What do you get if you move all the national parks into one state?

New Zealand.

New Zealand Spectaculars — That was how Leila and I felt as we circumnavigated around the South Island of the country. In 18 days we drove 2,875 km on two-lane roads going from one spectacular view to the next. From dramatic beaches:

To viewing sperm whales:

Surfacing

Starting to Dive

Gone

To encountering seals and albatrosses:

To hiking along tree-lined sounds:

To seeing waterfalls and clouds on the steep cliffs of fjords:

To seeing dozens of the world’s smallest penguins — the blue penguin (previously known as fairy penguins):

Then there were sheep that appear to be extras in a Lord of the Rings production:

And more sheep:

And plenty of cattle — also with spectacular views from their fields:

And many deer farms – venison is a regular feature on most restaurant menus:

And then more sheep:

And more cattle in a less desirable encounter:

They say there are more sheep in New Zealand than people.  I did not confirm this statistic, but can certainly believe it.

New Zealand is also the land of one-lane bridges.  They give you plenty of time to take photos of the oncoming traffic.

And one-lane footbridges:

Queen Charlotte Track — The most spectacular part of our time in New Zealand was the 71km hike on the Queen Charlotte Track through Marlborough sound at the north end of the island. Two of the days required hikes of 20+ kilometers starting at sea level, going up to 400 m, down to almost sea level and then up to 200 m before coming back to sea level.

Before you applaud us too much for our endurance, we did pick the gourmet tour, which allowed us to stop each night in a comfortable lodge where we could take a shower, sleep in a comfortable bed and eat gourmet meals.

Furneaux Lodge

All of our luggage, except for a relatively light day pack, was transported for us to the next lodge. We had five traveling companions (all from Australia) and a guide – Glen.

who was great at explaining the flora and fauna we saw:

He also prepared gourmet lunches for us each day to eat on the trail. He even carried a small propane stove that allowed us to have French Press coffee twice a day.

Besides our human traveling companions we regularly encountered what should be considered New Zealand’s pigeon, the Weker.  They would suddenly appear whenever we stopped for food.

After 71 km and four days we celebrated with a photo around the sign at the end of the track – plus another great meal and champagne.

Christchurch — was our last stop before heading home.  We met with Seattle’s sister city organization and talked with the leadership at Science Alive (the science center in Christchurch) about future collaborative programming. 

We wondered if we would experience an earthquake while we were there since there have been ongoing earthquakes of significant size since last September. There was a 5.1 magnitude earthquake just hours before we arrived. Many buildings were demolished or fenced off because of earthquake damage. During a walk in the downtown area, we would see a thriving establishment next to one closed since September.

One bookstore, which was closed after an earthquake on December 26, had all of its books sitting on the shelves as if the store was ready to open – quite an eerie feeling.

We left Christchurch without experiencing an earthquake.  We were quite fortunate to miss the many natural disasters that have hit Australia and New Zealand.  Of the places I stayed, the hardest hit was Brisbane, where both the University of Queensland and the Queensland Museum were flooded when the Brisbane River was 5 meters above its banks.  The Queensland Museum is still closed.  We have sent money to help with the clean up and our thoughts are with the many people who will not fully recover for many years.

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One Response to What do you get if you move all the national parks into one state?

  1. Karen says:

    Dennis,
    thanks so much for allowing us to vicariously enjoy your trip these last few months. I concur with whoever suggested you continue blogging from D.C. You would not even have to change the name!

    Karen

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