So, after decades of wanting to visit New Zealand (and having Covid cancel our 2020 trip), I finally made it to New Zealand. Been here a couple of weeks, driving around the South Island, mainly. Here are some quick observations.
Kiwis are nice. Really, you can’t stop in a pub or store without somebody striking up a conversation or offering up some assistance. Even before we arrived, a fellow Peregrino (El Camino de Santiago pilgrim) offered to pick us up at the Airport when we arrived. Donut Doug (his nom de plume) not only picked us up, but gave us a tour of Auckland, including the highest hill in the city, the waterfront, and an ice-cream store! He then gave a ride back to the airport when we left to fly to Christchurch (on the South Island).
They drive on the wrong side of the road (as evidenced that most of the rest of the world not previously colonized by the British drive on the right side of the road). Fortunately, Donut Doug’s rides allowed me to sit behind him in the rear seat, so I acclimitized fairly easily. The only real problem I have is confusing the windshield wipers with the turn signals. It turns out this is because many of the imports are used Japanese cars, where they not only drive on the wrong side of the road, but they also have all the controls reversed (fortunately, the gear shift has the same pattern, as do the pedals).
The country is not only scenically spectacular, but also amazingly clean (unlike Washington State, where people seem to think the side of the road is a good spot for their garbage). I’ve only seen a few bits of litter, and they really stick out!
Animals: Lots of critters. The domestic variety include cows, sheep, deer, sheep, and more sheep (it’s like it’s the national export or something). Wild animals are limited to birds, seals, and sea lions. We’ve seen penguins, sea lions, parakeets, wekas, and even albatrosses (but no Kiwis 😦 ). Of course, as with any British settlement, there are invasive species, such as deer, rabbits, feral cats, and imports from Australia (wallabys and possums – a completely different critter than the Virginia Opposum, but like our North American marsupial, the only time one gets to see this possum is when it’s dead on the side of the road).
Water – lots of water, Everywhere. All the time. It seems it rains almost daily (he types as raindrops are falling on the campervan). Of course, New Zealand is surrounded by oceans, so it makes for interesting weather, views, and rides. We’ve only been on one ferry so far (to and from Stewart Island, the third largest island of New Zealand). The trip out was pleasant, the trip back in 32 knot winds and 5-6′ swells wasn’t – it was more like a splashing, crashing roller coaster ride. Fortunately, my stomach contents remained where they were and didn’t go projectiling across the boat.