Goodbye Land of the Long White Cloud

By: leelefever on February 8, 2006 - 6:36pm

Brisbane, Australia here we come...

To Our Kiwi Friends

By: leelefever on February 8, 2006 - 2:44pm

By itself, New Zealand has been amazing – as expected. But it has been the people, especially the ones that have opened their homes and hearts to us that have made it truly special.  We had a wonderful time with everyone.

Rachel and Regan, you were our introduction to New Zealand and showed us Auckland and got us started on the right foot with the Kiwi lingo and L&P. We’ll always remember “sweet as” and “yeah nah yeah”. Thanks for the bbq dinner too (and the wifi)!

Robin, our guide to Devonsport… thanks so much dinner and teaching us all about Auckland, including politics.  The folk music concert was a great time- sorry we had to run to the ferry so abruptly!

Hal and Trish, our personal guides to Hawkes Bay wineries.  Thanks so much for the tours, salmon dinner and a great night outside the campervan with great company and nice broadband! J

Maitland, we had such a blast with you man!  Peka Peka beach is such a special place- you’re lucky to be able to hang out there.  We loved Wellington too and hope we can hang out sometime, maybe in another galaxy at least.  Thanks too for the wifi love.

Dan, a perfect Christchurch host, from whom we learned about things such as kiwiana (like Americana) and the social history of NZ.  Thanks for the food, lodging, wifi, hospitality and introducing us to your friends.  Go well!

You all have a place to stay in Seattle ANY TIME and we hope we’ll see you there.  Just remember we’ll be there in 2007. Cheers!

Christchurch, New Zealand

By: leelefever on February 8, 2006 - 12:40pm

Christchurch seems like a little bit of England to me. It has a river called the “Avon” running through it, it’s centered on “cathedral square”, has lots of historical churches and a lively theater community.


Like much of the past couple of weeks, it rained here for most of our visit, but that was OK.  We still got out and ate good food, saw the play Cyrano performed for free in the Botanical Gardens and even won a few dollars at the casino.


As nice as it is, Christchurch doesn’t seem to be all that exciting for the tourists like ourselves.  It’s got charm, but it’s a pretty conservative city with flat geography and a rather strange mix of classical and contemporary architecture. We recommend it, but liked Wellington better.

Most of all, we enjoyed our time with Dan Randow, our friend and host for our three days here. Thanks for opening your home to us with great food and company. Thanks for everything Dan!

Small Differences in Language

By: leelefever on February 7, 2006 - 8:54pm

One of the things that makes New Zealand like home is the familiar language. Still, there a lots of tiny differences in NZ English that serve to amuse more than confuse us yanks. Most are from British English and some may be regional or innacurate. Here are some of the terms we've noticed...

A game room is a "games room"

You don't watch sports, you watch "sport".

Food or drink you take with you is "take away"

French fries are "chips"

In the car, you don't yield, you "give way"

College is "varsity" not to be confused with "Uni" in Australia

A freeway is a "motorway"

A parking lot is a "car park"

An overpass is an "overbridge"

To fill something up is to "top up"

Instead of buckle, you "do up" your seatbelt

An Americano espresso is a "long black" and a latte without foam is a "flat white"

A cell phone is a "mobile"

An expiration date is an "expiry" date

Low fat 2 percent milk is "trim"

Speed bumps are "judder bars"

Shopping carts are "trolleys" (in some cases)

Appetizers are "entrees" on many menus.

Dates are in the form of dd/mm/yyyy

Cookies are "biscuits"

A fee is a "tariff"

Windsheilds on a car are "windscreens"

Slot or gambling machines are "pokies"

You don't rent, you "hire"

Sunny weather is referred to as "fine"

A cash register is a "till"

When something is small it is "wee"

Driving under the influence is "drink driving".

A round trip ticket is a "return" ticket

Bell Peppers are "capsicums"

A cooler or ice chest is a "chilly bin"

The letter Z is pronounced "Zed".

If you ask me, some of these terms make a lot more sense than the US versions. An appetizer should be called "entree", right?

