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New Zealand: Short Vignettes about the New Zealand

Red flowers at Parnell Rose Garden

One of the first things we noticed about New Zealand was the fresh air. We breathed in deeply and felt exhilarated. It smelled so good, and we were still in Auckland. On the Auckland Explorer Bus tour, we decided to visit the Parnell Rose Gardens. We could smell the roses as we stepped off the bus. While smokers, and the rare black smoke vehicle, can change the air quality for the worse, we were overjoyed to be able to experience clean air for most of our trip to New Zealand.

New Zealand Money

New Zealand’s money has a slick texture that is kind of stiff. It’s clear that it’s made from something other than what the U.S. uses. I asked the women at the bank where we exchanged money, and she said that New Zealand currency is made from polyurethane. If it gets wet, you just have to wipe it off; there’s no damage to the money at all.

Eating out in the Afternoon

Finding a place to eat gets tricky around 3:30 in the afternoon when many cafes stop serving and some restaurants haven’t opened for dinner. Usually it just takes a little more walking, settling for a higher-priced meal, or ducking into a dairy (convenience store) for a hot pie.

Tiritiri Matangi’s Jumping Spider

When we sat down to eat at the Tiritiri Matangi Wildlife Sanctuary, I opened my bag and pulled out what we had packed. I put my arms on the table and noticed a spider running along the top. It ran back and forth along the edge, sometimes disappearing to the underside.

The birds tweeted and sang. Some flew close to our table. “You better stay close spider.” He turned to face me. “Those birds may try to eat you.” He hid under the table. He came back up and we talked. I pulled my backpack from the ground and began to put things away.

The spider must have thought I was okay for a human because he crouched down, wiggled his butt and sprang onto my backpack. I screeched and fell back. Then I brushed him off the pack. He fell to the ground and walked away. I felt a little bad. After all, we were just becoming friends, but I couldn’t overcome my fear to make this friendship work.

The Fern Trees of Tiritiri Matangi

The tree ferns on Tiritiri Matangi grow up like trees. They are hollow on the inside, so when they get to tall, they die because they aren’t able to provide water to the upper reaches to stay alive. This height is more or less uniform among the plants. There must be a reason why they don’t just stop growing before they reach that height. (If you purchase my book “Polly Penguin Wants to Fly” from Amazon or from this website, I will give $1 of the proceeds to Tiritiri Matangi Island for their work with New Zealand’s native species including Little Blue Penguins.)

Wellington Cable Cars

You can take a cable car in Wellington from the downtown area up the hill to the botanic garden and a stop for Zealandia. However, this form of travel isn’t limited to public transportation. Some homes have their own cable cars, and it’s the only way they can get supplies to their homes.

Rotorua’s Atmosphere

Going from the wind and storm of Wellington, Rotorua was warm and full of birdsong. People warned us about the smell of sulfur in the air, but it came and went without any rhyme or reason. Is sulfur in the air healthy? Does it smell fresher than other pollutants? I’m not sure, but it definitely was interesting. Rotorua did have its own storms. I told Jenya that New Zealand doesn’t have many thunderstorms, and 20 minutes later, the lightning and thunder rained down on us in our hot tub.

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New Zealand: Is It Possible to Eat Cheaply in New Zealand?

Patch Penguin with Fish and Chips in New Zealand

If you change your definition , you might be able to eat cheaply in New Zealand. Unfortunately, it will require some sacrifice on your part and a change in expectations, most likely. While you may be able to eat cheaply, the other question you have to ask yourself is if you really want to.

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New Zealand: A Short Survey of New Zealand Penguins

marching penguins creating a new experience

Penguins are funny creatures. As my wife says they often look like they are running to hug you. My second favorite penguins are from the movie “Mary Poppins, and that’s where I got the idea as a penguin for my creativity mascot. Those penguins deliver fun, service and a dance-off with Dick Van Dyke before it was a thing. (Who would win in a dance off: the Mary Poppins penguins or Starlord?) From there, it was a short step to our stuffed penguins.

There is only a small group of penguins in the Galapagos Islands that live north of the equator in the wild. All of the other wild penguins in the world live south of the equator. Of the 18 or 19 species penguins in the world, New Zealand is home to three: the korora, the hoiho, and the tawaki. Knowing that, we, of course, are going to schedule some time to try to find some penguins in the wild. (We hear they are smelly, but we don’t care. They just look like fun to hang around near!)

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New Zealand: A Short Survey of New Zealand Foods

new zealand

On “Gordon Ramsey: Uncharted,” Chef Ramsey visits Chef Monique Fiso in New Zealand to see how Maori cuisine gets combined with fine dining. He chops his way through the forest to get to “bush asparagus.” His mouth burns with the flavor of horopito, a bush pepper tree. He scales a Fuschia tree to get to the bright purple berries.

I don’t think we’ll have to go to those extremes if we get to New Zealand. The country is full of food delights and local cuisine.

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New Zealand: The Wellington Museum

Wellington Museum

The Wellington Museum explores the stories that made Wellington a town. With a heavy emphasis on the creative arts and creativity, this is one of my favorite museums in New Zealand.

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Leaving Khabarovsk for New Zealand

We got up for our flight from Khabarovsk early. From the window, it looked like the skies were clear. We showered and made sure everything was packed. Our first taxi couldn’t make it t the hotel, but a second taxi was quickly dispatched and arrived. The roads were slick and ice covered. There were the fewest number of cars on them that I had ever seen in Khabarovsk. It was 6:30 am on a Tuesday; surely there should be more traffic.

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New Zealand: A Short Survey of New Zealand Destinations – On First Look

Hobbiton in New Zealand

At roughly 1600 km long (990 miles), New Zealand’s two islands are about the length of a third of the continental United States. That’s a nice drive in America of about 18 hours depending on which states you go through and the maximum speed limit. I have been told that’s not the case in New Zealand. The roads aren’t highways. They tend to wind and have lower speed limits. The other impediment to drive time is the ferry. It may not run in inclement weather, and of course, it only departs at certain times of the day. The cost is also something to consider. I was told around $200 NZ for a car and two passengers.

With all of this in mind, choosing destinations for New Zealand is going to depend on what we really want to see – not the road or the inside of a car – and what we can get to comfortably. Personally, I don’t necessarily want to spend my time driving at all. On the other hand, my second hand knowledge has said that public transportation doesn’t exist, and the buses that go between towns take even longer than cars.

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New Zealand: A Short Survey of Wellington

Weta orcs

Wellington is not only the capital of New Zealand but also the Creativity Capital of New Zealand. With the emphasis that New Zealand is putting on creativity and innovation, Wellington is a step ahead of most of the country according to Infometric. With its designation, it’s only natural that I would want to experience the city myself.

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New Zealand: A Short Survey of Dunedin

A penguin colony?

Jenya and I are going to Dunedin, New Zealand to relax. We’re not going to go whole hog to experience all of the attractions available. Instead, we’re going to see the penguins and the beach.

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