Saturday, March 6, 2010

distant observations

Well, after our 2nd venture to NZ (and hopefully not the last), I can still say the people are absolutely fantastic. They are very friendly and the pace of life seems a bit slower. The natural beauty is nothing short of spectacular and each area seems to have its own stunning feature.

However, there are a couple things that I observed that are puzzling to me. First, there is no such thing as a plain coffee. It's either short, long, flat, white, or some other non-intuitive description. I am glad to be back home and know what to order and what to expect at the coffee shop.

Second, when mailing a letter you can place your item in one of two boxes. One is labeled fast, the other slow. As far as I could tell, the pricing was the same. Why anyone would choose "slow" is hard to comprehend. Maybe it is a trick question and they got the last laugh on me.

Third, I will never understand the infatuation with the Queen of England and the other members of the royal family. They seem to get a lot of attention in the press and have many streets, parks, buildings, etc. named after them even though the connection to the past is becoming more and more distant. When any of the royals visit, I am told there are many who go "gaga" over them. Maybe it's the American revolutionary in me but I just don't get it...

I haven't been able to figure out the current dependence by NZ on the UK. There seems to be little pratical benefit for NZ today. We went on a tour of their Parliament while in Wellington. The guide indicated there had been some dicussion by the previous administration about independence and adopting a new flag. However, the current administration apparently does not have the stomach to pursue such a plan. I asked Pat, one of my kiwi golfing partners who was born and bred in NZ, if he understood this UK/NZ relationship. He said he didn't but his opinion was all the crown did was take their money. So, I am not the only one who doesn't understand.

Anyway, royal family or no royal family, NZ is a place fit for a king!

Friday, March 5, 2010


We arrived in Rotorua yesterday and head out for the airport this afternoon to start our long journey home. This area is one of only a few in the world that has geo-thermal features like geysers, mud pots, etc. Yellowstone is another. The smell of sulfer is in the air and it is not unusual to see steam venting out of the ground. There is a local park about 2 blocks from our hotel that has many, many geo-thermal features in it. Unlike Yellowstone, there is little oversight of these features. They have built fences around many but there is no interpretive guide nor does there seem to be much concern for the potential abuse of the sites by ignorant viewers. In any event, it is a fascinating look into some unusual geological features.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

out of the rubble

We took a 5 hour bus ride from Wellington to Napier. Napier is on the east coast (the Pacific Ocean - that still takes some getting used to) of the North Island. This area is also wine country. It is referred to as Hawkes Bay. While the South Island has been successful in making world class white wines, this region not only makes the whites but also some reds.

Napier is known as the Art Deco capital of the world. Many of the buildings were built in the Art Deco style of the 1930's. They had a unique opportunity since the town was all but destroyed by a 7.8 earthquake in February 1931. 261 people died in the devastation and, having seen some of the footage of the aftermath, it is a wonder more didn't. The Art Deco style was in vogue and many of the buildings in town were built accordingly. It is a fun reputation the town has embraced.

We happened to be out on the beach watching the stars this evening when we were treated to the rising of the moon over the water. That is an experience I have never had being a midwesterner. It was amazing to see it appear out of nowhere and climb into the sky.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

so long Nelson

We have made our way from Nelson across Cook Straight and are now on the North Island. After a couple days in Wellington, the capitol city, we have moved on to Napier. More on those later.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Nelson. Our friends, particularly John and Jane, were most hospitable and we had a great time. We met more new friends and have even more connections for next time (hopefully).

I have attached a couple photos from the deck of our house. It's a bit of a time lapse of the view as the sun is setting.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

R & R

Well, we have started to make our move up the North Island as we anticipate our flight home on Saturday. One of the recurring activities we participated in during our stay in Nelson was croquet. This is not your 4th of July, back yard, oval hoop stuff. Oh no, this is the real thing. The kiwis take this game seriously. The lawns we play on are bent grass just like the putting greens on golf courses in Minnesota. The hoops are thick, sturdy steel with only 3/8ths inch clearance for the ball. And I want to tell you, it is much harder than it looks. Thankfully, we didn't take it too seriously and it was just plain fun. Here is Brenda giving strategy direction to her partner.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Trolley Derby

Yet another activity in Nelson was the annual Trolley Derby yesterday. This is a fantastic event. They close one of the hilly streets in town and the trolleys are raced down the hill. They announce the races as they are taking place and have a radar gun that gives the speed the racers are travelling. The winner was clipping along at a 68km per hour rate (that's about 40 mph). The trolleys and their drivers are all shapes and sizes. Some have been professionally engineered while others are held together with duct tape. They had different categories for ages. The youngest was for children born between 2003 and 2008 (boy does that make me feel old). Can you imagine putting a 3 year old behind the wheel? It was great fun.

Friday, February 26, 2010

cicada symphony

As summer winds down here, the cicadas are in full swing. If you are not familiar with these insects, they are rather noisy and apparantly like the Nelson region as much as I do. Amazingly, they spend 13 to 17 years underground until they emerge to live a very short life (I've heard less than a week but have not been able to confirm that) above ground. But, one thing I can confirm is that while above ground, they make their presence known! They are making noise from sun-up to sun-down and, as Brenda says, could drive someone crazy if unable to tune them out (they don't bother me too much). If you look closely at the photo, you can see the cicada with its translucent wings. I've attempted to attach a video clip that you might just be able to hear them. It may take some time to load, so please be patient. Please send me a note whether you can or cannot view the video so I know whether it works or not.