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!