I've been reading a book called "Eat, Pray and Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, it's currently an international bestseller and loved by the likes of Minnie Driver, Julia Roberts etc, basically it's a must read! Everyone, ok slight exaggeration, i've seen in the last month has this book - well the female gender! It's non fiction based on the authors account of her travels around India, Italy and Bali seeking spirtual guidance and as they say "to be at one with oneself!". The woman has been through a bitter divorce and each country helps bring her back to happiness and find herself again. Anyway, I got quite into this book not only for the travel side that I could relate to but just because of the empowerment it gives to women - very "Sex and The City" esq! I was drawn to particular part where she is in Italy having a conversation with her new Italian friend regarding Rome. He informs her that "every city has a single word that defines it, that identifies most people who live there. What ever that majority thought might be is the word of the city" and this got me thinking, whilst I was sitting in my freezing cold campervan in the middle of New Zealand, instead of a city what one word would I give to a country, and what one word would I give to my current country New Zealand? Now all be it, the Italian guy in the book said Rome's word was "sex", well he would wouldn't he! And ok it's meant to be verb, as shortly followed "succeed" for LA, "achieve" for New York - yes she's American - but if it had to be a word that really summed up a place that really stuck out to you then the only word I had in my mind for New Zealand was a noun, very simple .... SHEEP!!!!!!!!!
I mean they are frigging everywhere here! I've never seen so many sheep in my entire life! I was that suprised by the amount I'd seen, god knows they are breeding faster than rabbits, that I had to look up how many sheep there actually are in New Zealand considering that one rather dingy area in the North Island is the Shearing Capital of the World - I kid you not! So referring to my guide book, I found that there are in fact 39.3 million sheep in New Zealand and get this the population of HUMANS is only 4.1million - that's 9.5 sheep to every person living in New Zealand!!! And my Lonely Planet is lent off a friend, so it's two years out of date so you could probably round that up by now to 10 sheep per person! I mean how utterly ridiculous is that, honestly. Half the time I don't even think these sheep belong to anyone, because thats another thing there is so much vast amounts of green space out here with the occasional house dotted in the middle with nothing either side for around 300km!!
I couldn't live in New Zealand, driving around in our Campervan was an a pure eye opener for how much vast amounts of nothing are out here!! Ok nothing is a bit strong, there are 39.3 million sheep and a few odd cows, however we would literally drive for 300km come across what they consider a town, this being five or so houses each with about five run down cars - what is the deal with that! - and a little church or school. God knows how many pupils attend these schools, there are signs everywhere for the school bus, but these kids must have to get up at the crack of dawn to get to school if the nearest one is 300k away. Either that or there are literally only a handful of pupils in each school! And the other thing that I don't get is where do they do their weekly shop?? There isn't a Tesco's round the corner, and I never saw some friendly delivery man drop off any internet shopping!!! We stopped in one town for the evening, to park up in one of our many illegal - "please no camping here" sights - and there was around 10 houses, and a corner shop. And we had just driven for 450km through National Park, where there was nothing for miles, and when we set off again in the morning there was nothing for a good 250km! This wasn't an area that looked self sufficient either, no one was growing their own in the gardens, so god knows how they survived - I reckon this is where they buy in bulk, and have about a dozen freezers in their basements storing all their meat and dairy etc and they make a montly event of going to the supermarket back into civilisation - barefoot! Because, and yes I'm still going, thats another weird thing over here - it's the middle of frigging winter and the Kiwi's mainly the Maui's love to walk around BAREFOOT! They walk up and down the roads, into supermarkets everywhere!!! it's really very strange, and not nice when your bending down too the lower shelf to pick up your cereal and are greeted by someone's muddy, partially turning blue feet!!!
I consulted my Lonely Planet book again, to see if there was anything else on the lifestyle of the Kiwi's, some answers to my questions. And then came the beauty, what really summed it all up for me a small insert about their cultural activities: "The old image of life in NZ as a cultural desert no longer applies. A recent government survey on cultural activities found that 1.2 million people or more than a third of adult NZ had brought a book in the previous month - making reading the nations most popular cutural activity" I would like to know what the old image of life in NZ was if they think this is a vast improvement on their cultural activities!
However in all fairness, even though most of NZ is very backward in it's ways and hasn't quite seemed to catch up with the rest of the Western world into the 21st century, perhaps that may remain a good thing. Whilst we all engross ourselves with the latest technology and rely on this to be the source of our entertainment, these people are still enjoying the old past times that a new generation in our world is severely lacking. Put a 10 year old of today into New Zealand, and I honestly don't think they would survive. This is not to say that these children don't have playstations and all that jazz, it's just that they perhaps have that something extra the ability to be able to play outside where it's safe and roll around in the mud and get back to nature and use their imagination! So in that sense, who will outlive who?
