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Final Thoughts On ‘Down In New Zealand” — Wi-Fi Wrap Up

November 5th, 2010 · Tags:Arts · Cities · Coffee Shops · Wi-Fi

In this the final installment of the Down In New Zealand series, I must start by getting several things off my chest.

First of all, New Zealand, you should seek new PR/marketing counsel! There are so many wonderful things and places — at least on the South Island where I toured — that I think you really can do better than all of the bestiality jokes. There are Sheep Shagger Lagers and the like and all kinds of tourist t-shirts everywhere, poking fun of that little old sheepherding thing. Really?

And as much as I was appalled, I loved this souvenir t-shirt: “What happens in the sheep pen, stays in the sheep pen.”

Next item of business — I have had this running joke, about me having a Counting Crows song stuck in my head, since the day I found out I was headed for New Zealand. I hummed it and whistled and even sung it a little under my breath for several days after arriving in Christchurch, NZ.

Guess what?

There is no such song. For all these years, I have misunderstood a lyric in the song “Rain King” — for about half my adult life now … and having now read the lyrics, I can’t even find anything close. Well … I like to laugh at myself — I have no choice — so I stuck the “Down In New Zealand” icon in all of the NZ blogs just for fun, after I found out that I was so sadly mistaken. Anywho …

My next point is about Wi-Fi. Although the New Zealand trip was cut short, I had a chance to get out and do some wireless reconnaissance here and there. No lie … the state of Wi-Fi in New Zealand reminds me of my Wi-Fi travels with the Wi-Fi Guy blog — coast to coast in the U.S. — back in 2004. Methinks there is a vast frontier with much potential because the Kiwi Wi-Fi locations are few and far between.

I expected to find Wi-Fi everywhere I looked. In fact, I had even planned a special little tribal stunt for every Kiwi hotspot. You see on the New Zealand Air flight over the Pacific, I saw this fascinating video about tribal culture in New Zealand and the Maori haka ritual. I think it is their tribal version of talking trash. The Maori warriors make googly eyes, stick their tongue out and rolling it, shout all kinds of mean things in their tribal tongue and then slap their thighs really hard … I suppose, just before they hurt you. It looks pretty darned intimidating. Here’s an interesting article about the ritual and it talks about the New Zealand’s team — The All Blacks — a rugby team … which coincidentally was feature on one of the movie channels in my hotel room last night …

Haka Maori

Well … it was my idea, with all respect to everything and everyone indigenous, to just borrow the little thigh-slap at the end of the ritual … and to do that every time I found a New Zealand Wi-Fi hotspot. It would have been really funny … Well … not a whole lotta thigh slapping going on …

Emma

Emma

When I first ventured out in search of wireless, I saw the universal sign for laptops — the green Starbucks logo, just a few blocks from my hotel. I rolled my tongue a little and went on in. But … get this … At Starbucks on Columbo Street in Christ Church, the Wi-Fi isn’t free and my AT&T account wouldn’t get me online, much less warrant a free cup of coffee. The coffee shop wanted $3 for an hour online. Ha! You guys (Starbucks and AT&T) are global companies. How about we act like it? I looked at their sign on page, and did take note that my Boingo membership would get me through the red velvet rope of Wi-Fi. Boingo made me feel like a rock star … put me on the A List, so to speak.

Ian

Ian

I also prepared to slap my thigh when I saw a cool little carwash very near my Dirty Gig job site, that touted its coffee shop lobby. Surely it would have Wi-Fi. “Nay not so.” I did meet some new friends at Espresso carwash, and even picked up a Twitter follower out of the deal, and my new buddy Ian confirmed that the Kiwi-Fi left something to be desired.

For days and days, I also passed this funny little “landmark” near the Espresso carwash. It was a fake mountain top or mesa, designed to look like the American Old West — part of a miniature golf park. The mesa caught my eye because I swear it is patterned after the famous Lighthouse rock formation back in Texas, at Palo Duro State Park, near my boyhood home. Who knows?

Elsewhere, when I found the hip High Street area, which was loaded with restaurants and coffee shops, I expected a hotspot on every corner. No such luck. The best I found — Supreme Coffee.


Supreme is on an unassuming street, near the heart of the city, but is a bit special once you enter. The structure has a bit of a retro feel with exposed brick walls, a few vintage coffee and retail fixtures here and there … and my favorite a 3-ft long, collectable New Zealand Air toy plane. I slammed down some Kiwi cold drink, fired up the iPad in no time. The people were friendly and the Wi-Fi was fast, free and dependable – 6 pings.

