This is how things go from bad to worse…

While down here in New Zealand, I’ve kept my chocolate cravings in check by frequenting the supermarkets for deals. 3 for $3 and 4 for $5 for various chocolate bars from Cadbury or Nestle. Apparently though, I’ve been doing it all wrong. Yesterday was my last night in my hostel in Paihia, and the place was pretty much deserted – only myself and a gal from Scotland left. This was after nearly 70 people were staying there during the weekend, so it felt empty! Anyways, we got onto the topic of chocolate, since she loved chocolate as well. When I told her of my snacking on Cadbury/Nestle chocolate, her response was (and I quote): ‘Why are you putting up with that shite, they have Whittaker’s here!’ When she came down here she was much like me – enjoying Kitkats, Mars bars and the like. Until someone down in Wellington showed her the light – Whittaker’s is a New Zealand made fine chocolate. available everywhere.

While I love my Kit Kats and the like, I was intrigued. Investigation on their website showed many standard types (milk, caramel, multiple varieties of dark), and some non-standard, like Chocolate Kiwi, Fruit and Nut, or Coconut. Either way, I was naturally intrigued. Today I found myself in a grocery store in Kerikeri, and my curiosity got the better of me.

250grams is the standard size for these things (in other words, monstrously large). At under $4NZD, Whittaker’s is actually a better deal per gram than buying the Cadbury/Nestle that I had been in the past.

Of course, none of that matters if the chocolate tastes poor. So how did it fare?

I’m in trouble.

The apocalypse is nigh

It snowed in Auckland yesterday. To most (including myself), that might not seem like a very interesting statement – it is winter down here after all. To talk to Kiwis however, you’d think the world might be ending. It hasn’t snowed in Auckland in 70+ years. It actually snowed almost all over New Zealand over the last couple of days – it reached 2C where I’m staying, traditionally the warmest area of New Zealand during the winter. It is COLD. The lack of proper insulation in the buildings here are especially noticeable when it gets this cold.

Still, when I got up this morning the weather looked wonderful. Blue skies, sunshine and lollipops.

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There and Back Again

I knew I was going to use that title at some point or another. For those that don’t get the reference, it’s from the Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit – it’s the name of the book Bilbo wrote about his journey in The Hobbit, and also the name of Part 2 of the upcoming Hobbit movies which are being filmed in New Zealand right now. Anyways, I figured it was about time since I probably had one of my longer all day tours today, which completed a round trip to the northernmost point in New Zealand – Cape Reinga.

The drive is quite long – about 2 hours from Paihia or so, with only a few small towns in between. So, I opted for a tour instead, given that good specials are on now. Plus, it had the added bonus of allowing me to do things I wouldn’t get to otherwise (at least easily) – driving 90 mile beach and sand boarding specifically.
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Russell in the Rain

I’m starting to learn that the weather service here in New Zealand…isn’t always the most reliable. I’ll give them a bit of slack though – I can imagine that between being surrounded by water, the rolling and mountainous terrain and the quick moving winds, forecasting here is quite a bit more difficult than in North America, where much of the area is flat land and wide open. But this makes planning anything to be a little bit tricky.

I have a 4 day stay planned for here in Paihia, then I’ll be starting my next WWOOFing experience a bit further north from here come Wednesday. During my stay here I wanted to do 2 things – get to Cape Reinga, the Northmost point in New Zealand, and take a tour of the Bay of Islands by boat. Being winter time and quiet season here, it was remarkably easy to set those two things up – a combo 2 day tour was available for the price of typically doing one. So, I went ahead and booked those two for Monday and Tuesday – apparently the best two days of weather during my stay. Today, Sunday, was supposed to be a complete washout. But, on top of the combo pricing, I also got a return ferry ticket for free to Russell, a nearby cozy town across the bay from Paihia. I had plans to check it out today, weather be damned.

Waking up, the weather was suitably gray and drab. I decided to tour this side of the bay by car for a little bit to allow the temperature to warm at least. So imagine my surprise that, 15 minutes into my drive, the skies completely cleared.

You can see the Bay of Islands in the distance there. I actually ended up spending about an hour up here (top of farmers field accessible via dirt road) simply reading my Kindle. It was a great spot.

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‘Right of Way’ is wrong in New Zealand

*2013 Update* After I left the country, New Zealand changed their traffic laws so that the right of way turning now makes sense. This post reflects how NZ law USED to be.

New Zealand has a very quirky traffic law. In fact, it’s the only place in the world that has this type of law, and there is a reason for it: It’s stupid.

The law I’m talking about is concerning what happens with who has ‘Right of way’ when turning on a road without the aid of stoplights/stopsigns. I’ll give an example in North America of what normally happens.

Two cars approach a McDonald’s from opposite directions and want to turn into the parking lot. The car making the right hand turn gets right of way and turns first. The car making a left hand turn has to wait for all traffic to clear before proceeding to make their turn. Nice, safe and makes sense to all involved.

This isn’t how things work in New Zealand.

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Continuing North to Paihia

I packed up from my hostel in Whangarei and headed further north up to a town called Paihia. Paihia is the main tourist area on the Bay of Islands – a large coastal area that is renowned for it’s fishing.

 

There are *numerous* tourist attractions here in Paihia, and I’ll be doing a few of them over the next few days. I’m taking a tour up to Cape Reinga (let someone else do the driving for a day!), the northernmost tip of New Zealand, via what is called the 90 mile beach. The tour buses actually are equipped to drive up the beach, and make stops for such activities as dune boarding. I’m looking forward to trying that! That will be Monday. Tuesday I’ll be on a boat going around the Bay of Islands, in search of dolphins and whales and stopping at an island or two. On top of that, if the conditions are right we get to swim with the pods of dolphins too…fingers crossed. Sunday I’ll probably wander the town and nearby Russell, which is a small town across the bay that I can reach via passenger ferry. As for today, the weather is grey and drizzly, so a quiet day planned for now.

Streamlining

Just a note – to keep the posts from getting *too* long on the main page (increasing bandwidth/downloading/etc unnecessarily), I’m going to start using summaries for long posts (such as the skydiving one) – to see the full post, simply click on ‘Continue Reading…’, the Post Title, or the ->More button at the bottom right of the post. Lots of options.

Happy reading. 🙂

Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane

Today I did just that – went skydiving from 12,000 feet above Whangarei.

This was Rob, my tandem jumping buddy. Or in other words, the man who had my life in his hands. He’d been jumping for 37 years, so he’d done this once or twice.

After waiting for an Australian Hercules to finish playing touch and go with the runway (it did about 8 touch/takeoffs in a row), we took to the skies.

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