Bye-bye New Zealand, Saturday 12/03/16
It's time to wrap up our two-week New Zealand adventure ... we are sorry to see it fly by so fast. This morning after breakfast at the hotel, we brought our luggage to the foyer by 8:45am. BTW, breakfasts in our hotels have traditionally been buffets, some better than others. Every one featured (watery-looking) scrambled eggs, what appeared to be steamed bacon, sausages, broiled halved tomatoes, maybe button mushrooms, and baked beans, each in it's own warmer. Others featured more foodstuffs. Plus, of course, delicious fresh fruits, yogurts, juices, toasts, croissants, cereals (warm/cold) and so on. Always plenty to chose from. The best ones were those that had omelet bars, where you could order what you wanted. I skipped those warmer pans, but enough about food.
At 9AM, we boarded our comfy coach and were off on a field trip around Wellington's fascinating coastline. Hamish Campbell was our eminent leader on this outing. A PhD in paleontology and a geologist, he's a long-time instructor for RS, and he was a bundle of energy, info, and fun for us. A founding member with GNS Science, as well as the Awesome Sciences exhibit in Te Papa Tongarewa, Hamish gave us a great morning. All our lecturers have been excellent, and pardon me for not mentioning everyone's name.
We had a lovely drive around the bay.
Our first stop (and a potty stop) was at the Shrine of the TEV Wahine, a passenger/vehicle ferry caught in Tropical Cyclone Giselle and sunk in April 1968. The winds in Wellington during this storm were the strongest ever recorded, reaching 171mph at one point. Of the 734 people on board, 53 people died from drowning, exposure to the elements or from injuries sustained in the hurried evacuation and abandonment of the stricken vessel. Relics are still washing up on the beach. Above, we're looking at flotsam and jetsam, shells and sea glass.
Lighthouses in the distance watch over Wellington Bay.
We don't see signs like this in California!
Hamish Campbell at Te Kopahu Reserve, a former quarry site, talking about tectonic forces that have shaped New Zealand. I wish you could have listened in. About this juncture, we followed him up a hill for a first-hand look at New Zealand faults.
Look at the (fault) crack running from top left toward bottom right.
I crawled up in the joint (where the man in blue shirt is heading) to have my photo taken, but I guess it was with someone else's camera. Anyway, I don't have it. The fissure is deep. Once we began looking at the erratic cracks or fissures or faults, whatever you want to call them, we spotted quite a few, just on this one cliff face. Not often a person can squeeze into an earthquake fault. But, it might not be on everybody's bucket list!
Here we're hiking back down toward the water where our packed lunches were waiting for us! Sitting wherever we could find a bare spot to park our heinies, we ate like champs. Juices or red and white wines were served with sandwiches, fruit, crackers and cheese, and I forgot what else. Very yummy lunch. Jimmy and I opted for juice, and the entire gang of us toasted everything New Zealand. We polished off gallons of water, too.
New Zealand flax, gone to seed.
The plant and animal life here is one of the most unusual on earth due to its long isolation from other continental landmasses. In NZ, there were no, repeat NO, terrestrial mammals before human occupation, except for two species of bats. Two, that's it. Certainly that changed with the arrival of the Polynesians (Māori) between 800-1000 years ago and later European settlers, who brought new species and plants that overwhelmed their natural competitors. Many native species were lost forever.
This is a relatively new country, Homo sapiens-wise, compared to the rest of the world. Today, 25% of NZ population is foreign-born, but English is the major language used. Māori were never subjected to segregation or placed on reservations, and Māori is an official language. They have seven political parties ... with 121 Members of Parliament -- 1/3 are women; 1/5+ are Māori, five Asian, eight Pacific Islanders, and one deaf person. Perhaps America should take note.
And a Very Welly Christmas to you!
It's also small. California is 163,696 mi². New Zealand, measures 103,483 mi², for both islands, with 8,700 miles of magnificent coastline. It's beauty is unmatched! Those Southern Alps and fiords beg to be explored. Maybe it's the totality of the smallness that is so endearing. It's cities are vibrant, snugged into blue harbors, with wide green spaces and usable parks and museums. All that green freshness is especially appealing to a gal from the Golden (think: brown and dry) state. Sailing and trekking and cricket (cricket?) and sports are a big part of Kiwi life.
While we walked along Wellington's waterfront one afternoon, several of us wondered aloud about Wellington Boots or Watches or Beef Wellington, etc., and if they were named after the city or just what. As it turns out, of course, they're based on the Mother Land: England ... New Zealand's Wellington wasn't involved in any of the above ... but it made for some fairly funny comments.
He really did jump in that cold water. Said a bad word when he popped up! But who could blame him? Then he turned around and jumped in again.
There is so much more to New Zealand than I can tell you in a post or two. Like how from 1992-95 Parliament House and the Parliamentary Library were separated from their original foundations and placed on more than 400 rubber bearings, using base isolation techniques to reduce the transfer of earthquake forces from the foundations to the buildings above. It was special to see this in Parliament's basement when we were there. As a 30-year resident of shaky, quaky (mostly southern) California, I can appreciate knowing how others handle earthquake protection.
We boarded our coach after lunch, luggage already aboard, and transferred to Wellington's Airport. Today we said goodbye to seven of our good NZ mates: The two Chens, CBS, Norman, Melodie, April and Katie. They aren't traveling to Australia with us, so we are down to 15 in our group ... they'll be missed. We fly out around 4pm to Sydney, Australia (2pm Sydney time; we gain two hours).
The Kiwi's have been very good to us, hospitable, friendly, with a love of their country they are happy to share. I wouldn't mind returning to spend more time. Oh, and more good news: Albert, our Kiwi group leader, goes with us to Australia! Yay!
Haere Ra, New Zealand. Goodbye for now.