In honour of my six month-a-versary of being in New Zealand, in my last post I told you about six things I absolutely adore about this country. I also warned you that my next post would be six things I dislike about it.
I had a bit of trouble thinking of six whole things, but here you go!
I’m thinking this would probably top anyone’s list of things to dislike about New Zealand. The stupid little things are all over the place, although worse in some areas than others. I camped up the Hollyford Valley a few nights ago and I could not sit outside on my chair without being swarmed by them.
And of course, as usual, they love me and my sweet, sweet blood. Their bites are extra itchy, and like any bitey things they will find that one spot of skin that you missed with repellent, or the crack of back between your shirt and your pants when you sit down, and they will attack. And failing all else they go for the top of my head and crawl through my hair until they find a spot to bite. Evil little bastards.
2. Suicidal birds
I’ve never really noticed this in any other country, but here the birds are suicidal. They’ll sit on the road until your car is almost upon them and you’re sure you’re going to run over them, then fly away at the last minute, often so the car only just barely misses them.
Or they simply fly across the road right in front of the car, scaring the crap out of me. I’m pretty sure I’ve hit one or two, and they’re probably lucky it hasn’t been more.
And not just the little birds. Some Belgian girls told me they’d hit some kind of bird of prey that was scavenging some roadkill and didn’t fly away in time. They stopped and discovered that it was still alive but seriously injured so one of them had to wring its neck to put it out of its misery. Please, please let that never happen to me.
3. Aggressive drivers
I yell at other drivers. A lot. And not because I have road rage but because the drivers here are aggressive and I want them to back off.
Ok, so I know that I’m a tourist and at times I go a bit slower than the speed limit but in my defense, sometimes the speed limit of 100 is far, far too fast for the road I’m on and the Kiwis still want to go faster! And I’m not going that much slower than the limit.
But it happens so often that I am in fact doing the speed limit or even a little more, happily cruising along, and some idiot comes zooming up behind me and stays there. Not super close, but close enough that I definitely feel pushed. Close enough that if I had to stop suddenly, they would probably crash into the back of me.
They want to go faster, and yet even when the opportunity to pass me comes up, they often don’t. My theory is that it’s because I am actually doing the speed limit, so to pass me they’d have to go really quite fast and risk a speeding ticket. It takes me finding a place to safely pull of the road and let them pass for them to actually do so, and with them so close behind me at 100km/h that’s not always easy.
Why is this necessary? If you want to pass me, just pass. You’re clearly going to go faster than the speed limit anyway, why let me stop you? And if you actually don’t plan to pass me? Then BACK OFF. All you’re doing is stressing both of us out.
So yes, I find myself yelling a lot. Things like ‘JUST PASS ME ALREADY YOU STUPID IDIOT!’, and when they finally do ‘IT’S ABOUT BLOODY TIME!’ or ‘WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?!?’ and of course ‘I HOPE YOU GET A MASSIVE SPEEDING TICKET, YOU AGGRESSIVE BASTARD!’
I love driving around this country and am so glad I got my car, but some days I encounter so many of these aggressive drivers that I just want to get off the road for good.
4. Crappy internet
One thing I didn’t anticipate finding to New Zealand was a lack of internet access. I’ve travelled a ton in Southeast Asia, and there’s internet access everywhere. Every hotel, café, or restaurant has it, unlimited and usually pretty fast.
So it didn’t even occur to me that there would be any shortage of internet in the first-world paradise of New Zealand.
And yet everyone’s home internet comes with a limit in bandwidth, depending on what they pay for. Unlimited just doesn’t exist, at least not unless they pay an absolute fortune for it every month.
And even in hostels it’s rarely free. Occasionally I’ll get a small ticket with a password on it for perhaps 30 minutes of usage per night, but I’ve also had to pay for the luxury. Sometimes it’s ridiculous – like I can pay $5 for 10 gigs of bandwidth, but it expires in 24 hours. Even on my biggest blogging days I’d struggle to use that much, and most of the time when I’m travelling I’m not spending the whole day on the computer. And what if I’m in the place for three or four days? I’d have to pay $5 per day for incredible amounts of bandwidth that I’ll never use, just to be able to check my emails or work on a blog post for an hour.
So most of the time I just don’t, which is why this blog doesn’t have nearly as many posts as I’d like it to.
Libraries often have free wifi, which is nice, but it means you’re either limited to library hours or you find a place to sit outside, which isn’t the greatest at night or in bad weather. Even when the library’s open there’s not always a power source, so I’m limited to my old computer’s short battery life. And then there’s somewhere like Te Anau, where the library had a small room dedicated to wifi with about a million people in it all trying to use it at once, which simply meant that not a single one of us could get much of anything done because it was so slow.
5. The lack of security in hostels
I’m quite security-conscious when I travel, but hostels in New Zealand have a very, very relaxed attitude towards it. I can’t count the number of times when I’ve asked about a locker for my valuables and have been told “Oh, there’s never been anything stolen from here.” Well, guess what Kiwis, there’s a first time for everything, and after my experience twelve years ago in Oamaru I really do like to err on the side of caution.
Some hostels at least have a lock of some kind on all the doors, so only people staying there can come in. However, it’s not unusual for the entire place to be open during the day, with the workers off cleaning a room somewhere so they have no idea who might be walking around the place.
More and more people are travelling with valuable electronics these days, and I’ve seen people leave their laptops open on their beds all day. Not me. If I’m not next to it and I don’t have a locker to put it in, it’s at least locked inside my bag, out of sight and not easily accessible.
So what would I like? I don’t need a locker big enough for my whole bag, because I don’t think anyone is likely to want to steal my dirty laundry. An opportunist is going to go for the valuables, so ideally I would have a locker big enough for my day pack, or if not, at least one that fits my laptop, big camera, wallet and passport. Even better would be a locker like I had a couple of times in China, with a power outlet inside it so I could safely leave my camera or laptop charging. Genius!
6. It’s expensive.
I’ve mentioned before that New Zealand is expensive. I figure most things cost about 1.5x what they do at home, with petrol (gas) up around $2 a litre and easily $30 a night in a hostel dorm room. And food is not cheap, with my treasured red peppers sometimes costing up to $3 each.
And if I want to do anything besides drive around, take pictures, and walk, it’s gonna cost. A half-day white water rafting trip here costs more than I paid for a three day trip in Nepal. A simple 2 hour boat cruise can easily cost $150.
Ok, so I’ve obviously been quite spoiled having lived in Asia for so long. It’s a good thing this country is so beautiful and great for hiking, because it’s free so that’s what I do most!
So there are the six things I don’t like about New Zealand. Yes, they are entirely first-world problems and despite what it sounds like, I’m really not complaining! Being here is so worth dealing with all of these and there is so much to love about this country that vastly outweighs these minor issues!