Sunday, February 05, 2017

Reflections

     We drop Gay off for her Stewart Island adventure where she will hunt for kiwis and search for New Zealand birds in an environment focused on their protection. Many of the birds in NZ evolved to be flightless as there were no predators until recently. Today, sadly many species are endangered but can be found on Stewart Island. I look forward to hearing her stories and seeing her photos. From the Bluff cliff overlook, we watch her ferry bounce across the waves in the distance. 


     Bluff has potential as a tourist town but the entire town is in need of a coat of paint. I wonder if it comes to life during oyster season. 
     My own journey is nearing an end and as we drive from Bluff to Queenstown. As the guys stop at local streams and fly fish in the gusty wind, I have a chance to read, something I haven't had a chance to do. I am reading the Orchardist, a story about a man's life on his family orchard. I also have a moment to reflect on our two week circuit through this pristine and beautiful country. 
     The scenery of the south island is unparalleled. As so much of the country is preserved through its14 national parks, 30 conservation and forest parks, and 40 marine preserves, every direction you turn, there are green or golden hills, sharp clifftops, lush forests, waterfall, rivers that ressemble canals, and enormous blue lakes framed by cliffs that fall into the water. Wouldn't it be magical to glide and soar quietly over this incredible landscape with a parachute or hangglider?


     There are 30 million sheep in NZ, more than there are people. On this trip, we see more cattle and deer grazing in the pastures than a decade ago. The grass is lush and the lamb meat superb. As with many countries, much of what is produced is exported, we are told by local residents. No wonder I do not see large quantities of kiwis in the stores and the local apples are half the size of those imported to the US. 
     Asians are immigrating here in large numbers, as well as visiting as tourists. Out of the 170,000 living in NZ, 117,000 live in Auckland. In CA, we see dual Spanish on signs and literature; here we see Chinese. The cuisine in NZ has become much more cosmopolitan and quite good; we didn't have a bad meal anywhere. Chinese food is everywhere and in some large cities, appears authentic. In Queenstown, we saw a group of Chinese men having hotpot with lamb at a Chinese Ale House! I have been approached by several Chinese speaking mandarin, some curious about fly fishing as Ray carries his backpack everywhere with rods sticking out. The owner of the b&b asked me where I am from and when I replied CA, she said I look like I'm from somewhere else, and where might that be (?), a question I haven't been asked since a trip to the coast of Maine. I don't think of myself from mainland China and am always taken aback when in a foreign country, am seen as another Chinese tourist and not as an American. Funny how we are defined by how we look. 
     Campervans appear to be a favorite way of travel here with rental vans of all shapes, sizes and colors, from traditional Britz to Jucy to hippie painted. Campgrounds appear to be similar to Iceland, many are grassy fields with large common kitchen/shower/laundry facilities. We don't see many tents, probably because of the rainy weather. Almost all motels have great kitchenettes, fully equipped, and all provide a small bottle of milk for your morning coffee and cereal. We find the low sugar in all foods much to our liking. I am convinced it contributes to to the leaness of people here. 
     Kiwis, the people, are laid back and friendly. In most towns, homes are very modest making some of the houses in the Bay Area appear like palaces in comparison. As in Iceland, there is less of everything. However, NZ and especially Queenstown, is no longer a country for just extreme sports; it has indeed grown up. Home prices are steep and it makes me wonder if it will feel growing pains in a few years, if not already. 
     For our short stay, we are at a funky backpacker's motel. Walking into the covered open air hut, I am greeted by the smell of incense, signs that announce yoga clases, and a reminder of hippie days gone by. 
     During the past 2 weeks, we have minimized our exposure to US news, choosing instead to hear a NZ perspective but also in small doses. when conversations have led to politics, we have shushed eachother up! Sadly, in the morning, I will be transported back toTrumpland but for now will relish in the thought that beautiful, peaceful, loving places like this exist.  
     

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