Ducky's NZ Trip - Queenstown

Photo by Hala Fauzi

Dec 23

Queenstown is the "adventure vacation" capital of NZ. In the winter it is a ski resort, in the summer there are a lot of air and water sports to partake in. It reminded me a lot of Banff in many ways. My friend Amy said it reminded her of Lake Tahoe, take your pick.

Christmas Down Under, part I

This was a few days before Christmas, but you would have hardly noticed. I did a little bit of shopping there (for warm and waterproof clothes!!!) and saw very few Christmas decorations. The Santa at the mall looked pretty lonely, and I didn't get sick of Jingle Bells. I think that because it is the height of summer, the Kiwis are so outdoorsy in general, and because they can't really internalize the snow and chimneys myths, that Christmas isn't really a time to stay inside and play with your loot. Christmas there is more a time to go hiking and camping with your family. I thought it was very civilized.

In Queenstown, the difference in our personalities became blatant. Hala went hang-gliding and rafting. I went to the doctor and the library. I'd picked up a sore throat from the airplane, and trudging through water didn't make it any better.

Excursions in Socialized Medecine, part I

So I found a doctor's office and walked in. No receptionist there (holidays?). Somebody walked past and told me that the doc would be out in a minute, to have a seat. In about five minutes, a woman and a man in jeans and an oxford shirt walked out, the woman left, and the man asked if he could help me. "Well," said I (worrying how the NZ socialized medical system could cope with a foreigner), "I'm an American..." at which point he burst out in hearty laughter and said, "I'm sorry, there's nothing that can be done about that!"

We established that he was the doctor, that his name was Mike, and that I would have to pay for the visit. Ulp. A whole NZ$30. Oh no. So we went into his office and we chatted for a little while about my travels, then he looked in my ears, nose, throat, and eyes, listened to me breathe, and wrote me a scrip for some antibiotics. It was all just too civilized for words!

Flightless Birds

I went to the library because I was wondering about kiwis. Why, I wondered, were they nocturnal? They had no native predators, so what were they hiding from at night? I thought maybe giant moas were carnivorous, and wanted to check. (I hadn't yet heard about the giant hawk.) Once I had determined that moas were basically the avian equivalent of cows, I ended up reading about Maori history and art and legend and a biography on Kiri Te Kanawa, the half-Maori opera singer, one of the best sopranos in the world.

The Maori

The first Maoris discovered NZ about 1000 years ago. Their navigator was so damn good that he was able to go home and give enough details that a second wave could show up THREE HUNDRED YEARS later in seven great war canoes (carrying a couple hundred people apiece!). As the Maori were a warrior race, and as rugby hadn't been invented yet, they pretty much wiped out the first wave, then settled down to colonizing, hunting (birds), gathering, and beating the crap out of each other before. About two hundred years later, Captain Cook showed up. (Remember here that the US is barely over 200 years old itself.)

Maori was not at that time a written language, but their oral tradition is so strong that to this day, many Maoris can tell you WHICH canoe(s) they descend from, and a complete list of the ancestors in-between.

On our last day in Queenstown, we took a gondola ride up the side of the mountain and walked around a little bit. It was a very pleasant view of Queenstown and the Remarkables, the mountain range nearby. The Queenstown area is quite dry (it was mostly sunny all three days!), so the mountains are covered with brown grass, much like California.

Go on to the next page: Christchurch
Go back to the previous page: The Milford Track
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Skip to other pages: The Bike Tour, Nelson, Christchurch (again), and The North Island.


Copyright, 1994, Kaitlin Duck Sherwood

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