Oprah takes one to her fat head

Authored By Brian

Today was a mixed bag. We were in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. Our primary mission was to extend our tourist permit until the end of the year so we can stay through Christmas. We entered the country without onward travel from NZ so immigration only gave us 30 days. We tried to do this yesterday but they only serve a limited number of people each day so we had to come back at 8am this morning and everything worked out “sweet” as the clerk said while helping us.

With legal status, we wandered around downtown and had an early lunch at a Malaysian place where the food was good and cheap. We ate lunch with drinks for $21 and that was two entrees and a side order of Malaysian chicken wings. I had some old school looking root beer from Berunda to wash it all down.

Instead of trying to park again at $4/hr, we rode the train in from our holiday park so we hopped a mid-day train back and picked up Oprah to go grocery shopping before leaving for the Lake Taupo area. Our destination is the Tongariro Crossing on Sunday which is a full day tramp through a volcanic area. There was a New World supermarket right across from the rail station so we headed over and entering the parking lot there was a huge CRASH, SNAP, CRACK as I drove Oprah’s fat head into a maximum-height bar over the entry way.

I don’t know why this bar was there – the parking lot was uncovered but the driveway was slanted with the entry side a good six inches shorter than the exit side. Our top vent went flying off and both of the interior light covers fell to the floor as I came to a stop on the other side. I got out and Oprah looked like a six year old ran wild with a highlighter: yellow paint all over her head. D’oh!

We found a phone book and called a couple of Campervan repair places in the greater Wellington area and found one who had a close-to-the-estimated-in-metric-right-size top vent of the same brand. Upon leaving for the shop and going around a roundabout, our fridge door flung open and our food flew everywhere. It was just one of those days.

We drove over arriving about 3:30pm and sure enough they had the vent but when they went to install it for us, we found the entire top vent assembly was cracked meaning even if we installed the new cover, it would still leak badly if it rained (and as we established, it rains a lot here). This was looking like a serious pain in the ass because even though they were open tomorrow, only one guy was working so he couldn’t do any repairs. At 4:30pm, he said he could stay late and do it in an hour so we hung around while the Kiwi owners chatted us up and Jarrod climbed on top of Oprah with a putty knife, blowtorch and power drill to get to work. Minor issues aside, the work was done 90 minutes later and for the only $140 NZD (labor included!) we were back on the road with one very new top vent installed (presumably leak-free). We tipped Jarrod $20 to say thanks. The guys at Ward’s in Lower Hutt just north of Wellington really saved our bacon. Kevin is going to love that I’ve purchased Brake Cleaner to take the yellow paint off… a trick I learned from him (in copious amounts).

We celebrated with an “American” pizza down the street (double pepperoni and double cheese or what we would call “regular”). Unfortunately New Zealand pepperoni tends to be more salami-ish but it still tasted like manna after the past couple of hours. We drove a couple hours north towards Taupo and now we’re on the side of a road at a rest stop for the night. We picked the one rest stop at the bottom of a valley where big rig trucks are using their engine brakes in both directions and there is a train trestle almost directly overhead. I’m sure this will be one sweet night of sleep. The good news is I smashed about 15 sandflies into the ceiling while I’ve been typing this so at least we should wake up with the same amount of blood we have now. Sandflies = evil.

One cool thing I forgot to mention was the Chinese guy I met back in Queenstown at an Internet café. I was checking email and he asked me where I was from. When I said the states, his eyes lit up and he started telling me how America was the greatest country on the planet and he had so much respect for America. I thought he was patronizing me at first but we had about a 15-minute discussion on China and the US. Interestingly, he thought American tourists were the best of the bunch because they knew how to interact with people well and they were polite. That goes against what all of the travel magazines would tell you about obnoxious Americans but this guy would never believe those rags. He was going to school in NZ and working in a Japanese restaurant in the Sofitel hotel. He said his dream was to come to America for all of the opportunity. He was intimately familiar with Michael Dell and Bill Gates backgrounds and had a lot of respect for big businesses of the US. I told him that people think Chinas will be the major economic superpower and he said that a change in government 4 years ago had spurred the economy but that the leader responsible for the growth had been kicked out and he thought in another 4 years the country would be back on economic hardship.

I haven’t really been prepared to meet many American cheerleaders and this was refreshing (if not a bit awkward at first). Just one of those little surprises…

2 Responses to “Oprah takes one to her fat head”

  1. Kevin Says:

    Brake cleaner is, without a doubt, one of the best substances in the world. I’m glad that my old friend was able to get you out of a jam. :)

  2. Nathan Says:

    Its been my experience that Sofitel hotel’s are generally frequented by more educated individuals, so your discussion with the chinese gentleman would be consistent with that view point. I think you would be tough to find the same perspective at a “Best Western” type hotel.