Striving towards becoming borderless involves traveling the world. How else can one really experience a culture without visiting?
It has been a great 9 days.
The scenery and landscape really cannot be properly described — but I will make an attempt to do so as I don’t think that very many people back home will ever get the opportunity to see it for themselves. In my view everyone should try to vacation here for at least 2 weeks at some point. The country is simultaneously, totally unspoiled and tremendously functional.
Behind beaches and driving through valleys one can see snow-covered mountains and undisturbed natural beauty. Many parts of the landscape appear to have never been visited by humans; this is not so surprising given that only 5-6 million people actually live here. One can see cliffs, rock formations, trees, waterfalls and rivers on the mountainsides. Recreation is completely outdoor-focused and centers around water sports, soccer, camping, skiing, fishing boating, horseback riding and nature walks. In addition to the mountains — and the comparisons to both the Alps and Rockies are appropriate — the country side is dotted with numerous lakes so one is never more than 100 miles or so away from the water. The people are all very helpful when asked but, as I wasn’t invited into anyone’s home, I really have no insight as to what the day-to-day is like for the citizens — but I do get the impression that work is less important here than it is in the U.S.
Interestingly enough, the GST (value added tax) increased from 12.5% to 15% which explains why the U.S. dollar has appreciated about 8% against New Zealand’s currency. The locals say that GST actually means: Greedy Stealing Thievery and Grabbing Snatching Taking or some variation thereof; obviously the taxpayers in the U.S. and Europe are not the only ones feeling the burden of the cost and inefficiency of their governments. I visited the capital in Wellington, jumping off point to catch the boat to the South Island, and it is a lovely small-scale harbor city with fewer than 200,000 inhabitants.
One does see a lot of “Americanization” as there are McDonald’s, Burger Kings and KFCs not to mention New Zealand chains be they food supermarkets, hotels real estate companies etc. everywhere. I also throughly enjoyed Queenstown, a charming little vacation spot nestled in the Southern Alps where I witnessed a 100-foot wide rainbow about 80 feet above the lake with a mountain backdrop. Queenstown also represented the furthest South I got; there was a sign post detailing distances to all the world’s major cities and its distance from New York is 9,420 miles which I am sure is the farthest away from home I have ever been.
It would be remiss of me not to remark upon the roads. In 10 days I have driven about 1250 miles on the National highways which are so well maintained I have seen only 2 potholes! They are 2 lanes, 1 in each direction, cut through valleys and mountains and are in superb condition with signage a literate 7-year-old could follow. I could not help but notice all the scenery as I was driving despite the incessant rainy weather which finally ended midday yesterday after a week.
Judging from the plethora of road signs addressing it, alcoholism is clearly a problem but speeding is not with the speed limit being set and for the most part ignored at 100 kilometers per hour. I actually drove 1 road cut through a mountain in the central part of the South Island that had a 16% grade for a short distance. Personally, driving on the opposite side of the road was not difficult; I did not drive at night or when I was tired so everything has been fine up to now and I have only another 2 days and about 150 miles of additional driving before my return flights home.