Saturday, August 15, 2009

New Zealand: Pull up to Paradise and Park

My equation for a stress-free vacation: x + y = 0, where x is equal to the number of decisions I have to make and y is equal to . . . the number of decisions I have to make.

Stress on vacation is the bane of all travelers. Getting from the airport to the hotel, bullying the taxi driver into driving you to the hotel for nearly nothing, changing rooms three times to get the biggest and quietest, replacing the drinks in the minibar with your own wine, and so on. Arguing about where you’re going to eat for dinner in a strange city is fun, but it can be time-consuming. It’s all too stressful for words—hence the equation above.

On a stress scale from 1 to 10—where 10 is the level at which you’ve folded out that little knife on your wine opener to slit your traveling companion’s throat in his sleep—traveling through New Zealand in a motorhome gets a 1 with an “Ahhhhhhh, New Zealand” and a nostalgic smile from me. Kiwis can’t even spell the word stress, which they pronounce striss—possibly the reason for the misspelling?

We picked up our Kea motorhome in Auckland—my traveling companion had made all the arrangements six years in advance—and headed, uh, well I don’t know which way we went. We just started driving. I think I was in charge of the music (three Crowded House CDs) and the Lord of the Rings map.

I was also in charge of cooking. During the sixteen days we spent on the road in New Zealand, we ate in one restaurant; the rest of the time, we dined chez Christopher. And boy was the food good. From the grocery stores along the way, we bought fresh beef, fish, salad and wine—I’m sure the weight of the wine affected our gas mileage.

Through the large windows of our Kea motorhome, we were treated to the most splendid views of glacial lakes, waterfalls, temperate rainforests, Hobbits. The sound system was top-notch, and the kitchen set-up was perfect if not understandably small. Yes, this is beginning to sound like an ad for Kea motorhomes.

Kea, Kea, Kea.

In New Zealand, it’s legal to park and sleep anywhere it’s not expressly forbidden, but there are enough campsites along the way, both rustic and serviced. We usually just pulled up to paradise and parked. One blustery night with our front wheels an inch from the waters of Lake Wakatipu, we were almost blown into the lake. Man, that was fun. Back the motorhome up a few feet, you suggest? Where’s your sense of adventure? This is New Zealand, folks: home of bungee jumping and, uh . . . bungee jumping!

Not once did we have to pack and unpack, racing to check in to the next hotel; only once did we look for a restaurant. It was expensive, and the food was average (absolute slop compared to the haut cuisine at Chez Christopher). We did anything we wanted, whenever we wanted. Liberated from the day-to-day pressures of schedules, our minds were free to enjoy the beauty of the islands.

The only catch to motoring in paradise is emptying the toilet tank. But what did I care? I was in charge exclusively of music, Hobbit map, and cooking.

More Kiwi tales in the weeks to come.

I must be off,

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