Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Tourist Town Treachery

Move to a small town they said, it will be fun they said.  There will be no traffic they said. Empty shops they said, no jobs they never said.

And for the past year there was no traffic. For 8 months, I went to my temp job six kilometers away, through an Industrial area and everyday it took 6 minutes from driveway to parking area. Maybe 7 minutes if I happened to get behind an 18 wheeler turning into a small street. It takes 4 minutes into town to go shopping - any day any time.

Sunset over Lake Taupo

My first encounter with a traffic jam was in November when I decided to go to town after work (opposite direction to work) the day before a big cycle race that had plenty of streets closed from the day before and on the same day it was Black Friday sales. No, I don't know why either - black Friday sales, we don't celebrate Thanksgiving over here either. I am starting to think Black Friday has nothing to do with Thanksgiving as I always thought, but everything to do with stores clearing their junk to start the Christmas madness.

I hardly went to the shops in December, I worked, Mark was on leave and he was only too happy to do the shopping.  His love of buying stuff we really don't need causing him to be banned from shopping over the past year.  Relocating across the world with not much of a permanent full-time income makes for a very tight budget.

I managed Christmas present shopping - it wasn't too bad. I don't know if I chose the right shops or the right time. Some stores close at midnight, some at 10 and 11 pm. I just know it wasn't that bad - then January happened!  Oh boy, and did it hit hard - the traffic the madness. The treachery that is small town tourist town living. I know why locals hate tourists.

Last year, when we arrived here, we lived in a rural area out of town but shopped in this town. We stayed on a lifestyle block, which in South Africa, we would call a plot or smallholding. We spent our days weeding gardens, cutting lawn, raking leaves, looking after goats we wanted, chickens we inherited and a cow we didn't need or want - but yea, foreigners needing a pet-friendly place to stay - you take what is thrown at you. Living there was a 47 km trip to town that we looked forward to. An escape from the landlocked prison of basically tending to and toiling lands belonging to someone else at no cost to them but a crazy expensive cost to ourselves. We never noticed the crowds or traffic or maybe we were used to Johannesburg suburban traffic and shopping madness. Maybe just escaping the rural drudgery made the traffic and madness a pleasant experience

Hen laying on eggs with baby chick

Baby Goat standing on a dog kennel
King the Kid

Now we live a minute away from the Lake by car, two minutes from town and no traffic. Where we can go for walks after late night shopping.  I avoid the shops on a Friday afternoon between 3 and 4.30 because moms and school kids descend on the stores in droves and I get flustered - I am not used to how busy it gets. Kids running up and down, climbing out of trolleys, trolleys parked in the way. You know what we don't have over here, those announcements in shops - like Makro; Hypermarket; Hyperama. That bell clanging, specials screeching; don't leave your bag in the trolley unattended. No, the shops are busy but not madhouse noisy.

Beautiful blue lake taupo

Monday, 3rd of January hit like a tonne of bricks. I went down to buy stuff we really needed.  Toiletries and cleaning stuff that we had completely finished.  Oh man, this town was rocking.  Queues of traffic, campervans parked in little side streets - camping.  Tourists take freedom camping to the next level. Not only tourists but holidaymakers in general.  Our neighbour often has family staying on their pavement in a campervan or caravan.  Imagine that in the suburbs of Johannesburg - you will wake up in some remote place having been hijacked and or thrown out of your van.

The streets were more gridlocked than the parking lots, however saying that the parking lots were packed to capacity.  I happened to find parking, rushed in to buy the few things I needed.  Thankfully the self-service wasn't as busy and rushed out.  I got to my car to find a campervan family having lunch in their van in the parking lot.  No big deal you say, but they were actually cooking their sausages in the van and I had to wait to get in my car and just smile - because that's what you do when you are a foreigner living in a small tourist town. Also, road rage or shopping rage isn't so explosive over here - it happens from time to time but not a given like in South Africa.  So we smile and wait - far better.

I backed out, straightened up ready to drive to the exit and there tumbling out another campervan was about 6 or 8 people in different stages of undress. Suitcases and bags all around their van, lying open in the pathway of cars trying to either enter or exit the parking area.  Oh boy - for the love of freedom camping.

It also turned out that instead of buying shampoo that I desperately needed, I bought conditioner, which strangely enough I always run out of long before I finish my shampoo, but I had stocked up on extra conditioner. I didn't dare go back and literally washed my hair with a drop and smell of shampoo.

Despite January being the month of Christmas sales where things go down by 80% - shows what a profit they make.  Anyhoo, I was craving vegetables, because we have lived on junk for so long, I thought I would buy some pumpkin. That idea was short lived, when I saw that pumpkin is 12.49 NZD - that is daylight robbery.  Every Jack and his uncle grow pumpkins in these parts so there is no rhyme or reason for a tiny pumpkin to be so expensive. It's currently 1 NZD  to 9.49 rand at the moment - do the math. No, we shouldn't compare to rands, but we do.  I bought a pair of casual canvas slip-on shoes the other day for 3.00 NZD - even if they were made in China - pumpkin is damn expensive!!!

Sneaky Pic of the expensive pumpkin

A sneaky pic of the pumpkin I took today during a lull in the veggie department or maybe people just running away from fright.  The picture is deceiving, those pumpkins are tiny.

The question we need to ask ourselves is how can tourism be good for the town if the locals are having to fork out 90% more of their income for holiday season food prices.

I do love this small tourist town and in a couple of weeks the crazy will be over until next holidays and we will be back to semi-acceptable prices.

The town by the Lake with the snow-capped mountains in the distance and places even more tranquil than the Lakefront itself.

Kayaks on the Lake

See you through the January madness

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