January 18, 2009

Rule #1:  If you see a TARDIS, get inside.


Somewhere out in Kansas, there is a video recording of me sprinting into this phone booth in New Zealand, picking up the phone and desperately trying to get the Doctor to come get me.  (Tennant preferably mmm but I’d take any.  even scarfy!) Then the police answered.  It was  epic.



Expectations – New Zealand

March 29, 2007

1. Vegemite – I was told that natives would be tricking me into trying vegemite at every hostel I stepped into.  I was highly disappointed.  I couldn’t even FIND vegemite in the hostels!  We found it in the store but the can was huge.

2.  Customs – They’re very tight about biosecurity so I wore new shoes for fear of tracking dirt into the delicate ecosystem and they really did have a checkpoint to see the bottom of your shoes =O

3. Environmentalism – I’ve never seen toilets that have a ‘low’ setting to conserve water and a ‘high’ setting for a little extra push.  Kickass.

4.  Sheep – I was disappointed that we were never roadblocked by a flock despite how well it boded that the sheep tried to make friends with Beth the day we arrived…


5 – Killer Sheep –  Black Sheep was supposed to be showing while we were there but everywhere we went…the release date was different!  I swear it was a week already released back in Auckland when we were down in Queenstown and the signs said next week it’d be released.  -_-  Very sad, I had to netflix it two years later.

6. Tea Some like it hot. We like it always.  I was born British, what can I say?  The most exciting part about applying at a Bed and Breakfast was the concept of daily Afternoon Tea.  And oh, how there was tea.  There was even tea on the plane!


"Tea this way -->"

"Tea this way -->"

I think that actually was a sign to indicate cafes but they were all over the place and where there is a cafe, there is TEA.

7. Sex – The US is notoriously uptight about sex.  The fact that you can torture people in a movie but not have a natural, positive making love scene just boggles the mind.  Interestingly, New Zealand has legalized prostitution.  I think sex for sale isn’t for me but if you like it, why should I stand in your way?  The important thing is that it’s safely regulated.  So I was curious about coming across this more positive attitude toward sex.  I found it in D.VICE.

I love to scope out the sex stores in every city I go to.  Not because I have a whole lot of secret kinks, but more because I don’t (maybe I wish I did? =o ) so the objects  look like bizarre torture devices to me, fascinating.

But a lot of times, sex stores in the US can have a really creepy vibe, skeazy clerks, and be in a seedy are.  Not so for D.VICE, it proudly proclaims its location:

So very welcoming!

So very welcoming!

I’ve also never seen a place where there is a display of each toy so you can “test” it (not where it’s meant to be used, but, yaknow, a finger to get the idea) so that was entertaining.  Plus their employee was great–more on par with a legal receptionist than a sex store clerk.  Very informative, sociable, and most importantly–not skeazy.

8. Tourist friendly – One of the reasons this was my first vacation as an independent adult was that it was overseas and they speak English.  Lots of English.  Their main industry is tourism so this is probably the most user-friendly place I’ve ever been or will ever be!  Everything is easily marked with giant signs, everything is one-two lane road with nice stopping points if you want the rare person to pass you (and I did, I drive SUPERSLOW).  Didn’t hurt that, at the time, the USD was twice the worth of NZD 😉  Oh and everything has a webpage.  EVERYTHING.

9.  The People – were just as ridiculously nice as I’d been led to believe.  At the Pet Salon, we use software from New Zealand and I emailed Lawrence a bunch for support.  If not for phone problems, we would have met up for a meal and chat but it was not to be.  Anyway, he told me the people are on a permanent vacation and it’s so true.  Everyone was very relaxed, welcoming, kind.  Our hang-gliding teachers said we would have loved to live with them because they built pillowforts (don’t make me move there!).  Actually a lot of people told us we should come live there 😉 We would go out at night, even in Wellington and feel completely safe.  Partly because we knew statistically that crime was lower but also because people had very relaxed body language.

I actually had culture shock coming back to the US.  It was painful to get off the plane and hear the strain and anger in people’s voices, see the belligerance in their posture.

10. Economy – At the time, it was $1USD to $2NZD and while I knew there was less crime there, I didn’t expect the complete lack of poverty.  We specifically started looking for the Ghetto of New Zealand.  The closest we found was Whangerei because it had some graffiti.