In all my blows at NZ, and even though I certainly couldn't live here, I can't deny that it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The first few days driving around in our camper and seeing the mountains come into view was amazing, certainly something you wouldn't get back at home! Some of the landscape out here is like a painting, mirrored lakes, fluffy white clouds mixed with pale blues that float above the snow topped mountains. And I've never seen rainbows so vivid as I have out here, you almost seem to be able to touch them not like back at home where they seem so far up in the sky that they are almost a figment of your imagination! Here it's like you could easily find that pot of gold as the end of the rainbow is so near to reach.
Plus New Zealand has given us plenty of laughs and dramas! The first day we picked up our camper, for example, we were driving out of Christchurch in the South Island having picked it up late afternoon we thought we would get going and drive for a couple of hours to a rest stop. Let me first say that our camper was the size of an american school bus just minus the bright yellow paint! We had been informed that there are several places marked on the AA map that are rest stops where you can legally camp for the night without having to pay to go to a campsite. So we decided that for the first night we would do this, anyway like I said it was dark, we had just picked this thing up and the size was some what of a shock! After about two hours we approached our rest area, and having not been to one before we didn't realise that going down all these country lanes wasn't a bit odd! We pulled into this area and realised it went down a hill, again being naïve we didn't think anything, and drove down only to get stuck in some mud! Well we tried and tried, and Dan got out and was trying to push this thing I was getting angry. In the end we gave up and resided to the fact we would need to call the AA, only 7hrs after picking up the ruddy thing! But we hadn't got a New Zealand sim card for the mobile, so we made our way back up to the road, and hoped and prayed that a car would drive along! Luckily one did and as Dan shone a torch on me I waved frantically with my hands in the air. A lovely lady and her daughter, pulled over and took pity on us and lent us their phone. Only for the AA to say it would possibly be a two hour wait because there was meant to be a blizzard that evening! It was already half 8 and we had to wait on the side of the road in the cold for two hours, anyway by nearly 11pm I was beginning to worry they had forgotten about us, and then a police car came by and asked if we were who he was looking for! Well when a cop says this, instinct tells you NO WAY! However when he said are you the guys with the campervan stuck, my heart fell and I began to panic thinking we had broken some regulations over here or something, or had driven down a private area that we didn't realise! Then another cop car came along, again dry mouth, heart thumping, nervous laughter as the officers got out of the car. Apparently the flipping AA had decided that they couldn't reach us that evening due to the snow blizzard - ah well so sorry to trouble you guys, I mean we're just sitting out freezing our butts off for two hrs in the snow on the side of the road, but don't worry I wouldn't want to drag you to do your job - so they had radioed the cops to come and find us! Two cops from two different states that is, and a tow truck from a local area that one of the nice policeman had called on his way over to us to help us out, as the AA were going to make us wait there until the next morning - nice!! So that was all fun and games! Two weeks later Dan managed to lock the keys in the van and we had to call out a locksmith - I said we were cursed!
Also we had the pleasant job of cleaning out on portable toilet, Dan had to carry it an empty it as it was too heavy for me - and that wasn't an excuse on my behalf! However I think I ended up with the worst part, as one time once he had finished emptying it - and boy it wasn't a nice job seeing all your crap for six days floating out, he accidentally knocked the lid down the drain hole where we had just dumped all our crap! After trying to use a few tools to grab it and yank it out, with no such luck, I had to roll up my sleeve - mine were obviously just the right size - and stick my arm down and fish the lid out!!! Words can not describe, I'm sure you can imagine!!!
So yep the camper was an experience, many a night we went to bed with 4 jumpers on, hats, scarfs and gloves. A hot water bottle became our best friend, and every night we would say good night to each other and little pillows of clouds would escape our lips - that's how cold it was!!! When we were far down south in Queenstown we did have to call it quits for staying on the road for a few nights, as it was so cold we ended up driving around at 2am to try and warm up and we got severe colds! The remainder of our time in the camper was two nights freezing, one night booked into a site for electic and heating!! And the two nights we didn't have heating, we obviously didn't have a shower for two days, and if it wasn't that cold we would treat ourselves to a stand up wash of pits and bits!! yep ladies and gentleman I became a traveller there and then!!!
Still got more to write, but credit running out and now in Fiji and their machine has broken to top up. Will add more once I'm back from islands... so to be continued.....