Tag Archives: New Zealand

Two-Up Gambling with the Aussies on ANZAC Day

The crowd get ready for the result at a two-up game in AustraliaI lost it all. All the money in my wallet went in the time that it might take to make and drink a cup of tea. All I’d been trying to do was join in, to be part of a rowdy Aussie crowd, to feel and immerse myself in this annual event.

So I didn’t lose it, as such, I just gambled it away in a game where skill, poker face and celebration style are unimportant. Thankfully.

Known as two-up, this game sees people bet against each other on a heads or tails majority of a two or three-coin throw. Using a wooden coin cradle AKA a kip, the spinner stands in the middle of a 3-metre circle and flips the coins out of their paddle onto the ground. The ringkeeper announces the result and the crowd goes wild, swears, shouts.

Someone always wins. The tails better – the person who has held the money throughout the action – either hands over the cash or pockets it, depending on the game outcome.

Then it all repeats. Again and again. Hours of it, apparently.

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Originally played by the soldiers in the trenches of Gallapoli during the First World War, two-up is now legally only allowed to be played on the 25th of April every year – ANZAC day  – which ‘marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War‘.

But why only play two-up one day a year?

It does make some sense. With patrons of the places where the games take place betting each other and not the house, there is little to no commercial profit, other than the income from extra drinks. But this doesn’t address the legal issue.

More likely, though, is that Australia wants to be responsible in keeping problems associated with alcohol and gambling to a minimum. Two-up certainly offers the opportunity to win and then lose a lot of money, very quickly.

Back to the game. Every now and then the ringer would hand out freebies and call for a charity shower, and the ring would get pummeled by silvers. I imagined that later in the day the donations would be more generous as drinks flowed and spirits were charged in an ebb and flow of energy and excitement.

A flawlessly made up woman dressed in a silver summer dress hung with one arm to the metal barriers surrounding the game circle and waved banknotes around with the other, tipping them to her forehead. Her eyes struggled to focus yet each time they opened the game up to the next round of betting, she was in, waving those notes. First she collected a few wins but then I saw her starting to hand it back. Finally she slunk away, all spent up, I assumed, or otherwise in need of a friend or a glass of water.

After observing others place bets with neighbours and people across the room I felt ready to test-drive a bet. I played D-man $5, and I lost. ‘I’ll give you it as a test run,’ he teased and gave me back my note. I tried it against another guy close to me. The coins were flung in the air and fell to the ground. I lost. Only $5 again, but I lost and someone else was up $5. It all adds up.

‘One more go,’ I told D-man and I found myself another opponent and upped the bet. $10 this time. Third time lucky, right?

Wrong. The coins fell and I walked away a loser. A very un-Australian loser, at that.

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Filed under australia, culture, expat life, festivals, food & drink, history, new zealand, oceania

21 things travelling has taught me

I’ve been on the road now for just about eight months. I’ve visited two continents, taken 12 flights, reversed my round-the-world ticket back to South America, lost track of the number of bus journeys I’ve taken, crossed borders on foot in the middle of the night, got told off for trying to climb a glacier at 5,200m and met too many people to keep count.

And, despite this not being a ‘find-myself’ trip, I’ve realised a few things along the way.

  1. A light backpack has everything to do with happiness. It took me six months to figure out what I did and didn’t need but I think I’m now on the right track.
  2. Leaving stuff in hostels is great when going off on tours or treks; giving stuff away is even better because it makes someone else happy too.
  3. Quinoa is magical food. I am in love with quinoa and vegetable soup.
  4. Whilst we’re on food, I don’t crave chocolate in hot climates as much as I do in the UK.
  5. The quickest way to cool down is to take off your hiking shoes or trainers. Others might not thank you for it but it works.
  6. Saying yes to new experiences can make you happy and proud or in some cases, sick and ill
  7. I can do all sorts of stuff by myself and I like my own company.
  8. But! I need social contact and travelling solo does get lonely at times. There’s so much joy in sharing travelling moments when you’re with the right person or people. I’m now ready to travel with some other people.
  9. I’ve become less tolerant of people who annoy me, particularly rude travellers.
  10. Age is just a number; attitude and experience are so much more important. I’ve met some annoying older and younger travellers, and some awesome ones too. Age irrelevant.
  11. Hitchhiking is a great way to get around but don’t do it alone, especially not as a female. But I did do it, and I got lucky, and I actually met some good, good people as a result.
  12. Solo travel opens up many more random opportunities and experiences.
  13. I love to dance and laugh, and I don’t do it nearly enough. I think I’m still a bit inhibited. Trying to belly dance in New Zealand was fun and started to loosen me up a little.
  14. A spare camera battery is a must. In Bolivia I was on a bus ride with the most amazing scenery and my camera died. Where I stayed that night had no electricity to recharge. Be prepared!
  15. The main awkwardness of dining alone is other people’s awkwardness.
  16. If I wasn’t writing about my travels, I would probably get pretty lost, like many other travellers I’ve met. I think that there needs to be a point, a purpose to one’s travels beyond the three month mark.
  17. Wear sunscreen! Needs no further explanation!
  18. I haven’t really missed my job or professional identity. This is different to not wanting to work. I have worked and volunteered and it felt good on so many levels.
  19. Since my Peru accident, I’ll always wear a bike helmet. In Byron Bay in Australia, people cruise around topless and sans-helmet. I looked less cool, but I didn’t care.
  20. Facebook and Skype have stopped being my enemies. On the road, I understand their value. I talk to my family, send photos through to my friends, keep up to date with what’s going on outside of my little world.
  21. Travelling indefinitely is maybe not the ideal after all. I realise I need to settle in places for a little while every now and then.

