Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Country Review: Fiji, New Zealand and Australia

Christine was not happy with my review at all so I guess I'll go into a little more detail - I guess. Maybe some pics too?

The main island of Viti Levu was hastily developed by the British to support the shipping of sugar, molasses and rum. Other parts were developed to house and support Australian whalers (the filthy devils). These outposts, over time, turned into the urban centers where the majority of Fijians live today. These bigger towns are as chaotic as I expect they were in the 1800s and lack anything of note, unless you like going to crowded, dirty, smelly places where each street is a gauntlet of hawkers trying to sell you things you don't want. We stayed in Nadi (pronounced Nandi), a filthy hole that has the airport, marina and the major hotels. The marina and surrounding hotels are built on reclaimed land away from Nadi (thankfully) which means there are no beaches. 

Truly paradise

Each hotel has there own pool filled to the gills with Australians doing water aerobics to the Macarena. This is my nightmare (one of). Christine questioned the tense of this last sentence and thought I meant "was my nightmare", but I am still waking up in the middle of the night screaming "Ahh Macarena!", so it is my nightmare.

This is where the Macarena water aerobics happens

The only way to lay under palm trees on the white sand beaches or swim in clear blue waters is to head down to the Marina and get on the boats that take you out there. The Marina is an interesting place filled with cutthroats, thieves, smugglers and an assortment of other ne'er-do- wells. Navigating these back alleys and avoiding the bandits that hide in its shadows takes cunning, guile and a fortitude not readily seen in your average man. I clung to Christine for dear life and avoided eye contact with everyone while she muscled her way through the crowds, securing us safe passage aboard a reputable vessel.

Do you see them lurking in the shadows?

The are 2 island chains, the Mamanucas and the Yasawas. This is where you want to be. The beaches are beautiful, the people are friendly and the beaches are beautiful. Christine and I spent the better part of a day laying in a hammock on the beach under the swaying palms - for me it was heaven. Definitely worth the visit, just land in Nadi, avoid Viti Levu and head out to these islands. Some people island hop, some stay put on one island - it doesn't matter. 

Truly paradise

New Zealand:
What can I say about New Zealand, I mean you've met Auntie! Its another sad story about the colonization of a land and the subjugation of its people - like everywhere else. Its a strange land shaped by British sensibilities and Maori culture. I don't really know what that means yet, but it sounds pretty good! Anyway - NZ is a beautiful country with a lot of natural wonders to see. Too many wonders. It was an exhausting trip that was more dream than real, crammed into a month - and we still didn't see all there was to see. 

The people were nice enough on the streets or in the restaurants, but that all changed the minute they got behind the wheel. On the highways the speed limit is 100 kph (62mph), most drivers zone out and drive 80 kph, using all of the lanes so no one can pass. Once off the highway and on country back roads that are paved in stone and tar (do they still do that in the States?), which are worn down offering no traction, with hairpin turn after hairpin turn do these animals decide to step on the gas! I don't care that its a run-on! So I finally pass these idiots on the highway to then have them in my backseat going around a turn cut into the side of a mountain or about to go over a one-lane bridge (there are more one-lane bridges than people). The speed limit is 80 kph and the suggested speed around these turns is 35 kph. Since I foolishly want to live I'm driving maybe 50 around the turn, my tires spinning, gravel spraying the innocent sheep and cows poking their heads between the barbed wire fence lining the road - ouch! Where was I? Oh and this maniac passes me on the blind turn, driving into oncoming traffic! So I look over so I can yell expletives (I know they can't hear me!), and shake my fist in their general direction and I see that its some 90 year old lady and I can read her lips - she's calling me a b*tch! We never see her again because she's gone, has to be doing 120-130 kph. And its the same with the next car and the next car.

See, 15 KPH! That means they want you to go 9 MPH around this curve!

The only explanation that I can come up with is that they are so excited to navigate these roads in their awesome vehicles. Everyone is driving some disgusting mix-up of the front of a sedan and the bed of a small pickup. Like an El Camino but waaaaaay cooler. They come with crazy ground effects and a spoiler for the bed of their ca-truck and aluminum rims and fuzzy dice to hang from the rearview - standard. Everyone wants to roll down the windows, blast Queen or Emerson Lake and Palmer and feel the wind blowing through their mullets. Everyone has a mullet. Everyone has a mullet because there is an on-site barber at the ca-truck dealer. You want a ca-truck? You get a mullet.

That's what I'm talking about!

Even at this distance, you can see how much party there is in the back

Now it makes sense, the truck bed is to carry your ridiculous mullet hair

Upgrade with a spoiler!

