Published: November 6th 2007November 6th 2007
We left Dunedin and headed for the Catlins. Which is the south eastern coast of the south island. It is mostly farmland, there are only a couple towns along the way. One consists of 350 people the other 32 people. It is also known as a haven for seals, sea lions, dolphins, and penguins. We saw all 4 of these creatures but the dolphin was asleep on the beach. The penguin was pretty special though. It was the yellow-eyed penguin which is the rarest in the world. We saw one in the middle of a petrified forest.
We also ventured into a place called cathedral caverns, which due to the tides are only accessed for an hour each day but constantly changes so it was very lucky that the timing was right for us. It was a beautiful place. The ceiling of the cave looks like a cathedral which gives it it’s name. After a good drive and several walks we finally made it to our destination, Invercargill.
Invercargill is the 2nd most southern city in the world (a city in south America claims the number one spot even though they are on the same latitude). They say the people get friendlier the further south you go. For that reason the residents of Invercargill have nicknamed their city “The friendly city”. The Rolling Stones played here in 1962. Given that it is a large farming community, and quite conservative the Stones were not well received. For that reason Mick Jager was quoted in the local paper which gave the city another less pleasant nickname (The a hole of the world).
I have heard nothing but negative remarks about this city, which only spiked my interest in discovering what the city is really all about. Surprisingly, it is much larger than I imagined. Roughly 50,000 people according to our tour guide. It is full of checkered shirts and mullets which drive down the street every Friday night attempting to show off to their friends and friends girlfriends.
Maybe it’s my redneck past, but I actually took to fancy this city at the bottom of everything. There is an audio engineering college, which seems to give the city a good music scene. There was a kiwi band playing that night who showcased the roots music which has become quite popular, and the country has labeled as their own. I checked out the club but for some reason did not attend the show. I wish I had now but it had been a long day and I it was going to be a long day in the morning, which I wanted to be ready for.
There is a Japanese guy on our bus which has been in New Zealand for 5 months. He knew no English before he arrived but now can carry on any conversation with a little help. He’s brilliant I can’t imagine learning Japanese in 5 months, but he has picked it up quite well. Apparently Asians are very shy and don’t like to make mistakes which makes it even harder for them to learn the English language. So lately I’ve been hanging out with a Japanese guy, an Irish girl, a Scottish girl, a couple girls from London, and a German girl.
I talk politics with anyone that will answer my questions. I’m not trying to start any fights but I’m genuinely interested in how other countries operate. So just asking who the leader, is how the elections work and what not.
I’m most fascinated with the Germans. Not exactly sure why but I’ve always been curious how the country has operated in post war era. She has been very helpful in explaining this to me. They try not to focus on the bad and want people to think of the good things Germany has done. Like Einstein, Bach, and this scientist who did experiments on the Jews so we could go to space. Well not sure about that last one. Germany also now has a woman chancellor who seems to be doing a good job. Apparently, the Germans have felt guilty since the war and always thought they owed the Americans a huge debt for bringing it to an end. However, this may be ending now as they chose not to support us in the Iraq war.
As I’m writing this, I think our bus may be a micro chasm for world politics. I seem to be a typical American trying to get into the business of other countries. So far no one has told me to buzz off but they tend not to be overly interested in American politics other than asking how W got to be president and if Hillary will win the next election.
The next day we headed up to Te Anu which I met another Auditor from London who had just finished a secondment in Sydney and is now driving around New Zealand for 5 weeks. His wife or (girl friend can’t remember which) is from South Africa. So I talked to her about South African politics for at least an hour or more. She was jealous that I had met F.W. deKlerk and filled me in on everything that’s been going on in the past 20 years. I think there is a great future for Africa we just need to be smart about it and really focus on South Africa to use as a catalyst and role model for the rest of the countries. But at the same time recognize and respect the diversity that each country and tribal group has. It seems the world is just starting to see Africa as an real asset to the world and not just as a pool of untapped resources waiting to be exploited.
The day after, we journeyed up to Milford Sound which is in the middle of Fiordland National Park. The largest National Park in New Zealand and a true wonder. One of the last places on earth, which has not been touched by man. Given its complexity it makes it very difficult to get into safely. There was a movie made using footage taken by helicopters over a ten-year period which gives us a glimpse of what majesty lies within. Having seen this it gives you a bitter sweet feeling, you really want to explore it for yourself but thankful that there is still a place on earth not impacted by man and just left to be.
I’ve spent my last day here in Queenstown. I’m not really into this city. I thought about doing the Bungee jump but decided against it. It was $200 and I just thought about how many records I could buy with that. I also was on my own today and if I’m going to make the leap of faith I’d at least like someone to see me do it. I’m at least open to the idea now after hearing so much about it and seeing it done it doesn’t seem as scary to me anymore. Now bear in mind the most adventurous thing I did was ride down on a track 4 year olds were going faster on.
I'm back in Christchurch now and will be back in Nashville on Wednesday night. I’ll try to have a last blog of reflection but not sure when I’ll be able to send it out. So this could be the last time you hear from me before I’m back in the states.