Monday, May 14, 2012

Last of New Zealand (this time..)

As a conclusion of my couple weeks in New Zealand I headed back to Auckland for two more - the two last - days. I had tons of planning and organizing to do… Or that was the idea at least. And to go dancing! I still wanted to see a bit more of Auckland so I went out to do some nice walks along Mission Bay and the harbor areas. It was warm and sunny so it was the best way to spend the day. Central Auckland is pretty easy to get by on foot and the circle line buses (1,80 NZ$) will get you anywhere you need. 

The Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell is worth a look in - massive stained glass windows and doors, a cool decor

I had made sure there was a party to go to on my last night in New Zealand – obviously. I’d had such a good time in Viva Latino’s Sunday social the last time around so I went back there. This time the zouk room downstairs was open as well and about 20 zouk dancers kept it quite full. The upstairs was packed as well and went in for a couple bachatas and salsas every now and then. The windows were steamed up by the end of the night with 60-80 or more people turning up throughout the evening.

My New Zealand visit wasn’t the longest one but I felt I got to see quite many of the nicest spots in the country. I didn’t feel bad for not doing the bungee jumps or crazy adrenaline sports since they’re really not my thing – I saved my dollars to other things. Or I didn’t go walking on the glaziers since I just did that 2 months ago in Argentina. I did miss climbing some volcanos and there are so many national parks in the country that I could have enjoyed seeing more of them… maybe on another trip, I felt I already had my fair share of those in South America. At least I got to a lot of dancing – that I had definitely missed! And it was nice to be in a country where it’s about as clean as in Finland, safe to walk during the night by myself and the food is similar to what we have at home… and the showers have hot water. Oh, the small things in life I took for granted earlier.

How to get around in NZ? The bus & road network is not as comprehensive as you’d think since the mountain ranges cut them in the centre of the island, but along the coasts it's easy to travel. There are a couple companies you can use, the biggest of them is probably Intercity - you can get tickets from several travel sites online or in any city's I-site (tourism office). You can also buy a Flexipass for a certain amount of hours: 10 hours was 79 NZ$ and 60 hours is 449 NZ$. Most budget travelers (especially you’ll find lots of young German people) will buy a van and tour around with that, and sell it at the end of the trip. How economic option that is I can’t frankly say – popular: yes. You’ll have no trouble finding a van, you see ads for them everywhere.

If you prefer to fly you can find pretty inexpensive tickets with Jetstar, they offer connections to several cities in the country and are often the same price as (or cheaper than) taking the bus. Hostels or backpackers as they call them are plenty but not really cheap (though you will find yourself spending even more $$ in Australia) and it’s definitely a challenge to try to find one with free wifi. In high season you will need to book ahead.

New Zealand is pretty remote to us Europeans and it's (positively) surprising to visit a country that far away, with its Maori history, with the European standard of living. Lots of people stay longer (and I found it pretty amusing that most Kiwis find it very surprising if you’re not staying several months). If you’re under 30 years old you can apply for a “working holiday visa" to stay for a year. It’s quite popular for young people to go do wwoofing - volunteer farm work. But you’ll find older travelers in NZ as well! I hope I get to return there one day again :)

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