Dolphin Encounter, Kaikoura, New Zealand

By: leelefever on February 7, 2006 - 12:00pm

A few years ago, I went to the Bahamas with my family and I did a thing where you “swim with dolphins”.  These were well trained and captive dolphins in an enclosed area. I think I got a picture of one giving me a kiss.  This Dolphin Encounter was much, much different.

Kaikoura, New Zealand is next to a great underwater canyon that goes down over 1200 meters.  The waters are nutrient rich and many pods of Dusky Dolphins and Sperm Whales live off the coast of Kaikoura, making it a huge destination for folks like us, wanting to see marine mammals.


Like Sachi said earlier, our goal is to be “in” something and not just watching from afar, like the Kawarau River and Franz Joseph Glacier.  This time, a company called “Dolphin Encounter” gave us this opportunity for $125NZ ($90US) per person.  Note: Make reservations well in advance.

They suit you up in wetsuits and snorkel gear and take you out to the open ocean and drop you into the water near a pod of wild dolphins that often come investigate.  For about an hour collectively, we were in the dolphin’s underwater world, watching them through our masks as they navigate just feet and sometimes inches from us. It was an indescribable feeling to see them appear out of the blue and swim by.


What struck us both was that, for a fleeting moment, you got a feeling of connectedness a dolphin or two.  They would swim by and turn there body to make clear eye contact and sometimes keep that contact while circling you. As the dolphin encounter people said, we are sometimes entertainment for them, especially since we were ,coached to make “dolphin sounds” underwater, which I’m sure they found entertaining.


The Dusky Dolphins are quite acrobatic and a few theories as to why they jump are:  To scratch their back (remove loose skin), attract a mate (they are very promiscuous by the way) or purely for fun.


The Dolphin Encounter company is highly regulated by the government and can only allow so many people into the water for so long, so many times a day.  The dolphins, though surely not used to swimming with people, are well protected – something New Zealand does very well. 

For Americans Driving in New Zealand

By: leelefever on February 4, 2006 - 8:40pm

In exploring both islands, I’ve done my bit of driving in New Zealand

(over 3000 miles) and overall I’ve been impressed with the quality of the roads and the civility of other drivers.  However, there are some differences from driving in America that we’ve learned the hard way and would like to provide some information we wish we had had.

Everything is Opposite

For an American driving in New Zealand, there is one unmistakable and overwhelming fact – everything is opposite.  You’re driving on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road and shifting gears with the wrong hand.

In getting started with driving opposites, there are some things to keep in mind.  First, as the driver, you should always be nearest to the center of the road.  If you look out the driver’s side window and see the shoulder, you’re in the wrong lane.  Also, when you first get started, it will be strange to have the width of the vehicle on your left side and your tendency will be to run off the road on the left side.  You have to get used to keeping yourself toward the center of the road- if you’re looking down the middle of your lane, you’re too far left.

Another example of everything being opposite is where you look when entering traffic (or crossing the street for that matter).  Americans grow up learning to look left-right-left before crossing.  In New Zealand it’s right-left-right.

Interestingly, driving on the left side also governs pedestrian behavior.  When approaching another person on a sidewalk in New Zealand, the default is to yield to the left.

Signs and the Metric System

In New Zealand, there are more “give way” (yield) signs than stop signs, more traffic circles than stop lights and less pedestrian right of ways.  From what we can tell, the strategy is to keep traffic moving and it often works.  Without the volume of cars like you’d find in the US, traffic does seem to keep moving and I like the difference.

In cities and towns, you’ll see signs like “P30”, “P15”, etc.  These are parking signs and relate how many minutes you can park there without a ticket.

Like the rest of the world (except the US) New Zealand uses the metric system, so the signs take some getting used to.  Here are some hints:

100 kph equals 62 mph and 100 kph is the maximum speed limit NZ wide.  You can do 110kph max and not worry about a ticket (what we heard first-hand), which starts with a fee of $120 and goes up rapidly.

