New Zealand
Luigi and Manly, 1986

At the beginning of the school year we sent both children off to college, and told them that if they got into trouble to call each other. Then, on Friday afternoon, September 6, Luigi and I flew to Los Angeles where we waited a few hours for the flight to Auckland. This later flight stopped for another hour or so in Honolulu and then proceeded to Auckland where it arrived about 7:30 on the morning of Monday, September 8. It was dark in Los Angeles and in Honolulu but the sun came up as we approached New Zealand. It is likely that Luigi and I were the first people in the world (any astronauts or cosmonauts that may have been aloft then are considered not in the world) to see the sun rise that day, as, I believe, we were just west of the International Date Line, which makes an obliging zigzag to include the whole rather than half of New Zealand in the Eastern Hemisphere. We were on the upper deck of a Boeing 747 flying at somewhat over 30,000 feet, on the port side, and because of the curvature of the earth, could see the sun considerably sooner than people on the ground could have seen it even if it were not cloudy, as it was. People to the east of us, (in Honolulu for example) would have seen it earlier, but for them it was rising on Sunday the 7th.

The air was somewhat bumpy as we approached Auckland, and after we landed we found out why: a tornado had just hit a part of the city a few miles from the airport.

Much of Monday was taken up by naps as neither of us had slept much on the airplane and when we reached Auckland it was about 2:30 Sunday afternoon in Chicago. Eventually Luigi took a walk and then came back to the Hyatt Kingsgate Hotel, where we stayed each of the tree times we were in Auckland; both of us went to the Auckland art museum where we saw a very good exhibit of the recently excavated full size, individually made terra cotta soldiers that had been buried with the body of the Chinese Emperor Qin (pronounced chin) several thousand years ago.

Tuesday morning Luigi seemed surprised at the fact that we had no plans to do anything for the next two weeks. She insisted that something be done the rectify the situation, so I called the local office of American Express and was invited to drop in and discuss our travel plans. It was raining so I put on my poncho and Luigi carried an umbrella as we walked down hill about half a mile to Queen Street, the main commercial street of Auckland, and on which American Express is located. There we met a very pleasant and attractive young lady named Miranda Lodewyks who listened to where I said we'd like to go, and asked us to come back tomorrow when she would have an itinerary ready for us.

We proceeded to walk about downtown Auckland in the rain, and down to Quay Street, which runs along the waterfront at the bottom end of Queen Street, and observed that most of the buildings were built with canopies projecting out over the sidewalk so that passers-by would not get wet in the rain. This is typical of cities where it rains a lot. We saw a number of interesting buildings, including particularly the new white concrete port administration building, the main part of which is resting on three great concrete legs or stilts, as if the port administration were expecting a tsunami. It was an impressive building and we took lots of pictures of it. As we were standing under the building to keep out of the rain, a man who had some unexplained connection with the port authority invited us to take the elevator up to the top floor. We did so and had a nice view of the downtown area, but signs nearby showed that this was where the governing board of the port had its offices and board room, and the public was not to go any further.

We continued our walk in the rain along the waterfront and had coffee in a small coffee shop nearby; then went back along Queen Street looking for a place to eat lunch. We discovered a large number of shopping arcades and in one of them, on the second floor, was a cafeteria that had a number of different food counters, each serving food of a different ethnic variety. No tables were available when we turned up, however, so we went on to a nice Chinese restaurant. After lunch we continued our walk in the rain and Luigi went to see an exhibition of medieval manuscripts in the public library while I went back to the hotel for a nap. The rain stopped in mid-afternoon and we went for another walk, looking at Auckland University and a public park with gardens.

Wednesday started off sunny and cool, then got warmer. We walked again near the waterfront and stopped at a store named Jason's where we bought a some grey sheepskin seatcovers for the car and various other items, then returned to American Express where Miss Lodewyks had indeed prepared an itinerary for us and made all necessary reservations and provided our airplane tickets and some of our bus tickets. It turned out that the only commercial enterprise of any size we came across in New Zealand that would not take MasterCard or Visa credit cards was American Express; but they did take American Express Travelers' checks, and we had plenty of those.

