(360ToGo.com 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!