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New Zealand February 2002

Author: WFDoran (More Trip Reviews by WFDoran)
Date of Trip: February 2002

On Sunday, February 17th, I once again set off for the Southern Hemisphere. This time it was New Zealand, not Chile like last year. Actually, if you waded into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Valdivia, Chile and followed the 45th parallel across the Pacific Ocean, you would bump right into Dunedin, New Zealand. Both countries are long and narrow and have a wealth of radiata pine trees. The climate and weather are pretty much the same except that New Zealand does not have the desert like the one that begins North of Santiago, Chile.

I left my house in Greensboro about 11:00am on Sunday, February 17th. I flew Delta from Greensboro to Atlanta and Atlanta to Los Angeles where I then connected with an Air New Zealand 747 to Auckland. In Auckland, I connected with a domestic Air New Zealand flight to Dunedin, my first stop on my tour of the Island country. The plane was almost completely full. There were no empty seats in first and business and about 20 empty seats in coach.

Air New Zealand did a nice job. The food was outstanding and the service and attitude of the flight attendants was even more outstanding. They could not do enough to help you or make you more comfortable. For a dinner appetizer, we had crab cakes with a spicy Asian sauce followed by a great tossed salad and thin filets of John Dory done in an egg batter accompanied by steamed potatoes and vegetables. The New Zealand wines were very nice. I think they make the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world and their cabernet is quite good. Flight time from L.A. to Auckland was 12 1/2 hours and we were right on schedule. The only complaint I have is that the 747 is a little bit dated and their seats are not quite as comfortable for sleeping as some of the other long-haul airlines. However, I did manage to get a halfway decent night's sleep on the transpacific journey.

About two hours before arrival, they served a full breakfast of fruit, cereal and I chose and Egg Beater's omelet with sauteed California vegetables. Their coffee was served in a French press, which you activated right at your seat.

We arrived in Auckland at 5:40am. As my trip was set up by Investment New Zealand, a government agency aimed at business development for the country, I was met at the gate by an airport representative. I was escorted through immigration and customs. A representative of Investment New Zealand met me at the baggage claim and shepherded me over to the domestic terminal to catch my 7:15 flight to Dunedin. If I so desired, I could have had a full breakfast including fruit, cereal, eggs and sausages on the hour and a 45-minute flight to the South island.

Upon arrival at Dunedin I was met by the Managing Director of City Forests of Dunedin, a timber growing and harvesting company. Dunedin is one of the oldest towns in New Zealand and at the turn of the century was the commercial center of the country. It is now an education center with the University of Otago being the lynch pin. In addition, they have an excellent port that ships a lot of logs, processed timber, dried dairy products and refrigerated produce. The weather here, besides being very similar to Southern Chile, is very similar to Northern California/Oregon coastal weather.

Investment New Zealand had set me up at the Mahara Boutique Bed & Breakfast (2 Fifield Street, Roslyn Tel.: 64+3+467+5811 or Fax: 64+3+467+5587). The Mahara is a four-bedroom B & B in a restored Victorian home that overlooks the harbor.

New Zealand, like Australia, is sports crazy, however virtually no soccer is played there. Rugby is its major sport, followed by cricket, field hockey and netball, which is a version of basketball for women. I saw people running and biking all over the town and there were plenty of tennis courts, rowing and sailing clubs, etc. They had a 30-court indoor tennis center as well as many outdoor clubs. They have the largest indoor aquatic center in Australasia. We had lunch at a pub that overlooked the beach and there were lots of young people in wet suits surfing the waves. Fleece, denim, Gortex and high-performance sandals seemed to be the uniform of the day.

All of the timber is from plantation-managed forests. It is harvested on a 30-year cycle. I visited two logging sites and they did produce a very high quality log.

That evening when I got back to the Mahara B & B, my hostess asked me if I would like a glass of wine. I answered in the affirmative. I heard her bustling around in the kitchen for a couple of minutes and she came in with a lovely tray of Australian cheeses, fruits and crackers as well as the wine. She sat and talked with me for an hour while I sipped the wine and nibbled on the appetizers. She was an absolutely delightful hostess.

That evening I dined at Rooster's (315 Highgate Road, Dunedin NZ), which is within walking distance from the Mahara B & B. This is an unpretentious local restaurant that serves excellent food and wine. I started with a crisp New Zealand Chardonnay and a Caesar salad. For the main course I switched to Sauvignon Blanc which went perfectly with the roasted codfish in a sweet passion fruit sauce speckled with hot chilies and served with bok choy and roasted new potatoes. For dessert I had a steamed ginger-bourbon pudding and a glass of Pinot Noir. The meal was superb and the price was excellent. The meal was superb especially considering that it only cost about 25 NZ dollars.

I walked back to the B & B and immediately drifted off to sleep in the king-size bed in the oversized room after a wee drop of Port from the complementary decanter on my night table.

I got up the next morning to take my daily run through the streets of Dunedin. It was cold and windy. As it was still dark, I couldn't see much but I did notice that flowers, both annuals and perennials, were planted in abundance at every house I passed. The residential architecture was unlike that used in the United States and more like what is seen in Ireland or Great Britain. The older houses have a more Victorian look and do resemble older homes in the United States. Dunedin was once the commercial capital of New Zealand and the major port. However, early in the 19th Century, the emphasis changed to Auckland.

I passed numerous other people on my early morning run, many more than I have encountered in any other city. In fact, just as I got back to the B & B, there was a group of teenage boys gathering up for a run. I have never seen a group of teenage boys do that at 6:30am.

My hostess had a lovely breakfast prepared. However, I just partook of the fresh fruit and cereal. Two other guests were dining with me and they had full English breakfast of sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, eggs, toast with various jams and jellies as well as fruit.

That day we drove down to the Southern tip of the South island to visit a veneer mill just outside of a city called Invercargill. New Zealand is extremely pastoral and I was able to get a good feel of the landscape on our 2.5-hour drive South. The land is rolling and very green. Sheep and cows grazed the fields in abundance. I saw quite a bit of corn growing. I assume it was for cattle feed. We passed over the Mataura River, which is alleged to be the greatest trout-fishing river in the world. Unfortunately, I did not have time to stop and check it out.

New Zealand is a large exporter of dairy products and meat. I'm sure their livestock far outnumbers the 3.3 million human inhabitants of the country, of which a million of them live in the Auckland area. I'm told they have a bit of a problem with a hole in the Ozone layer caused by the high concentrations of methane gas emitted by the animals.

After visiting the veneer mill, we had lunch at a nearby hotel/conference center. I ordered spicy pork skewers thinking they would be done like satay. Boy, was I surprised when they came out as grilled ground pork shaped like sausages. They must have a Bulgarian cook because that is just the way they serve them in Bulgaria.

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