This time we were early enough to get seats in the ethnic cafeteria; I had a couple of tacos that were satisfactory and Luigi had some mid-eastern dish that was pretty good.

At 2:15 we caught a New Zealand Railways bus to Paihia on the Bay of Islands, a four and a half hour drive through rolling and hilly countryside and saw not only a great many sheep but also many beef and dairy cattle and several deer farms. European red deer and American white tail deer and wapiti (called elk in the U.S.) were introduced in New Zealand in the latter 1800s and have thrived to the point of becoming pests. Because they do so well, many farmers have quit the lamb and cattle business and have gone into raising deer which are slaughtered and frozen in New Zealand and exported, mainly to Europe. Venison has little fat and commands a higher price than beef or lamb. We also saw a few peacocks; some of these are raised intentionally and others have gone wild (or become naturalized as they say).

We reached Paihia after dark and inquired for the Bay Regency Park Hotel, where our itinerary showed we were to stay. The hotel had recently changed its name to Sun Bay Country Lodge, but everyone we asked knew the hotel and guided us there. Luigi carried the blue suitcase and her small blue bag and I carried the duffel bag plus a small blue bag and a small grey bag. The distance was about 1000 yards and I was getting tired but Luigi walked quickly to the hotel and got someone to come for me in a van. He reached me when I had 100 yards to go. The hotel was quite nice, evidently under new management by a number of younger people who compensate for a certain lack of experience with lots of enthusiasm. There was a spa-bath in our room; it comprises a tub that is two or three times the size of a normal bathtub and has four jets that squirt water on the bather. I used it a couple of times and enjoyed it. Luigi tried it once. In the dining room we tried a dessert that seems to be quite popular in New Zealand but that I had not seen elsewhere; it's called Pavlova and comprises a ball made of crisp meringue on the outside and soft meringue on the inside.

On Thursday morning I went to an office on the waterfront called Game Fishing Charters, as suggested by the itinerary, and was eventually taken out in the bay (the Bay of Islands, that is) by one George Byford in a motorboat. I was first asked if I had ever fished with a fly rod, and I said yes. It turned out that I was to be fishing for kawai (sea trout) with a fly rod and Mr. Byford demonstrated how he expected the rod to be handled: letting out line about three times the length of the length of the eight or nine foot long rod and keeping it in the air by whipping the rod tip back and forth until all that line could be cast straight in the direction he was aiming. I had heard of such things, but had never seen it done before, and realized that this sort of thing was beyond my prowess. After a couple of miserable attempts, My Byford realized the same thing and we spent the rest of the morning trolling. I got four good sized fish, all but one of which were thrown back. That one Mr. Byford fileted for me and Luigi and I had it for dinner back at the hotel. It was delicious. Mr. Byford was one of those quiet, courteous gentlemen who give sport a good name. In the course of our conversation he mentioned that the Bay Regency Hotel had sometimes been known locally as "Fawlty Towers" but under the new management was doing better.

I went back to the hotel with my fish and gave it to the desk clerk, who seemed accustomed to having fishermen turn up with fish they wanted cooked. It turned out that nearly everyone in the hotel that day had caught a fish they wanted cooked for dinner, and almost none of the hotel's meat or fish was served at dinner that evening.

Luigi had gone for a walk, and was not at the hotel when I returned. I asked about lunch and was told the hotel does not serve lunch, but back in the village there were restaurants that did. I walked back to the village, looking in vain for a restaurant that was open, and met Luigi who guided me to a small place that did serve lunch but not beer. I wandered about some more looking for a place to buy beer, and not finding any, went back to that restaurant and had fruit juice with my lunch.

Friday morning we both spent in the local laundromat, and in the afternoon we took a luncheon cruise in the bay, passing by various islands and capes and also through a large hole in a rock that jutted out of the water most formidably. We were to stop at the town of Russell, just across an arm of the bay, but someone called Walter could not be found ashore to handle whatever had to be handled there, and so the boat proceeded back to Paihia without any passengers getting off and wandering around Russell.

