Reflections on Auckland and Queenstown
Yesterday afternoon, I stepped into an Irish Pub. It was Trivia day and the guys I sat next to were playing. When I added Fiji, Chad, Iran, and Iraq to their list of “Fully sovereign nations with four letters,” they asked me to join their team.
I’m afraid that saying, “Yes” was a bit of a mistake.
That’s because they turned out to be Irish. And these guys lived up to their hard-drinking reputation.
I told them about my Irish Heritage to which one responded,
Why is it that every American claims to be Irish?
The next thing I knew, I woke up at 10:00 this morning and my head was pounding. In fact, it still is.
I’m exaggerating a bit. I do remember earning the nickname, “Token” (as in Token American) and eating a McDonalds Kiwiburger (they add an egg and beetroot)
The moral of the story? Don’t try to keep up with Irishmen. They can outdrink you.
As I think about my time here in New Zealand, I’m very pleased.
In this country, a Kiwi is a bird, a fruit, and a citizen. How three very different things can have the same name remains a mystery. Asking doesn’t seem appropriate. These are a very, very proud people.
And I can’t say that I blame them.
Not since Cape Town have I been so impressed by a place. Especially Queenstown and the South Island. The terrain is unreal. So much so that it has played prominently in many science fiction movies including Lord of the Rings, X-Men, and the Hobbit. By the way, The Remarkable Mountains stood in for the American Rockies in one of the X-Men movies.
If you’re considering a trip down here, begin by visiting your doctor for a full physical. You’ll want to be sure you’re healthy enough to have adrenaline pumping through your body at full speed for days on end.
There’s no limit to the adventures you can have here. Whether you want to tie yourself to a bridge and jump off of it, hop out of an airplane, leap off a cliff, or squeeze through canyons in a boat at unbelievable speeds (it was crazy good. Here’s a video), you can do it here. They’re always coming up with something new, too. In fact, if you were to leave today, they will have invented some new way to get a rush (and get you to pay for it) by the time you arrive.
I can’t say enough good things about New Zealand. The people have been welcoming and kind (even the Irish ones), the food has been spectacular, and the activities have been surreal.
Speaking of food, farming is the number one cash generator for this country, which means everything is fresh. I really like lamb and New Zealand lamb has such a rich flavor (although seeing so many soon-to-be-slaughtered six month old sheep has slowed my intake a bit).
To that point, as you’ve probably heard, there are a lot of sheep down here. There are nearly 10 sheep for every 1 human. However, there aren’t as many as there used to be. The number is down to 35 million sheep this year from a high of about 70 million in 1978. They’ve been replaced by deer and beef cattle.
The deer here were introduced in the back in the late 19th century and became a pest by the 1950s. While the government was trying to determine what to do about the problem, a couple of clever Kiwis jumped in a helicopter and started capturing them with nets. They then started to farm them for the venison (which is very tasty, I had some at the Japanese-Cook-in-Front-of-You-Place in Auckland). The Chinese are also big fans of the velvet, which they consider an aphrodisiac. Whatever it takes, eh?
The history of these islands is far longer than the European take-over. The Maori are a fascinating group. Before the Europeans showed up, there were many Maori Tribes who got along with each other more or less peacefully. However, when the Europeans began to take more land in the mid nineteenth century, the Maori fought back sparking the aptly named “New Zealand Wars.” It’s sad that I knew nothing about this conflict or the natives here. That will change. After seeing the Maori Cultural Performance at the Auckland Museum, I’m fascinated by the culture and people.
Generally speaking, this is a country that welcomes its tourists with open arms. They’re excited to host you and make you feel like part of the Kiwi family. Get yourselves down here soon. You won’t regret it!