Friday 14 February 2014 68 °F
We are sad to leave, on this our final day in New Zealand before we depart for Australia tomorrow. During the past month in NZ, we have noticed that the extraordinary is the ordinary here: the beautiful and varied countryside, the kind and friendly people, the fantastic weather. We will miss this country and are already dreaming about a return visit.
New Zealand top ten list
(in no particular order)
National parks: We expected to pay an admission to enter the national parks in NZ. They are all FREE! Mt. Aspiring, Mt. Cook, Fiordland, Nelson Lakes, Abel Tasman, etc.
Kiwi. The bird, not the fruit. (But we like the fruit too.) It's amazing that this little flightless bird has survived the many introduced predators that have hunted the kiwi to near extinction.
Summer. Need we say more?
Easy roads for travelers due to very little traffic and thankfully, no ugly billboards, so the focus is on appreciating the beautiful scenery that is found EVERYWHERE.
The little carton of fresh milk that is waiting in every hotel fridge for tea and coffee making.
"Flat white" coffee. We haven't had a bad cup of coffee in New Zealand, although it is a little pricey.
The Maori people and culture. We have seen Maori (descendants of the original Polynesian settlers) in most levels of the economic ladder. Maori people are successfully integrated into modern society, yet maintain a pride in their roots and culture. A fascinating example of peoples successfully sharing the world.
A "no worries" attitude where Kiwis seem much less uptight than Americans.
New Zealand wine
Bird song. So many NZ birds sound like electronically amplified and complex songs. You can't believe it until you hear it.
Areas needing improvement
(in case the New Zealand tourism board happens to read this.)
1. As previously mentioned, the "hot and cold" mixer valve hasn't caught on here. You have your choice of a scalding hot water spigot or an ice-cold water spigot.
2. Most public restroom faucets and hotel showers have water flow restrictors that make it impossible to rinse thoroughly. In a country blessed with so many lakes, waterfalls, and high rainfall totals, along with so few people--really, what's the big deal? Are they saving the water for the sheep?
3. Speaking of turning on the tap: wifi. Wifi is either excruciatingly slow, unreliable, or non-existent. One thin underwater fiber optic cable connects New Zealand to the rest of the world. Wifi is begrudgingly doled out by hotel managers in 200 MB increments. Time to upgrade to the 21st century.
4. Regarding the Ashford Motor Inn in Christchurch: on a day when there are no guests and only the hotel manager present, feel free to have the NZ Air Force execute precision missile target practice on the toxic mold capital of this country.
Really helpful items that we've brought from home:
1. duct tape: fixed a showerhead, kept sand flies from entering the hole in the screen, fixed electronics cords and broken bottles. Absolutely indispensable.
2. sunscreen: due to the thin ozone layer over this country, we slathered ourselves with sunscreen on even cloudy days
3. road maps: our GPS does not work here, so we've had to resort to navigating the old-fashioned way
4. bug spray: do not underestimate the ferocity of the NZ sand fly
5. travel-size spot remover stick: each of us has been allotted two pants and three shirts by the vacation slave driver, so it is important to pre-treat gravy stains from clothes before washing
Nobody escapes Captain Bones! (Pearl's homemade pirate costume. Notice the eyepatch taped directly to her eye and the creative use of a Pringles can as a peg leg.)
Here's a short video of our family bike ride along Lake Wakatipu here in Queenstown.