On Saturday, the 13th, we took a wonderful bus trip to Cape Reinga at the extreme north end of New Zealand. The bus drove along a beach that is called "Ninety-mile Beach" though it is only 64 miles long. We traversed somewhat over 40 miles on the beach, mostly in the shallow water. The driver explained that if you drive up where the sand is dry, you get stuck; if you go too far into the water the waves drown the engine and the bus stops and the tide comes in and drowns the passengers, and if you stop anywhere the bus sinks into the sand and gets stuck. There was a rocky outcropping about half way along our journey where we stopped and got out and generally looked around. At the northern end of our ride on the beach, we drove up a stream bed with some water and lots of rocks for half a mile or so until we could get onto dry land and the highway. Cape Reinga had a picturesque lighthouse in very photogenic surrounding. Here the Tasman Sea (that separates Australia from New Zealand) meets the Pacific Ocean. Often there is a substantial difference in the level of the tide in the respective bodies of water, making for some splashy effects we are told, but this was not one of those times. The tour stopped for lunch at a cafeteria near the cape; the cashier was a heavy middle aged Maori woman who complained of a cold and coughed equitably over each meal that came by. I remembered tales of how susceptible the Polynesians (of whom Maoris are a division) were to tuberculosis, but held my peace and have not yet noticed any suspicious symptoms.

On Sunday morning, the 14th, we walked up to a couple of lookouts in the park at the head of School street in Paihia. The park is quite extensive, stretching for miles outside of town and containing many native trees and shrubs, as well a many plants that have been imported. We came across several spots where deer had been recently. In the afternoon we took the 2:35 plane from the airport at Kerikeri and arrived back at Auckland in time for dinner at the Hyatt, which has a good buffet and plenty of other good items on the menu. Like nearly all the hotels we stayed at, there is a mini-bar in the room and a refrigerator with beer and wine and other good things inside.

Monday morning the Scenic Tours bus gathered us and several others and drove us south in the rain to Waitomo where we saw the famous cave that has glow worms hanging from the ceiling and giving off light like a firefly but constant and not quite so bright. We were loaded into a boat at the mouth of a grotto inside a large cave through which we first walked admiring the stalactites and stalagmites. The boat proceeded through the grotto in the dark and (except for two men who never shut up under any circumstances) silence. Quite impressive.

In the evening the group on our bus and several others went to a Hangi (the Maori equivalent of a luau) in Rotorua at the THC Rotorua International Hotel where we were staying. The exercise was to give us an idea of the sort of feast the Maoris traditionally held, though most of the foods were those introduced by Europeans. Yams, wild pork and muttonbird were part of the ancient Maori diet, and they were part of the Hangi. All was cooked in steam that is generated underground in Rotorua due to volcanic sources close underground. This method of cooking is authentic though I suspect the ancient Maoris used ti leaves rather than cheesecloth to hold the food while it was exposed to the live steam. The yams were a starchy yellow root vegetable, though not the same as what we call yams in the U.S. The wild pork was somewhat like domestic pork but with very little fat and much tougher. Muttonbirds are young shearwaters (a migratory gull that breeds in New Zealand) and a small piece is too large. The meat is very oily and fishy.

The rain continued on Tuesday, when our tour went to the Agrodome where we saw a live display of the various breeds of sheep they raise in New Zealand and an excellent demonstration of shearing a sheep. It reminded Luigi of cutting Dodge's hair. There were also three sheep dogs that ran up and down on the stage across the backs of the sheep barking. Because of the rain they did not hold the usual outdoor demonstration of dogs herding sheep. They use a cross between a Labrador retriever and a collie for this purpose; apparently the Labrador blood is introduced so that the animal will bark well. I am not sure why they consider this a virtue. We also went to Rainbow Springs where we saw some huge rainbow trout and, in a specially darkened room, some live kiwi birds in a cage, running around looking for earthworms. Kiwi birds are nocturnal so their cage is kept brightly lit at night and then darkened during the day when the tourists come. Earthworms are supplied by the thousand every few weeks.

Also, still on the tour and in the rain, we went to the Thermal Reserve, a national park at Rotorua where the underground thermal activity causes geysers and pools of boiling water and hot bubbling mud. The name of this reserve is either "Whakarewarewa" or "Whakawerawera." The authorities seem to disagree: our guidebook used the later spelling and a local cab driver pronounced it accordingly; but our itinerary and all the local signposts and literature used the former spelling. This is the sort of inconsistency that we lawyers are supposed to notice.

