Category: 2007


I was in New Zealand and Australia for exactly 2 years and 2 weeks. But with my timing, I was actually away for 3 Academy Award ceremonies. Growing up in Los Angeles, this was a huge deal. As I have gotten older (and cared about movies less and less) the deal has gotten smaller in my mind. But like someones sports teams that changes towns, I still keep an eye on them. What is getting buzz, what got too much buzz too early and is now left for dead. I care less, but I still find the whole thing kind of interesting. I might search out the best picture after the fact, but only when it finally makes it to TV. My favorite joke is that when I was flying back from Australia/New Zealand, I had the choice to watch Slumdog Millionaire, but chose High School Musical 3 over it. My reasoning? You try reading subtitles on that tiny little seat screen! So there are my priorities.

Anyway, for the most part, the Academy Awards are not a big deal overseas. Most countries has their own version of them and unless your country has a movie in contention (a-hem, Lord of the Rings), New Zealand didn’t air them on any channel and they are only on satellite in Australia. Not really the free-to-air channels we are used to in the United States.

The first year, I had just arrived in New Zealand hostel hopping. I waited until the show was over (like mid afternoon Monday) before I hopped online to read about the show. THE DEPARTED won that year, a movie I had not seen at the time (I would eventually see it later in 2007 on Sky Movies in New Zealand and then a bunch more during my time backpacking down the Australia East Coast in later 2008) and for the most part had no interest in. To me, it was too long. Though I was happy that “Marty” finally got his statue!

The second year, I was at my job and one of the perks being that I got to watch a lot of TV. I mean A LOT. We had a channel on our tv’s that was a feed of whatever the people in the satellite room were getting fed in at the time, usually whatever big event was happening around the world (I didn’t realize this before and missed the Super Bowel a few week prior, even though the commercials are filtered out of the feed) and today was the Academy Awards. We all had our owns tv’s and all changed them to the same channel and watched the show in our cubes, all laughing at the same part. Jon Stewart hosted that year. Since the show aired in the later afternoon on a Monday in New Zealand, the show ran long (of course) and everyone left the office, except for me. I had to see the end, even though I didn’t know what any of the best picture movies were. Most had not come to New Zealand yet, as they were smaller pictures that year. I do remember Diablo Cody won for Juno and I was really happy. I was also on chat with some friends back home who were watching and couldn’t believe that I was watching the show live, same as them with no delay. Oh, I was a nerd, I felt so special! The show did not air on any channel that year in New Zealand.

The third year, was a bit different. I was on a week long tour from Adelaide to Alice Springs (I just realized I never wrote about my tour! DO’H!). The big event during that ceremony was Heath Ledger getting nominated (and eventually won) after his death for the latest Batman movie. Most of that tour, we were out of cell phone range, which of course was nice. And since the tour was so long, we all kind of lost track on what date and day of the week it was. But once we got to Ayers Rock, my pals on the tour, an Irish couple I hung out with the most, started texting their friends back in Ireland to find out who won what. And I remember sitting around a picnic table in the Ayers Rock campgroup when the text came in that Heath had won! The three of us were so happy!! The rest of the group didn’t care (damn Euros) and even the tour guide, who was Australian thought Heath was a wanker or whatever. We found out the results from the rest of show during our meal and it was the most surreal way I ever “watched” the show before. When I got back to Melbourne a week later and had like 7 hours of computer time to waste before I left the country, I watched so many videos from that show.

And ever since then, I haven’t really cared about the show. I work in the film industry now and I could not careless about the show and who wins. But of course, I keep watching. If you were traveling during a major tv event, would you search it out to watch it live?

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7 Links

Since I am all about jumping on bandwagons, I was so happy to be included into the latest craze that is My 7 Links sponsored by Tripbase. And of course, thanks to my buds over at Vagabond3 for recognizing my awesomeness! (or were they just out of other bloggers to recommend? I’ll never know! Kidding guys:-))

This idea actually comes at a good time for me as well, as I just celebrated my blogs one year anniversary! I have been nearly constantly posting 2-3 posts a week for the entire time and don’t intend to stop anytime soon! My list of potential posts is still really long and I have some trips in the pipe this summer, which I will be posting about soon after, so no shortage of content anytime soon. In celebration of my one year(-ish) anniversary, I will be doing a contest soon too, probably sometime in September, when I am back from my trips, so keep a look out!

And without further adieu, here are some posts that might have gotten lost in the shuffle over the last 13 months:

MOST BEAUTIFUL
Out my window in Auckland

Picture posts are really the best. This one got a ton (for me) of comments and just goes to show that even in New Zealand’s largest town (I still can’t call it a city. A million people?! LAUGH!), The Big Smoke as the locals call Auckland, is still more beautiful then 99% of the world.

