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27 February 2009 @ 08:07 pm
New Zealand: random impressions  
We were in Rotorua, in the Bay of Plenty, on North Island. Rotorua is a bit stinky -- it's known for its geothermal sulphur springs -- which are right next to the water treatment plant. Whoof.

We got there after quite a long plane flight, and wandered around a bit to a cafeteria that seemed like it was there to serve the drunks staggering from bars late at night, even though it was pretty early in the day. The food was greasy and quick, but really not bad. That was a constant theme in New Zealand -- the food wasn't always amazing, but it was always better than it should have been for wherever we were. In this case, where we were was a quick greasy cafeteria.

We also stopped by the Pak-n-Save to get a few random meal bits, since we had a kitchen in the time-share, and we were planning to head back and collapse. So food seemed prudent. It turns out that NZ groceries contain neat things like "steak"-and-cheese pies, little paper quarts of excellent premade custard, and the usual grocery-y stuff, some of it quite good, and some of it neat and weird. I say "steak"-and-cheese, because steak isn't usually a liquid. Was tasty for what it was, but not amazing in general. The custard was awesome, though.

It turned out that after travelling for more or less a whole day, we had arrived (around 10-11am) well before we were allowed to check in at the time-share (the WorldMark Marama Resort, near Rotorua, in case anybody cares -- everybody in the area seems to have heard of it, for reasons we never figured out). So we slept in the car for about an hour, then I got up and played with Shanna under some trees for a half-hour or so while Krissy slept, and then we sat up and played and walked around for a bit... And eventually got them to let us in a bit early, after waiting for them to clean up after a busy weekend. We had been awake a long time, and were very happy to come in and collapse exhausted not long afterward.

When we got inside the time-share, we were appropriately happy with the kitchen, porch, and good view of the lake. The stairs were a bit challenging with big heavy luggage, but I like stairs so it was fun in general. And while we tried to stay awake a *little* longer (jet lag bad), we were probably asleep again by 3 or 4. It worked out okay -- we woke up around 6 or 7am, which is about when we wake up in CA. NZ time is only off by about 4 hours, so it's not as bad as it might be.

The next day was mostly a quiet day. It was a theme in NZ -- quiet day after lots of transit, nominally for Shanna's benefit, and in practice partly for mine as well. I travel tolerably, but really not amazingly. And Krissy and I get along much better if we don't let me get too grumpy. Krissy is supposed to be the grumpy one in our marriage. It's adorable ;-)

So for our quiet day, we mostly tooled around the area, got a feel for Rotorua, saw the parks and scoped the downtown, walked around... We were amazed by just how sulphurous the town smells every time you pass a storm drain. And I got a haircut. They were having a tremendous heat wave, the temperature was generally about in the 80s, and I was very, very shaggy. It was time to trim back my mane.

Did I mention things like sunblock? It turns out that NZ has a big ozone hole over it, so you just need to get used to sunburning much faster than you're used to for a given amount of sunlight. Given that I burn like a lobster in a half-hour outside New Zealand, this was a bit annoying. We also went and got me a new hat. Stylish, protective, and lost a couple of days later, but that's a different day's entry.

It was neat looking around. Rotorua is definitely tourist territory, with a lot of Backpackers' (that's basically a short-term hostel, often paired with a bar and/or internet cafe), a whole row of tourist shops with overpriced risque souvenirs, a very nice set of (by NZ standards) quite expensive restaurants, a long street of hotels South of town, and several self-appointed Maori cultural centers with a strong "put on a show for the tourists" bent.

Krissy also picked up a couple of movies for our DVD player in the room. The resort had a number of movies, mostly with some form of New Zealand bent. She picked up Once Were Warriors, which was about modern urban Maori and the problems of a specific poor family of them. Good movie. Disturbing. The other movie was "Catch and Release", in which Kevin Smith acts. I don't recall whether it was shot in New Zealand, or just on the shelf as comfort fare or what.

So again, quiet day. Probably for the best. The following day, we had a friend bussing in from Auckland (after flying from the states), and she was also going to need a bit of recovery time, so we expected the schedule to be a tad hectic.

Random bits:

We tended to refer to "the states" when talking about the US, while we were in New Zealand. Not sure why. Here, we usually say "America" or "the US". Not sure why being brief expats made us change phrasing.

Seeing lots of Maori was interesting. Much like black folk in the US, they feel and act like a poor, oppressed minority. Seeing that with an ethnicity that (to me) look a lot more like "random people" (that is, a minority I don't have a built-in bias toward) was a very interesting experience. In Rotorua, not only were there a lot of Maori, but the European-descended folk take more cultural cues from them. For instance, Rotorua has a lot more fat people than, say, Auckland, which seems to be a Maori thing that the Euro-descended kiwis also do. Given my aesthetic preferences for womenfolk, this made Rotorua good for eye-candy :-) Also, they dressed well, which suggests that Rotorua had good stores for buying attractive clothes for heavy women. We didn't explore enough to find these stores, but we did see a lot of attractive clothes on heavy women.

New Zealand is a weird mix of very familiar plants (pines, mallow, random grass, various familiar weeds like thistles) and rather unusual plants (Eucalyptus-family, many various palms, ferns and horsetails), often patched together so that a given forest is about half pine and half palm, in little clumps across a huge hillside. Very pretty, and somewhat primordial-looking -- palms, ferns and horsetails are very old plants, which evolved long before things like pines. Also, they have a lot of hillsides that have been clear-cut and then replanted, leading to huge hills of carefully-trimmed pines in long, very orderly rows. It takes a minute to realize why the hills look weird, until you get used to it. It's almost like passing a cornfield in your car, with the fun patterns it makes as you go by.

There were also actual cornfields, and a lot of similar agricultural bits. New Zealand grows a lot of its own food, including a few products you don't see much of outside NZ. The most obvious example would probably be Feijoa, a fruit that keeps poorly and so you usually can't even get it fresh in NZ, though you can find its juice in various blends, the occasional wine or liqueur, and a few novelty products like chocolates. It's tangy, sour and (to my taste) quite good. The fresh kiwifruit wasn't much better there than elsewhere, though.

In NZ, "kiwi" is a New Zealander. Kiwifruit is the fruit, kiwi bird is the bird. Similarly, "beet" usually means the greens, while "beetroot" is what we would call a beet in the US. I think Britain is similar.

Okay, that's enough for now. And hey, that's only two days of random recapping. Obviously there was more to the trip, I'm just getting tired of typing :-)
(Deleted comment)
IANALqueen_elvis on February 28th, 2009 04:10 pm (UTC)
We tended to refer to "the states" when talking about the US, while we were in New Zealand.

Being around my boyfriend's foreign colleagues makes me do this. I'm sure Canadians appreciate it. I had it pointed out to me way back in junior high Spanish class that technically, everyone on North and South America is an American.

New Zealand is a weird mix of very familiar plants ... and rather unusual plants

I really ♥ ♥ that you mentioned this.

I am also going to try to follow your "don't try to run around like crazy right after a day of travel" model so that I am not Ms. Crankypants in Thailand.