Letters from New Zealand: Odds & Ends

TE ANAU, N.Z. — There are nine sheep for every human being in New Zealand. And two-thirds of those 4 million plus human live on the North Island. So it’s not unusual here to drive for several minutes withuot seeing another car, hike 5 or 10 minutes without passing another person or walk on a beach without seeing anyone.  The latter was the case for about 20 minutes New Year’s Day on Sandfly Bay just a half our from Dunedin. We shared the beach with a few tired sea lions and the crashing waves.

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An outfit here called ESCAPE rents camper vans painted in the bright colors of tie-dye and punctuated with bits of wisdom. Very ’60s.

Read one: “Better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.”

This is how we generally feel traveling in a new place. It’s a bit like playing “pin the tail on the donkey” with a blindfold on.  One of the hardest parts of traveling here is that the countryside is so rich and beautiful, picking where to go is fraught with second-guessing.

For the most part, however, we’re doing very well, thanks.

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Milford Sound is the second wettest place on Earth, our Rough Guide says. It rains here 200 days a year, most of it during the New Zealand summer (now).  Over the holidays it rained eight consecutive days in the Sound, actually a roughly 9-mile long fiord, and, our boat guide said, during one particularly nasty 24-hour period, more than a half foot of rain fell and winds reached hurricane force.

Yesterday, when we took a two-hour boat trip on the sound, it was sunny, calm, and exquisitely beautiful.  I lost count of waterfalls at about three dozen. Glaciated mountains as high as 8,000 feet towered above.  Seals sun-bathed on the rocks. For dessert we took a three-hour hike to an alpine self-guided tour at the summit with a 360-degree view of mountains around us.

Extraordinary place, New Zealand.  Moss, lichen and filmy fern grow on silver beech trees. Rain forests lie amidst snow-covered peaks and glacially carved valleys. Throughout the southwest, 2.6 million hectacres — I’m on a rented computer so can’t do the conversion to our acres — are identified as “world heritage area …. a global concept that identifies natural and cultural sites of world significance,” the country’s Department of Conservation says.

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Checking into a motel? Be prepared to say whether you prefer a half-pint of whole or low-fat milk. It comes with the room, along with coffee and tee, a hot plate, a small fridge, a microwave, plates, winde glasses, silverware and a corkscrew. This, we are finding, is pretty standard.

Most civilized.

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Not sure when I’ll post again. Our computer’s Internet connections are out of whack. Undoubtedly one of my 10 left thumbs did. But unless we find a geek to put the settings back in place, we’re cooked.

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About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at www.jerrylanson.com. My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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