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.
‘Solice in the Wind’, Max Patte
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).
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!).