Wednesday morning at breakfast we were treated to a small earthquake that did no damage but rattled a few pots and pans. The rain had let up a little and we walked to the Whakarewarewa Forestry institute largely because we didn't know exactly where the entrance to the thermal reserve was. The forestry institute had many interesting trees on the grounds and some fairly dull buildings. Eventually we retraced our steps and found the entrance to the thermal reserve across the street from our hotel. At times the sun shone, and I was able to get all the footage of geysers and boiling mud I expect ever to have any use for. The reserve also includes a small Maori village whose residents use the underground steam for cooking and heating water and a graveyard in which the tombs are elevated concrete boxes above the ground so that the heat and steam underground will not cook the occupants.

When the rain resumed we went back to the hotel and watched from our window as the kitchen staff prepared the evening hangi in the thermal steam vent that lives just back of the hotel. When we went down to dinner, it turned out that the Minister of Justice was having a party there that evening in one of the dining rooms and we wouldn't be able to be served for a long time in the other, so we walked a few blocks to the Sheraton and had a good dinner there. The Sheraton is larger and more plush than the THC International, but less conveniently located and does not, so far as I know, have a thermal vent in its back yard.

Thursday morning we caught a plane for Christchurch on the South Island where we stayed at Noah's Hotel. This is close to the Cathedral which, with the square in front of it, comprise the center of the city. We walked around the downtown area and part of the outlying area in the rain, and eventually located a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in a shopping arcade that opened onto the main shopping mall. Luigi had spinach pie and I had a pate sandwich.

The next morning we took a Mount Cook Lines bus from Christchurch to Queenstown, in the southwestern part of the South Island. The trip was quite scenic, with the flat land near the former city giving way to hills and then to snow covered mountains. Queenstown appears primarily to be a skiing center, and the skiing season was about to end. We stayed at another Hyatt Kingsgate Hotel, which was quite good and gave us a room overlooking Lake Wakatipu and, beyond that, the snowy Remarkable Mountains. This range runs parallel to the far shore of the lake for many miles.

On Saturday morning, September 20, we rode one of the Shotover Jet boats. These are boats that hold about 10 people and run at high speed in a canyon of the Shotover River, narrowly missing boulders, canyon walls, gravel bars and rocky shelves. I had to hang onto my glasses much of the time to keep them from being blown off or thrown off by centrifugal force when the boat turned sharply to avoid a hazard. Several times the pilot made very quick 360 degree turns in which the boat's forward motion stopped within a space little more than the length of the boat itself. It was rather like a wet two-dimensional roller-coaster with no tracks.

For lunch we ate in a restaurant in downtown Queenstown, about half a mile from our hotel; the few other patrons included the parents and guests of a boy who was having a birthday party -- I would guess his 12th. The guests were noisy as you might expect, but they were well behaved and no one threw up although the father who was in nominal charge of the party looked pretty green at times. After lunch we took the cable car up to a high point on one of the mountains that surround the town and walked uphill a little from there -- Luigi rather more than I.

Dinner in the hotel was good and pleasant, though a large wedding party was using up all of the main dining room. With the end of the skiing season the hotel is losing much of its help -- healthy looking young men and women who were in town for the skiing and worked to make enough money to satisfy this habit.

On Sunday morning we walked about the municipal gardens which are near the hotel, and in the afternoon we took the Skippers' Canyon tour. This involved getting into a 4-wheel drive vehicle with eight other passengers and a driver who took us first on highways and then on the muddiest roads I ever saw along the sides of the mountains that bound a large canyon through which the Shotover River passes. At one point we disturbed a flock of sheep that were waddling slowly along the road. They skedaddled quickly up the mountainside except for one ewe that got knocked off her feet in the rush and was not able to right herself. The driver saw a hiker a few rods further on and asked him to right the sheep and prop her against the rock if possible; otherwise the driver would set her on her feet on the return trip. Luigi and I were not able to decide whether the sheep (which had not been sheared recently) was too woolly to roll over or too stupid to know which way was up. We saw various old mining works left over from the days when a very rich gold strike had occurred in this region. Gold is still being taken out of the river, but in smaller quantities and with more sophisticated equipment than in the 1860s. Luigi got to talking with a young German couple who were taking a couple of years off and going around the world, mostly hitchhiking, in various countries until they decide where to settle.