Jo, Nellie

Jo, Nellie

It was a bit of a surprise to see so many Burger Kings, Subway shops and even Kentucky Fried Chicken joints in New Zealand. I think I visited the Colonel more in New Zealand than I have in a decade in the States. But alas, no Kentucky-fried Wi-Fi to go with the fast food. FYI … my dad met the real Colonel Sanders in New Mexico once. He was stranded on the side of the highway, with a flat tire. My father, on a cattle buying trip, stopped and changed the tire for the southern gentleman in his white suite. I digress …

Back to sheep and New Zealand … On one of our nightly excursions, my travel/work companions escaped the city center and its fast food temptations and headed up a mountainside just outside Christchurch. In a wooded hiking area called Kennedy’s Bush, Markus, our resident daredevil did some experimental, miniature “base jumping,” leaping from the side of a cabin through the air … for the sake our action-packed blog photos. Thanks “Carcass.” Just around the bend, we found an enchanting view of a hidden Lyttelton Harbour, some backpacker hideouts and a castle with a great restaurant. Probably the best meal we encountered in Kiwiville — the castle, a place called The Sign of The Takahe.

Sign Of The Takahe

At Sign of the Takahe, we waited too long for our dinner table, but there was enough atmosphere to compensate. We had drinks around a fireplace in the lounge beneath the great hall, and yes, I did the old PingWi-Fi wireless hotspot. There was signal! Another gem … wireless Internet in a castle on the side of a mountain.

Life is good … Oh … and “the sheep were happy.” Or at least that was our little joke, about why the rack of lamb was so delicious and tender … It must have come from happy sheep. Our party enjoyed fine wine and great conversation about our adventure, with Wi-Fi and a charming hostess to boot at Sign of the Takahe – 7 pings.

We toasted for a few photos, and compared notes on all of our new Kiwi friends. There were quite a few characters back in the workplace of our Dirty Gig — a frozen food storage company, that had been hit by the Christchurch earthquake. Ha … I wonder what they Kiwi workers thought of us? Could they possibly think that my out-of-date 1960s mutton chops were the norm back in the States? … LOL. After our travels, would we begin wearing shorts even in cold weather like so many of our Kiwi acquaintances? Would we be able to drive our cars on the right side of the road without mishap when we returned to the U.S.? (Driving on the opposite side of the road isn’t so bad, until you hit one of the crazy Kiwi roundabouts on just about every street … “Now which direction of traffic is going to hit me first?”

Our conversations could have gone on all night … just as this farewell to New Zealand blog could go on and on … but I will close with a few parting thoughts.

Kiwis seem to be about the friendliest people I have encountered. Their water is said to be the purest on the planet and they are very protective of it. For that matter they are overzealous when it comes to dirt too.

I am reminded of my first few minutes on New Zealand soil, when I was grabbed up by customs and chastised for entering the country with Texas soil still clinging to my work boots. That story, mentioned in a previous blog entry, is significant to me because of my friend Steve’s cool travel thing — for two reasons. He wears his boots pretty much everywhere. He wore them in the mosh pit at Metalica, and I shot a photo of him wading in The Pacific still wearing his boots. And unlike me, who smuggled dirt into the country, Steve took some out. Everywhere he travels he scoops up dirt or even Pacific sand to take back to his daughter … Pretty cool.

We missed our opportunity to parachute, but we did the helicopter through The Alps … not too shabby.

Man I hope I get to return to search more extensively for Wi-Fi.

And I hope I get to sample more of the Kiwi and Maori culture … with lots more music.

One final cool thought … as we prepared to board our plane from New Zealand back to The U.S., we noticed several dreadheaded musicians boarding the plane, some carrying instruments on board. It was one insanely long flight back, BTW. Somehow, I managed to get two seats to myself, so I could stretch out. I wasn’t comfortable, but did manage to sleep a little… that is, when the overweight woman in front of me wasn’t banging around and riding her seat like a bucking bronco. Some people!

I slept … because what else was there to do without Wi-Fi on Air New Zealand! Hours later I awoke to the really weird sound of some traveler nursing her child in the seat directly across the aisle from me … pretty much totally exposed. “Excuse me ma’am, but I don’t take milk with my morning coffee … If you don’t mind.” Not exactly the scene I expected when I awoke. Bizarre.

Oh .. And then when we grabbed our bags on the ground in San Francisco, I saw one of the musicians from our flight and I struck up a conversation. He is the keyboardist — Hawney — from one of the top reggae bands in New Zealand. Check out EMI recording artists Katchafire.

Katchafire

We talked of reggae … about how Starbucks overplays Bob Marley and about our mutual admiration for the band Groundation … and of course I had to push off a PingWi-Fi t-shirt. Let me know if you see him wearing it on stage.

One more connection … and I would be back in Texas. And irony of ironies … in all these thousands and thousands of miles and hours upon hours of traveling … I almost missed my flight back to Texas … due to the high security screenings and a tight schedule. They told me “No way, the plane was leaving.” Yes! I begged. They let me on, and I was for the first time in my life, the last person on the plane. But, I made it back to Texas … boots, dirt, La Leche League and all.

Know what I sayin?