Travel to Wellington and New Zealand
by James K. Sayre
15 November 2004
To the Editor:
Your recent front-page story (The Chronicle, Travel, Nov. 14) with the picture of the cable car in Wellington, New Zealand brought me some pleasant memories. My first trip to New Zealand and Australia some twenty years ago was with a bicycle and a backpack. Having already had seen much of the USA and Europe, I found a whole new world in New Zealand; it was beautiful, clean and quite charming, almost quaint in many aspects: back then, there were only two country-wide television channels, NZ1 and NZ2; the ubiquitous neighborhood dairy shops sold fresh milk in glass bottles; the newspapers had big Saturday issues and no Sunday issues; most shops were only open "half Saturday" and never on Sunday. New Zealand is so green, in many shades of green, with its constantly varying weather; many have compared it to Ireland, with its temperate maritime climate.
The Wellington cable car is unlike San Francisco's famous cable cars which run on city streets; the Wellington cable car is actually an inclined railway, like those found climbing the steep hills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (my home town!). At the top there is a small restaurant where one can get pastries, teas and coffees and then enjoy the city view below and pen effusive postcards to family and friends back home.
Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington are three large world-class cities in New Zealand and are all well worth a visit. The hilly, sheep-studded countryside includes much natural beauty: from the citrus-growing subtropical part of the North Island with its ninety-mile beach, to the center part with the Egmont and Tongariro volcanoes and the Rotorua region with its many geysers and boiling hot springs.
From Wellington, you take the ferry across Cook Strait to the South Island with its great Southern Alps region including Milford Sound (the brutually ambitious can hike the famous Milford Track in five days; sleeping huts provided every fifteen miles or so).
If you drive a car in New Zealand, just remember to stay on the left side of the road at all times. And if you go camping, you may stay in some of the many "caravan parks," which provide tent sites, trailer sites and RV sites of all comers: every town, city and hamlet has at least one. Not all the caravan park residents will necessarily be friendly: it was very odd to hear the catcalling taunts of "CIA, CIA" directed at me from some of the few local juvenile residents of one such public campsite.
James K. Sayre
15 November 2004
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