Don’t worry, this blog is only two months overdue. I might eventually dig myself out of the large blogging hole I have dug for myself.
We spent the first two weeks of our time in New Zealand getting sorted. The twelve boxes we arrived in New Zealand with were unpacked We opened a bank account and looked for apartments. The housing options were rather limited. The first thing is that New Zealand does not believe in insulation. I don’t understand the logic behind not insulating houses in a country with very expensive electricity, where it is is 50F a good portion of the year, although I suspect it is related to shipping costs. The second thing is that they do not believe in central heat. The new builds have heat pumps, some of the houses have gas or wood fireplaces, and many just use portable electric heaters in each room. The combination of these factors leads to damp drafty houses. Luckily housing is pretty affordable compared to Boulder prices. Rent is paid weekly, and I don’t think that we saw a single house for rent for more than $2000USD/month. We ended up in new build house that is on the market for sale. We are hoping that it will stay for sale for awhile and that we will eventually move out on our terms.
We have discovered that some things are cheap in New Zealand and some things are expensive compared to the states. It also depends on how you look at the value of the currency. Salaries in New Zealand are close to those in the US (higher at the low end, lower at the high end) if you treat 1NZD as equal to 1 USD, but 1 NZD is worth $0.68 USD. At first glance restaurants look expensive since you do not tip, and tax is included in the price. A $20 NZD burger seems expensive, but it is about the same price as a $10 USD burger after tax, tip, and currency exchange. If NZD is your currency and you are paid a comparable amount of NZD as USD (which are worth more) the $20 burger is really $20. This makes things seem very reasonable for a US tourist, but a lot more expensive if you live in New Zealand.
All of our time critical endeavors got sorted out in our first nine days in New Plymouth, and Katy still hadn’t started work yet, so we decided to take Yoshi on a road trip to the Rotorua area. We packed our camping gear and set out. Rotorua is an area near the center of the north island about a four hour drive from New Plymouth. New Zealand’s interpretation of speed limits and highways are very different than the states. First of all they have two main speed limits, 50 KPH (31 MPH) in town and 100 KPH (62 MPH) outside of town. Secondly they have very few roads with any shoulder at all, but a highway (usually) does. Also you can count on the highways being sealed (paved) but not necessarily other roads in remote parts. Combine these factors, and you have roads that are 60 MPH, but have corners where the suggested speed limit is 15 MPH.
We had an uneventful drive and camped at a lake with a nice view. At dinner we discovered that there had been a rather large miscommunication, and Katy only had sandals, which we decided were not the best footwear for our planned 20 mile backpacking adventure planned for next two days.
The next morning we made a detour to town and picked up some sneakers and then headed to the hot water beach trailhead. It was a 10 mile hike (or tramp in New Zealand English) partially around Lake Tarawera to the campground. The campground is only accessible by boat or trail, and the area gets its name from the near boiling geothermal water that flows into the lake at this point creating a hot tub like portion of the lake where it mixes with the cool lake water. It is a little more variable than a hot tub, since the water temperature wasn’t uniform from the top to the bottom, and sometimes you got surges of really hot or cold water. We went in the water for awhile and then cooked some dinner. That evening we played some cards and Settlers and got a few bug bites around our ankles. The bites initially felt like a small prick, but did not itch and just left a small red mark. The next morning was a different story. The small innocuous bites had turned into large hard red welts that itched furiously. That was our first introduction the New Zealand sand fly. We learned (the hard way) that sand fly bites itch for three weeks, and the welts that they leave can take a month or longer to go away. Needless to say they became rather unpleasant, and one of our next stops after the hike was to load up on bug spray. Sand flies normally appear near water and mainly stick within three feet of the ground so if you have pants and shoes on you tend to be pretty protected (Katy: or most people would be, they love Todd and are perfectly happy to bite him on any exposed skin).
That morning we hiked out and then headed to our next camping area, Waikite Valley Hot Springs. The hot springs allow you to camp for $5 more than just single day admission. We got our fill of the hot springs in the evening and the next morning and then headed to the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, which is a geothermal pool park. One thing with New Zealand is that admission tickets to attractions in New Zealand are expensive, typically $20-60 NZD for admission, so you really need to pick and choose what you want to do. The geothermal park had a geyser that is not as faithful as Old Faithful, which means they add soap to break up the surface tension so it erupts on schedule at 10:30am every morning. There was a short walk around the area that had a lot of the geothermal activity. I would compare it to a miniature Yellowstone.
Our final stop was the town of Rotorua. You can tell that Rotorua is a tourist town, but it is also one of the outdoor centers for the north island. As nice as it would be to live in an area like Rotorua, I think that you would feel like a tourist a lot of the time. We had a great mini escape before we drove back to our motel in New Plymouth and moved into house #1 the next day.