Monday morning, in gloriously sunny weather, we took a 5-seat Cessna from Queenstown over and among magnificent mountain peaks and valleys to Milford Sound and a pleasant hotel. The settlement of Milford Sound is at the landward end of an arm of the sea that is also called Milford Sound. It much resembles some of the arms and sounds we saw in Alaska on our way up the inside passage several years ago. We saw a magnificent waterfall -- Bowen's Falls -- on a brief walk from the hotel. After lunch we walked up 145 steps to a lookout back of the hotel, and did more walking on some more or less level ground.

Tuesday morning we walked about some more and visited a small fishing port on the far side of the airstrip; we also saw and took pictures of a kea (a native parrot) prying the lid off a garbage can. At 1:00 we took what purported to be a champagne and crayfish cruise of Milford Sound. As the sound was far more attractive than the food, we did not buy any of the lunch that was available, but admired the sheer cliffs and waterfalls and tree-lined margins of sound. We were advised over the loudspeaker of the reason some of the cliffs are bare while others equally steep are heavily forested: first lichen then moss manage to grasp a purchase on a cliff; these furnish a mat in which other plants can sink their roots and make, by their interlacing roots a deeper mat of vegetation in which the seeds of trees fall and grow, producing a still deeper mat of roots. Eventually, however, some of the trees will have grown so big that during a heavy rain or high wind, one or more trees will be uprooted and fall off the cliff, carrying all the vegetation of which the roots form the mat that kept them all in place. This is known as a tree avalanche. Then the process starts again. The sound extends for several miles an is so narrow and with so many twists and turns that it was not discovered for many years after the rest of the coastline was well charted. We returned from the cruise just in time to miss getting any lunch at the cafeteria that closed at three o'clock -- just two minutes before we reached it.

Wednesday morning we took a final walk around the airstrip and along a nature trail where we saw large numbers of plants that attested to the area's 250 inches per year of rainfall. On the way we encountered the young German couple we'd met on the Skippers' Canyon tour, and gave them some of our insect repellant. One problem with Milford Sound is the sandflies that appear in great numbers and inflict bites that can itch for days. One of the supplies furnished to guests by the hotel, along with soap and shampoo, is a bottle of Dimp -- a concoction with both deet (diethyl toluene) to repel and pyrethrins to kill insects. In the afternoon we took the 3:00 bus back to Queenstown, traveling through the Homer Tunnel and past some of the areas we had flown over, and around much more. The road went past Lake Te Anau and well south of Queenstown then approached it along the far side of Lake Wakatipu at the base of the Remarkables. The driver kindly let us off right at the front door of out hotel shortly after dark.

Thursday morning we walked about Queenstown and I went down in the underwater observatory at one of the docks along the waterfront. There I could see huge rainbow and brown trout longer than my forearm and much fatter than I expect trout to be. There were also some eels and a number of scaup -- little black ducks that dive and feed on fish. All were fed by the operators of the observatory but were otherwise wild and unrestrained. We stopped in a local supermarket where we got cheese and crackers and wine and had lunch in the municipal gardens on a bench near a pond. As we sat down a number of mallard ducks left the pond and joined us, as did several small birds. They watched us eat but most lost their enthusiasm when we refused to share with them. After lunch was over we did feed them on crackers for the better part of half an hour. Then we went back to the hotel and waited for the bus to take us to the airport from where we caught a plane to Mount Cook.

Staying at the THC Hermitage hotel at Mount Cook we had a superb view of scenery even more glorious than we had seen before. The hotel is at the head of a valley with snowy mountains on either side; glaciers flow to the valley floor in some places. At the end of the valley stands Mount Cook, a magnificent snow capped mountain with sheer rock faces that make a man thankful he's not a mountain climber. Here Sir Edmund Hillary trained for the first successful climb of Mt. Everest. We had time for a walk back of the hotel that seemed simple enough on the map but that seemed to be more vertical than horizontal.

