by Jim
on Jun 6th, 2008

Last Post

I can finally write this, because there is finally a successor to NZ Life.  The Peoria Dispatch is now live!  Go there now, as there will probably never be anything more here.  (Though I intend to keep the site up forever.)  If you see another post here you can be sure my life took an unexpected turn, but you would already have known that by reading The Peoria Dispatch 🙂

by Jim
on Oct 8th, 2007

Farewell NZ

It’s a good day to leave New Zealand.  A few weeks ago I was tramping in the hills on a bright sunny day, gazing at the mountains, enjoying the last bit of my good coffee…  Well, that would have been a tough day to leave NZ.  I had many good days here, but as always such things must end.  And today is a good day for it.

The weather is crappy today, but the mood is crappier.  The All Blacks loss has put the country in a state of shock, dismay and anger.  I’ve listened to the radio all day and read the newspapers, and it really is the only story, and that will probably continue for a while yet.  I’ve tried to find a sports parallel in the US but haven’t come up with one.  The best recent US example of wall-to-wall coverage and sweeping malaise was when Bush was reelected, and a lot of the country had to endure “Four More Years”, just like NZ does until the next World Cup.  Now imagine that the whole US had actually supported Kerry, so the entire lot are just mopey and licking their wounds.  It’s kinda like that here.

So, I’m going to let that all be and quietly leave the country on a bit higher note of a few weeks ago.  It’s been a great adventure–once in a lifetime probably–and something I feel very fortunate to have been given an opportunity to experience. 

On that note I’ll say to NZ one last time: “See ya.”

by Jim
on Oct 7th, 2007

This Space for Rent

It’s a matter of hours now. By this time tomorrow I’ll be in Auckland waiting to board a plane back to the States.

This blog has been quiet for the past couple of week since there hasn’t been much worth writing. There have been a million little errands that go along with emigrating, and the remainder of the time has been largely taken up by unrelenting work. I’ve made a point of visiting friends and having some of my favorite NZ foods, but my North Island trip really wrapped up NZ in my mind.

This past weekend has been noteworthy, however. I had my going away party on Friday after work and it was a fantastic turnout. The weather, venue, and of course people made it a really good send-off. The following day I visited friends in a rural area about 45 minutes from Christchurch, and it was good to wind down with pleasant company in a nice relaxing environment.

1.jpgThis morning (Sunday) was pretty dramatic. Most of the country was awake early to watch the All Blacks play France in the WRC quarter finals. The ABs lost–again. This is a gutted nation. Since I’ve been here I’ve heard about the WRC. Not only is rugby the nation’s game, but they’ve dominated for so long yet only once, 20 years ago, won the top prize. It was an emotional farewell as the ABs left for France at the start of the WRC, but there was also an almost palpable worry at the prospect of failing again, despite being huge favorites. Now their fears are realized and it’s not very pretty. Already there is some pretty nasty rhetoric and finger pointing. “..the result confirmed New Zealand’s status as ‘world-class chokers'”, and that was from the British press! The NZ media will probably be worse.

I feel bad for one couple interviewed on TV who are just now departing for France and have tickets to the semis, finals, and 3rd place game as a backup. The ABs will be back in NZ by that time. And I’ll be back in the US. I was fully expecting to watch the ABs in the US for a few more weeks, but it’s not to be. (The only minor consolation that NZ has that the Aussies were also upset–by England.)

by Jim
on Sep 9th, 2007

A Convincing Start

It’s midnight here and the All Blacks are playing their first match against Italy.  It’s only 16 minutes into the game and NZ is up 31-0.  They’re playing in a whole different league.

19 minutes:  38-0
30 minutes: 43-0
39 minutes: 43-7
51 minutes:  50-7
55 minutes:  57-7
60 minutes: 62-7
69 minutes: 69-7
71 minutes: 76-7
72 minutes: 76-14

(Footnote: Attempting to steal NZ thunder, the Aussies beat Japan 91-3) 

by Jim
on Sep 8th, 2007


The Ugly “Colt Plus”I just sold our Rav4, with which we saw a nice chunk of the South Island. For the next month I’ll be driving this fine automobile. It has it all: ugly lines, bad color, slow. It’s actually quite a bit worse than the picture conveys–the blue color is heinous. I guess that’s what I get by choosing a “Corolla-sized” rental and taking what they gave. CAT better appreciate my frugality!

by Jim
on Sep 8th, 2007

Let the Games Begin!

