up as “guests” for use of their Internet service at $2NZ per hour. The local Internet kiosks charge $10 per hour and the library is much nicer. There also seem to be Internet cafés available in many areas at $1-2 per hour so we should be able to stay in touch easily. I have to put the log and the photos I want to upload on a CD and find an Internet café that will allow you to upload from a CD on their computer but that should not be a problem.

Posted by Dick at 08:37 PM