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Traveling the world means multiple culture shocks

Our jump to Sydney was our first transcontinental shift of the international trip, and it has been a bit of an adjustment. In Argentina, a thousand dollars covered a month's rent at good apartment in Recoleta, one of Buenos Aires' most fashionable neighborhoods. As every Australian helpfully tells you these days, the greenback is now at parity with the Aussie dollar, and as result a double room at a rough hostel in Kings Cross is about three times the price of our beloved apartment. Thus, we go from comfortable and fashionable expats one week to proper cost-conscious backpackers the next. I imagine this will happen a couple of times this year.

We intentionally punctuated our trip, which mostly makes its way through budget-friendly and exotic countries like Ecuador and Peru, with a few weeks in more expensive nations. The expectation was that the costlier countries would give us a chance to outfit ourselves with items not available elsewhere. For instance, I am hoping to pick up a pair of high quality sandals either here or in New Zealand, as the (very cheap) pair that I purchased a week and a half ago in Puerto Madryn are already falling apart.

Some things that you might not expect to be hard to find turn out to be inconceivable in certain countries. For instance, women in South America apparently wax or use
depilatory cream on their legs: women's shaving cream is nowhere to be found. Likewise, the newer men's razors are not on offer.

Another major difference between Australia and Argentina partially accounts for our lack of frequency in posting. In Buenos Aires, just about every bar, coffeehouse, hostel or other freestanding structure likely to host tourists is likely to have free wireless internet access. Sydney is far less welcoming: most hostels require some hourly fee for wireless access, if it is available at all, and coffee shops with wifi are few on the ground. Indeed, the big venue for free wifi is the Kings Cross Mickey D's, and it bustles 24-7 with a LAN party's worth backpackers working at their notebooks and iPhones.

Wednesday will put us in New Zealand, though we will be back in Australia later this month. Although the plan is subject to change, we are thinking of renting a camper van and heading through the countryside. It may take a while to post them, but we hope to have some good pictures.


Australia by camper van is a fine idea. Be sure to take in the Hunter Valley if you're heading out from Sydney.

(But watch out for cops, that whole park outside a vineyard and wait for tourists plan works very well for them out there.)

Another tip - lots of roads you'd expect to be dual carriageway aren't. We found we found our average speed quite a bit less than we'd hoped when travelling due to getting stuck behind freight traffic.

Sydney is not one of my favorite cities I've visited. My favorite things were the Queen Victoria Building, a big Victorian-era mall with a lovely tea room on the top floor; and the wild cockatoos and fruit bats hanging out by the thousand in the park that leads out to the opera house. Also, I got to see a drag show at the theater where scenes of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert were filmed.

That's about it, really. Freakishly expensive, abysmally boring sports/surf-oriented fashion, and mediocre food. My only advice is that you have to ask for the bill at the end of a meal, or they will never, ever bring it.

If I went back to Oz, I'd definitely get out of the city more. I hear the Blue Mountains are wonderful.

A couple I'm very close friends with lives in New Zealand, on the south island. They have a house in Christchurch and a farm on the Banks Peninsula. I'd love to connect you guys if you're interested in meeting up; I could see if they have crash space.


You will have a hard time finding email access in NZ; Bill spent his spare time in internet rooms in various cities and towns. Mel had alot of laptop problems (she was there a month); ultimately, her laptop crashed in Christchurch. Upon her return to the USA, the laptop came back to life - go figure. Another oddity about NZ is their lack of international newspapers; Bill searched everywhere - hotels, newsstands, etc. He was info starved. TV stations are few, and the only international news was coming from Australia. Oh, and the phone service, you need to get a local phone number if you are staying awhile, because your phone (ours was AT&T) won't work everywhere - a lack of towers. The music was always 50's, 60's, 70's, which I liked, but Mel's college classmates were none too pleased.
The buses were slow with no a/c, so we decided to fly wherever we needed to, an added cost. We enjoyed our time there even though the above comments sound negative; we found NZ a bit like going back to the 50's without a worry about the rest of the world doings. Do visit the Maori sites, the national park at Nelson, and the museums. Have a good time! Gayle C.

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