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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Back in the USA‏

March 25th, 2010 · No Comments

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Through the miracle of modern time zones, my scheduled arrival at Denver’s airport was at 8:27 p.m. March 25, three minutes before my scheduled departure from Christchurch, New Zealand. It seemed a lot longer.

In fact, since I crossed the international date line, the actual time difference was 19 hours. And from the time that I left Robyn’s townhouse in Christchurch until I got back to my apartment just now I was traveling for exactly 24 hours to the minute.

The longest and best vacation that I ever had finished without any snafus. Even the long flights from one side of the world to the other came off without a hitch. All of the flights were on time. I was fortunate to have a great travel agent, Kina Palmer. She booked just the right flights for me, including just the right amount of time to change planes. And she arranged aisle seats for me on all seven flights.

As usual, I packed too much. In particular, I never needed my tent or air mattress. The only thing that I forgot to take was a set of batteries for my computer mouse, but they were of course readily available in New Zealand. I did have to buy a fourth 8GB compact flash card for my camera in a Dunedin department store, but that was only because I took more photographs in the five weeks that I spent in New Zealand than I ever expected.

As good as it is to be home, I fell in love with New Zealand, both the land and the people. Never have I seen a country so beautiful or have I got to know people so friendly and helpful.

At first I assumed that New Zealand’s low population density could explain the difference. That has to be some of it, yet New Zealand compares very closely in this respect to Colorado.

New Zealand is almost exactly the same area and population as Colorado. About 4.2 million people live in the 104,454 square miles of New Zealand. About 4.7 million people live in the 103,717 square miles of Colorado.

While no one can visit all of New Zealand’s square miles, I travelled most of the main roads of the country’s South Island, the larger of its two main islands. I have no idea how many miles of the country that I saw, but I know that I drove many thousand miles from the north tip at Cape Farewell to the most southernly place, Slope Point, as well as from the furthest east to furthest west and then back again.

Driving on the South Island of New Zealand was always a pleasure in spite of the fact that the country’s roads are almost always narrower than ours and thousands of its bridges are one-lane only. The real difference is how little traffic those roads have (except around Christchurch) and the fact that their roads are better maintained than those I am familiar with in the American West.

Driving on the left was absolutely no problem. The key is to remember that the driver’s side is always toward the center of the road no matter whether driving in New Zealand or the U.S.

Getting around in a camper van is an incredibly convenient way to travel. While on the road always having food and drink at the ready in the refrigerator plus a handy toilet as well as a bed for a nap or sleep makes this the best way to see this expansive country. No packing or unpacking is required; just plug in the van’s electric cord to the campgound outlet and you’re set for the night. All the campgrounds have wifi so I was able to connect to the world from the van.

I prepared about half of my meals and ate out in restaurants for the other half. Even in the smallest New Zealand towns restaurants meet a much higher standard than those in my country. The service too is outstanding, notwithstanding the fact that tipping is not a New Zealand custom.

I especially enjoyed the great variety of fish that New Zealand’s restaurants offer. Its cheeses from grass-fed cows seemed more tasty than American cheese and are certainly more healthy because of their better omega 3 to omega 6 ratios. I even discovered a juicy fruit new to me. While New Zealand’s kiwifruit is now common around the world, I never before saw the miniature kiwiberries that are little bigger than a grape but are much more tasty.

As a lover of nature in all of its forms, I most appreciated New Zealand’s South Island. Whether rural or wild, this country is a feast for the eyes. Wild New Zealand is well protected. I am delighted at how much of the country’s land is within national parks and reserves that must number in the thousands.

Lake Wakatipu on the Road Between Queenstown and Glenorchy

Lake Wakatipu on the Road Between Queenstown and Glenorchy

Click on the picture above to enlarge

New Zealand’s wildlife is overwhelmingly avian, since only two species of bats were able to get there before the Maori settled the country. Appropriately, I returned home on this big bird.

Air New Zealand's Flight 2 from Auckland to Los Angeles

Air New Zealand's Flight 2 from Auckland to Los Angeles

Click on the picture above to enlarge

And, once again, this photo. It’s my favorite of the more than 1,000 images of New Zealand that I captured. These are, of course, mammals, but as sea mammals they don’t get further ashore than in this shot.

Sea Lion Love

Sea Lion Love

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Finally, here again is thanks to my best friend, John Dodson, and his good friend, Graeme McIver, for making this wonderful trip possible and for my friend Marv Schinnerer for first putting the bug in my ear to travel around the world to experience New Zealand for myself.

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