Monday, January 23, 2006

21 things I learned travelling round the North Island

So as I said I've been on a road trip for the last two weeks starting in Napier going round the East Cape and ending up in Hamilton for a wedding. Here are my thoughts in rough chronological order:

1. New Zealand towns tend to be either farming towns or tourist towns; Napier is both. As a visitor I think you end up with the worst of both worlds.
2. It is truly ridiculous that a 27 year old woman has no idea what a vegetable looks like when it's growing. I'd drive past fields of crops and have no idea what was growing there (unless it was corn or grapes). I'd try and guess, but my only guesses would be onions (this was for any field that looks like onions do when you leave them in the cupboard too long and they start to sprout out the top) or potatoes (that was everything else). Possibly I should use google to make me a little less ignorant.
3. There are train tracks all the way out to Mahia pennisula. We used to have a working passenger railway system in New Zealand. I know one of Richard Prebble's nephew and he tells a story of playing with paper trains that he got because his uncle was working for the government - as he says 'and thanks to him those were the last trains I ever owned'.
4. Michael King's Penguin History of New Zealand is awful - I disagree with his emphasis, and a lot of his arguments, but he wasn't even straight up about what those emphasis and arguments were (also as one of my travelling companions asked, why are the penguins writing a history of New Zealand, wouldn't that be a little distorted?)
5. The thing about environmental history is that you can see it in the landscape. You can tell that the bush was turned to pasture, and the land turned out not to be able to sustain all those sheep.
6. Whangara is where Whale Rider was shot (one of my travelling companions was an English teacher and she'd taught Whale Rider last year), and the locals really don't want tourists (there's a keep out sign on the entrance to the town), after a short debate we decided to respect that wish.
7. In Tokomaru Bay you can also see the economic history in the landscape: the wharf, the tramway, the old meat works.
8. Sometimes shops close and you can't buy what you want to buy (the car load of townies took rather a long time to learn this one).
9. The government doesn't make many of its services available in Ruatoria, but it does have a Corrections Department office. I'm sure that works well.
10. If you're on a two week road trip every joke gets funnier the more it gets driven into the ground.
11. Campsites are full of slightly odd people and mosquitos. Personally my tolerance for the first went down significantly as I got bitten by the second (although the 11 year old who was fascinated by us, and in particular wanted to know who was the oldest, and who was the youngest, reminded me of a time when that mattered a lot).
12. You can see the Auckland money as soon as you turn the corner from the East Coast to the Bay of Plenty
13. Someone with Psoriatic Arthritis is apparently the most interesting thing from Gisbourne to Whakatane - fucking sucks.
14. People didn't clear the bush for sheep runs in the Bay of Plenty, which maks it very beautiful, but I want to know why.
15. Being intolerant to dairy (which I really am) is even more a pain in the ass when you're travelling than it is normally. Although the good news is chocolate oreos are dairy free.
16. It doesn't matter how far away you are, or how little attention you're paying you will know when Angelina Jolie gets pregnant (also Jen is currently winning the cover war, at least in New Zealand).
17. The mount is my least favourite place I've ever been to in New Zealand, although this was probably exacerbated by the fact there was a cruise ship in the harbour.
18. Don't underestimate the amount of work it takes to convince even a sweet and on-to-it guy that rape isn't just an occasional horror, but part of a culture that effects women all their lives.
19. Almost no movies pass the Mo Movie Measure. I went to see Good Night and Good Luck in Rialto and the previews were for Joyeux Noel, The Assissination of Richard Nixon, Capote. Good Night & Good Luck didn't have two women talking to each other, and I wouldn't be surprised if none of the movies I saw previews did either.
20. Good Night & Good Luck isn't a particularly good movie, and it's politics are unbelievably wet. If I was going to make a movie about McCarthy I'd include some actual communists.
21. I'm always a little unsure about weddings I find so much about the whole concept weird and strange, but they do always end up being really cool and fun".


  1. So educational to read your blog! Besides the Mo Movie Measure, I also had to look up a New Zealand map to keep up with your travel notes. Thank you.

  2. Thanks - it's really beautiful all round there.

  3. Anonymous5:36 pm

    "18. Don't underestimate the amount of work it takes to convince even a sweet and on-to-it guy that rape isn't just an occasional horror, but part of a culture that effects women all their lives."

    You’ve misrepresented the conversation.

    He already knew that rape isn’t just an occasional horror. He already knew that it affects women all their lives. He didn’t disagree. You’ve made out that you had to put in an enormous effort into trying to convince him both of this, and that we live in a rape culture, when he wasn’t convinced in any way. This was not the case. It’s highly probable that he hadn’t thought about the extent to which society accepts violence against women. I’d also say it’s obvious that he’d never heard of the term ‘rape culture’ before and wanted that term defined, since he considers himself a male who has always respected women. That’s not disagreeing with or arguing that rape isn’t an occasional horror and that it affects women all their lives. He never disagreed with anyone on that, and therefore never needed to be convinced of that either.