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Thursday, March 13, 2003

Drive to Palmerston North

On a whim (ok, and because I had to pee), I took a random tiny side road off the highway for a ways just prior to Dannervirke. A kilometer out, I came upon this cow lounging under a tree in this idyllic setting (but she was on her feet the minute I stopped the car as I imagine that doesn't happen too often). And no, it's not a dog -- those trees are bigger than they look:

Palmerston North itself may have been my favorite town in all of New Zealand, which is funny, or perhaps true, because it's the last place anyone would tell you to go, unless you're weird like me and then people tell you all sorts of strange and sometimes even useful things. Palmy is a college town, in the middle of nowhere. A bit like Corvallis, Oregon, but maybe a little bigger. There's no scenery, and the weather is less than ideal.

But there's lots of space, the atmosphere relaxed, the people friendly. And for a relatively small town, it's got a good share of interesting restaurants (uh, no, Para Rubber is not one of them).

It also has a great library, cheap internet access (NZ$4/hr), and a playground with in-ground trampolines and a zip line (hard to make out either in this picture, but they're there):

They apparently have a duck problem:

It's hard to put a finger on exactly what I liked about the place, but it just felt comfortable. I don't know if it was the layout of the town itself, or the expressions and attitudes of the people, or both, or something else. But there it is. Kalistrya* and I stopped through there for lunch on the way north, and still and again it stood out to me as a favorite spot. It's the sort of place I could see living for a few months to work on my research, music, cooking, and whatnot. Only trouble would be, there's nothing there to inspire one to exercise.

The hostel (the Peppertree) was nice, just some converted rooms in a woman's house, a short walk from town but far enough to park easily. Once again, they had a cat. :P While most everywhere else the hostels were full of international travelers (mostly Germans for whatever reason), here in Palmy it was an eclectic bunch: a woman from Nelson (south island) here for two weeks of classes; a Swiss woman married to a man from New Mexico, here to try to get a job as a nurse so the two of them can immigrate; and so on. Very few "tourists" as such.

Once again I noted a lack of produce in the grocery stores, and was mystified to find some of the fresh fruit and veggies imported from Italy, California, and such. Very odd.

Here's the square in the center of town, which was as acoustically saturated with birds as Waitakere was with cicadas (did I mention the cicadas?):

And looking out from the square (and toward that wonderful traffic sign):

Did I mention I liked Palmerston North?

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com