Friday morning Luigi went out for one of her high speed walks while I sat in the room and looked at the scenery with binoculars. Eventually I, too, took a leisurely walk along the floor of the valley, admiring the glaciers and mountain peaks that displayed different aspects every few yards. In three quarters of an hour I came to a good stopping place and then returned to the hotel. A few minutes later Luigi turned up; on comparing notes we found that we had both taken the same trail, but she had gone on considerably further. After an early lunch we caught a bus that took us to the airport at Mount Cook but found that the plane was not going to stop there because the winds were too high. The driver then took us and the other passengers 30 or 40 miles to the Twizel Airport where the plane to Christchurch did stop. From Christchurch we got another plane to Auckland via Rotorura.

Saturday morning we walked down town to pick up the sheepskin items we had bought previously and to thank Miss Lodewyks for arranging the itinerary for us. She was not there but we left a small present for her with a man who was there and told him that we appreciated her efforts on our behalf. After walking back up to the hotel with our sheepskins we decided to visit the War Memorial Museum at the top of a hill a mile or so away. Luigi chose to walk there; I waited fifteen minutes and took a cab, and was on the front steps when she arrived. This museum, a memorial to New Zealand soldiers that fought in the First World War, is devoted not to war but to the culture of the nation (both Maoris and European but mostly the former) and the birds that live or lived on the islands before men arrived. Except for a couple of species of bats there were no mammals in New Zealand before the Polynesians brought dogs and pigs. Among other artifacts is a real Maori war canoe.

We walked back to the hotel for lunch and then down to the waterfront where we watched a ship leave the harbor and tried to feed some sparrows without feeding any pigeons. Walking back up to the hotel I found that arthritis had attacked my left knee which suddenly started hurting whenever I put any weight on it. I was able to reach a bench and sat there for a few minutes until the knee felt better and then shuffled the rest of the way back to the hotel where I sat in the lobby until it was time to catch a cab to the airport. There we walked very slowly and I had no more trouble with the knee.

The flight to Honolulu left Auckland at 7:45 Saturday evening and arrived at 6:00 that morning. Except for that and a little bumpiness near the equator the flight was uneventful. Neither of us slept much and were glad to be taken by an elderly cab driver named Taka Saito in a huge Cadillac limousine to the Kahala Hilton on the far side of Diamond Head. There we took naps and read books either in our air conditioned room or on the lanai (balcony) attached to our room.

Sunday morning we took a brief walk along the beach next to the hotel and ascertained that the hotel is part of a complex that includes a number of condominium apartment buildings. We also watched the dolphins and the penguins and fish in a salt water man-made lagoon that meanders along the side of the hotel. A young woman who is in charge of feeding the dolphins explained that there are two females and a male in the lagoon; that the male is having an affair with the younger female and the older one is inclined to sulk, particularly because the male bites her when she gets too close. This has kept the older female from joining the other two at feeding time, and the young woman is withholding food from all three until the male permits the older female to eat peacefully with the other two. It sounds like a soap opera.

When Mr. Saito left us at the hotel he gave us his card and invited us to call him when we wanted a ride back to the airport. I called him Sunday morning and at three o'clock in the afternoon he turned up with his limousine and discharged a number of people who had chartered the vehicle for a sightseeing trip until that hour. As he drove us to the airport Mr. Saito commented that it is not difficult to make money if you work at it.

Our plane left Honolulu at 4:30 in the warm, sticky weather that is common to that city and arrived in Chicago a little before 6:00 Monday morning, September 29. The temperature was in the upper 70's and, because of the many rains that fell here recently, the air was just as humid and sticky as Honolulu's.

A couple of things I did not mention above about New Zealand should be noted: 1. The beer is very good; we usually drank Steinlager but enjoyed other local beers, too. The wine is also good; we generally had the hotel's house wine and were never disappointed. 2. The hotels are in need of better elevator maintenance and repair; on two of the occasions we stayed at the Hyatt in Auckland, one of the occasions we stayed at the Hyatt in Queenstown and the one occasion we stayed at Noah's Hotel in Christchurch the elevators did not work properly.