MOST POPULAR
Hawaii Activities

Up until now, I never knew what post had the most views on my website. I don’t really keep track of stuff like that. Color me surprised when I found out that this post has the most views! Guess y’all love Hawaii. For someone who is not a beach or sun person I love Hawaii too! I have been to Oahu twice and will be finally making it to The Big Island in less then 3 weeks to celebrate my (big) birthday. Keep a look out for more on that in August.

MOST HELPFUL POST
Working Holiday Visa – Americans Only!

Seriously, why do more people not know about this? Why doesn’t everyone take advantage? ‘Nuff said.

MOST CONTROVERSIAL POST
ACB Hostel

While the post is not controversial, the subject is. People freakin’ hate this place! Granted I stayed here over 4 years ago (seems like yesterday, kill me now how fast time is flying!) things might have changed. Yes, it looks like an office building and is huge, impersonal and a machine, but it has everything the backpacker who just landed needs. I just have fond memories of this place if only for when someone from customs asked me where I was staying and when I said something along the lines of Central Backpackers Auckland, he said “ACB” and I said yes. Even the locals know about this place. Can’t say locals in any American city know about their cities biggest hostel.

MOST SURPRISING SUCCESS
2008 Elecion

Car In Syndey, Australia, 2008

Like the election itself, people were passionate about this post too. Since I was overseas for the entire election, I didn’t get to experience the craziness in the US, but got a different perspective in New Zealand and Australia. Which is why this post surprised me!

DESERVED MORE ATTENTION
Off the Beaten Path – Sydney

Besides pretty much everything my first year? Kidding.
Everyone does all the basics when they come to Sydney. What they miss are the small treasures while still never leaving the CBD. Places like this are my favorite parts of the city. I don’t want to know everyone’s favorite pizza place when it’s 40 miles away. I like my tourism to be walking distance.

MOST PROUD OF
Foot Issues

Besides everything? Of course, all the posts hold special places in my heart, but oddly, this one effected me almost for a majority of my time overseas. I am proud on how well I managed a minor medical emergency while overseas and then got compensated for it after I got home.

I think everyone else I know has been tagged, except for some smaller blogs that I love that will never read this, so the chain letter will end with me. Who knows what kind of bad luck this will bring me. Oh well!

Used: 2007/08

After seeing Stephanie’s post on Twenty-Something Travel on pictures out her various windows while she was traveling, it reminded me of all the pictures I took out my balcony when I was living in Auckland. The way the sky changed so often, it was amazing and I took so many pictures. I lived on the 15th floor of a 18 story building, facing east (home!) into the harbour where I could watch the cruise ships come in and out (something for some reason I LOVED!) as well as Devonport on the North Shore, Rangitoto and parts of Waiheke Islands. But it was the sky change that was so dramatic over the seasons.

Sunset

Love this colour of sky!

Typical day in Auckland, rain!

Low riding clouds

Harbour reflection on the building next door.

Rare sunny but typical summer day in Auckland.

One of the many many cruise ships in the harbour over the summer

But more typical for Auckland evening

Not edited at all, one of the weirdest skies I saw when I lived in Auckland!

Typical weekend day on the harbour, sail boats everywhere!

Getting ready to rain

Funny sky with rainbow!

Moral: It was this view and window that sold me on the apartment. How could you not choose to look at this every single day for 9 months?! I loved coming home every day to enjoy whatever the view had to offer that day. There was rarely any smog and all the change was always natural, which is so not what I am used to. I love experiencing small differences like this in everyday life in another country.

Used: 2007/2008

If you hadn’t noticed, I read. A lot. I stopped buying books for the most part back in 2004, because it was getting expensive. I still buy the occasional one when I travel as souvenirs but other then Harry Potter and the previous Kristin Gore book, I haven’t bought a book since 2007. When I arrived in New Zealand, I brought 5 books with me and finished reading them within the first 2 weeks which I swapped for other books at the local used book store and various backpackers I snuck into. While I was waiting for jobs to come through when I was in Auckland, I spent lots of time reading books, sitting in the Central Library. In fact, when the temp agency called me to tell me I got my favorite job ever, I was in the library and ran out immediatly to take the call. When I figured out I was going to live in Auckland long term, I immediatly looked into getting a library card. I liked the quality of the books the libary held and I was anxious to not have to be in the building to read them. It looks like things have changed a lot since I lived there but here is what I had to do:

