October 26, 2005
Just wanted to write a quick note and let everyone know how I’m doing.
It’s been nearly a month since I left the States and came to New Zealand. So much has happened between now and then I don’t know where to begin really……
Then I first arrived in the country I was greeted by a New Zealand family (Kerry, Darrell, and daughter Paige) that I was put in contact with from a friend back home. They were great by taking me and giving a very warm welcome to this great country of theirs. They helped me setup a bank account, get my Visa paperwork situated, showed me around, taught me about their culture and country, and even helped me buy a car.
That’s right; I am also the proud owner of two vehicles now. I purchased a 1991 Toyota Corolla to travel around in while I’m here. It has fewer miles on it than my car back home. Before I purchased the car I traveled around up North a bit by bus. It helped me decide if I wanted to buy one or not. By the end of it I knew it would make all the difference because it allows you to have so much more freedom and capability to do more. Once the bus dropped you off you were on your, and although I don’t mind walking places it was a bit excessive. I remember walking to a 10K hike, which took me an additional 10K or more just to get to it by foot. And then you have to walk to the store, the post office, the backpackers, blah, blah, blah…
I’ve traveled a descent amount around the North Island and at the moment am waiting for the 3:00a.m. ferry to arrive in Wellington to take me to the South Island. On the North Island I’ve stopped in towns starting from the top Paihia, Orewa, Auckland, Waitomo Caves, Rotorua, Taupo, and Wellington. I won’t go into detail on all them, but have kept busy by doing numerous hikes in and around all the areas, visiting cultural hot spots, viewing thermal activity, learning about the history and environment, and mingling both with local ‘kiwis’ and other travels passing through New Zealand all the while trying to drive on the left side of the road. A few of my favorite things included exploring the caves of Waitomo, hiking the Tongariro Crossing around two active volcanoes south of Taupo, chasing Wallaby’s in Rotorua with a local couple named Simon and Ralene, and just viewing the natural beauty all around.
There are definitely pros and cons to traveling alone. It’s hard at times for sure, especially when you’re sick, but you meet so many people along the way. Some I’ve came to know over the course of a few days and others just over dinner. Some of them are locals to New Zealand and others are traveling abroad just as I am from all over the world like the UK, Australia, France, and Sweden. A few are even traveling around the world and make me extremely jealous. I’ve only met one other American. She was selling snacks out of her van at the end of the Tongariro Crossing and had “Go Sox” written on the bottom of her sign. I knew right away she had to be from Chicago. Most others seem to be from Germany. People running the backpackers and campsites here say it’s the year of the German. At other times it’s been the year of the Australians, the Brits, the Americans, etc…etc….
I don’t have any plans for the South Island as of yet. My routine so far has included doing all I find of interest in a town and then moving on to the next. From what people have said I have a feeling I’ll find a lot of interest in the South Island. That’s why I’ve kind of skipped over part of the North Island to have a full month there by myself until my parents and Rachel arrive later on. There’s still things I hope to do in the North, like zorbing, bungy jumping, etc…, that’ll probably be better with them. It’ll be nice to see my family and girlfriend again, and it will hopefully create a whole new type of experience in New Zealand by traveling with them.
Some of you might be wondering what my lifestyle is like. Occasionally I sleep in my car when I’m feeling extra cheap, but for the most part I live out of a tent. The campsites are pretty nice and include amenities such as a communal kitchen, bathroom/showers, and at times a pool and hot pool. My diet consists largely of Wheet-bix for breakfast (a local wheat cereal in biscuit form), peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (sometimes toasted and dipped in milk =)), noodles (much like the Ramen noodles found back home), and water and juice to drink. It’s not the most healthy and I try to throw in some bananas, kiwis, potatoes, and carrots when I think of it. And meat is a luxury I haven’t splurged on yet. Who knows, maybe I’ll come back a vegetarian! But then again, prolly not, I like meat too much. I miss it.
Anyway, hope everyone is doing well back home! I should get going as I can barely keep my eyes open and need to load my car up on the ferry here pretty quickly. If anyone is interested in more details on what I’ve done or seen be sure to check out my Blog and Pics sections on my website www.andyjcollins.com. And be sure to sign the guest book if you get a chance, I enjoy hearing from people back home!
Take Care and Miss You All, Andy