I dream of Fiji

Here is an outline of what I’ll be doing the next few weeks:

I’ll be a week on Fiji mostly diving and being a bum.

From Fiji, I’ll be flying to Apia, Samoa where I’ll say for about 3 days.

From there it is a bit up in the air. Apia is the only place you can take a boat to get to Tokelau. I really would like to visit Tokelau, but the boat only goes about once every two weeks. If I’m not close to getting the boat, I’ll go to American Samoa and visit the National Park and try to stay with a Samoan family for a few days. Depending on how long I have to wait for the Tokelau boat, I might go to Tonga and/or Niue.

If I can get the Tokelau boat somewhat without a long wait, I’ll go to Tokelau right away then do the other places I listed.

After this part of the Pacific, I’ll head back to Fiji and then go to some places in the west: New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.

Then I’ll go back to Fiji one more time and visit the nations to the north: Tuvalu, Nauru, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Guam, Palau, and CNMI.

This part of the world is just a big pain in the ass to travel in. That is why so few people visit and it is not on the list for most people doing trips like mine.

I don’t plan on long stays in most countries in the Pacific, because they’re small and there isn’t much to see. I might spend more time in Micronesia/Palau just because of the diving.

After all of the above, I think I’ll head to Okinawa and then up through Japan and jump over to South Korea. That should give me plenty of time in the colder parts of Asia before winter sets in. From there I’ll work my way south to Australia.

…at least that is the plan as of right now.

Can I Has Kiwiburger?

You know you want it and here it is. The New Zealand McDonald’s update.

Any discussion of New Zealand McDonald’s has to start with the Kiwiburger.

The slogan for the Kiwiburger is “Kiwiburger: That’s Our Tucker”.

I have no clue what that means. I guess it is some sort of Kiwi slang that is supposed to endear people to “their” native burger.

The Kiwiburger itself is a burger with two special ingredients: egg and beet. Why those two things are special to NZ is beyond me. I’d think a much more local thing would be a burger made out of lamb or mutton, but I guess not.

How did it taste? Surprisingly, not bad. Once you realize that every breakfast sandwich and omelet combines egg and meat, it really isn’t a stretch to put and egg on a burger. Likewise, the beet wasn’t bad. It added a sort of sweetness to the burger. I thought it would be terrible, but it wasn’t at all. I could certainly see adding an egg to burgers in the future.

What else about NZ McDonald’s?

All over NZ, almost every McDonald’s I saw had a McCafe attached. It’s their answer to Starbucks. They sell higher grade coffee and espresso as well as pastries and other baked goods. One McDonald’s in Wanganui had internet terminals too.

Likewise, the menu in most places had more deli type sandwiches and fewer burger options, although the traditional chicken sandwich, fish sandwich and chicken nuggets were everywhere.

All stores also had special deals for after 5pm where you could get value meals for 2-4 people. You could get a family mean for NZ$20 which you got 4 burgers, 4 fries, 4 drinks and 4 sundaes. It was actually a good deal.

The breakfast menu had a BLT bagel, which at ate on two occasions. It is just as it sounds and is really good. I’m very pro-BLT.

I got a brochure at a McDonald’s and read about the ingredients they use. All meat and eggs come from New Zealand. 95% of produce also is local. The only thing that didn’t appear to be grown locally were potatoes.

I noticed the same thing when I was in the UK. The McDonald’s touted all their local food. I thought hard about why they would do that, figuring there has to be a better reason than just good publicity. I think in the end it has to do with cost. Shipping meat and produce from far away just costs more. I’ll be interested to see where nations without a lot of ranching get their meat from.

National Geographic Ain’t Got Nothing On Me

I have most of my New Zealand photos up now. (Well, I took over 400 photos, but I have what I think are the best ones up)

You can view the New Zealand group here.

I had a hard time taking photos in NZ because of the overcast skies. The good photos either didn’t have any sky in it, or there was some sunlight that managed to peek through.

One goal I have is to be able to decorate my house with photos from my trip. I hope to get at least one really good photo from each location that could get printed and go up on the wall. I think I’m about on track so far. Please feel free to add a comment on any Flickr photos you like. All my photos are distributed under the Creative Commons license. That basically means, if you want to use it for a wallpaper or whatever, go ahead. If you use it online, just give attribution. You just can’t sell any prints….like that is a big worry.

Kwik Update

I’m not going to Fiji tomorrow.

I’m staying in Auckland two more days to get my act together and relax. I spent most of today just burning DVDs and hadn’t much time to do much else yet.

My Name is Matt Foley. I Am A Motivational Speaker. I am 35 Years Old, Divorced, and I Live In A Van Down In NEW ZEALAND

This is where I’ve been living for the last two weeks.

The campervan is a pretty economical way to travel in New Zealand. The van cost NZ$39 per day and was a diesel, which sold for about NZ$0.97-1.04 per liter (there was also a NZ$3 per 100 km tax I had to pay at the end). The van came with bedding and cooking gear so I didn’t need to provide anything. The campsites I stayed at ran between NZ$12-20 per night. They had showers, internet terminals and kitchens. The combined savings for having your rental car be your lodging is probably worth it.

What I would have done differently is not made the drive back to Auckland. I would have just dropped the camper off in Queenstown and flown back to Auckland. Not only would I have saved money driving (and ferry fees) but I would have had several more days to see stuff as well.

