Monday, March 2, 2009

Final Post - Accounting

This may not be your cup of tea, but I would be curious about the cost to travel for a family of four (2 adults and 2 young ladies) for 3 months internationally. Since we only visited the Cook Islands and New Zealand the accounting is pretty straight forward as all the currency was in the New Zealand Dollar. The average exchange rate for the 3 months we travelled hovered right around .52. Essentially every US dollar would get you about $1.92 NZ. Not bad... and by the end of the trip the exchange rate was almost $1 US = $2 NZ. The exchange rate was definitely in our favor. I've converted the cost of the trip from NZ dollars to US dollars. The details are as follows in US dollars:
Transportation Cost Include (Airfare, Inter-Island Ferry, Scooters, Car Rental, Car Insurance, Van Rental, Van Insurance, Car License 'Cook Islands', New Tire, Gas, Other Ferry, Car Wash, Cook Island Extortion Fee, Parking)

Lodging (Includes all lodging + camping. Many nights were free or in the $0-$20 range while camping in Department of Conservation campgrounds, or up in the woods... We tent camped about 35 nights drastically reducing our lodging costs. Much of our camping gear was compact and fit into two large suitcases. We slept on boats, houseboats, farms, cottages, beach huts, hostels, backpacker lodges, motor camps, holiday parks, homes and planes.)
$3,099 total or $38.26 a night

Groceries and Eating Out (We purchased most of our food at the grocery stores and markets and made our own meals. We dined out less than 10 times. We visited McDonald's 4 times and KFC 1 time. We had 2 nice meals time for Curt's B-day and One time with Fred and Kristine our friends and hosts in Aitutaki. We did visit a few bakeries for the odd pastry and cappuccino, and did have the random lunch here and there. On a few occasions the excursions we were taking part in provided a nice lunch or dinner (this cost is also included in this category.) All in all we fixed and ate most of our own meals. Our cooler that was full of camping gear on the way down to NZ provided a nice place to keep perishables while travelling. Also, groceries include ice cream stops, smoothies, candy, wine, beer or other food item consumed.)
$1,814 Groceries + $534 Eating Out = $2,348 total or $29 daily

Action Adventure and Excursions (Includes kayak trips, fishing, overnight cruise, bungy jumping, flying fox, zorbing, para flights, cave tours, snorkel tours, thermal mud baths, fire shows, dance shows, volcanic valley hike, museums, jet boat rides, chocolate factory tour, Milford Sound tour, Doubtful Sound tour, spa swimming, stilt walking, hobbiton, water park, concert, sand dune sledding, gold mining)

Laundry (Any Laundry we paid to clean. We did laundry for free at any place that would offer.)

Internet Usage (Including all Internet cafes, Internet libraries, Internet at homes, Internet at motor lodges or any other facility we had to pay for Internet usage. Sometimes usage was free.)

Miscellaneous (Includes all gifts, books, pharmacy, church, propane, all mail, making a key, any tips for guides.)

For a Grand Total of $19,054 US
As you can see the bulk of the trips cost was made up from transportation. Airfare alone cost us over $8,000, but it did include a stop in Rarotonga and Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. If you are interested about any of the above costs broken down even further I can bore you with any of the data. For instance, our van cost $1,540 NZ for 56 days. About $800 US... and that included additional insurance protection. Please let me know about further costs if you are curious... Curt

February 26th, Our last day

It's hard to believe it's all come to an end. There are many mixed emotions within our crew of 4, but all of us our looking forward to getting home to see family and friends. On our final morning, Curt and Lisa watched an amazing sunrise while the girls slept soundly in their tents. We said good by to "RT" our companion van that we all grew attached to over 2 months on the best of New Zealands highways, byways and back roads. There was joy, excitement and laughter as we rode to the NZ airport in the shuttle. This trip would also not be complete for Curt without a final accounting of all the actual costs. So... we will provide one more post on the cost of the trip titled "only the facts". Curt has accounted for almost every dollar and wanted to break out all the costs in case anybody was curious about tent camping, budget lodging, shopping and extra while tramping around NZ and the Cook Islands. For a family of four the cost was really quite reasonable if you're willing to tent camp for over half your nights, and also willing to make the majority of your meals. See final post.

February 23rd, Curt's B-day Party

Curt had planned to hike into the Grand Canyon with his friend Clint Liptac last February 23rd for his 42nd b-day, but a really nasty flue kept him bed ridden on the rim of the canyon as his friend did the winter hike alone. It's only fitting this year that he was healthy and happy doing one of his favorite things- playing in the surf with his girls NZ style. Happy B-day Curt! We also had an unexpected gift of a flat tire... it allowed us to meet Rob the farmer who was an all around great guy!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