Now these two ca-trucks were actually in Australia but they are kind of the same place so I thought I'd include them - especially since the colors are so Barney.

I thought it was just another mid sized sedan...

But they fooled me again! 

You can't see it but you know he has a mullet...look at his jean shorts

My other gripe about this place is the food blows! There is no imagination whatsoever in  the menu. Notice how I said menu and not menus for an entire country. Lamb, steak or burger those are your choices. It got to the point where the waiter/waitress would hand us a menu and I would tell them what was on it. There is also a tomato in some form on everything, or its stewed in tomato or its smothered in some tomato sauce-type stuff. Don't put that crap on my steak! A good steak can stand alone without all of that garbage. If I want ketchup on a steak I'll go to the Sizzler! No I won't, I would never go to the Sizzler, but you get what I'm saying! I've never eaten so many hamburgers and fries before in my life. Thank God for Christine's family in Auckland who let us stay with them and fed us some vegetables. 

Other than those two things New Zealand was pretty cool. Its a geothermal wonderland and is home to animals you won't see anywhere else on the planet. There are glaciers to climb, nice beaches to go to but not swim in (there are signs at every one saying don't swim here and then that guy was attacked and killed by sharks - no thank you!), smelly hot pools to soak in, volcanos to climb, statues to crotch-punch, penguins to invade the privacy of and of course sheep in all forms; on the side of the road, being shorn, feeding them or them feeding you.

If you go to New Zealand pick a top ten of things you want to see and do and fly from city to city. Its a lot less stress, and you can see New Zealand in a lot less time.

Australia, a retarded America. That's about all I can come up with, I've been staring at the screen for 20 minutes and can't say anything more than that. Its home to the marsupial which is just a giant rat that carries its young in a pouch. Some of the most poisonous creatures on the planet are found there - so there's that. There is also the Great Barrier Reef, which is unbelievably impressive in biological importance and size (it can be seen from space). It is very hard to grasp what you are actually seeing when you go out to it because you are in the middle of the ocean and can see nothing and the guy driving the boat says you are at such and such reef and jump in. There is nothing to reference so it just feels like you are at Horseshoe Reef and not the Great Barrier Reef. Its a country of shopping malls and everything is ridiculously expensive - $16 for an egg and bacon sandwich! And this thing was pitiful. My favorite meal was in Perth, the most expensive city in Australia. I asked for a ham and cheese sandwich and payed $8 for 1 piece of ham and 1 piece of cheese smashed between two pieces of wheat. What can you do. 

This meal cost us about $25 USD!

I noticed a funny thing about Australia's cities. The city center is where everyone goes to work and then there is a giant suburban area where everyone heads to at the same time (between 5 and 6) abandoning the city, making it a ghost town where nothing is open (Sydney especially). This is awesome for the tourist who comes and stays there and there is nothing to do and nowhere to eat. Each place we went we asked what do you do here? Each time the answer was "You're in SydneyCairnsMelbourneAdelaidePerth? Oh get on a tour and go to this place not in SydneyCairnsMelbourneAdelaidePerth; its great!" Its like saying "You're in Manhattan? Awesome, you should go to Westchester!"

Empty streets

You can probably tell by the tone that I wasn't a big fan of Australia. Its not a bad place at all; good schools, highways, public transportation but you don't visit a country to evaluate there social systems. After visiting NZ you don't need to stay in Australia for that long. I would fly into Sydney to take a picture in front of the opera house, fly to Port Douglas to go to the Great Barrier Reef and then go to Darwin as a base for exploring the rugged Australia. That should take maybe 8 days. Enjoy!

No rat tails Australia!

A side note on each summary:
You may have noticed that I tend to focus on the negative aspects of the trip. This is for good reason. Christine's posts shows you all of the fun we are having - and we are having a lot of fun. I didn't want to give you the Lonely Planet version (a completely useless publication - don't ever buy one) where everything is just so awesome when, for normal people, it's not. These are the annoyances you can expect and, should you decide to go, a suggested plan is given. The fun, awesome, memorable times are for you to have and experience! 


  1. I truly appreciate this review Paul. I NEVER would have thought that of Australia. I mean it's never been high on my list of places to see one day simply because it's home to like 8 of the 10 most deadly creatures, but the empty cities is weird. It's unfortunate you have to find that out the hard (or rather boring) way. Have you contacted Lonely Planet yet? You may have a future in travel critiques.

    1. Lonely Planet can rot in hell! And no, they haven't returned my calls.


Feel free to leave comments - would love to hear from you. But remember to leave your name!