New Zealand Ramblings

The ramblings that follow are the stream of consciousness type about first impressions, but they do follow some driving and walking around type of ramblings, as well.

One constant with travel is learning. Even in English speaking countries with a history of British colonization, we feel a little like fish out of water and are pushed to learn a bit each day. This is good; it keeps the grey matter going!

New Zealand is English speaking, yes, but the Kiwi accent is a little different from the Aussie, so we’re training our ears all over again. There is also, of course, the Maori language. We don’t hear it spoken, but many place names are Maori, and some are almost impossible for us to pronounce. I don’t even say Maori right; what hope is there?

I quickly discovered I knew absolutely nothing about New Zealand’s history!  Yes, I knew that the Maori came from Polynesian Islands in the South Pacific. I knew that Europeans “discovered and settled” New Zealand some time later.  Yup. That’s about it!

Oh, my red face.

Like our own country of Canada, New Zealand recognises those Europeans who reached the new land, looked around, and decided to take over. Today, January 22, 2017, is Wellington Anniversary Day. The regional public holiday is all about the folks who spent months at sea, travelling from Gravesend, England, eventually landing at Port Nicholson (now Wellington Harbour)  on January 22, 1840.

wellington-harbour-max-patte

‘Solice in the Wind’, Max Patte
Wellington Harbour

The town that grew was eventually named after the first Duke of Wellington who, apparently, had been a super-dude leader at Waterloo. Apologies to my teachers, like Norm Flach. I’m sure I was expected to remember this guy, but it’s all news to me!

As a side-line, I’ll tell you that the title Duke of Wellington made me think of “Duke” Ellington, so I’m listening to the Duke and his orchestra as I type this. Perhaps this little diversion might offer some insight into my inability to navigate my way out of that paper bag I mentioned in my previous post! Focus, Leah.

So, what I didn’t know was that New Zealand has been strongly influenced by more than the English. Dutch explorers named the country after Zeeland, a province in the Netherlands. Dunedin (a city on the South Island) is a Gaelic word for Scotland. The gold rush of the 1850s brought the first Chinese immigrants. Danes fleeing German cultural persecution came here in 1870, and refugees from far too many conflicts in far too many parts of the world have continued to find a safe haven in this country. I had no idea what a multi-cultural background this place has.


More randum observations:

New Zealand feels a lot like home. Our road trips are complete with views of great swaths of clear cut land, and rolling hills covered with rows of trees planted by young hands and strong backs.  At times, we could be tricked into thinking we’re in British Columbia or northern Manitoba, as we pass trucks hauling their load of logs; a couple of times, we even thought we smelt the sharp aroma of a pulp & paper mill.

McDonalds is everywhere. Otherwise known as Macca, the home of the Big Mac and and nature-defying, never-decaying french fry has a firm hold on New Zealand.  Those golden arches are everywhere we look.

WalMart is NOT. A glaring omission in the Americanization of this country has been WalMart.  Could this be one reason every town and city we’ve visited so far seems to have a thriving down town with independent shops and grocery stores people can actually walk to? I know WalMart isn’t to blame for every dead Main Street in North America, but I don’t miss their presence here.

We are NOT safe from the media shit storm that swirls around everything Trump. From the election to the inauguration to every idiotic tweet, we miss nothing here. As we do at home, sometimes we just turn off the news.


Speaking of home, I’m happy to report that we have settled in at our current abode and have quickly adjusted to our role as servants to our feline masters, Chicken and Portulaca.

Portulaca gets a mani-pedi while Chicken considers sharing the bed with the intruders.

This week, we’re in Masterton, 100 km north of Wellington. Driving the Rimutaka Mountain pass between our new home town and the nation’s capitol was exhilarating to say the least. For me, the passenger, it was like an amusement park ride. For my poor driver, it was a stretch of very narrow, twisty turny road with absolutely no shoulder separating our lane from the mountain-side.

None of my pictures properly show why I was hanging on for dear life as we flew around blind corners with cars close on our tail and oncoming traffic appearing suddenly (at times, sharing a bit of our lane as they tried to avoid tumbling down the mountain).

rimutaka-range-drive

We’ll just say that I promised my driver a very large drink at the end of this drive.