Round-abouts or traffic circles are everywhere and are somewhat foreign to Americans. The basic rule when entering a traffic circle is to yield to the right.  If you get hit on the driver’s side (right side) in a traffic circle, it’s your fault. When approaching a circle, know where you plan to exit before entering (the sign before it should let you know).  If you look at the circle as a clock and you are exiting the circle from 9-12 o’clock or so, get in the far left lane, yield to the right and follow through.  If you are exiting from 1-3 o’clock, turn on your left hand turn signal and watch for any cars coming up on your left before you exit the circle to the left.  The best scenario is to be behind a car that is going the same way as you.  If you miss your exit, go around again.  It took me a couple of weeks of nervousness and honking horns and to get it down.

In the US, it’s easy to convert miles to minutes to figure out how long it takes to drive somewhere at 60mph. When miles don’t apply, it may seem difficult, but there is an easy way:
When converting kilometers to minutes driving, think about the number of kilometers you need to go as a percentage and then apply that percentage to 60 minutes.  For instance, consider how long it takes to drive 25 kms.  Being that 100 kph is essentially the same as 60 mph, it makes for a handy way to calculate time and distance.   First, think about 25 kms as 25% of 100 (100 kilometers per hour).  Then, calculate 25% of 60 minutes, which would be 15.  So, it takes 15 minutes to travel 25km at 100 kph.

The Roads

New Zealand has very few expressways, except in the urban areas.  Everything else is a mixture of long, straight rural roads and 2 lanes of curvy white-knuckled roller coasters with about a centimeter for a shoulder. The need to pass other vehicles is ever-present.  Drivers in NZ expect to be passed and often pull over to the shoulder and put on the left-hand turn signal.  This says to you “Please pass now”.  Many of the roads have passing lanes every so often and these are the safest places to pass.

I’ve never seen roadkill on the scale I’ve seen in New Zealand.  Like America, it is often the poor possum, which has an uncanny ability to be hit during their nightly scavenger hunts.  Other than roadkill, be aware of the errant farm animal.  Sheep seem adept at escaping and often appear on the edge of the road, eyeing the other side.

The west coast of the South Island seems particularly fond of one-lane bridges – they vastly outnumber the two lane bridges.  Pay attention to the signs when you approach a one lane bridge – they provide information on right of way, which is apparently based on who has the most visible approach to the bridge.

All in All

You’ll be fine!  You’ll get used to it in a few days and in a couple of weeks, the idea of driving on the left side of the car on the right side of the road will seem weird.  You’ll be fine mate, no worries!


The Picnic Table Wars

By: leelefever on February 4, 2006 - 1:44pm

The Picnic Table Wars, originally uploaded by LeeLeFever_TwinF.

In many campgrounds, there are picnic tables, but they are not provided in a 1:1 ratio. We have to be nice campers and share, or take as it were.

Being a scarce resource, the tables have value over and above their wood and nails. Campers sit ready to pounce as soon as one comes available, creating a passive aggressive competition among campers. Who will finally own the table?

When we arrived at our campsite here in Kaikoura, we found a single picnic table between two sites, positioned a bit closerto the other site. So, we nudged it back over to our side, clearly laying our claim. We left for the day and came back to find new neighbors and a picnic table conspicuously moved to their side, so close we would intrude if trying to use it. They had very clearly snatched ownership of the table from our grasp. We let it go. When they left, the table moved into the center once more. We let it be, even though we had a chance to claim it again.

The next morning we left the campground and returned to find new neighbors that had staked there claim in an unprecedented way. The table was situated in the far back corner of their site, unreachable by any mere mortals. The message was clear and we stood down. They were tent campers and we have a campervan, they need it more, we'll let them have it. We prided ourselves in our attitude but it still bugged me that they would be so brash.

This morning we awoke to a cold, hard rain and our table-claiming neighbors packing up to leave at 7AM. All I could say to Sachi was "It's such a shame that picnic table can't keep them warm and dry, isn't it?"

Home in a Campervan

By: sachilefever on February 3, 2006 - 2:42pm


It’s another rainy evening in the South Island. We really haven’t had many, but they seem to come at opportune times for us – usually after a big activity, and all we want to do is nap or relax our muscles. We’re warm and dry in the campervan while the tent campers outside are huddling and trying to figure out how to keep the mini rivers of rainwater from flowing into their tents. Some are hiding in their cars. Up in Abel Tasman Park, our next door tent camping neighbors said they had a couple of inches of rain in their tent overnight. Yuck.