Since I wasn’t in school and I didn’t have a permenent address, I had to get a temporary subscription to check out books. I had to get a note from my boarding house saying that I would live there for at least 4 weeks, my passport with my visa and I had to pay a NZ$70 bond, $40 of which I would get back on proof of my receipt when I left the country and I was limited to 5 books at a time. I felt that was a decent ask. The Auckland library charged for EVERYTHING. Want to put something on reserve? Cost. Overdue? Cost. The reserve thing was probably the worst thing, if I lived there forever. I didn’t mind it too much as I could only check out 5 things at once, and rarely made it past the recently returned shelves in the front of the library when searching for new things to check out. Since I read so much, I had a weird system going on. I would actually only check out 3 books at a time and when I would get down to my last book, drop off two and pick up two. They also had automatic check out, which was awesome, so I never even had to talk to anyone. A few times, I wanted to check out more then 5 books, so I would go to the counter and the librarian would override the system so I could check out more. It was New Zealand after all, no one cared. I loved the selection of books that the library held. It held American titles that I had been wanting to read, British books that were titled different in the US and Australia and New Zealand titles that I had never heard of and you can’t even buy in the US! The variety was awesome.

Love it! Being a total nerd, I kept track of every book I read, title and date read, so I could do the math at the end of my year and see how much I got “charged” per book. When my visa was extended and I went to the library to get my account extended, I think they were supposed to charge me another $30 for another year, but they didn’t and just extended my cancel date. After living in Auckland for 16 months, I read over 160 books, which is about 3 books a week and ends up being about 5cents a book. I feel like I got my moneys worth. When I brought my receipt back for my refund, the girl at the counter didn’t know what to do, since she had only done it once before. No one saves the receipt and they won’t give you your money back without one. But cheapskate me, I held on to that sucker and kept it in my important documents bag.

Moral: I quite enjoyed my time with the Auckland library. Since I read so much, I didn’t care too much about what I read. I mean, I had some choice in the matter, but I couldn’t request anything without getting charged, so I was pretty much stuck reading whatever they had. At least it was a huge selection. I loved browsing the recently returned section and picking out what to read for the week.

Getting ready to read! Desk at my first place in Auckland, New Zealand

Used: 2007/2008

Before I left for New Zealand, I never cared about my hair. My hair is a thick wavey mess that I grew up with people that had no idea what to do with it. I went to Supercuts everytime it annoyed me and I needed it removed. There, they would just shorten it for a reasonable price and I would repeat the process every few months. I just didn’t care. After living in Auckland for a few months, it was time to get my mess straightened out. My boss at worked used to live nearby where I currently lived in Kingsland and suggested a salon that was around the corener. She used to go there, but her stylist had left a while back and now went somewhere new. Since I had no idea what to expect, I just walked in one Saturday and made an appointment for later that day with Mandi. I had never been to a stylist like this before! It was interesting to “talk” about my hair and what I did with it and what I expected from it, I had never done anything like this before. I loved my cut! A quick wash and good conversation while cutting was a great way to spend an afternoon. The price wasn’t too bad either, around NZ$70, plus it’s not expected to tip, which was so so so weird, especially for a service like this. But when in Rome. That was in July or something of my first year in New Zealand.

My short, layered hair after a visit to the salon!

After I got my second work assignment later that year, I waited until my boss was back in town and called for another hair appointment. I called too last minute and I wasn’t living in the area anymore so I had to wait an extra week for a slot to meet with Mandi at the end of October. I got the same cut, which is back to being typical me, always getting the same thing, time after time. But the thing that helped the most, after all these years was getting in thinned out. Ohmigod, what a life saver! Anyway, I thought ahead this time and dorkily made an appointment for 4 months from then for another appointment. And then after the next appointment, I was starting to think about moving on, so I made my last appointment for the day after my last day of work at the end of June. Since I met with Mandi 4 times over the span of 16 months and never tipped her and I loved my cut each and everytime, at the end of my last appointment, I tipped her a few $20’s, for all the times I didn’t tip but wanted. Hell, I am American, we tip for good service! And I had great service, I felt she totally deserved it. Even if it’s not expected, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

One of the best front face pictures EVER of me, with my new salon hair!!

Getting my hair cut was one of my favorite everyday things to do in New Zealand. I loved getting my shagged thinned and cut and I love feeling clean after!

When I found out when my work’s holiday party was in December and knew I would be back in Auckland for that, the first call I made was not to book my flight or place to crash, but to book a hair appointment. Unfortunatly, Mandi was out on maternity leave, but someone else did my hair and I loved it just the same!

I wasn’t in Australia very long and never had the work I had in New Zealand and therefore didn’t have the money either, but I was there nearly 6 months, which is a long time to go without a cut of any kind, especially for hair like mine in the hot weather of Australia. After I finished working in Sydney and started traveling down the east coast, I stayed in my own room that had an ensuite and chopped off my ponytail. I wonder what the workers who cleaned it up the next day thought happened with all that hair in the trash. It didn’t do exactly as I expected, but since my hair is so thick, I cleaned it up as best I could and the only person could tell what had happened was me. A few days after I cut my hair, I told someone what I had done and they said they could hardly tell. And in looking back at pictures, it kind of is hard to tell! I didn’t want to cut my own hair while I was still working because I knew I couldn’t get it neat enough for a job, which is another reason why I wanted to get my hair fixed on my return to New Zealand, to clean up the mess I made.