New Zealand's Ghetto


Shopping in NZ

March 10, 2007

I’m not big on shopping but there was some neat stuff in NZ.  There’s a gift shop at just about every i-site and most of it is similar.

Paiha had a neat little shopping area with some tongue-in-cheek touristy stuff.  Fox Glacier’s gift shop area was a little more classy.  Queenstown had a lot of shops but some of the stuff was more like what you’d get in America–department stores, etc– plus useful stuff like adventure equipment.

Wellington had some nice shops but it was also along the lines of Queenstown.  Really the best shop was D.VICE, the sex shop =O  It was the most clean-cut friendly sex shop I’ve ever been in.  I would say it’s due to New Zealand’s more open minded views on sexuality compared to American’s embarressment and guilt complex but there were some skeazy looking sex shops that we didn’t dare even walk by.

There’s a great place in Auckland called Craft World where individual artists have booths.  It’s huge.

For essentials, there is of course The Warehouse but we only saw it in bigger cities.

Waiau Waterworks had a lovely gift shop filled with shell art.  I wish I’d got ssome.

Stuff I got or wish I got:

fuzzy sheep wool socks, kiwi candy, kiwi poop candy, vibrating sheep that say ‘I love you,’ dirty kiwi boxers… (haha yeah it all sounds touristy D: )

And of course, the necklace I wear almost daily.  The shape means creativity and progress.


New Zealand – Taupo

March 7, 2007

Lake Taupo was big and beautiful.  It was odd considering it’s smack in the middle of the North Island.  I’m used to thinking of the big cities being on the coasts.  The city was very pristine, organized, and felt more Americanized than the others for some reason–a good area to walk around and shop in, there’s not a lot of that in what we saw of NZ.

I unfortunately didn’t get a good picture of the lake :/  but here are some random pictures 😀



Gotta love the variety of vegetation

I think these next three were actually on the way to Wanaka ^_~




They had a park and a superloo.

REALLY important...


And the circus was in town.

Not far from Taupo is The Prawn Park which is NZ’s version of a cheap tourist attraction.  But it’s really not overrun enough to be touristy.  We enjoyed it.  We got to stick our hands in the water and feed the prawns, fish for them (didn’t catch anything), and got a thorough edumacating.  There was a geothermal foot bath but I don’t think the other water activities were open.  There was a nice walk round the park following the “Fun, this way!” signs.


Shawn the Prawn is my buddy


We are The Prawns



March 7, 2007

This place was awesome!  I could have spent a week here but unlike other areas in NZ, I wouldn’t want to live here…. It’s an active geothermal area and besides some worries about volcanoes and stuff, it stinks! Though nothing unusual happened while we were there, there was a small volcanic explosion/collapse just outside of Wellington.  That was probably the most exciting thing we saw on the news while there.  Instead of murders and child molesters like we hear about in the US, most NZ news was comprised of “tree fell, no one was hurt.”

We ended up in a hotel with very friendly owners on the main drag.  The room was twice the size of what we’d get for the price in the US and the shower was in the middle of the bathroom…no door, no curtain, no tub, just…hanging out there next to the toilet.

We went to Wai-o-Tapu but there are many geothermal areas to explore.  I was tempted by Hell’s Gate and had dreams of mud baths. Pictures really do not do it justice, especially the contrast of expanses of rock after miles and miles of verdant greenery.  There are also subtle mineral colors in the rocks that the camera just doesn’t pick up well.





Engulfed by clouds of steam, it felt prehistoric...

Walking in some areas was like walking on the moon–the craters, the greys and whites, the light-weight feeling of porous rocks



The famed champange pool



Of course, if you’re in Rotorua you must Zorb.  I’d love to do it again but it was kinda pricy, about the same as a parasail but a shorter less adrenaline-filled trip.  Still, it was worth it.  There are a variety of ways to do the zorb, we went with two people in it which is required to be partly filled with water!

We get in this hamster wheel of a bubble and they put the plastic cork in it to seal us in then say “Okay, now, RUN!”  Not the easiest thing to do inside a bubble but then we were off and tumbling!




We stopped off at Rainbow Springs Nature Park.  Again, compared to a zoo in the US it’s not impressive in size but it is impressive in beauty.  You can also go back at night for a lighted tour!

If we had camped, maybe we would have see wild kiwi but no such luck so this was our only sight of one.  No pictures, it’s noctural.  It waddles very hilariously and the entry fee was worth it just to see that!

