Because Matt has chosen to write an editorial, I guess it becomes my job to provide a synopsis of New Zealand thus far…
After spending a few days wandering around Auckland, we got our rental car (a little Ford hatchback in surprisingly good condition for $20 a day) and took off for the rest of New Zealand. I don’t know how to drive a stick-shift and refused to learn while driving on the “wrong” side of the road, so Matt has gotten drive quite a bit of driving time in the last two and a half weeks. Luckily he’s only had a single incident of looking left instead of right entering one of the numerous round-a-bouts. Besides that lone honk I am happy to report no accidents while driving or crossing streets, especially because unlike Great Britain, there is no paint on the streets telling tourists the proper direction to check for oncoming traffic.
Our first stop was in Rotorua, where we saw a Maori show and ate a traditional hangi meal. A hangi is a type of cooking that literally a hole is dug in the ground and filled with hot volcanic rocks and food and then buried in the ground for three hours when it cooks. It was here that we also discovered the amazing desert New Zealand calls pavlova, where I felt the need to make up for the 25 years I didn’t know this wonder-food existed.
While in Taupo , having little else to do because of the poor weather, I decided to go be a science geek and learn about volcanoes at the Volcanic Activity Center. The outside of the building says a lot about it; its main purpose is to entertain (and maybe slightly educate) six year olds going on school field trips. However, the façade didn’t dissuade me from the $9 entrance fee, which was money well spent for the “earthquake simulator” if nothing else.
All in all New Zealand is a very welcome change from South America – it is so nice to be able to understand what people are saying, even if they overuse the words “cheers”, “mate”, and “wee”. English does apparently come at a premium on this island however, as most things are ridiculously expensive. The basic staple of any college diet, ramen noodles, which provide a decent meal for a mere 10 cents in the States, cost over a dollar here. The same economy-priced crap that you find in a $1 store in the US, is now conveniently located in the $2 store in NZ. The fact that this is a relatively small island has something to do with costs I’m sure, however the declining value of the US dollar certainly doesn’t help the cause either. One radio dj here valued the US dollar to be somewhere between Monopoly money and Pokémon cards, which unfortunately I am finding to be the truth.