And Now for Something Completely Different . . .
We've totally enjoyed our unexpectedly lengthened sojourn in New Zealand, in no small part because of the New Zealanders themselves. Kiwis are hard-working, earnest, warm-hearted, kind. They have a strong sense of community and family, while at the same time possessing an independent, individualist spirit. And one of the more amusing expressions of that individuality, at least that we've found, is one of the most mundane: the post box. In every town we've visited, mailboxes vary widely and wildly in design. Many seem to have been fashioned from found materials or recycled items. While all fulfill their primary function of holding mail, each one seems to in one way or another reflect the personality of the individual or family whose mail it is. Below are just a few examples.
Kia Ora! Our sojourn Down Under continues! We've been in New Zealand for over a year now (we arrived January 29th, 2020!). NZ Immigration has been remarkably kind to those of us caught away from home in a post-pandemic world. Our travel plans have continued to morph as we get one visa extension after another! We got to Raglan, on the western coast of the North Island, in July, 2020, with expectations that we might have to leave in September. We then got an extension to the end of February, 2021. That allowed us to plan trips to the Taranaki region, Wellington, and across the Cook Strait (for the 3rd time!) to Dunedin and Queenstown. We now have a further extension to the end of April (as I write this, we're in Queenstown on the South Island), with the distinct possibility of an additional 6-month visa that would take us to October. Wow!
So, I'm working to get caught up on photos from our last few months. We've been traipsing all over these islands, just agog at the beauty and energy of New Zealand and its people. We're constantly astounded at the gems hidden all over the landscape as we wander the country. For pictures and commentary on our three glorious months in Raglan and the Waikato region of the North Island, visit here: Waikato. Here, some photos to act as an appetizer for our time in the Taranaki area, Wellington, and Dunedin. Cindy also has several albums of photos on her Facebook page (if you have Facebook). More to follow!
Stay healthy, enjoy each moment, and have a magnificent 2021!
While in Wellington, we visited the Putangirua Pinnacles. After treading over head-sized stones along the river bed on our way up the valley, we turned a corner to see these awe-inspiring rocks towering above us. This area was used by Peter Jackson for the Paths of the Dead in the Lord of the Rings. One gets a sense of solemnity and stillness in this haunted gorge! Truly a wondrous experience!
South of Dunedin, on the Clutha River, is the Tuapeka Mouth Ferry. This punt, one of only two in the world and the only one in the southern hemisphere, is totally powered by the flow of the river. On a glorious sunny day in February, we found our way to the tiny boathouse on the Clutha and took the free ride over the river. It's a lovely, tranquil, way to cross! Our operator was a wonderful old Kiwi with a thick accent and a friendly New Zealand charm. What a great day!
. . . There lived a Hobbit. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien never set foot in New Zealand, but -- as Peter Jackson understood -- he might as well have. This country simply shouts "Middle-Earth!" Cindy and I ventured to Matamata, in the Waikato District, North Island, recently, to experience Hobbiton. Since I'm a Tolkien nerd, this had been one of the primary motivations for our journey to New Zealand. We celebrated my birthday in the same place as Frodo and Bilbo, together, celebrated their 33rd and 111th birthdays, shortly before Frodo departed to dispose of a troublesome heirloom . . .
Kia Ora! In Maori, that's "be healthy", and is a common greeting in New Zealand. Seems appropriate in these times! Wow! Cindy and I have been in Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud, for eight months! We've been on the North Island, then to the South Island, and back to the North Island. It's been quite an adventure, and a comforting refuge from a troubling pandemic. We've deeply missed family and friends, but feel very fortunate to have arrived in New Zealand when we did.
Our original plan was to be in New Zealand for three months, then travel to Fiji and Australia, then return to New Zealand for another three months. Of course, Covid totally changed those plans! The NZ Government has been kind to stranded individuals such as ourselves, initially granting us a visa extension till the end of September, and just recently granting an additional extension till the end of February. We've been taking advantage of the extra time to explore the country, traveling (so far), to Auckland, Paekakariki, Motueka, Christchurch, Picton, Wellington, Lake Taupo, Rotorua, and (currently) Raglan. With the new extension, we'll travel to Patea, back to Wellington, and Dunedin before leaving the country at the end of February. We're not sure where we'll head to next. After over a year here, are we going to feel like native Kiwis?
We have found New Zealanders to be extremely kind and generous, with a strong commitment to family and close relationships, and an unmatched enthusiasm for the outdoors. The country is astoundingly gorgeous. Around every turn of their twisty roads is another stupendous view. This country is quite literally ruled by birds; before the arrival of man, the only mammal in New Zealand was a species of small bat. The variety of birdlife on these islands is amazing. Days are filled with birdsong, and the sky and waters are amphitheaters for avian aerobatics. The seasons here are moderate; many plants that we know as annuals in the northern hemisphere are perennials here. We've been astonished to see geraniums blooming in the middle of a New Zealand winter!
I've got some pictures posted, and I'm working on more after taking a bit of a break. If you're interested, here are pictures from Auckland, Paekakariki, Motueka and the Tasman Bay, and Christchurch. More to come! In the meantime, kia ora -- be healthy!
We fell in love with Portugal -- its people, its food, its beauty. It's hard to believe we were only in Coimbra for six weeks! In addition to the beautiful city of Coimbra, we took time to visit Aveiro and Sintra, and spent a few days in Portugal's capital of Lisbon. We couldn't recommend it more highly! It's taken a while to complete uploading all our pictures, and completing captioning (busy exploring other places), but here's the completed page: Coimbra. Check it out!