Woke up early this morning for my flight from Queenstown to Sydney. It was nice to have a last drive along the lake on the way to the airport to see New Zealand in all its splendor. The last nine days in this country were wonderful, even when I was getting rained on and chewed up by irritating sand flies (they really are a brutal bug — ask any seal). For years, I had heard from friends who had been to New Zealand how much they loved it. I had a passing notion of what the attraction might be, but to be honest, I mostly thought of sheep on green fields. Of course, I had also heard about bungie jumping and crazy action sports stuff, but I had no sense really about what all the hubbub was about.
Now having been there, let me do my best to articulate why I loved it so much…
- She’s a hottie: it’s a really, really, really beautiful country. You can find examples of the natural environment of NZ in lots of places from the Rockies to jungles to Norway to Big Sur. What makes NZ particularly wild is that they seem to have it all in a very concentrated place. The fact that you can walk out of a rain forest onto a beach and look at a snow capped glacier mountain while contemplating fjords just a 100 miles away is pretty unique. The country has smoldering good looks when it rains, and it’s smoking hot when the sun comes out. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could just get used to seeing it and take it for granted, but I suppose some people do.
- She begs you to move: Granted I didn’t have a choice given that I went on an active trip that had me biking my way down the country with a group of like-minded compulsive exercise people. That said, everywhere I looked people were outside. These people live to hike, bike, sail, you name it. Some of the lodges we stayed at didn’t have TV, and the others that did seemed to have a grand total of five stations. Sedentary endeavors just don’t seem to be the thing in this country, at least in the parts that I saw.
- Really nice people: Hobbits weren’t known for being particularly welcoming to strangers, but the Kiwi’s most certainly are. The impression you get from the people you encounter is that they are simply psyched that you chose to fly all over creation to come visit their country.
- Nice wine: They make quite the tasty Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
- Isolated but connected: It’s wonderful to be able to visit a place that is so far from everyplace else, yet it all seems familiar.
- Time zones: This was a funny realization. NZ is so far ahead of the US on time zones that it’s as though they were running behind. For example, during the right side of Daylight Savings (i.e., during the NZ summer), you can fly from California to New Zealand and only have to adjust your biological clock by three hours. Of course, you need to remember that NZ is a day ahead, but that has nothing to do with jet lag.
Was there anything I didn’t love?
- I didn’t see enough. I didn’t even get to the North Island, and frankly I didn’t see much, if at all, of the east coast.
- Christchurch is still in bad shape. It’s such a shame the effect that the earthquake had on that storybook city, and it’s still not close to being fully back on its feet.
- Internet. Depending on your point of view, this is a good one or a bad one. There was squat for connectivity for most of the time on the west coast with spotty cell service. WiFi bandwidth was treated like a precious commodity at every lodge and hotel where they would meter it out 300 MB at a time. Seriously? What year is it?
- As noted, sand flies are nasty little bugs. Get used to wearing Deet.
- It does rain and you are outside. If you are made of sugar, stay away from the west coast. You will get wet.
That’s not much in the negative column. I would come back here in a NY minute.
Now I’m back in one of my most very favorite cities on planet Earth, Sydney.
More on that later.