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Filed under australia, bolivia, brazil, culture, dancing, ecuador, health, new zealand, peru, random, solo travel, south america, travel

Budgeting New Zealand and Australia

$5 Australian note

Australia and New Zealand are not what I would call travellers’ places. They are, quite simply, expensive.

If you come directly from Europe or the US then maybe it won’t feel quite so harsh. I arrived from South America where US$5 got you a full meal and public transport was cheap. I really felt the difference and struggled to understand how many of the backpackers I met in Auckland and Sydney were out drinking and partying every night, eating expensive takeaways, buying pricey clothing. What was going on?

When I work out what I spent in New Zealand each day, it comes in at NZ$43.69 (£21.84).

During my month and a bit stint in New Zealand, I spent one week in a hostel, used a lot of buses, and stayed with friends and acquaintances along the way. I also CouchSurfed and slept in Auckland Airport. If I had needed to pay for accommodation the whole way, my budget could have increased by an additional NZ$30 (£15.71) per day. I did often pay for beers and food when staying with others, which cost more than if I was just fending for myself, so in some respects things levelled out a bit.

Whilst in New Zealand I also had to replace my camera, annoying, but I wouldn’t want to travel without a camera.

In Australia my daily expenditure was AU$34.21 (£23.41). And that was me being pretty damn careful. I’d found New Zealand expensive. Australia shifted things up a gear. Oh dear.

Initially I was pretty stressed about how costly everything was. ‘Don’t compare back to the UK’, said a Londoner I met at a party. It made sense. Once I started earning a bit in the local currency, it was all relative. Salaries are good, costs are high. Minimum wage is $15.51 per hour; many jobs pay more. A basic chocolate bar, like a Mars bar, costs $1.80 (£1.22), a loaf of bread anything upwards of $3.00 (£2.04). I personally also had to factor in internet costs, replacing a bike lock and helmet, and contributing towards surfboard repair.

My Australia daily average includes one night in a hostel in Sydney and return flights from Sydney up to Ballina-Byron as well as other public transport around and about Sydney.

To save money I slept a night in Sydney Airport and I was really fortunate to be able to spend over a month staying with good friends. I didn’t pay rent but bought in groceries and helped around the place to pay my way. If I had wanted to rent a place for the duration of my stay, rooms in share houses were advertised at around $200 (£136) per week, houses double that.

I hitched or cycled into work rather than take the bus. I didn’t go out and party excessively, but there were also moments when I gave in and paid above my usual cut-off for food or a drink when I just didn’t fancy drinking yet more water or making a sandwich. In short, I could have been more frugal, but I wanted to do things with people and that often upped the costs.

Some ideas of costs:

New Zealand Australia
Hostel bed $27 (£14.03) $30 (£20.41)
Beer (glass/schooner) $6 (£3.11) $6 (£4.08)
Bottle of wine $10 (£5.20) $10 (£6.80)
Black coffee $4 (£2.08) $4 (£2.72)
Pizza/curry/takeaway $15 (£7.79) $15 (£10.20)
Cheap meal out $15-$20 (£8-£10) $20-$30 (£13-£20)
Sandwich $5 (£2.60) $6.50 (£4.42)
Bus travel (1 hour) $10 (£5.20) $12 (£8.16)
Water Free in both New   Zealand and Australia! – water is good to drink out of the taps. All bars in Australia also need to provide   free water, whilst NZ tend to do so, although not required by law.

As a local friend pointed out to me, Sydney and Byron Bay in Australia are pricey places. This experience of Australia is therefore somewhat distorted, so I guess I’ll have to come back and check out the rest at some point soon. Anyone know where the cheapest place in Oz is? And do I really want to go there?!

It may be worth looking at Nomadic Matt’s blog where he has done more comprehensive write-ups on budgeting for New Zealand and Australia.

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10 things I loved and hated about New Zealand

1) Open stretches of countryside, green covered mountains and palms and plants aplenty, New Zealand is undoubtedly a place of magnificent nature. Wild, unpredictable weather adds to the drama of the place and the lack of motorways enhances the romance of this wilderness. Mokau Road (which later becomes The State Highway) leading from New Plymouth towards Hamilton is such an example, a main route but a single lane that winds up Mount Messenger through a lush bush, fern and palm landscape. When I arrived into the country, a friend told me that New Zealand tends to get all weathers and all the seasons in one day, and boy was he right! I experienced beautiful sunshine, torrential downpours, serene evenings and battering winds. I also felt the force of the strong sun rays and the lack of ozone protection.

