What a long strange trip it’s been. Many things were learned along the way ~ and I’m sure that I won’t come close to summing them up satisfactorily ~ but here goes:
GENERAL TOURIST STUFF
Splitting food with a friend saves huge amounts of $. We spent approximately $23 per day on food for 2 and ate very well. Sometimes that was due to friendly hosts, but most often we were on our own.
Breakfast is best in one’s hotel room. We eat granola and yogurt at home. And that’s what we ate on the road (with Muesli sometimes subbing for granola). Often in hotel room glasses.
If one is like me, one never knows when a 7 mile walk through Sydney will happen. Stay hydrated and fed (we bought cashews and dried apricots for carrying).
A few zip-lock bags are indispensable. Ideal for breaking down larger quantities of snack food. For keeping things separated. In case a long coach trip unsettles your stomach….
As Miko reminds me from time to time: Credit cards can make up for most anything you forget.
An unlocked iPhone is useful but apparently difficult to get. Mine was long out of contract and popping a $20 SIM card in meant instant directions and restaurant searching on the go. On the other hand, Facebook and email are ubiquitous….
New Zealand has great radio stations. A LOT of great radio stations.
We packed 3 small bags and one overhead luggage sized bag. For 3 weeks. Traveling light is a blessing. And, judging by the heaps of luggage we spied all around us at hotels and airports, rare.
Ice cream, gelato, sorbet, et al. is almost always cheaper in a 2-scoop cone. So if you keep a cup to hand, you can readily separate flavors and each have an ice cream. Ice creameries are wise to this however, and may charge you for a cup.
Travel agents live and breathe this stuff. And a good one will know the best-positioned and least-expensive choice. Often this means older hotels that have gotten upgrades – sometimes in the form of awkward architectural fig-leafs and other times, full on avant-garde refittings. As in all matters of real estate, the 3 keys are location, location, location.
Talk to the locals. Sure, some of them are sick of tourists and all they represent, but there are wonderful people everywhere. And how will you learn about them unless you interact with them?
Do the touristy stuff. I usually like to find the sly side alleys and subtle wonders, but there’s simply no time. In our case we didn’t even have time to read the guide we grabbed in the airport – there’s simply too much to do and too little time. So, plan. Trust a good agent. And, perhaps most surprising to my cheap penny-pinching self….Let yourself be upsold sometimes. Since we were not likely to get back to the Antipodes any time soon, I got upsold twice – a small plane out of Milford Sound and a Helicopter up from the Great Barrier Reef. Thank heavens I was.
Some Random Observations about Australia and New Zealand
Expensive (even with a strong dollar in NZ). Want to grab a Snickers bar? Got $2.60?
All this driving on the other side of the road is fine. But the fact that cars have the right of way in almost all circumstances (barring a few well marked crosswalks, and even then…) less so. Windshield wipers where the turn signals should be? Dangerous. Not knowing which side of a sidewalk or hall? Suboptimal. Forever going to the wrong escalator? Just embarrassing. But then not switching the side of the steering column where you put the key? Silly.
Roundabouts are wonderful. Really wonderful. Not only do they keep traffic flowing well, they prevented me from making some awkward right turns. Love them.
Dark chocolate? Not to my taste. Let’s just say they excel at making “Dairy Bars” and move on.
Great yogurt and eggs. And Licorice.
All the kangaroo and lamb I expected? The cheap wool that sheep-sheering nations must have? Not so much. By contrast, they farm deer in NZ, and sell the antlers to the Chinese for crazy sums.
NZ is a country that loves thrills. Hard to believe that Zorbing doesn’t happen in Oregon, but overzealous American lawyers might be the reason.
There is both no tipping and good service here. If tipping is supposed to encourage better service, it simply doesn’t work. Not in Portland anyway. Instead I get a very strong feeling that tipping is simply an excuse to hide costs to the consumer (like we hide taxes), and acts as a subsidy to the restaurant industry.
These countries don’t have a gun problem. They just don’t. And all the arguments I’ve heard for our grotesque body counts, revolutionary impulses, and exceptionalist hobbyism are just silly.Traveling to distant colonial lands made me feel terribly aware of my own country’s savage history. But it also made me more appreciative of the glories of where I live. Portland is wonderful and I am pleased to be home. Index of Travel: Prologue to Adventure!
Day 1 & 2 in North Island, New Zealand
Days 3, 4 & 5 North Island, New Zealand
At Sixes and Sevens
Day 8 & 9: Viva la Wellington!
Putting the Zed in NZ
Wild Life in Australia
NSW NSFW :)
More Fun (The Abridged Version)
Day 19 & 20 Welcome to the Jungle
Day 21: The Big Rock Finish
Day 22 & 23