Twelve days into a 365 day journey and we have traveled the North Island of New Zealand and just began our South Island adventure. It’s amazing when you drive around the country what you see, the conversations you have and the people you meet. Lynn was determined to see the city of Rotorua from the highest point possible so we hiked up Rainbow Mountain to look out over the valley. We met Barry, who was on fire watch for the National Parks, at the very tippy top who informed us that the American pine planted everywhere was planted by POWs during World War II and has since turned into one of the largest Commercial exports for the country. Or Liz, who drove us around orchards and explained to us the kiwi fruit crop (it’s many varieties) and how it supplies ~30% of the kiwi fruit in the world.
Still the largest export (and major economic indicator) is dairy and it’s the first report stated on the morning news. Yes, sheep out number people approximately 20 to 1; however, the cows are the breadwinners for this tiny nation of about 4 million (about the same population of Louisiana or South Carolina).
The news in general is quite different … it’s like listening to extreme sport accidents. A typical news report might start off with, “Seven skydivers jumped to safety as a plane malfunctioned and crashed into Lake Taupo.” No violence, no crime, no corrupt politician or mean acts of hatred.
But there are events that have impacted these islands. We sat with a couple on the ferry from Wellington to Picton who were from Christchurch. They vividly recalled the earthquake that happened a few year back killing about 170 people. It was with the same tone we heard from Stu, our eco guide around Abel Tasman National Park, about the farmers raiding the land and destroying all the wildlife back during the European settlement. These horrific events have impacted the people; yet, the strength of the community comes together.
It’s an amazing place and we both have fallen in love with the culture, the people, the beauty and the lifestyle. And to think … we are still only 12 days into a year long adventure!41