Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New Zealand

New Zealand – March 2010

While I have traveled a lot around the northern hemisphere, until this trip I had never crossed the equator. I had nearly been to New Zealand on business a couple of times in the past, but things had never quite worked out.

On this trip, we visited Auckland, Wellington, Whangarei, Rotorua, Christchurch, and Taupo. We spent a lot of time out looking at forestry operations in the country, trying to gain a better understanding of what it would take to do a project there.

New Zealand reminded me of two places: Scotland, where I lived once before, and Hawaii, where I live now. Wellington specifically reminded me of Seattle; lots of water and tree-covered hills, with houses dotting the hills. But if I had to describe New Zealand in relation to one place, it would be Scotland with better weather. As in Scotland, the people are extremely nice, everyone is driving on the left, the breakfasts are the same, they have fish and chips everywhere and afternoon tea, and the newspapers are sensational (Mayor Urinates on Tree; Public is Outraged).

Airport security in New Zealand has not caught up to the rest of the world. On most flights, not only did I not have to show ID, but I didn’t have to go through a metal detector. On the one hand, this makes for very convenient travel around the country (security is tight on international flights), I was uneasy knowing that no screening had taking place. I remember when it was like that in the U.S….

Wellington is a really windy city. The first day we were there, the winds must have been tropical force strength, and people acted like that was pretty normal. We actually flew in that weather, and those were some of the roughest flights I have ever been on. Those little planes were tossed around so badly that I was sure we were going to crash. A man we met with later said “If you have the stomach for it, go to YouTube and look up Landings at Wellington Airport.”

We saw a rugby match while I was there, and ironically the only other place I have done that was in Scotland. For the match we attended in New Zealand, the local Wellington team played a South African team, but lost in overtime.

New Zealand is more international than I would have guessed. You see many different nationalities walking down the street. Our host, in fact, had emigrated there from India. When we were in restaurants, we would try to guess where different waiters/waitresses were from. Sometimes we just asked. I was sure one waiter was from Greece, but we didn’t ask. Another time, a waitress was from Thailand, and then we had a waitress from Indiana. (I didn’t ask what brought her to New Zealand; she probably has to answer that question several times a day).

The trip was business, so we didn’t do much sight-seeing other than what we saw as we traveled from one meeting to another. I hope to make it back down at some point, and have a little more time to enjoy the sights.

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