Saturday, January 26, 2013

New Zealand: Where Tomorrow Begins Today

It takes about thirty-two hours to get to New Zealand from Oregon, the way we did it. I had a petite cold before we left and distributed the last delicate strands of it over the air circulation system of a series of airplanes, but it took Dave to make something manly of it, ramping up to a galloping bronchitis upon our arrival, where we met our traveling companion Betsy. Betsy has a raft of fine qualities. In fact she is very accomplished, for a woman who could totally have made it on her looks alone, but it was her stash of potions that really stood out at first. "You have a sore throat?" she said, animated, pulling out pharmaceuticals from her luggage like scarves from a clown's sleeve. "Gargle with this. It's really stinky, but it works great." Instructions on the bottle echoed her advice, as well as going on to explain how to clear slow drains and repel mice. Dave performed a glum, heroic garble and went straight to bed in horror. Betsy funneled three thumb-sized capsules into him and tamped them down, and when he came out of the coma twelve hours later, he was measurably improved. We got set for a hike.

It was supposed to be a five-star beauty, through the bush [hee hee! they say 'bush'], around a turquoise lake, with the promise of parrots, and the likelihood of biting flies. I was stoked about the parrots but Dave whimpered. "Oh, you attract bugs too?" Betsy said, animated. "I've got this amazing stuff. Wipe it on yourself. It's really stinky, but it works great." Dave wiped.

Rachael, demonstrating youth and springiness
The remarkable Linda organized the whole trip as a sixtieth-birthday present for herself, which is making me rethink my own plan to splurge on socks for my own. Going anywhere with Linda is a ticket to miracles. For instance, she dramatically improves one's odds of finding an insect with a tubular snout. There are wonderful things to see in any new place, but sometimes it's the humdrum stuff that catches my attention. Right off the bat we were able to witness the southern-hemisphere Corolla Effect wherein all the cars circled the wrong way around the rotary. Fortunately we were chauffeured by Linda's daughter Rachael, whose brain is still nimble enough to override habit. The signs facing us as we approached the rotaries said "GIVE WAY" instead of "YIELD." Variations on idioms charm me, and I traveled the world's rotaries in a daydream: "ACQUIESCE POLITELY" (U.K.); "SUBMIT" (China); "PREPARE TO DIE" (France).

Other road signs indicating locations with Maori names revealed that New Zealand is blessed with an abundance of vowels. This is usually good news. Your South Pacific nations have built entire languages around the prevailing human response to the weather, which is "aah, wow, wow," as opposed to the poor consonant-encrusted Eastern European countries whose founders were reduced to "brrrr" and stuttering. Our friends had just come off a tramp near Te Anau (pronounced "taaah-wow-wow") and snatched us up in Queenstown on Tuesday (pronounced "Wednesday").

Done right, this is what sixty looks like
I was looking forward to new flowers, new birds, and new toilets. In my experience, every country has its own proud toilet tradition. My dream toilet would feature the display shelf that I saw in Germany forty years ago, the little balconies upon which you can admire your glistening output properly before whooshing it away. New Zealand toilets are light on display functionality, but they get their own room and have their own majesty. At the press of a button all contents are shot straight to the center of the earth where they remain for millions of years before being volcanically recycled. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to demonstrate their powers right away. "You should poop," Betsy advised. "It's really stinky, but it works great."

The sun dawned bright on Double-Dookie Day ("Thursday").

41 comments:

  1. Australia/New Zealand is our next dream trip. Love reading about your exploits. :-)

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    1. I want to go back, and maybe throw in some Australia too, although the heat would probably kill me. Even though it's not as bad because they store theirs in Centigrade.

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    2. Well, we (in Australia)would love to see you. But don't come this week...all we have on offer are floods, tornados,bush fires...and more of the same.

      And I think I'll have to make a sketch of the rotaries. We kiwi folk call 'em roundabouts, to avoid confusion with those erstwhile business men in the Rotary Gang.

      A tramp in the bush is a pleasure many people never experience...

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  2. New Zealand is a place I would really love to visit. Looking forward to the next instalment.

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    1. Aha! So you surmise there are instalments?

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    2. Yes please! More instalments! :o)

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  3. Isn't it lovely there? We visited for a couple of weeks a few years ago. Great food and friendly people.

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    1. I even ate lamb. Ordinarily I avoid lamb. It was good.

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  4. What a woman. No man has grabbed her up? Maybe it is the smelly stuff she carries. I loved my visit to New Zealand, but it was winter and there were no bugs.

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    1. I should note that Dave and I encountered NO icky bugs, like mosquitoes or biting flies, although our friends had. That's sort of a little miracle right there. Because those critters LOVE Dave.

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  5. It's very reassuring that you're writing this after having returned, what with all the dangers you faced - bronchitis, stinky medications, bugs, backed-up innards ...I can relax and not wonder if you made it back in one piece :)

    Highly entertaining!

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    1. Has anyone else ever heard the term "journey-proud" to refer to travel constipation?

