Hamilton, New Zealand

We are now armed with a car, much to the fear of New Zealand’s pedestrians and drivers. Actually, the car is working out very well. New Zealand’s roads are very easy to drive on. The roads are wide, the distances between destinations are small, and there are few large cities to navigate. Unfortunately, our first car was not so cooperative. After we picked it up, we noticed some slight rumblings in the idle. Next a strange dashboard warning light appeared (a Chevrolet symbol with steam rising off of it). Finally, the car would hesitate at just the wrong moment (cutting across traffic, for instance) and then suddenly jerk into gear. We managed to limp back to Auckland and exchange the car to the very cooperative car rental agency who have provided us with a Suzuki station wagon to replace the Nissan Pulsar we had.

The New Zealand country is much more interesting, and we are discovering why everyone in Auckland refers to this as the “real” NZ. It is also interesting to visit towns in the countryside that don’t appear to have changed at all in the last 50 years. Many of them feel like English villages, unchanged by time. New Zealand (with the exception of Auckland) also appears to have imported English working class culture, so that when you visit a pub you could swear you were in Swansea or Liverpool.

We visited a small town in the country where we just stopped to buy some bread and cold cuts. As soon as we pulled up we saw a Maori women with a box of chocolates and a pack of cigarettes walking out of the store. The Indian merchant was walking after her yelling. Soon there were about 4 Maoris and lots of Indians shouting. The lady passed off the cigarettes to a man (her accomplice), but the shopkeepers were not fooled. We watched the scene for a while and then did our shopping. It was a very “Fiji” experience.

On Sunday, while in the Bay of Islands (North of Auckland) we managed to get a nice day of salt water fishing in. The fishing trip was very cheap (only $20 US) for each of us, and the intended catch was snapper. We had a nice day out on the water (even though it was sometimes hailing with 60 knot winds), but did not catch much, I caught a baby snapper but had to throw him back. Another guy on the boat caught a small one and that was it. The day was not a total wash as a couple of bottlenose dolphins swam with us part of the way back to the wharf. They were surfacing and jumping, each time checking out our old chugger boat.

Today we are in Hamilton which is NZ’s fifth largest town and mostly a college town. It is about one hour south of Auckland, and is mostly a stopover for tourists as there is not a lot to do here. Tomorrow we go to Waitomo, home of the caves with the glowing worms. These worms are the larvae of a certain kind of fly that excrete their glowing feces in a long string. Other insects are then attracted to this fecal glow stick and get trapped and up they go into the larvae’s lair. It sounds interesting, so we are off to the glowing poo caves.