We left this day for our return home. Last night we availed ourselves of a last opportunity to go to the Sydney Opera House and see La Bohème. Never a bad way to end a visit. We spent that day are-visiting Doyle's on the Beach for a last lunch of wonderful Australia and New Zealand seafood.
WE embarked on our return with some trepidation. By that time the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic was getting into pretty serious action. The day after we left NZ they shut down incoming and outgoing flights. Australia was getting more serious than they already had been. There were beginning to be the first reports of cases of people who flew through LAX. Nonetheless, our options were limited, fo fly out we did for the somewhat shorter trip back than the outgoing trip (tailwinds vs headwinds). This is almost certainly the last time I will be in Australia or New Zealand and I am sad to leave. In its own way, each is a wonderful country. But as the prime minister of NZ noted while we were there, in reference to a dust-up with Australia over some immigration policies, "We are neighbors, not necessarily friends".
So I would like to point out some observations about both, including both similarities and differences. First, both countries place a much higher emphasis on livability than the USA. The countries are substantially different in their political leanings, with Australia being more right of center and NZ more left of center, but they both place an emphasis on the happiness of their citizens. In both countries, the politicians appear to be more responsive to their constituents than in the USA, and that is particularly true in NZ. In neither place is there such an adherence to ideology over constituent desires that we see in our own country.
Both have extensive wine-growing regions, with high quality wines as well as more consumer-level varieties produced in both places. In Oz there is greater production of reds, particularly shiraz, while NZ has world-class sauvignon blancs, equal to any French Sancerre in my estimation. Both have a high level of income from tourism, although many more of those tourists in Oz are Chinese. Both have a certain emphasis on hiking trails, more so NZ than Oz. Both recognize their place away from the rest of the world. Like many other countries (including ours), both have a peculiar habit of naming every place with names from the indigenous people they did their best to eradicate (as did we).
There are also differences. The NZ'ers appear to be much more out and about with walking, overnight hikes, etc. As mentioned, the political leanings are different. One peculiar trait that we noted in NZ and not in OZ is that NZ'ers simply will not deviate from their current path. If you are driving you will always need to give way because they never will. If you are on a path, they will never move over an inch to let you pass. There is no belligerence in any of this, just stolid intransigence. We were not enamored of Auckland, but felt that all of the Australian cities showed a high level of livability, with little traffic congestion, great neighborhoods, and lots of levels of dining and drinking.
For any of you who may be thinking of visiting this area of the world, be prepared for how much territory you will be covering. Even without going to the Northern Territory (which you should) or Western Australia, you will need a minimum of three weeks in Australia, and add about three days if you want to include Ayers Rock (Uluru). The cities Have their charms, but the real action is in the suburbs or rural areas. For NZ, two weeks was about right, unless you really want to see as much as possible, in which case you will need to add at least a week. Be prepared for the journey. The flight down from LAX was about 14-½ hours and you get there two days after you left because of crossing the International Date Line. Of course, on the return journey your 12-½ hour flight gets you into LAX earlier in the same day that you left Sydney. I heartily recommend you make the trip. It is really a trip of a lifetime.
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