RWC 2007 has begun, if you care (odds are that you don’t). France, the host country and one of the favorites, is already losing to Argentina in the first match. The All Blacks play tonight against Italy, and the US will open against England tomorrow.

Update: France just lost their match 17-12. Ouch.

by Jim
on Sep 6th, 2007


Days 7-8

Wellington’s harborMy last stop of this trip was Wellington, which is New Zealand’s capital and is situated on the southern tip of the North Island. The drive from Napier to Wellington was the longest of the trip. I don’t really like marathon drives, even through scenic country, but this one went fine and the time flew by (thank you, iPod). I arrived at the Wellington CBD in the early evening and quickly found the YHA.

The Wellington YHA was fantastic, probably comparable to the Melbourne YHA. The common rooms were buzzing with people and it was easy to meet others. In the TV area the group wisely chose to put on The Sopranos (2 weeks left to the season here), and right across the road was a grocery/liquor store to complement the extensive kitchen areas. If you get a chance to stay in a 4/5 star YHA I’d highly recommend it, as it’s much more enjoyable that a hotel. (On the other hand, some of the dodgy hostels are quite a bit less enjoyable for sure.)

The BoardwalkWellington is a really cool city, and I’d say it’s the highlight of the trip. I cannot really put my finger on why it appealed to me–I think it was just a combination of a lot of little things. For starters, it is situated around harbor which really defines the city. It’s a good sized harbor that accommodates the port traffic but it’s small enough that you can walk from one side to the other is a reasonable time. Many major attractions are located on the water front, most prominent being the New Zealand National Museam “Te Papa”. It seems like no matter were I was heading I wouldn’t be far from the water.

Bustling downtownThe size of Wellington was good too. Larger than Christchurch, it presents an impressive skyline, and the CBD is really bustling with people. I think a lot of that traffic is due to the government activities. But unlike some really huge metropolises, you can walk around most of the city in a reasonable amount of time. Given that there is very limited public parking, that trait was useful.

Ugly Beehive

Most of what I did was fairly studious. I walked over to the parliament building and took the tour of the “Beehive” and parliament house. Good tour. I’m always interested in how stuff does or doesn’t get done in large organizations like that, and our tour guide–who has apparently worked there in some capacity forever–had all sorts of interesting stories about rules, protocol, bizarre conventions, and how legislators really behave. There was a fair bit of building history too since there have been various fires and earthquakes that have done serious damage. The parliament and ugly-as-sin Beehive building are built on special isolators to protect them from earthquakes. So was Te Papa. Evidently these isolators were invented by a Kiwi and are now used worldwide. I found the explanation of how they sliced into the existing founding to insert the isolators fascinating.

I spent a fair bit of time in the Wellington City and Sea museum. Te Papa dwarfs it (and everything else) in size, but I thought the WCS was an excellent museum with a concise set of exhibits you could work through in a couple hours. The focus was on Wellington history and shipping in the area, and the detail was exceptional. I probably read more of the information placards in that museum than I ever have. My favorite had to do with the “Battle of Manners Street”, and incident in 1943 when New Zealand troops fought some US Marines temporarily stationed in Wellington. From the placard:

“… Better paid than the NZ troops, the Americans were often given preference in shops and restaurants. To make matters worse local women were also attracted by the Americans’ courtesy and sophistication, qualities they sometimes found lacking in local men. It was the sight of New Zealand women falling into American arms that was as much the cause of the Batter of Manners St. as any alleged racism. As New Zealanders frequently observed at the time, the Yanks were ‘overpaid, oversexed and over here’.”

Te PapaBy comparison, Te Papa was a bit of a disappointment. There was nothing wrong with it per se, and a number of the exhibits were interesting, but the WCS museum had a real charm, whereas Te Papa felt just like any other huge museum I’d been to.

Cafeteria fareOne highlight was lunch at the museum’s cafe: I ordered a delicious lamb gnocchi with sauteed mushrooms in a blue cheese sauce. Suffice to say, not the type of food I remember getting at the Museum of Science and Industry cafeteria as a kid!
In summary, high marks for Wellington, and high marks for the trip. It was good to take a week off from work, and I’m glad I finally got to see a bit of the North Island.

