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New Zealand February 2002

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

Saturday morning I took a long run through the city and picked up a Starbucks coffee on the way back to the hotel. One of my hosts at Investment New Zealand arranged to take me to a wine fest on the other side of the harbor. We took the ferry over there and sampled many of the fine New Zealand wines. New Zealand makes some outstanding white wines and great Pinot Noir. Their cabernet and merlot are acceptable but not the quality of their whites. Along with the wines, we had some great satay, shrimp in a fiery chile sauce and outstanding New Zealand cheeses. We had intermittent showers during the day so it kind of forced the crowd to come close together as they huddled under wine and/or food tents or umbrellas. It did not however, deter the musicians who kept on playing through the downpours.

That evening I dined at a small, casual restaurant called Merlot at 23 O'Connell Street. A Caesar salad, mustard-coated lamb chops and roasted vegetables washed down with good New Zealand wine sustained me for the evening. After dinner I took a long walk through the downtown area and noticed that all the bars and restaurants were well patronized.

After a long run the next morning I met my host for a trip to the outskirts of the city to witness the Haka Paka. The New Zealand indigenous people are known as the Maori. I believe they are of Samoan heritage. Each year they gather for a musical contest. Each band or tribe sends a team that performs various war chants and other types of native songs. There are both women and men on the team and are dressed in traditional native garb. The whole show was very impressive and gave one a good insight of the Maori culture. We spent the morning there and then went back to town for a quick lunch at the Viaduct. We ate at a place called Soul. We had an appetizer of grape leaves stuffed with chicken, and then I had a crab and pasta dish that was dusted with chopped green chilies. Excellent!

The afternoon's event was a sail on New Zealand 12-meter yacht that was a Challenge boat in the 1995 America's Cup series. A crew of four young men who knew what they were doing took a group of twenty or so tourists out for an afternoon sail on this aquatic hotrod. The boat is completely stripped, no cabin, no cover, not anything but winches, sails and double-steering helm. We went off into the Auckland harbor and cruised over the general area where the America's Cup races will be held. Later on in the afternoon, the wind picked up to close to 30 knots and they had the boat screaming along at close to 20 knots with one rail in the water and the other side high and dry. It was a beautiful day for sailing, smart wind and plenty of sunshine. There were all sorts of boats in the harbor just screaming along and enjoying the day. The real adventuresome folk were hung off the sides of their boats in trapezes using their body as a counterweight so they could squeeze the maximum amount of speed from their craft.

That evening I had roasted pork, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes at a Belgian bar called the Occidental. They had a Sunday evening jazz band that brought in a rather eclectic crowd.

We left at 6:00 the next morning to drive down to the Central part of the Northern Island. We visited a plywood mill owned by Carter Holt Harvey and had lunch with the manager after touring the operation. We were then picked up by the Rotorua Economic Development Commissioner and given a tour of the area by helicopter. The delightful sunny day showed off the New Zealand landscape in its best light. We choppered over beautiful lakes and large plantations of radiata pine. Cows and sheep were all over the rolling hills. We stopped off at the New Zealand Forest Research Center for some conversations and ended up in a town of Rotorua on the shores of Lake Rotorua.

After a swim and a hot tub in the geothermal waters of the area, the Economic Development Commission hosted a dinner for us at the Novatel that evening. I met the mayor, the head of the city council and a local forestry consultant. They presented me with a native war weapon and made it very clear they would love us to put some sort of a wood-processing plant in the area.

The next morning we drove up to the Port of Tauranga. This is another well-developed port with excellent facilities for all types of cargo from raw logs and chips to frozen meat. New Zealand is a country that relies heavily on exports so it is no surprise that they have well-developed ports. This town is also a resort town and we drove past a beautiful beach. A day and a half trip into the central North Island gave me a good overview of the area. Like the rest of New Zealand, it is not heavily populated. The land is rolling, lush and green. There are lots of lakes and rivers. Farms are prosperous and well attended and the small towns and cities are clean and attractive. Everyone is friendly.

That afternoon we flew back to Auckland and had meetings with Fletcher Challenge, one of the largest timber holders in New Zealand. They also do some secondary processing of saw and lumber and some moldings. That evening Fletcher Challenge hosted a dinner for us at Oscar's, the restaurant at the hotel Metropolis. It was touted as the best restaurant in Auckland. The service and ambiance were great but I felt the food was contrived and overly fancy. I ordered the Caesar salad and seafood lasagna and believe me; none of the dishes I was served came close to meeting that description.

On Wednesday, we met with two more large timber holders and then it was off to the airport for a 6:00pm departure on Air New Zealand back to L.A. connecting with Delta to Cincinnati and Greensboro. On the way home, the time change helps. It only took me two hours to get home. I left at 6:00pm Wednesday and got home at 8:07pm on Wednesday. If my calculations are right that was little over 22 hours lapsed time from airport to airport. The flight back was on another Air New Zealand 747 that had much nicer seats than the one I went over on. They lay flat out like a bed so you could get some proper sleep on the plane. Again, the food and service and attitude of the cabin crew were outstanding.

I would highly recommend to anyone a visit to New Zealand. The people are friendly. The scenery is great and with the NZ dollar at 43 cents, the price is right.

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