World Trip, Part Elf - New Zealand

Trip Start Jul 30, 2008
Trip End May 02, 2009

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Thursday, December 4, 2008

Well, I can definitely say that I saw a lot of Australia this time. And, it was a great time. Altho I originally planned to travel around this country by train, doing it by plane was not a shabby option either.

Australia definitely has spectacular sights to see. Socially, the people are excellent (I am sure Western Australians will work on it!). And, culturally, it is interesting. I adored Adelaide and Tasmania the most, not forgetting Sydney - my favorite spot. Altho not a huge thing, my only negative is that I am a bit concerned with the Australian media. Sadly, I found that instead of Australia identifying itself fully, it is overly focused on America and the happenings there - politically and otherwise. Often I found that after sensationalizing and adoring what is going on in the US, newcasters and news commentators typically make a criticism or complaint about life there. I found this media analysis and approach rather contradictory and annoying. Moving forward, I do hope Australian media turns around and focuses inwardly and positively.

My departure from fantastic Sydney was an appropriate but sad way to say goodbye to Australia - probably for a long time to come. I originally planned on spending heaps more time in Sydney, and did not see all I wanted to, but alas, it was time to move on to my not-quite-final destination.

Welcome to New Zealand!

The Place:

If it wasn't for Mexico, New Zealand would top the list of all the countries I have been to on Planet Pink. New Zealand is "almost" the most spectacular country for so many, many reasons. If you haven't been here, drop everything and buy a ticket! :)

The flight (#23) from Sydney to Christchurch was amazing. It was incredible to see the South Island's Southern Alps from the air. I was almost in a complete daze at the thought that it had been just short of 13 years siince I first landed in NZ. Wow! Wow! Wow! That's a long time!

I landed in Christchurch, and made my way into town and to my room, which was all pre-planned and reserved by my good friend, Carmen, whom I was visiting (thanks, Carmen!). It was overcast and cold, and I made my way into the center of town to have a look. It amazed me how much I "didn't" recognize Christchurch at all. I guess 13 years is a long time after all! (Either that, or I am definitely getting old! Ha!). Christchurch is a beautiful city, but I do remember it having a weird vibe about the place. After 13 years, that weird vibe is definitely still there. I walked around some the side streets and finally recognized some things I saw before. I then headed to the grocery store to get wine, cheese and other goodies in anticipation of Carmen's arrival.

If you can imagine someone driving 5 hours (from Dunedin to Christchurch) to pick you up, then you know you have great friend! Carmen arrived as expected and beamed with her gigantic warm smile, and we had a great catch-up over delicacies.

The next day, on our slow decent to Dunedin, we toured the Banks Peninsula and Akaroa. The scenery was fan-flippin-tastic. In fact, I bet that NZ has some of the best scenery in the whole wide pink world! And, yes there are lots of sheep! :) We continued on, stopping to gorge on left-over delicacies, stopping at the neat town of Oamaru and the Moeraki Boulders on the ocean.

My brain was failing again as we arrived in Dunedin - I didn't recognize a thing from my previous visit! OMG! Quck, someone get me some Gingko! Heaps of it! We arrived at Carmen and Brian's place. Carmen is so humble, never really giving any details about her mansion on a hill! OMG, my bedroom was larger than a raquetball court! All the work they having been doing on it over the past years is simply amazing. And, their wonderful place is decorated with most of Brian's artwork (who knew this Professor and Engineer is also a painter/artist!)  What a place!

Over the next couple days, we walked around town (OK, OK, I am starting to remember this place!), visited Tunnel Beach and Sandfly Bay (beach) to see the seals, and attended a co-worker's birthday bash. They also took me into Central Otago (inland) to Blue Lake in St Bathans, and to visit Alexandra (there is actually a story here why I wanted to revisit it - but it's about 13 years old!).

It was so sad to say goodbye Carmen and Brian. I stayed in Dunedin, but moved over to David and Margaret's. I met David at the University of Otago's cafe, and it was an incredible delight to see him after a decade. After a quick coffee, David took me on a tour of the university grounds, some of the new buildings and his office there as Director of Operations, Planning and Funding. Then, we met up with Margaret, who is charming as always, and I finally met Alex, their son.

Over the next few days, David took me to The Catlins (a beautiful and scenic area south of Dunedin). We stopped at Nugget Point and Purakanui Falls, outlooks and overviews, and a drive along the coast. More stunning scenery! I also got to catch up properly wtih David and Margaret, enjoy Alex's swimming lessons and soccer match, and teach Margaret my infamous home-made salad dressing. :)

On my second last and last days, I spent time touring around Dunedin, including a wonderful visit of First Church with their historical displays, my own private tour of the Dunedin Courthouse, and a visit to the olympic-sized Moana Pool. I also shopped til I dropped (and I hate shopping!), and left Dunedin with a little surprise: another piercing (your guess as to where!) :)

The Food:

From some of the world's best fish & chips, to flat whites (coffee), to awesome Mediterranean food, to great cafes, to great wine (and conversation), to Carmen's fantastic home-made cooking, to David's awesome lamb on the grill, and Margaret's incredible salads, the food was better than sex! (Well, not all sex!!)

The People:

After the first time I was in NZ for a grand total of 2 1/2 months, I concluded one thing: New Zealanders are aliens - from outer space! And, I mean that in a good way. There is just no way they are originally from Planet Pink. No way, no how!

And, after this quick visit, I still feel the same. Kiwis are the most polite, kind, caring and honest people around. And, what astounds me more is how intelligent, intellectual, accepting, and forward-thinking they are, yet they seem so gentile and quietly reserved. To me, they seem to be much more advanced socially, culturally and sometimes technologically than other peoples. It's mind blowing.

My tour of Dunedin would not have been complete without the super sweet exhibit lady at First Church, and the private tour of the courthouse by an awesomely cool security guard.

It was wonderful to see David and Margaret after 10 years, and see Carmen after 13, and finally meet Carmen's partner, Brian - who is just super! It was also great to meet David and Margaret's son, Alex, who has more energy than I can handle. Ha! Ha! But, it was great to see Dunedin's Botanic Gardens with him, and teach him some expressions in French, German and Spanish (He wasn't satisfied with learning just one language!). Alex is definitely well-rounded for his age, and major kudos to his David and Margaret for fitting Steve's hard-core parenting rule #1: Be a positive influence, interested, involved and engaged in your kids' lives (or don't have any!). :)

Carmen, Brian, David and Margaret are definitely the hosts with the most. And, I greatly appreciate their over-the-top hospitality and generosity. Thank you!! :) I had the absolute best time. I hope they will visit me in the near future, so I can return the courtesy!

Final Rhetorical Questions/Comments for Australians:

* Free Internet (at Sydney airport - the ALMOST ONLY free Internet in Australia)! Now there's something worth spreading in Australia - More free Internet!
* The line for the free Internet was longer than check day at the unemployment insurance office!

Rhetorical Questions/Comments for Kiwis:

* The crappiest x10n Qantas employees are those at the ticket counter in Auckland. But, they can't possibly be Kiwis.
* When I was there the first time, your dollar was at par, so I was thankful to get 2-to-1 for my money this time!
* I am now creating a picture book of how to be perfect hosts. Carmen, Brian, David and're in!
* Note to all Kiwis: Keep being the awesome people you are!

Photos: On blog.

Next Stop: Home for the holidays (Well, one of my homes, anyway!)
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