Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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( Mailing List, Week 28)

Enshrouded in the clouds of the South Pacific is the north island of New Zealand, the southern coast of which is guarded by the windy city of Wellington, the current home of the intrepid traveler known only as David Barrett.

I've spent the last few days here in Wellington, a nice city by most measures but a far cry from the tea-haven of Christchurch, a three hour ferry and five hour bus ride to the south. Christchurch is a place I could easily call home -- I spent perhaps ten days there, and despite my best attempts I still hadn't the chance to visit all the nice cafes there.

New Zealand has, so far, been really cool. Cold, actually, seeing as how it's just finishing up winter, and my extensive luggage hasn't afforded me much protection from the biting wind and rain. The coldest must have been on the South Island when I visited, in a very brisk rain, the incredible Frank Josef glacier.

This glacier is one of a very few of its kind, where the glacier ice crawls through lush green vegetation instead of barren icy wasteland. The contrast is really quite amazing, the white snow, black rock, green jungle and blue ice come together in ways you just wouldn't think were possible. However, I can offer no visual proof as my camera absolutely insists that it's out of batteries whenever it gets cold. Bah, lazy device.

Of course, this chill was soaked out with great care in the extensive hot springs located up in the mountains, where the sky is so clear some stars shine through the clouds. (Actually it was probably one of the planets, but who's counting.)

Tomorrow morning I hop on a bus to Rotarua, where geothermal forces provide steaming mud baths and sulfuric stench in equal measure. Just a few days later I board a plane to Singapore where the real adventure begins, back into the Land of the Non-Native English Speakers.

I've read that the biggest culture shock for travelers isn't really arriving in a new place, but returning home. Only time will tell if this is true, but I can say it sure was strange going to Ireland and actually being able to understand everything around me (well, most everything -- the Irish accent can get a bit thick at times). Of course, now that I've got myself accustomed to actually reading the menus and not just looking at the pictures, I'll be forced back into a bit more experimentation.

But for now, I'll take advantage of my language mastery and go grab myself one last cup of tea before heading to bed. Though I don't have to get up super early tomorrow, virutally every time I have to get up at any particular time I screw it up. Cross your fingers!

-david :)

Near central Christchurch is a retired art college, since converted into a general-purpose arts center for the town. The campus is a small but beautiful collection of atriums and stone-faced buildings, which currently holds a number of shops, studios, theatres, and cafes.
What might have been the best cafe in town I have to downgrade to instead just being good due to the freaky hostess eyeing me suspiciously at every turn. I mean, it's really a gorgeous place: comfy chairs, good lighting, decent tea selection and great food (the mussel chowder was simply incredible). It even has Ethernet wired throughout all the walls. However, that's where the fun stops.
When I got my first cup of tea, I started walking around taking pictures of the beautiful premises. At this point I was approached by Her, a scary paranoid employee, who asked what I was doing. I replied I was taking pictures for my website, as I'm searching the world for the best cup of tea and I thought they had a good thing going. She then asked why I was doing this, with the insinuation that I'm somehow there actually as a spy or a journalist because "It's very competitive here and we are very protective of our business." Er... whatever.
Then it comes to the Ethernet. I ask if I can plug in my la... [more]
While driving coast-to-coast in the South Island of New Zealand I stumbled across a beautiful landscape of wind-swept limestone boulders. The rolling grassy hills were dry and brown from the winter weather, making the grey stone appear all the more out of place, as if they simply dropped from the sky and scattered over the land. I stopped the car and hiked up a small trail into and amongst the forest of stone, climbing over, under, and through the rock in an undirected wander.
After taking a nice hike up the island/hill I was rewarded with a great view of the Franz Josef Glacier, named after one of the early European settlers of the area, and the source of the city's name. The Franz Josef Glacier, I'm told, is one of I believe only three glaciers in the world that is set amongst leafy jungle instead of arctic wasteland (the other two are in Chile, I believe). The dirty ice juxtaposed against the lush greenery is just a strange sight, as if the valley just can't pick a single climate and be done with it.
Some combination of New Zealand's clean air and puffy clouds, accentuated by long rows of rolling mountains, manages to create a reliable stream of beautiful sunsets.
Set back on a steep hill overlooking the Christchurch valley is Cup with a View, easily the most scenic cafe I could find in the entire country. It was my last day with the Red Baron and after driving since early dawn I decided to take one last trip up into the hills before returning him back to the agency. I was taken on the same route a week earlier by Chris, a friendly Kiwi, when I spotted Cup with a View and added it to my mental databases of coffeeshops to investigate. Ever the diligent detective, I was very pleased to be rewarded with a fantastic experience with - as the name accurately implies - a great view. Furthermore, I was able to solve a pressing mystery facing me for some time: what is this strange "bubbles and squeak" that I see on all the breakfast menus? Well, it turns out that it's actually a mix of potatoes, onions, and I think ham, among other things, fried on a skillet and served like a diner's hash browns. Despite its entirely unmasculine name, it was a hearty breakfast for my man... [more]
Connecting the South and North Islands of New Zealand is a ferry, which for some reason was running hours late when I arrived to board. This gave me ample opportunity to wander about the town and admire its quite harbor, and plenty of time to reflect on the additional hours I could have been sleeping.
One fun part of traveling without guidebooks is that you can easily overlook the smallest things... such as huge lakes erupting with billowing steam directly next to the city. One night I was walking down a street I hadn't explored before, when I noticed a very large body of water directly ahead. Though in many ways like any other lake, this one is fed by a series of boiling underground springs that make the water warm to the touch and indeed, in places, outright scalding. Anyway, I felt silly not knowing it was there - it'd be like going go Tahoe and not knowing it's on a lake.
My standard operating procedure when arriving in any big city is to search the skyline for any towers that may house spinning restaurants, and Auckland did not disappoint. As I rounded a corner atop a long, sloping hill I was rewarded with a fine view of the tower jutting out of the city like a glowing javelin dropped from on high. Indeed, the entire thing is lit in such a fashion that it looks right out of Tron.

Copyright 2021 - David Barrett -