OK, I'm finally getting off my butt a bit and making another entry into this here weblog. I've been hanging out in the "Northland" for most of the past two weeks. I used the Wellington to Auckland leg of my return flight to get back up to Auckland. I was actually fairly impressed with Auckland. It had been presented to me as the "L.A." of New Zealand - a sprawling city where people's attitudes bely a sense that they are hipper than thou. I suppose these things might be true to an extent, but on a much smaller scale, and I must admit it was quite welcoming to be back in a big city, with its wealth of activities, dining options, and media and entertainment diversions. As far as big sprawling cities go, I found it pretty easy to get around in as well. I met up with my friend Frances, a Kiwi girl that I had met on my motorcycle journey around Spain. We met up to go to a show of Linton Kwesi Johnson, a famous reggae poet. I have a few tracks of his that I've collected over the years and several of my british friends have much praise for him. I must say, it was quite inspiring to see him in person. He was just reciting some of his poems but he provided the background information that allowed you to really understand what the poem was about and just his presence on the mic is quite substantial.
After that, I caught a ride back with Frances to the place where she lives, near a town called Leigh, about an hour and a half up the east coast from Auckland. She works at a place called the Leigh Sawmill, an old sawmill that has been converted into a dining and drinking establishment and they've got accomodations there as well and are in the process of building a micro-brewery. It's quite laidback country around there - lots of farmland and fishing. The landscape reminds me a lot of England but the coastline is much more impressive. There's seemingly endless coves and small bays with brilliant blue-green water and many fine beaches. There's so many nice beaches, in fact, that every neighborhood has its own little watering hole and there's much less a sense of hordes gathering at one or two beach spots. I still can't quite get over the fact, however, that beaches as fine as this are meant to have invitingly warm waters that make you want to spend more time in the water than out. I finally worked up the nerve to actually go in the water and I must admit it wasn't as bad as I had thought. Nevertheless I probably spent a grand total of about five minutes in there. I have been tempted to go scuba diving as well but the cost is quite prohibitive - the going rate seems to be about NZ $170 for a two tank dive, which works out to about $130 US. Compared to the ridiculously cheap $10 US per tank that I was paying in Utila, Honduras, it's kind of hard to cough up the cash. Also, I'm hoping to make use of my divemaster certification once I get to Australia and Asia to be able to go diving for free and perhaps earn a bit of spending money in the process.
The anticipation of what lies ahead in the more tropical climates has made it a bit difficult for me to appreciate the full splendor of New Zealand, I must admit. I've just started a bus trip that will take me to all the hotspots in the north and south islands which should help to dispel that. There seems to be adventure activities galore - skydiving, whitewater rafting, surfing, swimming with dolphins and whales, hiking glaciers, all of which I'd love to do. But the costs add up very quickly. Each activity seems to cost at least $50 US and go up to about $200 US. Then again, I'm not sure when I'll have the opportunity again to do many of these things and I have been doing some work telecommuting for a client back home so I have managed to add to my travel purse a bit. But New Zealand in general does seem quite expensive - I suppose it would have been quite different when 1 NZ dollar cost $.40 US when Philip first arrived here a few years ago compared to the $.70 and climbing that it costs now. But hell, I'm trying my best not to dwell too much on the money thang. I try to economize when I can but money's no good unless you can enjoy spending it. Which brings me to another bad habit I'm trying to cure myself of - I'm remarkably indecisive, preferring to leave any decision to the very last minute, which I'm OK with, but I also tend to dwell way too much on whether I made the right decision after the fact. To a certain degree, this is healthy, I think, allowing you to analyze your decisions and hopefully make better ones in the future. But at a certain point you just have to realize that certain things are beyond your control and information inevitably comes to light after making a decision that might have affected the decision process. Such is life. Deal with it. That's what I'm trying to make myself realize. But my brain doesn't accept such irrefutable logic quite as well as one might think, being a computer programmer and all.
So anyway, I've decided to sign up for surf lessons later today. I'm in a small town on the west coast called Raglan that's famed for its left break. I went and watched the surfers for a while at sunset last night and while it looks like a lot of fun for those that know what they're doing, it doesn't quite match up with a surf paradise that one might conjure in their mind. The beach is mostly devoid of sand, filled with large rocks instead, and while the water definitely has a greenish tint to it, it's not the typical clear aqua where you can see the bottom 40 feet down that I have experienced at other surf spots. Nevertheless, I reckon I'll give it a go and hopefully I'll be that much better prepared to go out on my own once I do reach the more idyllic surf spots. And the scenery IS quite impressive in its own right.
So I'll wrap it up here. Ideally, I'd have more compact but frequent updates to my weblog but that doesn't seem to be my style. So if you've made it this far, congratulations, and stay tuned for more...
OK, my website has finally caught up with the end of the twentieth century. Now that everyone and their dog has their own blog, I have finally gotten around to creating my own. This blog is meant to update anyone who cares (admittedly a small audience, but there are a few out there - hi Mom) to find out roughly where in the world I currently am and what I've been up to as of late. That is assuming, of course, that I am diligent about keeping this site up to date, which is far from a foregone conclusion but I'm gonna do my best. To update any viewers out there that just joined us, I'm currently on a round-the-world venture. My brother Philip moved to New Zealand with his family a couple of years ago and I still had not been there, so I though it would be the perfect destination for my next travels. As long as I was going all that way, though, I thought why not just go all the way and make it a full round-the-world journey. So after doing my best to save up my funds for about a year and arranging all my affairs, I have finally begun...
While shopping around for a flight to New Zealand, one of the cheapest ones I could find was a wallet-busting $1400. As a consolation prize, though, it included a free stopover in my choice of several South Pacific island getaways. After doing some research and soliciting input, I decided on Fiji, mainly because it was supposed to have some of the best scuba diving and I wanted to get my fins wet again before I start soliciting work as a Divemaster (more on that later).
Without further ado, I will direct you to the photos I took while in Fiji.