February 20th-21st, On the top of New Zealand – Cape Reinga

We finally arrived at the top of the North Island today (Cape Reinga). For some reason the weather systems forgot our memo that we wanted a fantastic day to see the Cape. Clouds, fog, wind and heavy rain pelted us as we started our way down the path to the lighthouse. Finally our better judgment won out and we retreated hastily to our van (RT). Our next move was to drive a few kilometers down the road, find a campsite along the cape in this howling storm and hope that the weather would clear up by morning. (This would be our only opportunity to see the Cape since our first attempt had near zero-visibility.) The drive down to the ocean-side camp ground was on a very wet and muddy gravel road. We were starting to get concerned about being able to make it back up the road and out of camp the next morning, but we proceeded ahead with a sense of adventure and eventually spotted the camp. The camp spot was amazing - nestled in a little cove along the coast that was being battered by surf. After arriving and sitting in RT for some time there was finally a break in the rain; we jumped out and quickly set up the tents with the rain tarps securely in place just as the rain started pelting again. The night was windy and wet, but our tents did the job! A beautiful blue sky greeted us the following morning, revealing that beach and campsite were even more spectacular than we had realized night before. We spent the morning rummaging around the beach which was surrounded by bluffs and wild landscape and exploring rocky coves. In the afternoon we ventured back up the muddy road and eventually out to the Cape. The top of NZ is a very cool spot where the Abel Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean collide! You can almost see the different colors of the two oceans and the ferocious tides as they swirl around the top of the country. We were thankful we rode out the storm the previous night, as the views from the Cape were breathtaking. We have posted some pictures of the night before (during the storm) and the day after the storm. What a difference 12 hours makes. Cheers!

February 23th, Camping and Other Accommodations.

35 out of our last 56 nights (and still counting) have been spent tent camping. Pitching tents, unrolling bags, and inflating sleeping pads – we can set-up & breakdown camp in record time at this point. Camping in NZ is quite easy and readily convenient. There are many options from traditional campgrounds with a honey bucket and spicket of water, to more rural accommodations with no water or honey bucket. Both of these options are typically (DOC) Department of Conservation Campgrounds and cost about $15-$30 NZ per night (about $8-$18 American). Alternatively, for more deluxe NZ camping, Holiday Parks/Motor Camps allow tent campers to set up in their designated tent spots, and give tent campers access to hot showers, laundry facilities, a lounge with TV, internet, and usually a large cooking facility. Holiday Parks and Motor Camps are a bit more expensive ($35-$45 NZ dollars per night/about $18-$27 American). A third option that we tried was to camp in vacant spots of Mobile Home Parks – which also gave us access to a warm showers and indoor kitchens - two things that seem quite decadent after going without these luxuries for a few days.
My initial research and readings on traveling NZ left me with the impression that one could camp just about anywhere for free, but we found just the opposite. NZ is quite restrictive on where you can and can’t camp. And some of the rural campgrounds would only allow camping if you were in a self-contained camping van or R.V. (no tent camping). It appears the Government has cracked down on the riff-raff that might throw up a tent anywhere - I heard the fine could go as high as $200 NZ if found camping in the wrong spot, so we didn’t take too many chances. While the DOC campgrounds did allow for rural tent camping, they were spaced out across the country and off the beaten path - often times not convenient to our route – making the “Pricier” Motor Camps our best option at times.
A few of our more memorable tent camping experiences were: tent camping with our “Earth-Friendly” friends at the “Luminate Festival” in the mountains above the Able Tasman Sea. We found this camp after venturing down a very rough gravel road for about 20 kilometers. The Festival was promoting “zero waste” and “environmental practices”. Compost port-o-potties with “Poo in the Loo; Pee in the Trees” signs, nocturnal drumming and chanting, fire dancing, teepees, bonfires, and the sheer number of dreadlocks made this camping adventure stand out as one we won’t soon forget. All in all, we met some really nice people that evening and slept like babies… Hmmm. One night we camped in a farmer’s field across from a bungee jumping canyon. Gravity Canyon was a bit removed from any camping or lodging facilities and we arrived as the place was closing for the night. The staff offered up the field adjacent to their canyon to sleep for the night – warning us not to go sleep walking or wander off star gazing in the dark – Yikes! Another night we slept in our Van - (RT), in a BP gas station parking lot. (This adventure is described in detail under our post “Miracle at Franz Joseph.”) And a few times we camped outside of backpacker lodges and got free use of their kitchens and baths, and mingled with the backpackers from other countries. Another really special spot for us was camping above Queenstown at Lakeside Christian Camp. In the evenings we could watch the sunset over the lake and then see Queenstown light up across the lake. Once we had a simply beautiful spot on the slopes of Mt. Egmont in the ski fields’ parking lot. This was such a dramatic setting - we saw the sun rise across NZ from the East Coast. Most of our camping was quite pleasurable, only on a few occasions did we rush to break camp in order to avoid ferocious sand flies or pelting rain. In total, the camping was wonderful, and added greatly to our New Zealand experience. We would have missed out on meeting some really cool people and building relationships with fellow adventurers/travelers from abroad had we not tent camped. In the future, we are certain our paths will cross the paths of some of the great people we have met along the way.
Other places we called “home” while away in the Cook Islands and New Zealand: 2 nights in a hotel in Christchurch; 2 nights in a backpackers floating house boat on the Abel Tasman Sea; 1 night on a small cruise ship in Doubtful Sound; 3 nights on cattle and sheep farm, in the farm house; 2 nights at a petting zoo farm, in an adjacent cottage; 11 nights in “Rustic Beach Huts” on Aitutaki Island in the South Pacific; backpacker huts on Rarotonga; in the car; 4 nights in a home in Auckland; a few nights in quad share bunk rooms in Motor camps; several nights in backpackers hostels; and last but not least, on the plane as we travel back to our own beds in Snoqualmie…