Me (and Wellington)

by Jim
on Sep 1st, 2007


(I’m writing this on a bright and crisp morning sitting outside of a cafe. I’ve quite enjoyed being able to pick up Telecom NZ hotspots all throughout NZ for free. It’s probably the first and only positive thing I’ll say out their internet service.)

Day 6

It was a nice lazy drive of less than two hours from Taupo to Napier. Along the way I crossed the Aramahima(?) range which offered some stunning views and a fun windy road for my little Mitsubishi Lancer. By noon I was in Napier.

Napier, like Taupo, is a tourist-heavy town along the waterfront (although Napier’s waterfront is the Pacific ocean). Whereas Taupo felt like just a collection of businesses to cater to the holiday crowd, Napier is a proper city with an interesting history. It is a small (55,000 population), compact city chock full of cafes, galleries, posh restaurants and hotels. But the dominant trait that the town will not let you forget is Art Deco.

The town has been called “Deco City” for the large number of original buildings representing the style. I took the two-hour Art Deco walking tour which was extremely interesting. The city was basically destroyed by a huge earthquake in 1931, and from that the town was rebuilt into what it is today. A few young architects from Auckland were in charge of most designs, and they were keen to use the style of the time. When you walk through parts of the town, especially at night, it’s like being in the movie “Metropolis”. Add to that some clothing stores that actually sell fashions from the 20s-30s, and it becomes a tad creepy. One building I took note of was once called the “Kalafat Service Station”, whose parent company was supposedly a US petroleum firm. Maybe I have an unexpected windfall in my future? In addition to lots of architecture tidbits, the tour provided a plenty of earthquake related stories and examples of how the city is now nearly earthquake proof. I took a ton of pictures which I’ll upload to Flickr when I get back to Christchurch.

For dinner I had a very spicy Nasi Goreng at a Dutch-owned Indonesian restaurant that has been in Napier for 20 years. (Sorry Angela, no picture. I took one without flash and it makes the meal look quite disgusting.)

In the evening I saw a movie. I was a bit disappointed when my travels away from Christchurch exactly coincided with the NZ Film Festival that was playing at the time. Fortunately the venue moves around and I caught up with the festival in Napier. I watched an Aussie film called “Romulus, My Father” (Eric Bana & Franke Potenta) which was quite good (4/5). When I left the theater at about 10pm the town was dead so I called it a night.

Next/last stop, Wellington…

Napier beachfront

Art Deco

Art Deco

Kalafat Service Station

by Jim
on Aug 31st, 2007


Days 4-5

I meant Taupo to be a cruisy part of the trip. Taupo is your typical lakeside holiday town filled with all the lakeside stuff. The lake is a reason for a lot of cafes, restaurants and hotels to collect, though there are quite a few adventure activities that are based here as well (skydiving, gliders, dirt bikes and so forth). My interests were R&R, and I booked a decent hotel for two nights instead of the usual YHA. Mission accomplished: a lot of hanging around, reading, and basically chilling out.

I did head out on a hike that was a partial success. Unlike most of the many immaculate Dept. of Conservation trails we’ve been on in NZ, this trail was really just a rough path up a hill that’s on Maori land (not a DOC site). It was a pretty tough hike, and I’m surprised the LP guide was so casual about it–or maybe I’m just that out of shape. You first cross some farmland and then start heading up a steep slope. Once you enter the woods, the trail narrows to a mud path and winds all over the place. After a good hour of solid uphill climbing I was rewarded with immaculate views such as this. I pressed on for a while more, but pretty soon the weather got worse and the trail was reduced to a muddy mess. I might have been 2 minutes or 2 hours from the top–I have no idea. The trail was completely unmarked and no one else was around. Mission aborted. I headed back to the hotel and cleaned up my filthy clothes.

The rest of the day was pretty much spent driving around. There are all sort of little sites just off the road. Huka Falls, Craters on the Moon, the Wairakei geothermal power station, a little shop that sells honey and has beehive in plexiglas, etc. I closed out the night with a fine linguini con scallops dinner and a view of the total lunar eclipse that just happened to be visible in these parts.

Tomorrow morning I’m off to Napier….

(P.S. I’m noticing that my late 2004 edition of Loney Planet is chock full of restaurants that no longer exist. Turnover here must be high. Get a recent book if you visit.)

Huka Falls

Tauhara track

Amazing views from Mt. Tauhara

Bees, up close

Next »

visitors from:

Locations of visitors to this page