2 days after I cut my own hair, you can't even tell!

Can't even tell. Plus there are prettier things to look at, check out the view behind me!

Since I have been back home, I have been to various salons every few months, never finding one I like nearly as much as Mancini in Auckland!

Moral: Some of my favorite things when I was living abroad was doing everyday life things. Hair cuts, grocery shopping and laundry were things I looked forward to, hair cuts especially. And because of what I experienced in New Zealand, I now go to proper stylist here at home! Another thing I brought “home” with me. Love it.

Used: 2007, 2008, 2009

While I lived in New Zealand for 16 months, I never owned a car. I got my first job and lived in Kingsland, so I didn’t have a use for a car on a daily basis. I took the bus to work and on the weekends, took the bus or train where ever I needed to go most of the time. I hired a car for long weekends out of town and on a random weekend around town.

The weekend I hired a car to hang around town all weekend, I went to the Stardome, went out to Piha on Auckland’s west coast, drove up to Orewa for brunch and drove around Whangaparaoa pennisuela before coming back into town and making a pitt stop at the mall to stock up on groceries.

I rented cars from a variety of places. When first looking for cars, I went back to ACB and ordered a car from the travel desk and they used Ace which worked out well. I am picky about breaks and they were a little iffy, but for a quick weekend trip around town, they were fine. The radio was also iffy, but acceptable. Plus, like most car rental places in New Zealand and Australia (reason #55483950 why they are like the US) they rent out automatic cars. No reason to put my manuel skills to test here, which is probably a good thing, driving on the otherside of the road an all (not that there is much traffic to worry about in either country, especially compared to Los Angeles). When I wanted to rent a car a few weeks later, I went back to Ace and hired the car on my own. Car rental shops are stocked with maps, so don’t worry if you didn’t bring maps as well as there aren’t many roads anyway. Just get from one I-site to the next, and you’ll be sweet as. This second car I got in, from Ace, I buckled up, got settled, looked down, manuel. While I know how to drive a manuel, I hadn’t driven one in years and while I had driven on the left hand side already, I knew they offered automatics for no additional fee, so why take anything else? I told them I wanted an auto and they traded me, no issues.

When it came time to rent something for the family and for 17 days, I knew I didn’t want to drive around in an Ace car for that long a time. I had seen Explore More cars around town and they always looked really nice and clean and new. Plus, they rented out station wagons, which I thought would fit us well and the price seemed okay. Not terribly cheap, but not outrageously expensive, they seemed to fit what we needed. Plus, they had depots in Christchurch and Auckland, which is where we were picking up and dropping off the car. Sometimes, dealers give deals, like free boat rides, if they need cars in one part of the country or the other, but since we needed the car for so long and over the holiday period, no such luck on deals. It looks like things have changed a lot (they now have cars out of Queenstown!) and they used to only have one depot in Auckland, which was in town and not near the airport at all. Since the same company who owned Explore More used to also own the Airbus, you could ride that for free into town if you were picking up a car. Since I wanted to pay the balance for the car with my EFTPOS card, I had to go in person to the shop in Auckland for them to run my card. When I did, I asked for a bus ticket because I had to get out to the airport to meet my family as we were immediatly flying down to Christchurch to pick up the car. They happily obliged! Yay for a free bus ride! The car was awesome, we had no problems. They also gave us a free ipod adapter, but I also had my itrip, so we were covered. We had a hard time figuring out the trunk at first, but thankfully figured it out before we left the Christchurch area. It was also a little bit of a tetris game getting all our luggage into the trunk, but my sister and my dad mastered that quickly, so they were put in charge of that. Other then that, a great car!

Me driving the station wagon

Playing tetris with the station wagon

I actually rented from them again when I was in the Christchurch area. They picked me up in town to get the car and also dropped me off at the airport when I left. I hired the tiniest car, as it was just me, so cute!

