We’re obsessed. Like new parents about their kid, or grandparents about their new grandchild (you know who you are), we can’t stop talking about her, bragging about her, and comparing everything to her.
We love Oregon. It’s that simple.
Yes, we think she’s the greatest state in the union (but not in the same way Texans do). Yes, we believe Oregon has something to offer everyone. Yes, Portlanders live 90 minutes from world-class windsurfing, skiing at Mt. Hood, gorgeous coastlines, and fertile farmland.
I could be preaching to the choir.
There’s just one problem with living in a paradise. It takes quite a place to actually compete with the beauty of Oregon.
Through 24 countries in the last 11 months, I have visited amazing places, seen amazing things, met amazing people. Truly.
But in two particular arenas, it’s been difficult for any place to compete with Oregon. First, our scenic landscapes. And second, our availability of fine espresso and craft beer.
In terms of landscapes, a couple of places blew my mind, and I humbly admit they made this Oregonian do a double-take. One was Bolivia, in particular the southern half. Virtually uninhabited, and literally barren of quality tourism companies, the landscapes took my breath away. Travelling at 12,000 feet on high plateaus, I saw huge volcanic-shaped mountains towering ahead of us, graced by pink flamingos standing in the bluest water I’ve ever seen. Salt flats, hot springs, and occasionally snow, I sincerely believe Bolivia would stop most Oregonians in their tracks. Mind you, one basically has to do without running water and electricity for three days. But hey, it was worth it.
A close second? Patagonia, a vast area shared by Chile and Argentina in South America. Through the forward thinking of men such as Yvon Chouinard and Douglas Tompkins, who incidently started companies such as Patagonia and North Face, this land benefited from early preservation efforts. It is stunning. It may even knock you off your feet, (in part because of it’s gusty, 100mph winds).
But I also mentioned beer and espresso, right? Ah, first world problems, I know. We’ve been fortunate to find treasures amongst much disappointment around the world; places like 961 Beer in Lebanon, Karusa in South Africa, and some promising microbrews available in El Chalten in Patagonia.
And the coffee, oh, I can’t even begin to express my heartfelt disappointment around the world. One good cup in Bolivia, served by a Swedish woman who intercepts organic Bolivian beans during export. Oddly enough, a top-secret blend specially created for Carmel by the Sea (I may have had up to six cups a day). And a couple of pleasant surprises in the outskirts of Chang Mai, Thailand.
Other than that, little of note. I get depressed thinking about how much precious dinero I’ve wasted in search of a good cup of coffee.
(Side-note, when I’m pretty sure the coffee will suck, I order tea. There, my secret is out. I’d rather have tea than bad coffee.)
I could go on about coffee, but another day.
Enter, New Zealand. Bethany hasn’t shut up about this place since living here 9 years ago. We put it at the end of our itinerary, as a grand finale to our trip, devoting the most weeks (second only to South Africa) and the most moolah.
When it comes to Oregon and New Zealand, there are similarities galore. Both have a largish city in the north corner. Both have around 4 million in population. And the square mileage of their land masses differ by only 5000 (98000 and 103,000, respectively).
The scenery is spectacular. Micro-breweries are aplenty. And Kiwis “get” coffee. They really do.
In other words, I feel at home here.
During our year abroad, we have rented a car just twice, once in South Africa (totally worth it), and once, you guessed it, in New Zealand.
Having the freedom of getting around by car is probably my favorite way to travel. Beats taking a bus any day. And in countries offering the best-sees in more rural areas, it’s essential to have mobility.
That said. I hate the process of renting cars. In general, I just hate it. I walked out of a car rental shop four years ago in the states when, after being assured of their “final price” online, I was asked to pay almost triple at the desk.
I hate hate HATE hidden costs, extra fees, and deceiving “deals” promising reasonable rentals when in fact, they intend to take you for everything they can.
I understand that renting cars costs merchants. I don’t understand why they can’t give me a final price when I ask for it. It’s not like it’s impossible to arrive at a final price. They always have a new number when you’re ready to pay.
That’s why I was pleased to use Carrentals.co.uk. They compare prices across several different companies and offer you the best (final) price. No add-ons later. It’s all included from the start. Even the insurance.
We priced several local companies individually, and Carrentals.co.uk beat them by all by over 25%.
We rented a car for three weeks. And in that three weeks time, we put 3500 kilometers on that puppy, and saw almost everything the north island of New Zealand had to offer.
To Cathedral Cove
From the windy tippity-top Cape Reinga
To hot-water beach and the L&P bottle in Paeora with our cousin Sam
From the surfers and picturesque beaches of Raglan
To Zorbing in Rotorua
From Lake Taupo
To the active volcano Mount Ruapehu
From sights 1km through the ground at Nikau Caves (and Café!)
To the over the top impressive (and free) botanical gardens in Hamilton
From the desolate beauty of the beachfront in Wanganui
To the mud pools outside Wai-O-Tapu
From the 360 view from One-Tree Hill in the center of Auckland
To The Hobbit Red Carpet Premiere in Wellington
We had the north-island whirlwind tour of a lifetime. And it’s not over yet. Next week, Bethany’s parents join us for a 12 day adventure in Wellington and the South Island. Kiwi’s say the scenery is even better down south. Can’t wait to find out. TTFA -Ted
Big thanks to our fantastic twoOregonians Tour New Zealand sponsors CarRentals.co.uk for providing our little red Toyota Corolla “Cherry-ot.” After comparison shopping and doing our homework, we were sincerely impressed with their good deals on New Zealand car rentals, so much so that we’re renting through them again for our South Island adventure!
Your Turn: If you had three weeks with a car in New Zealand, what sights would you see?