The New Zealand Chapter

We have commenced our next Great Adventure, landing in Auckland on Thursday afternoon.  Happily, and strangely (for us), we actually had someone to collect us from the airport on our arrival in Strange New Land.  Ang and I were mates at college and caught up last year when we had our whirlwind tour of NZ.  Matilda calls her Angelina Ballerina and this may have affected her childish memories of Ang as she whispered to me straight away “Is that the same Angelina?” and later that night was still confused about whether we were with the right person.  The main difference being that last time Angelina had “yellow hair and a white face”.  Strange.  She still looks the same to me!

Air NZ flight this time, another exciting aspect for us as usually it’s Jetstar all the way.  After the Tasmania Bag Episode I was keen to fly with anyone else and happily Air NZ were having a 4 day special that was well cheaper than any other airline right on the dates we wanted to fly.  So, lots of ceiling height, our own tellies and free food, not to mention customer service FAR exceeding that of the budget airlines (allocating us 3 seats to ourselves, offering us extra drinks, asking if we require assistance, providing a speedy departure card so we go to the front of lines etc).  I am a big fan and interestingly a lot of people I’ve mentioned this to also admit that their best flying experiences have been with the Kiwi airline, so yay for Air NZ and I hope I haven’t jinxed myself now!

We are staying at a Bible College, believe it or not.  Ang works here and lives on campus and it turns out the guest room was available and about $40 where the cheapest hotel was around $64 (All Seasons, was Formula 1 in the CBD, where we stayed last time).  Not bad considering we are here for a few days.

Anyway: I hid my Kiwi SIM so well after the last trip I couldn’t find it so our first task was to get a new one.  Considering it only cost $NZ20 (about $AU15) it’s not a bad idea if you’re going to be in NZ for anything longer than a stopover.  I went with 2 Degrees, like last time, as it was remarkably cheap.  And once again, after surfing the net, sending a dozen texts to Australia and a few more to Ang in NZ I still had a little over $18 left.  That would’ve sucked my prepaid credit dry with miserly old Telstra.

On that note, Telstra have been total barstools regarding the modem.  2 hours on the phone being transferred around India only to be told it would cost me MORE THAN THE PRICE OF THE MODEM to have the damn thing unlocked from the Telstra network.  Apparently it decreases to $27.50 after you’ve owned the modem for 6 months (oh wow, how generous giant ripoff telco).  Point being: I already OWN the bloody thing you wankers!!  And it’s not even as though I am wanting to use it with another Aussie carrier (although I have a strong desire to do that NOW) – I want it to go overseas!!  Anyway, bought one yesterday in NZ.  Cost me $NZ99 ($AU80) and for the ironic icing on the cake: it comes already UNLOCKED.  And the reception has already proved a lot faster/more reliable than crummy Telstra.

Definitely taking this one back to Oz to use with an alternative carrier.

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Tas MANIA

I don’t know why but that’s the way Tasmania sounds in my head.  So, we are here now – the butt of Oz, the underbelly of the great south land.  Actually it’s quite nice.  The weather is making me deliriously happy after the dirty, grey frozen-ness of Ningbo and the muggy fog of Queensland.  It’s perfect Autumn weather – the kind I didn’t think existed in Australia.  You know – the sun is shiny and warm without trying to burn the hairs off your skin.

We are in Launceston.  My great-aunt was born here, I think.  Her sister (my grandmother) was not so sometime around 1910 my family were here and then away.  Speaking with a random old guy in the lounge tonight who is from Melbourne but over here to go to Launceston hospital.  Perhaps that is what my great grandmother decided for the birth of my great aunt Frances?  Who knows…I’d like to find out but somehow having Matilda in tow always seems to spoil my travel daydreams.

For example: booked in to use the public library internet.  Barely 10 mins passed and only just scratching the surface of car hire companies to find the bargains when she starts shouting “Pee Pee, Pee Pee” like a demented budgie.  Hissed and glowered threateningly at her but when the screaming in my head started to make me dizzy we had to leave.

Dragged her across town to Maccas figuring free wifi with chips might work better, but she got stuck right up the top of their playground and started howling and while dozens around me were happily checking email or facebook, MY computer refused to connect.  Dejected walk home.  Stumbled across Officeworks and bought a Telstra prepaid wireless dongle thingy.  Hate to give those greedy bastards any more of my money but can’t trust the coverage of anyone else, especially when we don’t actually know where we live.  Salesman was slightly nuts – kept going on about bedsheets then started asking me where Matilda’s dad was and how soon he’d be joining us in Tas…

More about the backpackers later…