The Dot I hired over Easter weekend, 2008

When it was time for me to come back to New Zealand for summer vacation at the end of 2008, I first went to Explore More, but they were booked solid for their smallest class of car and there next level up was too expensive for me for the time I need. Since I was booking everything from Australia, it was already a bust that they didn’t have an toll free Australia number, as lots of tourist places do, even for New Zealand. When flipping through a backpackers magazine, I saw and ad for Roadtrip Rentals and there was a toll free Australia number to rent cars in New Zealand, so I called it. I got a super friendly guy on the phone and asked about CHC to CHC rentals for the 13 days I needed and got that sorted. Before I hung up, I asked him if they did rentals from Picton to Greymouth for only 3 days. 3 day rentals were hard for me to book because that time of year, most places had minimum time limits of 4 days while I only needed a car for my three day trip from Picton to Greymouth. He said he could totally help me out with that, as I was renting the car for 13 days, he would just couple my rental together so I wouldn’t have to pay more for the short rental and I would get the 2 week rate for my split rental. I was so happy after this phone call, having my rental for New Zealand all straighten out. The cars I got from this rental company were fine. Nice, clean, small cars. Hell, I even slept in one when I was in Mount Cook! Perfect for that. I even left my bag at the rental agency in Christchurch, since I had to drop the car off early, but had all day to wonder the city. They let me leave it free of charge, I just had to pick it up before they closed for the day.

Moral: Hiring a car is super easy in New Zealand. Loads of places rent to 18+ with no charge, but that wasn’t an issue for me. According to their driving website you are supposed to get a local license after being in the country for more then a year, but when I was there, it was wicked expensive (like NZ$70+) and I would have had to take the written part again, even though my current license was still valid. And when I went to hire a car everytime, they never asked to see my passport which is the only record of when I entered the country, only my current and valid license, so it’s not like they were strict about this. New Zealand is also the BEST place to “learn” how to drive on the otherside of the road. Since the population is super tiny, if you accidently drive on the wrong side of the road for a moment, there is a super tiny chance you’ll hit someone. When I started, I made so many mistakes that I hadn’t made since I was 16, it was totally weird! But I loved it. I am so glad I didn’t end up buying a car, but I loved driving and all the companies I delt with were awesome.

Used: 2002, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010

Virgin Airlines in its many forms. I have flown with three of their services. The first was with VirginAtlantic back in 2002, during my first trip to London. A friend of mine suggested them and told me they were awesome, so when it came to book my flight and they were on par with being as cheap as any airline, I picked them. Yeah, kind of a disappointment. The seats were super tiny and on my flight from LAX to LHR, none of the entertainment consoles worked. Granted it was the overnight flight and you were supposed to sleep anyway, but a total dissapointment! Luckily, they worked on the way back. Good things: I liked the little bag of goodies you got when you got to your seat. I loved the pen that came in the bag and used it for years. I just liked the way it wrote. Also, I did like the funkyness of it all, but would have gladly changed to blah to get the entertainment working. That was the biggest disappointment. Otherwise, don’t really remember much else about them. Haven’t flown with them since.

Funny enough, I totally forgot about flying on Pacific Blue until this week when I was reading about the change in name to Virgin Australia (from Virgin Blue, see below) to include Virgin’s services in the pacific, outside of Australia. This service started within New Zealand in 2007, when I was living in Auckland, and to promote the new services, the fares were dirt cheap, so I bought some for my family when they came and we had to fly from AKL to CHC. 4 one-way tickets for US$114! But you pay for what you get. They only flew back and forth from AKL, WLG and CHC on various routes a few times a day. It seemed they only had a two or three planes that flew back and forth, granted distances aren’t very far and you can get from AKL to CHC and back in less then 4 hours. But if one flight was delayed, the whole schedule for the day was thrown off. I booked the last flight of the day from AKL to CHC, just in case of any delay and by the time we left AKL, we were about 4 hours delayed and finally left AKL about an hour after we were supposed to land in CHC. It sucked, but it was supposed to be a rest day anyway. So we ended up “resting” in the airport instead of the hotel. Oh well. I was just looking at the PacBlue website and it appears that they do not fly within NZ anymore, just from NZ over to Australia. So I guess those routes didn’t last long the way they were booking them. Oy.

When I was in Australia, they have a low cost airline called VirginBlue. I flew with them from Brisbane up to Cairns. The airline was pleasent enough. At the time I flew with them (October 2008) they allowed one checked bag, so I sent my bag through and there was no problem. You had to pay for all entertainment (though ads screened non-stop on your personal screen for all those that didn’t pay, thankgod, no sound) and the worst part for me was no free drinks, not even water! I almost shat my pants when I heard that. The only water they had was bottled and you had to buy it. I was so mad. I depend on water when I fly and I stupidly forgot my bottle (hell, you can even bring FULL bottles through security when you fly domestically in Australia) but still. We might charge you for every little thing on American airlines, but I would hate to see the day when they won’t even give you water for free with no warning. That is the day, I’ll start to fight.