As far as I know, they have similar campervan rentals in Australia and the UK. I’m sure I’ll end up using that when I’m in both places, as its is the cheapest way to travel and sleep.

I don’t want to have to drive back across Australia however….

Say YES! to Napier!

I’m writing this in Napier, NZ. A very nice town, with I’m guessing a very strict policy on new construction, and a very destructive past.

The city center is pretty much all art deco architecture. The reason is, back in the 1930’s, the town got hit by and earthquake, so when they rebuilt, everything had a similar architectural style.

I didn’t take any photos. I just spend the afternoon walking around and had lunch. I’m going to try to get closer to Auckland with the time I have remaining tonight. I’d like to get into Auckland sometime tomorrow and give me a day to get ready for Fiji. I have a bunch of final thoughts about New Zealand and my McDonald’s update I’ll post as soon as I can get online with my laptop.

I’ve had cloudy skies almost non-stop for the last four weeks. The last two days I’ve had partly cloudy skies and some blue which has been nice. I’m ready to get back to warm(er) weather and more hours of daylight. Its really not cold here, but its not tropical either. I’m losing my Chaco tan.

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

I’m killing a few hours as I wait for the Wellington ferry in Picton and figured I’d rent some internet time.

I got a lot of help from everyone before I came to New Zealand. If anyone has suggestions for what to see/do in Fiji, I’m all ears. I’ll be arriving in Fiji on June 7. After rushing all over New Zealand, I plan on taking it easy on Fiji. I think I’ll be hopping up the Yasawa Islands and staying at the cheap backpacker places there and doing some diving. Fiji is supposed to have the best soft corals in the world and I really love soft coral. (I do. I used to have a saltwater aquarium and had mostly soft coral)

I’ll also be using Fiji as my jumping point for the rest of the nations on the Pacific. Mostly places that you have probably never heard of, or if you have, know nothing about. I need to figure out just how and where I’ll be going from Fiji. Logistically, it will be the hardest part of my trip I think.

I think I’m going to get back to Auckland a day early so I can get my crap together before I leave, wash my clothes, etc. I also have to get my video tapes in order, burn my photos to DVD, and do some housekeeping on the website. (Add lat/long data to most of my posts)

On a related note, my GPS is no longer working with my D200 camera. Something is goofy with the cable. It will work if I hold it in a really wierd angle, sort of like when you have to do a dance with rabbit ears to get good TV reception. I’ve also took a few stabbs at HDR photos yesterday. I’ll know how it turned out tomorrow.

I hope everyone enjoys their extened Queen’s Birthday weekend….

First Church of Jesus Christ Christchurch

Yesterday was a total bust.

I drove way out of my way to get to Dunedin only to arrive too late to see any penguins or albatroses because the sun was setting and no more tours were going out.

Throwing my hands up in the air, I said “screw it” and drove five more hours to Christchurch, where I set up my camper for the evening.

My goal now will be to get to the North Island today, which should give me plenty of time to return my vehicle and get prepared for Fiji before I have to leave New Zealand.

Before I started in New Zealand I check to see how big NZ was compared to other US states so I could get an estimate in size. New Zealand is closest to Colorado in both population and area. However, driving across Colorado is way easier than driving across NZ. For starters, NZ is really stretched out, so driving along the axis of the islands takes longer than going across a square. Second, the roads here aren’t designed for long distance travel. The pavment and such on the roads are fine, but they are all two-lane roads which go smack through the center of every town on its route. Finally, my campervan is a piece of crap. I can barely go the speed limit (100k/h) if I put the pedal to the metal.

That being said, traveling on the east coast is much faster than the west coast. For one thing, there are no single lane bridges everywhere. Pretty much all the bridges on the west coast were one lane, and a few were one lane with a railroad track on it. I’d hate to be caught on that bridge with a train coming at you. Also, its much flatter, so its not an endless series of hairpin turns.

New Zealand has given me a great appreciation for the Interstate Highway System.

I also would like to pronounce myself to be officially an ambedextrious driver. I’ve been driving on the left now for over two weeks (including Rarotonga) without incident. At Milford Sound, I met some Irish girls who were going to be in the states in a few weeks and they were terrified at the idea of driving on the right. They should just be happy we don’t have roundabouts.

God Save the Queen(stown)

A quick update before I hit the road and drive off to Invercargill (home of Burt Munro!!) and Dunedin.

A few weeks ago I had no idea I’d be in New Zealand right now. While I consider myself a pretty smart guy, I’m embarssed to say I had never heard of Milford Sound before I came here.

I can state flat out that Milford Sound was the highlight of my trip so far and may perhaps be the most amazing natural thing I’ve seen in my life.

Part of what made it amazing was the fact that it had been raining for a full day before I arrived, so all over the sound waterfalls were gushing down the sides of the valley. Waterfalls were everywhere, many of which were sizable. (the boat we were on pulled up to a few to get everyone wet)

I filled the flash memory card on my camera (4gb) and filled up half of my backup card. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos to put up right this moment. The wireless in my hostel died last night and I’m just doing a quickie update at a cafe in town before I leave.

Also, since Scott Kurtz posted this site on the front of PVP I’ve gotten a lot of new readers. If there are any Kiwis out there who’d like to get together for a beer as I drive through the next few days, drop me an email. I’ll basically be driving up the east coast of the south and north islands and plan to be in Auckland on either the 5th or 6th.