February 17th-20th, New Zealand Farm Stay

McKenna- My family and I arrived at a farm yesterday. It is really fun. Madelynn and I are staying in a room together in the farm house. This is our second farm stay, and I’m really happy about it because I love farms! (I am going to own a farm when I grow up.) On the farm, they own 2 adorable curious kittens; one of them is helping me write this right now. They also have two baby cows that we help feed with giant bottles, lots dogs, one big pig, 4 horses, 3 small pigs, 100’s of cows and sheep, and 2 house cows that give us milk to drink in the house. We saw them milk cows this morning. (It was so cool.) They also have other animals we haven’t seen yet. I can’t wait to do more on their farm!
I have now started herding and milking cows. Here is how to milk a cow:
1) Heard the cow into place, give it some hay to eat, and tie a rope behind the cow so it does not back out.
2) Get a wet rag and clean the cow’s teat with the wet rag.
3) Get the suction machine, turn it on, and make sure you don’t drag it on the ground.
4) The machine has 4 suckers. Put the sucker on the cow’s teat.
5) When the suckers are on the cow you hold a tube that is see-through and you will feel the milk pulse.
6) When you see that there is not much milk anymore, and when you do not feel the milk pulse as strong anymore, you bend the tube that the milk was going through and turn the machine off. Then grab the suckers and put them away.
7) Then untie the rope and take the cow back where it is suppose to be.
8) Then we would divide the milk up some for the house, some for the calves, and some for the 3 small pigs (They are very greedy with the milk and they bite you if you don’t watch them closely when your trying to pour it in their dish); if there is any milk left over, the dogs, cats and pet pig Fred get some milk too.
9) Then when we get the house milk into the kitchen we heat on the stove and cool it quickly in cold water in the sink. That kills any bacteria that might be in the milk.

And that is how to milk a cow by machine.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

February 16th, Possum Killers

We are currently staying on the North Island at a YWAM (Youth with a Mission) facility called Oak Ridge. It’s a cluster of a few quaint homes, dorms, and meeting lodges out in the Northland country side. The family running the facility, Robby (a local Kiwi) and Julia (Kiwi transplant from England) along with their three kids Emily, Lilyanne, and Sam are extremely gracious hosts and cool people. We attended church with them yesterday and were invited over to their house for tea later that afternoon, where we enjoyed getting to know them and their good friends Grant and Glenda Blythen. The Blythen’s own and run a neighboring 600 acre cattle and sheep farm. Somewhere during tea, our discussion turned to stoat and possum eradication efforts. (The New Zealand Government desperately wants to do away with these imported pests that cause massive damage to native flora and fauna. There’s basically a war on these pests across the entire country and everybody wants them O-U-T, because they have really upset the delicate island eco-system - almost wiping out many New Zealand’s native birds and plants.) Anyway, Grant was kind enough to invite us on a nighttime possum hunt to give us Yanks a true Kiwi experience. After dark, we all piled into Grant’s fabulously-ancient Land Cruiser, and set off across his farm in search of the furry little pests. (Kind of felt like a “Safari in NZ” as Grant’s LC sped across hill after hill while his sheep dashed away from his headlights like animals running across the plains of Africa…Well, not quite, but it did remind me of those old Mutual of Omaha shows where they fly the helicopter overhead while the herds of animals run wildly about.) We eventually ended up somewhere on his property and jumped out of the LC donning spotlights, headlamps, flashlights and of course the ultimate possum eradication weapon of choice - a bolt action 22 caliber rifle with scope. Quickly, Grant spotted the first possum way up in a tree and gave Curt the first honors of leaning out the NZ possum population. Grant spotted several more possums affording Lisa, McKenna and Maddy each an opportunity to help eradicate possum. By the time the hunt was over, I believe there were a total of 6 fewer possum to threaten the Beautiful NZ eco-system! NZ possums are really cute however, and kind of look like furry little pets; so it makes them a little hard to shoot unlike the nasty looking possums we have in Washington State. We did feel good about contributing to the greater good and doing our part to rid NZ of an animal that never should have been introduced to this island in the first place. We had a wonderful night tramping under the stars hanging out with Grant, his daughter Anna, and our host Robby as they showed us around Grant’s farm. We also ended up seeing glowworms, eels and crayfish down by the creek as an added bonus to our possum hunt. A big “Thank You!” goes out to Grant and Glenda for providing us with a true Kiwi experience - a Great NZ Possum Hunt - and to Robby and Julia who introduced all of us. Oh, and Glenda makes the best cup of cappuccino in NZ! It was really quite wonderful… drinking great coffee, enjoying good company, Land Cruising across a real NZ farm at night, and then shooting possums - all the while enjoying the company of good people – What could be better? This was the genuine NZ experience… Sweet As!