Friday, March 20, 2015

NZ 1: Stories from the Southern Hemisphere

We're back from our trip to New Zealand! I'm happy to report that it was an amazing adventure with so many incredible experiences that it's almost overwhelming just to think about, let alone tell someone about. Thus, I have decided to post about my trip in little bite-size posts, rather than one or two large ones. This way the posts should be more enjoyable for you, the reader, and may mean that I won't take six weeks to actually get all the pictures and stories uploaded.

So. For my first New Zealand post, I've composed a list of five fun facts I discovered during our vacation:

1. People in New Zealand love the word "kiwi." They use it to describe a lot of things. Flightless bird that only lives in New Zealand? Kiwi. The green fruit with the fuzzy brown skin that's grown around the world? Kiwi. People who live in New Zealand? Also Kiwi.
This is not the fruit. Also, I didn't take this picture. We only saw one in a very dark enclosure and he was way at the back.

2. Everything is reversed. Remember that old wives tale about how the toilet's flush in the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere? Well, honestly, I have no idea which direction the water swirls in my own toilet, so I didn't really notice in New Zealand. I did however notice that cars drive on the left, the driver sits on the left, and all the locks and knobs turn the opposite way. You know how when you turn a key in a lock you usually turn it toward the door jamb to lock it and away to unlock? Totally opposite down there. I got stuck in so many bathrooms over the last two weeks ...

3. Driving in America is like bowling with the bumpers up. You heard me. It's so easy to drive in the US, I can't believe it. In New Zealand, the roads are all about the same width as your car, give or take a few inches. And the speed limit on most of the roads is 100 kph. Yes, kilometers are shorter and therefore this is slower than 100 mph, but on teeny tiny roads that turn 90 degrees constantly and have no guard rail alongside a cliff, it feels like you're going unbelievably fast. Totally out of control. (Btw, 100 kph = 62 mph). Basically, if you try to always drive the speed limit on all the roads where it's legal, you will die. Without question. Splat. Depending on your skill level at maneuvering twisty roads at unsafe speeds, add an extra 10% to 40% of driving time to whatever Google Maps tells you.
That crazy man ziplining upside down is my husband. I may have done that as well ...

At the ocean in Napier on the North Island on a warm day.
4. New Zealand is not that old. No seriously. New Zealand became legally independent of Great Britain the same year I was born. They only just created their own Supreme Court in 2003. They had been a colony of Great Britain in the mid 1800s, and before that, it was mostly just the native people, the Maori (pronounced mowry or mary, depending on the accent ...) In many of the towns we visited, houses built in the 1980s were considered the "older homes in the area."

5. There are 4.5 million people living in New Zealand and 9 million sheep. And when you're driving through most of the country, all you'll see is the sheep. That's because most of the population live in just three major cities. The rest of the country is unpopulated or farmland. Thousands upon thousands of acres for their sheep and cows to roam around. Kiwis claim that's why their milk is so much better than American milk - their cows actually get to eat grass. Kind of makes me feel bad for American livestock. There's no way our "free range" or "cage free" livestock have that kind of freedom. Except in Hawaii. Some farmers in Hawaii don't even use fences - the cows just wander between farms and open land (we observed this on the southern part of Maui a few years ago, where I not surprisingly ate the best burger of my life at a roadside stand).

See all the white dots on the hillside? All sheep. This was the view all over the country.

Kayaking the Doubtful Sound.
I'll continue to do more New Zealand posts over the next few weeks, so check back often. If you didn't follow my Instagram feed while we were traveling, check out my New Zealand pictures here and Chris's pictures here. My Google phone, which is sort of like my own personal stalker created this slideshow.

Thank you and "haere mai ano" (that means "come again" in Maori ... I think ...)