A facebook friend made a comment comparing the NZ photos to paradise. I thought it worth while to comment on the less than perfect parts of the experience, since the temptation to compose photographs in the most favorable light is hard to resist.
Sandflies come immediately to mind. There are mosquitos in NZ, but the pest to watch out for are called sandflies. They are little blood sucking insects resembling a half sized, black grain of rice. You can feel them bite, and the bites itch for days afterwards. The itch is about as intense as the mosquito’s bite, maybe slightly greater, and they will raise welts sometimes, perhaps depending on where they struck. You know you need to take evasive action when you see them swarming about you. I’ve never seen horrific swarms, perhaps only a dozen or two at a time. They love all the places mosqitoes love: ankles, backs of arms and legs and necks. They don’t seem to go for the face and ears like mosquitoes, or maybe it’s just that they don’t have that maddening whine when they fly. I looked for repellent with Deet, and didn’t find any at the grocery store, so i bought the cheapest product that came in a pump sprayer. It works. It also works on flies, enabling me to fall asleep on a beach giving the tops of my legs a good sunburn. But i’m glad it works.
While on the subject of insects (to depart a little from the Paradise theme) there seem to be no screens on windows and doors in NZ. Could be that the insects are just not annoying enough to justify them. Sure, some flies come into the kitchen in the Holiday Parks, even a bird or two, but you chase them away, and they fly out again. Kind of like being outdoors. New Zealanders seem to be pretty outdoorsy people. Plus there don’t seem to be any of the really big and scary bugs that would be a drag to hear buzzing around at night, or maybe they just don’t want to come inside.
There are a lot of tourists in NZ, even in a shoulder season such as the one I’m in now. Some of the attractions are lessened to me by the Tour Bus phenomenon. The pancake rocks on the West coast are one such place where the trails are really sidewalks short enough for aging Asians to negotiate and still be able to climb back into the bus. The glaciers were spoiled a little for me by the constant sound of helicopters carrying tourists to places where they could walk on the ice. For every one of those, however, there are perhaps a hundred wonderful places that can only be seen after hiking a good distance over tricky terrain and steep hills. This limits the number of people you encounter, and increases the probability that those you do meet will be ones you will enjoy. As i read once ‘good roads bring bad people, bad roads bring good people’.
The Weather in NZ is certainly not tropical. Queenstown, at 45deg South latitude, is halfway between the equator and the South Pole. Vicki told me they had a frost while I was on the road when it was still officially summer. I believe it. The night I stayed on the shores of Lake Wakatipu on the way North, it snowed in the mountains almost all the way down to where I was. Despite that, it’s an island moderated by the ocean, and the winters are not harsh. The most snow they ever get in Queenstown is six inches or so, and it doesn’t last, even in the dead of winter. That said, there are many glorious sunny days. This year they were interspersed with quite a few rainy days. I spent several days in Invercargill waiting on improvement in the weather which never really happened, driving me northward. I also spent several days in Nelson doing the same, though with much happier results. The week since the remnants of Lusi came through has been sunny and mostly mild, although as we progress further into fall the nights are starting to get more chilly. After my shower today, on the twenty fourth of March, I returned to jeans, after a few weeks of shorts. To summarize, it’s not balmy like the caribbean or the mediterranean, but if you know to expect some cool weather and prepare for it, it’s plenty comfortable enough.
The exchange rate is not advantageous, the kiwi dollar is on a high against the USD. This makes gasoline cost the equivalent of over $8US/gal. A decent bottle of wine is at least $15. Food is about twice what we pay in the states, but it is higher quality. I see lots of cattle eating grass, and the eggs have deep orange yolks.
The beaches are not all places where you would like to lounge around and work on your suntan. The sand can be coarse and sharp, making it uncomfortable to walk on in bare feet. The sandflies can be thick and hungry. Some beaches also have a lot of driftwood that isn’t particularly interesting, or other clutter like pine cones and seaweed. Thankfully, though, there is very little human litter and trash. Other beaches like Wharariki and Green Hill are especially clean with sand like sugar and few or no sandflies. It’s just that they aren’t all like that, but they are all beautiful in their own ways, particularly in their unique settings in the steep forested hills.
A pathetic grouping of complaints for sure, i’m sure the locals have their own laundry lists. Lovely, fascinating place, certainly. Not paradise, but perhaps as close as you can come on this planet.