From Doubtless to Doubtful in seven weeks! Like James Cook, we have been from the top end of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island, from Doubtless Bay where Cook apparently waved his hand saying, "Doubtless a bay" to "Doubtful Sound" where he doubted he would have enough room to turn his ship around. Can I work with these two words some more? We never doubted that we would find it easy to get around NZ...there is no language barrier apart from some occasional misunderstandings due to accents...driving on the other side of the road continued to be a challenge especially for this doubtful passenger but not for the doubtless driver! Okay, that's enough of doubt. We have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves here and don't feel quite ready to leave but the plane takes off today, Thursday afternoon, for Melbourne, and then we begin a seven week stretch in Tasmania and south-east Australia, finishing in Sydney on March 3.
-Plentiful road kill, a.k.a. "Squashum-possum". We killed a few ourselves, and certainly ran over many more flattened critters. The possum were introduced for their fur in the 19th C, and have taken over in many places, endangering the flightless Kiwi and other ground-feeding animals. There is a controversial bait program to kill introduced pests such as possums, rats, stoats, rabbits, and feral cats...controversial because in some areas it has been laid down or sprayed in such a way that other animals like dogs get into it. Dogs are also killers of Kiwis. Many communities are establishing "predator free zones" with special fencing and targeted predator kills, and are now celebrating the return of NZ song birds. Nelson is one example. Birds predominated until humans arrived along with other mammals. The only native mammal is a bat.
-Narrow, wiggly roads (Lloyd's favourite and Janet's nightmare) with one way bridges and tunnels...pay attention to the signs to see who has the right-of-way,
-Speed limit on the roads, whether it's a secondary or major road, is 100 km/hour, and it's not unusual to see a sign for a resumption of 100, promptly followed by a sign to slow for 35 km for a curve, plus a hidden intersection or two...
-Arrows painted on the roads after major intersections reminding us to stay left
-Wine and beer in grocery stores...readily available and the clerks always had to have a supervisor come and approve the sale...and it's cheap (much less expensive than spirits--a bottle of gin is double the price here compared to home, hence no G&Ts for Lloyd),
-Fruit and vegetable seasons overlap....everything's available right now: cherries, peaches, apricots, raspberries, strawberries, peas, lettuce, cucumbers...Lloyd has indulge in his favourite fruit for the past couple of weeks.
-Fresh produce in the supermarkets is very expensive in spite of being locally grown and in season now...e.g. Cherries $10-20/kg
-Friendly Kiwis...walk down any street and be greeted with a Good Morning or Hello!
-A reunion with an old friend from my days working in a restaurant in Keswick, England in the early 70s...wonderful to reconnect with Mary and meet her husband Duncan in Invercargill on Monday...and most surprisingly, our accommodation hosts, Jan and Graeme, were friends of theirs (we didn't know this until after after we had arrived) and they had all just been on a cycling trip together. Graeme and Jan live on a dairy farm...she has a beautiful "woman cave", her patchwork studio, and Graeme has an even bigger shed for his woodworking. They both create beautiful work. Their home was easy to find because of the instructions plus the Canadian flag flying out front (He changes the flag to suit all their guests' nationalities).
-Yarn shops in every city and town! I had to restrain myself to one ball of sock yarn in each place,
-"Flat White coffee"... More milk than a cappuccino and less milk and foam than a latte, but like any coffee shop the quality varies,
-The varied landscape...just travel 20 km or so and it changes, from wet to dry, from green to brown, and from mountains to plains,
-Familiar plants introduced by homesick Scottish settlers...the gorse and broom that is so prevalent on southern Vancouver Island and the lower mainland is as widespread here, for the same reasons,
-Idiosyncratic mailboxes, like these ones at Arthur's Point, Queenstown near our holiday park...there was a van load of Japanese tourists taking pictures of them when I walked over...
-Sheep and cows everywhere. There are probably still more sheep than people.
-Public toilets, and clean at that, are everywhere!
-Admission prices for many attractions are steep, e.g. $25 and more for a museum operated by a charitable trust which doesn't get any government funding. Major public institutions such as provincial and national museums and galleries are free.
-Hiking ("tramping") tracks are plentiful, well-maintained and very popular.
-Sharing communal kitchens with people of different habits and cultures...why do some people think it acceptable to rinse the dishes and utensils under a tap, dry them with a well-used tea towel, and maybe put them back where they belong??
-The melodic Tui, named "Squeaky bird" by Lloyd...it has two voice boxes, one a trill and the other a squeak.
-Best souvenirs not purchased...a tee shirt with a slogan "Same shirt, different day" and a linen tea towel with prints of Pohutukawa flowers
-Unpronounceable (for us Canucks) place names...how come "wh" is pronounced "f"?
-Evidence of glaciation on the South Island similar to BC
-Gasoline is twice the price as home at $1.89.9NZ per litre. Diesel is about the same as home but the road tax on vehicles using diesel is high. The lowest octane level is 91 & highest is 95.
-Lots of young people from all over Europe on renewable one year work visas
-GST of 15% is included in all sticker prices no no surprises at the till.
-restaurant meals are expensive, but there is no expectation of tipping because the minimum wage is also higher ($14.75/hr)
-Home of adventure activities for the adrenaline-seeking tourist...To name just two, jet-boating in Shotover Gorge...
...and bungy-jumping off the historic Kawarau Bridge
-Ubiquitous corrugated iron...roofs, walls, fences...saw a fabulous exhibition in Christchurch by an artist Jeff Thomson, http://www.canterburymuseum.com/news/115/iron-man-exhibition-opens-at-museum, who uses this to make mail boxes, cuts it into strips and knits them using a trampoline as a "French knitting " frame ( also known as corking or spool knitting), cuts out shapes of flowers and leaves to form into bouquets.
So that's it from the Queenstown Airport. Next post will be from Melbourne in a few days.