2/17/10: Australia to New Zealand
Most of the time I try to pick the most exciting story from the day and blog about it. I figure there is a much greater chance that you will read a post all the way through if I don’t give you an easy out in the middle of it. There’s just too much to talk about today though, so bear with me as I quickly touch on several different subjects.
Sydney: Hands down, this is the nicest city on the face of the earth. I don’t even need to go to any more cities before making this claim. When Zhou and I get rich, we will definitely buy a vacation house on the water here (even though you can’t get one for under $25 million).
Airport Shuttle: Hands down, this is the most expensive city that we’ve visited so far. We’ve now spent a total of $71.80 getting to and from the airport. And we’re only 20 minutes away! This morning the staff at our hostel forgot to tell our shuttle driver that we had a free ride to the airport, putting us in a dilemma. We had no cash left (we always try to get rid of our local currency before moving to a new country) and we needed to catch our plane. Fortunately another girl on the bus offered to loan us the money. We accepted, but unfortunately had to get off at the domestic terminal with her to pay her back. In most airports, this is not a problem, but noooo, not in Sydney. Inter-airport shuttles cost $5.50 per person! This is the only black mark on this city’s sterling reputation, but it hit our wallets hard. All in all, we paid $28 for the bus, $2 for the ATM fee and $11 for the shuttle. Ouch.
Two side notes: (1) Alfred Park quickly reimbursed us the $28, no questions asked. The staff at this hostel was helpful from the moment we checked in until long after we left. (2) The girl who loaned us the money was from Michigan, thus marking the first time anyone from Michigan has ever helped out anyone from Ohio. Of course it happened on the other side of the world.
Tourists: Yesterday we saw an Asian woman borrow a random white couple’s baby for a photo. (a) I know Asian people love photos, but come on, this is ridiculous, and (b) what could the addition of a stranger’s baby possibly do to enhance your memory of the Sydney Harbour boat cruise?
New Zealand: I’ve been waiting impatiently to get to this country, and now we’re finally here. No verdict on whether or not it lives up to my lofty expectations yet, but I’ll keep you posted.
Customs: We sat on the plane debating on whether or not to declare Zhou’s few fruity snacks on the New Zealand customs card. It seems so much easier just to bypass customs rather than hold them up over some Jolly Rancher type candies. Boy are we glad we declared them. While picking up our bags from the carousel (sadly Qantas made us check them for being overweight), the fruit-sniffing dog ran up to us and alerted his masters of our imports. The officials thoroughly searched our bags, then took our customs cards to make sure we had declared it. The penalty if we would have lied? $200 minimum.
Driving: There really needs to be some international standard for driving cars exactly like we do in America. This left hand side of the road stuff is tiring! I know we’ve been in LSD (Left Side Driving) countries for five months, but it never mattered until we rented our first car today. At the onset I sweated every turn, every lane change and every stop. I got honked at once for not turning left on red. I turned on the windshield wipers countless times to signal my intention to turn one way or another. I could never find the drive shift stick thing and Zhou was always complaining that I was hugging the outside lane marker too much. I never removed my hands from the 10 and 2 position on the wheel – sometimes I kept them there 20 seconds after we parked and Zhou was on her way in to Pizza Hut.
However, like a great actor who gets fully enveloped in a role, by the end of the day I became the king of backwardness. I began shaking hands with my left hand, brushing my teeth by moving my head and sleeping head to toe with Zhou. By tomorrow I guarantee I’ll be the best driver on the road.
Toblerone: How in the world have I never tried a Toblerone (rhymes with “no bologna”)?!? These things are amazing! They combine the high quality of Lindt with the deliciousness of Krackel, and they look like the mountains of Nepal! Can you imagine if something else combined three of my favorite things into one? I’d own a Jamaican bobsled shaped like a chili dog wearing a Lebron James jersey. [Insert Homer Simpson drooling sound.]
Picture of the Day: Only Zhou can turn a manly picture of me and a totem pole into a girly flower picture.