As has become our routine, we use our house sits as time to relax & plan the next leg of our trip. The weather here is cooperating with those plans, as rain gives us added incentive to stay close to home with the kitties.

At the end of the week, we will catch the ferry to Picton on the South Island.  Until then, we still look forward to some promising walks, wandering Queen Elizabeth Park, and visiting the Wool Shed: New Zealand’s NATIONAL Museum of Sheep & Shearing (Karen will be skipping that one; she’ll be sorry!).

– Leah

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19 thoughts on “New Zealand Ramblings

  1. Hi Leah and Karen
    Beautiful photos and interesting blog. I hope that Hew Zeàland appreciates you both!
    Wags from Watty
    Happy travels from his humans
    Marion xx

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  2. We don’t have Walmart but we do have The Warehouse (or Warewhare in Maori.. get a Maori to pronounce it for you haha).. glad you’re loving my home country 😊

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  3. It’s always so interesting to hear about your adventures. I’ve never been to this part of the world so it’s really fun learning about it via your photos and “ramblings”. Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Marion, New Zealand is treating us well. We woke up to clear blue skies this morning (finally), so we’re ready to go for a good walk (and no Watty to keep us company).

    I hope you’ve made you’ve eased back into regular life. Have you finished your scrapbook from your latest trip? Ha ha ha!

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  5. I was always put off by the long (and I thought expensive) flight, but I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at that in future. We know we’ll be back.

    It’s so easy to get around here (as in Australia); people are extremely friendly and eager to help out with advice, answering silly questions, and so on. Lovely country and there is so much more for us to see!

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  6. Saw recent tv prog featuring New Zealand..looks green..vast…hilly and lots of water…quite dramatic scenery and great nature spots.
    I don’t know how to break it to you but Ronald Mcdonald and Donald Trump( maybe same person) are going for world domination.. hide, switch off and keep running towards those hills .

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  7. Good advice, my friend!

    There is actually a Coast Australia (same Scots host as the UK version) which we enjoy. Would love to see a Coast New Zealand and Coast Canada some day.

    It is green, green, green here! The ginormous umbrella ferns are truly New Aealand to me. I can imagine all sorts of hobbits, fairies, and other magical creatures living in the forests.

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  8. Nice photos. Glad you are having fun and getting acquainted with Chicken and Portulaca. Looks like Chicken lives up to his/her name. 😉 At least there were guard rails on those windy roads.

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  9. Hi Leah, I’m enjoying your blog very much. Hearing about your adventures on the road and with your furry friends is entertaining and we’re all learning a thing or too along the way.
    Very fun! Thanks

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  10. I’m so glad to have you along on the trip, Leslie! Glad you’re enjoying.
    We’re taking off for the South Island today. I’m very excited about what promises to be a very scenic ferry ride from Wellington to Picton. The weather will be horrid on the South Island, but as I’ve said before, we had good training in the UK last year. We did 4 months of rain and wind, we can do 2 weeks this year!!

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  11. I sympathise with you about trump. Stumbled on your page when I was searching for other posts about Australia but loved this post about nz!

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  12. I’m so glad you stopped by. Once I’m not moving every day or two, I’ll have a chance to check out your blog.

    For now, off to Dunedin!

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  13. Ah! I lost track of you over the summer, then got too busy with the election, too depressed with its aftermath, and too busy with the holidays and New Year to visit or write much anywhere. (Taking a deep breath.) So glad to see you’re back to blogging and sharing your travels. We thought for a time of immigrating to New Zealand ourselves after the election, but realized this is a whole new thing and there probably isn’t anywhere in the world safe from what’s happening. So we’re sticking it out and working with every ounce of optimism we can summon collectively to keep things from getting too much worse before, hopefully, enough of us can work together to right it all. Good luck there! I’m glad to hear Walmart hasn’t invaded yet.

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  14. I completely understand the shock and fear that the election (or, appointment, as I like to call it) created. What goes on in your country does, indeed, affect the whole world, & there are many of us holding our breath as we wait to see what will happen.

    Hang in there. Peace and Love have to win in the end, don’t they?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. That and the amazing determination of so many people, on the ground around the world, not to let happen again anything like we saw with the rise of Hitler and company in the last century.

    Liked by 1 person

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