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New Plymouth getting a stormy, summer battering

2) A short and sweet entry, but as a chocoholic, I’m now so done with Cadbury’s having tasted the bliss of Whittaker’s chocolate. The Macadamia Block was particularly amazing. Less sweet and containing 33% cocoa compared to Cadbury’s Dairy Milk’s 23%, I was quickly addicted. Already I miss it.

3) Arriving into Auckland, one can’t help but notice the racial diversity of the city, particularly a mass Asian population (the Chinese represent the highest amount of immigrants after the Brits) with over 350,000 making up 12% of New Zealand’s overall population. A lot of foreign students are also choosing to study here rather than in the UK because, as one Saudi guy who I met said, New Zealand came with higher recommendations, and ‘it’s just a better place to be‘. Come on! – the UK is okay!

4) I loved the musicality of the Maori language with its repetition and rhythm. Take some of the place names, for instance, such as Paritutu and Papatoetoe. With the language having somewhat of a resurgence and the fact that so many signs and names are in Maori, it gives a sense that there is pride in the culture alongside a real acceptance and integration between Maori and the pakeha (non-Maori New Zealander) populations.

5) Hitchhiking in New Zealand is easy with friendly people always willing to stop and give you a lift. When you meet so many good people, it’s easy to forget the reality of the bad people out there and the potential danger to hitchhikers.

6) I couldn’t get over the quiet emptiness of many places thanks to the low population of four million, two million of who live in Auckland itself. People are friendly and will stop for a chat and the roads don’t feel too crowded at all. This quiet, relaxed pace comes with its downsides, like the Yot Club in Raglan shutting at 1:00am just when my dancing feet had woken up, but overall it’s a laidback country with an attitude to match, and a real want to welcome you in. In fact, along the road from Taranaki back up towards Hamilton, two consecutive signs read: WHY? followed shortly by We’d love you to stay! Not surprisingly, they are trying to encourage folk to make New Zealand their home, especially now that the latest statistics show more people emigrating than immigrating.

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Another jar, please

7) I had always been under the impression that the Aussies were the big drinkers but as one guy brashly put it, ‘us Kiwis would drink them under the table’. This is supported by statistics that show 25% of the adult population are binge drinkers and where ‘harmful alcohol use’ is said to cost New Zealand somewhere in the region of $4.9 billion per year. The drinking culture in New Zealand, as in many places, ranges from tanked-up nights out in Auckland through to groups of lads refusing to hit the town until the crate is empty (‘it’s an NZ rule’, some told me) or sipping tasty home brew in a fairly mellow setting. Although young people are said to drink far more than recommended, the majority insist that they don’t go out with the intention to get drunk. Yeah right. In fact it seems like a fair few Kiwis are actually in denial about just how much they drink, so much so that FebFast has come into existence: get sponsored to go the whole of February without a drop of alcohol.

8) The romance-less nature of guys on the pull quickly became apparent. I had been told that Kiwi guys aren’t a good catch (by a Kiwi girl, before you say anything), that their style was overtly direct and that they played a game of averages. Others argue that alcohol is absolutely necessary to fuel the fire, so to speak. When I met Tim in a bar in Auckland he quickly said ‘I’m here to pick up a girl’, whilst another guy I barely knew from the hostel blurted out: ‘I’d love to see you in a really short skirt’. Eeeeuww! Well it’s never going to happen. Goodbye! But maybe this honest approach makes for less misunderstandings?! And it’s also worth remembering that on the whole, Kiwi guys are a good-looking, straightforward and athletic bunch. With a supposed drought of single Kiwi guys, if you’ve got a good ‘un, hang on to him!

9) People on P scare me. Since being in New Zealand I’ve been warned on many occasions to stay clear. And as one old boy told me whilst puffing on a joint: ‘I used to live in London back in the ‘60s, tried everything going, but I won’t touch P. It’s bad news.’ Clearly it brings out the worst in people and does some bad, bad stuff to the body.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthpicturegalleries/6454944/Faces-of-Meth-the-long-term-effects-of-crystal-meth-or-methamphetamine.html

P (standing for ‘pure’) is methamphetamine, often cooked up in ‘clan labs’ – people’s own kitchens. It is shown to be highly addictive and massively destructive to families and communities. Many Kiwis I met talked about problems with P, and statistically, it’s clear that New Zealand is doing some serious battle with the drug.

10) I was on the lookout for a hooded black top and decided to try on one of the Icebreaker merino tops. It was amazing. The sleeves were perfect for my long, gawky arms, the material lowered beautifully at the back and the overall fit was snug. On a travelling budget, I couldn’t justify the price but wouldn’t it be sweet if the guys from Icebreaker decided to send me a free sample so that I could advertise it in action as I travelled?! Ah! A girl can but dream.

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