The Earth has music for those who listen (Day 281)

I just bought a New Zealand t-shirt with that sentence printed on it.  I like how it sounds, so it seemed a good title for this blog post.  (For the curious: I recently learned it’s a Shakespeare quote.)

So, I’m in New Zealand having a blast.  So much so, in fact, that I’m having problems updating this blog and responding to emails in a reasonable time.  In a way, it’s a good sign.  New Zealand itself is fantastic.  The scenery is incredible.  Imagine rugged coast lines with untouched beaches, lush green hills and fields backed by snow-capped mountains.  Here is an example of a classic NZ view:

I like how this tree defiantly stands alone.  Lake Matheson,  South Island

I started my New Zealand in Auckland, its biggest city.  At the local museum there was an Antarctica exhibit that I found VERY interesting (I think they call this ‘foreshadowing’… if you are still reading this blog in September, I will give you a first-hand account of that southern continent.)

I was lucky to see this full rainbow in Auckland.  This could be the finest rainbow I have ever seen.

I have been travelling NZ on a bus tour.  This is a big change for me, as I have been travelling “independently” for 9 months now.  But, this bus tour was highly recommended to me by some other travellers, so I decided to give it a try on NZ’s North Island.  What can I say?  It has been so much fun.  You instantly make friends with the other travellers on the bus tour.  Normally, I have to be charming, witty, and funny to make friends (not my forte, by the way.)  But, here, a bunch of other like-minded travellers are forced into accomodations and activities with me.  They are forced to hang out with me :)  “Instant friends.”  I like it.

As the bus toured around the Island, it stops at all the good views and sights.  We do activities all along the way.  A few I have taken part in on the North Island:

– surfing in Ragalan.  It’s winter here, so I had miles of beach to myself.  The waves weren’t that great and I could only catch a couple, but the weather and beach were beautiful.  In this case, it was even great to sit on my board among the waves and check out the scenery.  Surfing is one of those sports that is enjoyable even when it is unsuccessful.  There is something to be said for that.

– caving in Waitomo.  This part of NZ has some fine caves. We rappelled into the depths of these claustrophobic caves while waterfalls spilled over us.  Intense.  It was very dark and very tight down there.  Awesome.

– winter hiking at Tongariro National Park.  We did a hike called the “Tongariro Alpine Crossing.”  It had been a while since I had crampons on my feet and an ice axe in my hand.  I like it.

Mt. Ngauruhoe, as seen from the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.  This mountain is better known as “Mount Doom” from Lord of the Rings.  My “skier” eyes noted the very aesthetic, constant-pitch flanks of this mountain.  I would love to come back some day to climb & ski this mountain.

I feel like it’s time for another “How To” video on The Unique Art of World Travel.  Here, in episode #8, I educate you on how to handle a Maori challenge.  (The Maori’s are the native people that lived in New Zealand when the Europeans arrived).  It goes like this:

Suppose you are stumbling through New Zealand and encounter a Maori tribe (crazier things have happened.) Most likely, they will offer a challenge to learn your intentions. Here, two Maori warriors approach our “chief” (our oldest male.) Note how they try to intimidate. It’s important that you don’t show any fear, even though they are sticking out their tongues, yelling non-sense, and waving those sharp spears around. Then, one of the warriors places a leaf on the ground.

From here, 3 things can happen:

1. Our chief ignores the leaf. In this case, both tribes go their separate ways.

2. Our chief steps on the leaf. This means our intentions are to attack. A great battle will ensue. I kept thinking, “Good lord, please don’t step on it… if you do, I will be the first one to run out the door…”

3. Luckily, our chief picks up the leaf. This means our “tribe” has come in peace. We are welcomed with open arms, given food and a place to sleep.


Now, If you ever get challenged by a Maori tribe, you will know your options. Given the warrior’s sharp spears, I recommend you choose option #3…

So, that’s my news from the North Island of NZ.  I will post on my excellent South Island adventures as soon as I can…-s

PS:  Fun NZ fact of the day:  sheep outnumber people 12 to 1

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