This vehicle has become home. So what does that mean? In the evenings when we return to Squeak, we head to our normal positions. Lee moves pictures from the camera to the laptop and begins the process of creating panoramas from the set he captured that day. I clean up and start dinner.  Lee then finds some kind of entertainment for me – a couple of nights ago it was music – Motown oldies, tonight he read me a few chapters of a Genghis Khan biography while I tended to our butter chicken and risotto rice dinner and tomorrow’s lunch. I wash the dishes and he stands under the vent (it’s the only place he doesn’t need to duck) and happily dries and then takes the garbage bag out. It’s all very much like home – except for the head room.

Some nights before bedtime, we watch an episode of the Sopranos. Last night Adrianna got whacked, and tonight, I think, is season 5’s finale.  Is it the one where the Feds show up at NY Johnny’s house and send Tony walking home? We’ll see. Without other television entertainment, I find myself wondering the next day about subtleties in the last episode, or trying to picture the armies that Genghis might have had.

Even in a traveling lifestyle that is almost by definition, non-routine, we are finding a little bit of comfort in the daily minor routines.

Kooling Jets in Kaikoura New Zealand

By: leelefever on February 2, 2006 - 9:27pm


We're taking the advice from many good people and taking a break.  We've been hitting it pretty hard lately and Kaikora, New Zealand is providing us a nice small and quiet place on the coast to relax for 5-6 days.

Kaikoura is on the east coast of the South Island and is known for whale watching more than anything else.  It does have quite a bit of natural beauty as well, with mountains as a backdrop (that have been hidden by clouds). 

We took in some of the beauty today with a hike out to the cliffs on the peninsula.  We'd recommend it, but if you're considering it- don't go all the way to South Bay - there is nothing there.

 At the bottom of the hike there is a reserve for seals and it was so fun watching this guy dream as he slept- just like Amos.  We wondered what he dreamt guess- catching fish.

Of course, what walk in new Zealand would be complete without sheep.  My dad says there are 40 sheep for every person. It seems like more. We've learned that when you're bored on long drives, you can honk your horn and the sheep on the side of the road will run.

Here's Sachi using her patented arm balacing position on the cliff...

We're continually amazed at how NZ seems to trust people and let them go places that could be dangerous without fences or waivers. Ahh, life without litigation... how nice.

Kawarau Riversurfing (Riverboarding) Queenstown New Zealand

By: sachilefever on February 1, 2006 - 4:36pm

Just about every activity here on the South Island, it seems, can be viewed from the air. There are numerous companies in each town offering seaplanes, helicopters, gliders and small planes that take you up and view the whales, glaciers, mountains or rivers. While this would be great to do, I am much more on the side of getting in close rather than viewing from above.

On the Franz Josef glacier, I wanted to be digging my crampons in the ice. On the Kawarau river in Queenstown, I wanted to be IN the water and rapids. Riverboarding offered wetsuits, lifejackets, helmets, a small boogie board and license to float or tumble your way through the class 2-4 rapids. The cold water rushing over the board felt so good! If any of you have been boogie boarding in the ocean surf, you know that leaning the board is a large part of your control. In the river - it does nothing. You are propelled by the current and have little control other than your fins.

The first few hundred feet of rapids threw me up and down over the waves and had me laughing through the entire section. I could see Lee through most of it. But then, the “Man-eater” class 4 rapid sailed me up and over. I ate it. My board went flying into others’ who had found the same fate, and I finally bobbed up after swirling through a whirlpool. I laughed some more and hoped for another. There was a girl and her friend almost crying next to me. I think they were from Denmark.

It was a workout -always trying to swim in the line of the guide, but somehow never getting there in time before the rapid or whirlpool. My muscles are sore the day after and will be for a couple more days I’m sure.

 In the café after we finished, we all swapped stories, and the girls from Denmark were adamant they would never do this again. I definitely would.

I wish we had pictures to share, but it was impossible to take the camera amongst the rocks and water, not to mention the need to swim.

Lee has a different story to tell.

Syndicate content