Below is a Kea.  This bird is rather terrifying.  There are signs warning tourists that Kea’s have been known to dismantle cars.  But no advice on how to prevent that!  They’re like raptors, you look in their eyes and can tell they’re figuring things out… plus they’re pretty large, about macaw size.


A previous evolution of this lizard had three eyes!  Now it just has a spot on its head which is sensative to motion.


There was a fish pond with random albino fish too.  Below is a Moa, extint now but one of those links between birds and dinosaurs.  My hair is fading horribly ):  I love red but it just doesn’t last.


Now on to the Buried Village, the very reason why I wouldn’t want to live so close to geothermal activity 😉  When I was in history classes, the two things that stuck out to me were the Mayan ball game and the destruction of Pompeii.  So until I can get to Europe, this is my Pompeii.

There was a nice cafe where we had our lovely tea.  I had Wild Raspberry and was raving about how it was the greatest tea I’d ever tasted and I wanted to take New Zealandish tea home with me.  My friend says, ‘Um.  That’s Stash tea.  You can get it at the grocery store.’  Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to find the Wild Raspberry kind ): ):


I love being able to take self-guided tours.  Everything had descriptions of the history and you can stop to examine what interests you and avoid what doesn’t.


There is something that utterly fascinates me about overgrowth, the act of nature reclaiming what man stole.  It’s humbling.  As much as I’m amazed that people can create things like the great pyramids and NYC, I’m more amazed at the erosion that follows and the damage that can be done by little green plants.


If you take the long way back around, you find a waterfall and get a spectacular (not pictured :/ ) view of the volcano that buried the city.



Toilets – New Zealand

March 6, 2007

For someone like me who has a bladder the size of a peanut, it’s wonderful that New Zealand is so into their toilets.  But also?  Kinda weird.  There was one in Queenstown that had a power door.  Once closed, music begins to play.  The toilet of course is automatic and then you have a weird microwave-like area to put your hands under to dry them.  There are also red and green lights to show whether it is occupied or not.

Toilets are important

Toilets are important

REALLY important...

REALLY important...

Yes, THAT important

Yes, THAT important

We didn’t actually go in the famous toilets because we kept missing them but they were designed from recyclables by an internationally renowned artist.

Paying to pee is just wrong ):

Ticket to space?  One pint of pee, please

Ticket to space? One pint of pee, please

Sheep toilets

Sheep toilets

Prawn World Toilets

Prawn World Toilets


March 5, 2007

The road around Coromandel is kind of terrifying.  It’s narrow and drops right into the water.  Narrow enough that when I’d look out the window, I couldn’t see the road, all I could see was water.  For the next few days I ended up jerking away from nightmares that we fell into the water.

We stopped partway for the awesome monster tree.




Hanging from the tree was an ET fetus D: Creepy!

Did I mention the drive was breathtaking?


With a webpage like this you expect Coromandel to be a booming city.  It’s not.  It’s a little place with a couple restaurants, an i-site and…I’m not sure if we found a grocery store.  I expected 309 to be a highway with tons of exits.  It’s not, it’s a dirt road.  However, it is still pretty kickass (or more kickass).

Waiau Waterworks made it all worth while. There’s a sign there that says “poke it, it might do something cool.”  I’m a geek when it comes to machinery that’s simple enough for me to understand and everything at this place is mechanical, mostly hydromechanical, from a music box to squirting bikes. I had a blast and would do it again.

There were also weird sculptures everywhere.

Men at Work

Danger: Men at Work

  • Get in there!Get in there!
  • Witches get high tech

    Witches get high tech

    And a cafe with very friendly birds and neat tables.


    Change your center of gravity and it spins you!

    Change your center of gravity and it spins you!

    Air bikes go round and round, up and down

    Air bikes go round and round, up and down

    I wish I had more pictures of the gadgets but we were too busy playing 😉

    Shell art!  There was one I wish I’d bought, not this but a driftwood frame with shells and and and ;_;


    I think we would have enjoyed Coromandel more if we had planned more specific activities to do there.  We went in expecting that kind of thing to be easy to find but everything was so spread out you really have to know what you want to do and where it is.  We were also hoping to have a beach day but it was rainy again.  Notably there are places on some of the beaches where you can dig your own hot spring.