Our time in Melbourne flew away so fast towards the end. Just as we had gotten to know the city centre and became familiar with our metro- and bus lines and the Queen Victoria Market it was time to leave and say goodbye to the metropolis. The hardest part - without any doubt - was saying goodbye to our hosts. The children Kai, Ava and Loki, and their parents Sandra and Erich. The good part is that they are family of Alexandras so we will stay in contact, but the bad part is the great distance that we will have between us, when we get back to Europe. Hence we do not know when we will meet again. We have made a “pact” saying that we WILL meet again, as soon as possible. And until then we will remain in regular contact. Anton was really happy with his new friends. He had his own place in the “gang” and thoroughly enjoyed playing with them every day. His english skills really took off during our stay, so now he can actually say a few sentences. Needless to say, with a broad “aussie accent”. And he taught them some basic german phrases. Erichs family is originally from Germany, so chances are that they will come to Germany at some point. A few basics will come in handy then.
We stayed apprx 3 1/2 week in the house with Erich, Sandra and the kids. This is a very long time when you open up your home for what was, quite frankly, strangers to begin with. Distant family, but still... But we felt at home right away and enjoyed having some steady surroundings and an almost normal everyday life for a while. We managed to see almost everything we wanted in Melbourne. And then we had some days where we literally did not leave the house at all. Apparently we needed some absolute “down time”. Just to hang around and digest the impressions from the last 3-4 months. However, on such days we opened our “home office”, did some research, writing, web-updates etc etc. We had to do this while we had a good internet connection. Now that we are once again on the road we do not have that privilege.
We have arrived in New Zealand! This is a bit strange for me. I have always dreamed of traveling here, but to be honest I never really thought it would happen. But we are here now! I have never been so far away from my native Denmark! Actually, I don’t even think you can get much further away. We landed in Auckland Wednesday afternoon and had booked a hotel room for the night, not far away from the airport. A classic airport hotel. A bit sad and worn down. The restaurant served us the most boring burgers I have had in my entire life. I mean, ever! With the burgers came some dry fries and some ketchup/tomato sauce, that had this very strange and sour taste of chemical paint. You know, the kind of situation where you do not want to read the list of ingredients at all. Just don’t want to know! We closed our eyes and finished the meal. Then we went to bed.
Thursday morning we got up and picked up our campervan. We have rented it for our entire stay here in New Zealand, so this is going to be our home for a good three months. It is identical to the last one we had in Australia. Only difference worth mentioning is that here in New Zealand you get a heating fan to go with it, free of charge. We even got two!
A few quick first impressions of New Zealand: It is VERY green here! The scenery is stunning. In fact, just as stunning as all the most beautiful photos will show you. It IS just as lush and green! I read somewhere that about 85% of all the trees and plants here are actually unique to New Zealand. The same goes for about 90% of the birds! Talk about an enclosed eco-system! The experts say that New Zealand was in fact completely isolated until the polynesians arrived in the middle of the 13th century.
We have started out on the North Island which everyone say is a great experience. That is, until you get to the South Island which is supposed to be even more spectacular. The North Island is not as hilly as the South Island. It actually reminds me quite a bit of Victoria, Australia, from where we just came. Just so much greener! The South Island is supposed to have many similarities to Switzerland. A range of mountains go right down through it. We have been told that if we start on the North Island we will not be disappointed. Had we done it the other way around and started in the south, we might have found the North Island a bit tame and flat. But opinions do differ!
Another thing we noticed almost immediately is that there are not quite as many europeans here as we were used to in Australia. In Australia the aborigines are not really seen in the cities. And especially not in the southern parts. It is my impression that here in New Zealand the “original people” - the Maori - are still a very visible part of everyday life. They derive from Polynesia and came here as late as in 1250-1300 CE. The first europeans arrived in 1642, which is 130 years before they first arrived in Australia. Since 1840 New Zealand has been a part of Commonwealth, first as a colony, and since 1856 with own democracy and government. The country is still under the British Throne, which has absolutely no practical meaning today. 14% of the population in New Zealand are maori, 6% are asian and the remaining 80% or so, are of european descent. The people of New Zealand are also known as “Kiwis”. This derives from the little, brown national bird, that is unable to fly. It is very beloved here and has become synonymous with New Zealand culture. Hence the phrasing “Kiwi Made” about anything manufactured and produced in New Zealand.
And then there is the little fruit of the same name. It is everywhere in the supermarkets. New Zealand is the second largest producer of kiwifruit in the world. Only exceeded by Italy. In fact I was a bit surprised to learn, that the kiwifruit did not originally grow in New Zealand. It come from China, who is not even in the top 10 of kiwi producers in the world. In China it mostly grows in the wild and is not effectively mass produced.
There are a little more than 4 million people living in New Zealand. Approximately the same as in Melbourne. However, the people of New Zealand have a bit more room to enjoy. Exactly 262.443 square kilometers. The 5,5 million people of Denmark have around 43.000 square kilometers to enjoy. You see the difference as soon as you leave Auckland. The cars on the roads became fewer and fewer as we drove north. They are still present, but the density is certainly not like we are used to. We don’t mind at all. This makes us feel all the more like real explorers and pioneers!