While I was away, Virgin America started up. One of there big routes that I have taken many times since being home in the LAX-SFO route. They are usually on par with Soutwest when it comes to everyday price, so for the most part, why fly SWA when you can fly Virgin? They are located in Terminal 3 at LAX and Terminal 2 at SFO (having moved recently from the International Terminal). My only recc for the LAX terminal is not to take the last flight of the day, as that is when ALL their flights leave, including some jumbo jets to Australia on VAustralia. The security line is forever (compared to other parts of the day) and it sucks. I have never really had a bad experience on VA. Some flights have been delayed for mechanical and weather issues, but I have always been kept up to date on delays. Since they know that everyone carrys on their luggage now, sometimes you’ll get a message on the overcome, asking people to check their luggage at the gate for free and I almost always do that. Unfortunatly, you have already come through security at that point, but still, it’s one less thing to carry about the terminal. And last time I did that, they let everyone with no luggage, no matter what row you were in to board early and get a jump on watching the tv that they provide on individual screens for everyone for free! That is the best part of Virgin is the entertainment and I always have a hard time choosing what to watch or listen to when I fly them. Their planes are clean and attendents are very nice. I always look forward to flying with them.

Moral: Virgin as an airline brand seems to be hit or miss. All the low cost carriers in Australia have different issues, so VirginBlue having issues is of no surprise. I just got a crap flight on VirginAtlantic. I don’t hold it against them, just everytime I have gone back, they haven’t been the cheapest, so I’ll pass. But I highly reccomend VirginAmerica for all those in the US, if they happen to be going your way.

Used: 2007/2008

I am a total airline nerd. I know for a fact that Qantas is the only airline that has never had a major air disaster. They might get a bad rap at the moment, with all their A380’s falling apart and stuff, but that is total classic Aussie, complaining about EVERYTHING, even though when looking at the big picture, it so isn’t that bad.

I had always wanted to fly them and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally had the chance! When I was booking my ticket to New Zealand Qantas turned out to the be the cheapest at the time, so there is was. I was so excited to be finally flying with them! They flew non-stop from LAX to Auckland, and continuing on to Melbourne. Oddly, you board Qantas flights at LAX in the International terminal, but I know for a fact, when you return, they dump you at Terminal 4 (Americans terminal) where I had previously drooled over the huge birds.

I had a pretty decent time on Qantas. The food was meh and the movies were fine, they would go out sometimes, but always come back to the same place to left off at. To save on bottles of water and cups, everyone got a small bottle of water to start and then we were expected to fill it up at the fountains that were all over the airplanes. I thought this was a great way to save on utensils on such a long flight. The worst part of my flight had nothing to do with the airplane itself, but the people sitting behind me. You are supposed to sleep on the flight there for most of it and of course, the people behind me decide to catch up on work for the entire 12 hours and have their light on the whole time, the only people on the ENTIRE cabin doing this and the light is right in my face. GAH! I was so mad. Also, I remember when I was standing in line to check in and saw the babies, I immediately groaned. But when I was boarding, I saw the families setting up shop in the first rows of the cabins, pulling down make-shift cribs out of the walls in front of them. I thought this was genius and wonder when all the American airlines are going to catch on! I didn’t hear a peep out of any of the kids the entire flight.

I flew Qantas again nearly 2 years later when I was returning to New Zealand after a long time in Australia. It were just the cheapest on the day I needed them. I actually bought my outward ticket on Air New Zealand, both e-tickets. When I checked in on my Qantas flight in Brisbane, the ticket agent asked if I had a return ticket out of New Zealand, that immigration was going to ask when I arrived. I had a ticket, but since it was an e-ticket on another airline and I didn’t have a print out as proof, the ticket agent asked me to go to the Air New Zealand counter to get a print out proof of my outward ticket. OY! So annoying. I ran over to the Air New Zealand counter, no one in line, of course, and got proof of my ticket. Funny enough, all I needed was my name, date of flight and route (CHC-SYD) as I couldn’t remember what time my flights were yet as I was only keeping track of stuff 3 to 5 days ahead and I wasn’t coming back for a month. So not on my radar at the moment! I got back to the Qantas counter and the guy said I didn’t have to wait in line ago, so I hopped right to the front, probably confusing the people in line, but for the first time ever, I didn’t care. Boarding pass secure, security and immigration is a joke as usual. This flight was just the most bumpy flight I had been on in a while. The plane was really old and it just reminded me of the olde skool flights across the country with only the few video screens in the aisle every few rows. The film sucked. They did serve food, but between my excitement to get back to New Zealand and the crappy flight, I was totally turned off by Qantas. I mean, I’ll totally take them, if they are cheap, but on that route, meh, I’d rather take someone else.

Moral: Qantas are okay. Not as good as I held them up to be in the past, which is sort of a let down, but all in all, fine. Hell, based on their safety record, you can’t be beat and that is a pretty good reason to always keep them in mind. But if like Qantas and Air New Zealand (and Emirates!) all cost the same, Qantas drops to the bottom of that list.