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    2. No. LOL. That does call for an LOL you know :)

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    3. I have always thought of it as needing home field advantage.

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  6. Corolla Effect (*snort*)......Prepare to Die - not strictly accurate? I don't think the French would give you a warning. They would simply stand by watching and looking down their noses at the Stupid Americans. Welcome back!

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    1. Well, they do say "DANGER OF DEATH" in their subways. That's sort of a warning. Or a promise, maybe.

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  7. I was wondering where you'd gotten off to. New Zealand! Wow. What a great experience. And you still managed to get in something about poop. ;)

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    1. Cool thing about poop is you can fit it in almost anywhere.

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  8. That's NOT what it looked like when I turned sixty. If I could have bent that way I wouldn't be smiling!

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    1. If you could have bent even farther, you wouldn't STOP smiling.

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  9. I knew there'd be poop. After a flight like that, how could you not be journey-proud?

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    1. I think if I had to remain in a wheelchair I'd just swell up and die.

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  10. It's stinky but it really works. Words to live by! Betsy is a wonder worker.

    Did you poop?

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  11. Have you always been funny or did you have to work at it?

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  12. I've always been a little funny, I'm told.

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  13. But then, you work at it too, and the results are hilarious!

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    1. Well thanks, Dan. I actually do kinda work at it. I hope it doesn't show.

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  14. Wonderful to have you back!

    When I arrived in Oz from the UK 41 years ago, every flying, crawling, stinging, biting, sucking creature regaled me as an everlasting feast on legs. Looking like I'd done several rounds with Mohammed Ali, eyes black and blue, itchy blotchy lumps EVERYWHERE, I went to see a doctor who said, "She'll be right, mate. After 10 or 15 years you won't even feel the buggers suckin' your blood!" He prescribed some "really stinky, but it works" kind of medication. I then knew, for sure, I was in the land of weird. I went to New Zealand in 1995 and I believe it pales in comparison to Aussie weird.

    Best time to come to Australia is springtime between September and November. It's magic, pure magic! Temperatures hover around 25 C (77 F), everything is green and blossom abounds because of the winter rains, and the bitey, suckie creatures are not as active. (You still need the "really stinky, but it works" wipe on stuff; after all Oz is the land of extremes.) Let me know when you’re coming and I'll put on a barbie. 

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    1. I'm really tempted, because for one thing you have all those ridiculous critters and stuff, but I'm a little put off by "bitey, suckie creatures are not as active." Because if I just stay put, there are NO bitey suckie creatures. I'm amazed you stuck it out. (Or maybe sticking it out is the problem!)

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  15. A trip to New Zealand?! FABULOUS! I've been twice and LOVE it!

    But how come it took you so long to get there from the west coast of the US??? From Spain (exactly the farthest point from NZ on the globe) it takes about 36h...

    Te Anau, so you visited the South Island? Gorgeous! Did you make it to the North Island as well?

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    1. Let's see. You have to work in three layovers of up to eight hours apiece. That's how. It's a lot of fun. My companions visited Te Anau but I didn't. We did get to the north island too. Black sand beaches! Next time I'll do more of the south I think.

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  16. This sounds like a wonderful vacation. I hope there will be more installments!

    What is it with toilets in foreign lands? My son (who was 8 at the time) was fascinated by how different toilets would flush differently in Germany. He'd go to the bathroom in some places just to see the flushing mechanism. Heh.

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  17. I hope that Mom doesn't tell her son that. Permanent counseling caused by Murr might not improve his life span.

    But I have admit, that is rather cat-like.

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    1. Shoot. He has eight extra lives. And here at Murrmurrs, Inc., we maintain that we are not legally responsible for anything we might say.

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  18. Oy vey. Traveling is a pain in the ass on a good day, let alone feeling sick.

    I need a Betsy in my life, or at least someone with magical potions that cure those types of aliments.

    Happy 60th Birthday to Linda.

    PS: I cracked the hell up, literally laughed out loud when I read this paragraph:

    "New Zealand toilets are light on display functionality, but they get their own room and have their own majesty. At the press of a button all contents are shot straight to the center of the earth where they remain for millions of years before being volcanically recycled."

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    1. I should send you Betsy! I know you've been having troubles. And no lie about the toilets. They don't do that swirly let-me-think-about-it number that our toilets do. Always keeping you in suspense. No. Say goodbye to your production, it's gone.

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  19. Funny, the road signs in our midst that we don't even know are curious. As you approach small downs on numbered-but-not-major highways in northern New England, you are occasionally greeted with signs proclaiming what's coming around the bend thusly: "Thickly Settled." Do with that what you will. Truth is, the township you're bearing down on never is. They just want to make sure you're paying attention, so you don't miss their little burg. My son's college buddies from the west find this signage tradition of NH and VT particularly amusing.

    Now awaiting an essay on what constitutes bumwad in foreign lands. Math paper, anyone?

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    1. I always loved the "thickly settled" signs. Here, they just say "congestion." Everybody just tries to blow through those towns.

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