Leavin, on a jet plane…

Auckland, New Zealand

Beach Rocks - Kaikoura, New Zealand
Split Apple Rock - Abel Tasman National Park, New ZealandAs I write this from an internet cafe in Auckland, I am awaiting lunch, awaiting my bus to the airport, awaiting my flight home (fingers crossed for a cancellation).

New Rule: Buses loaded with Japanese tourists, faces pressed to the glass, all holding cameras (some holding two), can appear at any time, in any location across this amazing country, seemingly out of nowhere. And they’re filming you. So watch where you take that roadside bathroom break. And you may also be asked to pose for pictures with them at scenic/historic locations, despite your ordinary, co-tourist status.

But you should ask for a tip. Because you’ll probably get it.

New Rule: If you are sharing a hostel room with a backpacker traveling with a guitar: change rooms. If you cannot change rooms: change hostels. If you are a backpacker traveling with a guitar: your nappy dreads and John Deer Tractors hat and your faded outsized deli very company shirt with the “Jerry” name tag isn’t ironic anymore.

Coastal Train - Kaikoura, New ZealandYour incomplete knowledge of staple Beatles lyrics is embarrassing. And LL Cool J is not an appropriate substitute. Your hands-free harmonica holder does not help your cause. You are not a Rastafarian. The Man has not got you down. Your name is Paul, you are a yuppie white kid from Madison, Wisconsin and you are horribly out of key. Stop it. Please.

Best street sign photographed: the infamous huge yellow “Caution,” accompanied by the explanatory sign underneath: “Elderly.”

Single File - Abel Tasman National Park, New ZealandRunner up: Avalanche warning sign, with rocks modified to depict falling sheep. Baaaaah! At least their landing may be soft.

Best street sign not photographed: The roadside Picnic Area sign, bright blue with a big, shady tree and a picnic table. Seen near Nelson, along a highway winding through a series of roadside mountains completely clear cut of all vegetation.

Best roadside attraction: the fence decorated for 50 m with underwear. And at some point last year, somebody came and stole it all (you make up your own jokes for that one), which, of course, was an event worthy of the front page of the New Zealand Daily Herald. Followed by people around nation and the world sending the landowner their unwanted undies to remake the masterpiece.

Best-named cargo ship: Italian Reefer. Observed in the harbour about a half hour ago, where I disembarked the ferry from my last two (perfect) days on Waiheke Island.

And back to the harbour is where I am going right now, because it is just too gorgeous outside to further extend this last dispatch from Middle Earth. And because I need another falafel.

Homeward bound, I wish I wasn’t.