New Zealand – Jobs

Used: 2007/2008

One thing I oddly haven’t written about are the jobs I had while in New Zealand. Everyone starts their working holiday with something in mind, weather it’s what city they are working in or what kind of job they are going to get and it rarely works out as planned. In my head, if I was going to look for office work, it was going to be in Wellington as that seemed like a central part of the county and a beautiful city or I would buy a car and drive around the country, working from hostel to hostel, just discovering the whole country. Of course, things never work out at planned.

I haven’t talked much about my jobs since I had such a good time working and had such awesome jobs, I want to keep something to myself. But since it’s such a big part on why I came to New Zealand and a good reason why people should come and there isn’t that much info out there for Americans, I’ll write vaguely about my experience.

I’ll call them Job A, Job B and Job C.

After hanging out in Auckland for a week and getting settled and looking for work and a weekend trip up to Northland, I came back to Auckland on a Monday and on Tuesday resumed the job search. I was going to give myself another week or two before I would head down to Wellington and try my luck down south. In doing my daily search through jobs on Seek.co.nz which is one of New Zealand’s biggest job websites, I found the posting for Job A. I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the post. Temp work, in television (which is something I wanted to get into when I returned to the US) and dealing with international contacts. Who better, then someone who was international? The posting was via Madison Recruitment whose paperwork I had seen another traveller in ACB carrying the previous week, so I knew they worked well with international clients. I applied immediatly and was called later that day to come in and take all the temp tests the next day. Wednesday, I went in and took all the tests and met with a consultant. She said that she thinks the job I applied for had been filled, but to keep them posted about my availbilty and they would keep me posted about potential jobs. This was early 2007, the job market in Auckland was bumping. They said they would probably place my quickly. Two days later, early Friday morning, I got a call from another consultant saying that the job I applied to was still available and they wanted to meet me later that day and was I still available. Absoultely! I went in, met with the department, had a really good feeling about it and later that day, got a call from Madison, saying they loved me (too!) and I got the job and I would start Monday! I was estatic! I even invested some of my mobile minutes to call my sister and tell her the news over the phone, instead of waiting till the weekend and call via a payphone and calling card. I was so happy!

The job was great and lasted until August, 2007. During my time at Job A, I met loads of people in other departments and there was another assistant going on maternity leave in October and her boss really wanted to hire me but there were two issues. One, they had to post the job so everyone could apply and two, the job would last longer then my current work permit allowed, so I would have to apply for a general work permit to cover the last 4 months of my time for Job C. I did and was approved in three weeks (more later).

I had a few weeks in between each job, but since Job C wasn’t a slam dunk (I still have to reinterview and pending that, get my work permit approved) Madison knew Job A was ending and they called me on my last day of work and see if I wanted to interview across the street at Job B for another temp job. I wasn’t dressed for it (it was Friday, so I was in jeans) but she said I could go like that, so off I went. The interview went well. I could tell they liked me as I interview pretty good and since this was a temp job for 4 weeks, this wasn’t a lifetime commitment anyway. They pretty much offered me the job on the spot and I would start Monday. How easy-peasy is that? Unfortunately, this job ended up kind of sucking. Lots of running around, I always seemed out of the loop as everyone was on their cell phones all day and I didn’t have a company phone. My computer was a turd. I never knew what was good enough for my boss. Other people on my floor and various other people in the company liked me but the two people I worked with the most, I just never felt like part of the team and they made no effort to include me in a lot of stuff. I worked my 4 weeks, they offered me another week and on the Wednesday of my 5th week, Madison called me to tell me that Job B was not asking me back for a 6th week (even though I still had two weeks until Job C would start). I was annoyed on how it went down, on Madison telling me I was essentially “fired” and not Job B and my boss pretty much didn’t even say goodbye when I left on Friday. But since the job annoyed me anyway, I got over it pretty quickly.

During those two weeks, I took my physical, got a new apartment, went to Wellington, got my immigration papers from Job C and submitted them for my permit.

Job C started in October and lasted 9 months. It was within the same company as Job A, so I already knew everyone which was awesome. I totally loved it. At this point in my life, it was the best company and jobs I had ever worked for. Job C was definatly something I would never do in the US, but I am so glad I did it while I was overseas, which is what a job while on a Working Holiday Visa should be. About half way in, I was asked if I wanted to stay on and do another assistant job, this one would be full time permanent when Job C was over, but I declined. I was ready to move on. I loved New Zealand and for the most part, the company, but as things happen when you work in a place for over a year, cracks were starting to appear and I was already getting exciting about what Australia would being.

Moral: I was in New Zealand for a total of 16 months on various work permits and working in Auckland for most of them. I had a fantastic time at some awesome jobs but it was time to move on. My memories are some of the best of my life and even now, 4 years later, I still look back fondly on them. I still think about the company I worked for in Jobs A/C and keep an eye on their job postings, just to see what is going on. One of the best times of my life.

