We’re just back from a month traveling around New Zealand’s South Island, and we had a great time. We visited Dunedin, Invercargill, Te Anau, Wanaka, and Christchurch. We rented a small car and stayed with friends and in mid-priced motels.
New Zealand’s South Island is a mecca for outdoor adventure, but our April/May visit (late fall/early winter) was in the shoulder season, and so we encountered very little traffic and not a whole lot of other people (except in Queenstown, which caused us to immediately run the other way!). Driving on the left side of the road was challenging, but thanks to the sparsity of other vehicles, we managed to emerge unscathed (the rental car was ok, too).
- Why yes, there are a lot of sheep in New Zealand. Even if there are fewer sheep now than there used to be, as our friend Mike kept telling us, there are still more than the average American sees in his or her lifetime.
- The expectation of being able to make tea is very civilizing. Every motel, even if it didn’t have any cooking facilities, had a kettle and tea. We were handed a bottle of milk (“standard or trim?”) along with our room key.
- On the one hand, everyone goes on about being green and efficient, but on the other hand, we did not experience central heating, insulation, or double-glazing while we were there. Electric heaters were the norm in motels, with wood or coal burners being common in the homes we visited. It was explained to me several times that installing central heating was cost-prohibitive, and that I should put on a sweater (which I did). It was common to see people wearing coats and even hats indoors.
- Just about all the people we encountered were pretty nice, starting with Customs and Immigration in Auckland.
- The artisan bread movement has not hit New Zealand yet. With one notable exception, all the bread we bought or were served in restaurants, even if it was called “bruschetta”, was soft and not very flavorful.
- Coffee, on the other hand, was generally fantastic, but it was all espresso-based. No brewed coffee except what we made ourselves in motel rooms.
- Motel rooms almost always included cooking facilities, which turned out to be really nice and saved us from eating three restaurant meals a day for a month. We borrowed a cooler (“chilly bin”) from our friends and bought breakfast and lunch supplies.
More to come!