Used: 2007/2008

When putting together this trip, we all knew it was going to be rushed and a lot of stuff was going to be jammed into a small amount of time. Knowing my sister’s hate for sitting in a car for hours on end, I tried to keep her aware of what was going on and see what she wanted to do. She had a friend staying in the town of Karamea, but we had to skip it as it was over an hour each way and not one the way to anywhere. But when she suggested the area of Golden Bay, which is near Abel Tasman, I worked hard to make it happen.

I found a place to stay in the town of Takaka called Anatoki Lodge and it ended up being one of our favorite places on the trip. We arrived into town kind of late on New Years Eve and when I buzzed the front reception door, the owner came in from across the street where she was having a New Years dinner at The Brigand. I appologized for being late, but hey, it’s New Zealand, everything is pretty casual. After checking in and out the place (awesome! it has an indoor pool!) we treked across the street for dinner. The place was packed, but the wait wasn’t long at all and we quickly got a table for dinner. Another one of our best dinners! The place was awesome. We walked back to the hotel where my parents were in for the night and my sister and I went out to party it up for New Years Eve, New Zealand-style! I wanted to go back to The Brigand and continue drinking there, but my sister wanted to check out other places. We found a total dive bar down the street and had a drink there before the place got kind of shady, so we walked back to The Brigand. That ended up being a good choice. We started drinking there and chatting it up with both locals and the owner. I told him where I worked and we talked tv which turned into two free drinks for both my sister and I! I have no idea what time we finally made it home, but it was a really really fun night, one of my best New Years in memories and we were in the tiniest of towns. So awesome, so classic New Zealand.

The next day, we did nothing, which I had budgeted for. I was so hung over and since I was the only one who could drive, everyone had to wait for me to wake up to do anything. Well, they could wonder around town, which is what they did. I told my sister how to use my EFTPOS card so they could buy food, which was good. I finally got up and we finally made it out for our slowest day of the trip. We went on a short hike to Te Waikoropupu Springs which has the largest supply of fresh water springs in the southern hempishere. Just a nice quiet walk. We drove out as far as we could to Farewell Spit and then back to Collingwood for dinner where we ate at the Courthouse Cafe, one of our favorite meals. It wasn’t too cheap and we just ordered coffees and nearly everything on their menu as it was really small, but just mainly enjoyed the quiet and deliciousness of the food and being outside. A lovely little cafe.

My first animal crossing in New Zealand

Te Waikoropupu Springs

Farewell Spit, end of the line!

The next day was back to lots of driving. We drove over Takaka Hill to Kaiterteri to do random day trips in Abel Tasman park. Kayaking trips are really popular so the day before I called a company and signed my sister and I up for one trip, which unfortunately I can’t remember which one. But there are so many and I am sure they are all fine. I don’t remember ours being totally awesome or totally horrible, it was just fine. I do remember that our guide was from Ireland which I was kind of meh on. It seemed like a lot of the guides on the South Island were from overseas and the guides on the North Island were from New Zealand. I try to gravitate towards the locals as I always have a good time with them. But other then that, the place was just packed. It’s a huge tourist site and one of the busiest we came across in New Zealand. It was like a clusterfuck of tours all day long. I left my EFTPOS card with my parents so they could book and pay for whatever water taxi they wanted for the day and we just met up at the end of the day. I got horribly burned here, which prompted us to buy “awesome hat” when we got to Wellington a few days later. I remember getting back to the beach where I parked the car and the beach just being swamped with more people then I had seen since I left Auckland a week before.

In Abel Tasman, getting ready to go!

Abel Tasman Coast

Beach at Abel Tasman

Me and Sister, done with Abel Tasman for the day, taking the boat back to the beach.

Then after a another long and windy trip back to Takaka, we had dinner at the “other” restaurant in town, Dangerous Kitchen. A bit more organic for my taste, but still good. I remember I finally did a load of laundry at this place. The town is so tiny, that I threw in a wash, placed my order, ran back to the hotel to throw everything in the dryer, come back and eat, run back to the hotel to take it out and then come back for conversation without missing a beat. I love the ability to just run everywhere and not worry about driving. This is the type of town that I totally wish I had grown up in (sort of). This would be the longest we would spend in one place on this trip and we were finally moving on, back to a big city the next day.

Moral: Takaka, while a very small town, the timing was perfect for our time here. A perfect New Zealand town to hang out in off and on for a few days. You can walk to all the services you will need if your driver can’t move, eat good food and still do touristy things at the same time. And the weather, so lovely! Not really on the way to or from anywhere, but a nice alternative to larger places that serve Abel Tasman such as Motueka. It’s not so out of the way to be an inconvenience.