Date: Mon, 27 Dec 2004 23:38:12 -0800 (PST)
From:  "Michael Tselman"
Subject: Note 4 (New Zealand)

Hello Friends,

I'm in the city of Nelson, that is on the Northern shore of Southern Island of New Zealand. Our attempt to get some more climbing and maybe even climb mt. Cook or mt. Tasman has failed due to the bad weather. After we got down from mt. Aspiring climb and rested for a day, we drove to the Fox Glacier Village, that is located at the base of mt. Cook mountain range. >From there we hoped to get a heli-ride to the hut and then spend 8-10 days in a high mountain hut climbing the nighboring peaks. Well... The weather decided otherwise. The helicopters were not flying, the clouds and rains stayed low and the forecasts were not good for at least the next 4 days. Rather than killing time in the village or in the hut we decided to bag it and do another one of the famous New Zealand tramps (hikes). Abel-Tasman Coastal Track goes along the coast of the Abel-Tasman peninsula on the north of the Southern Island. The tramp is 51km long and goes along some beautiful beaches and forests right by the sea. People take anywhere from 3 days to a week to do the whole tramp depending on how much time they want to spend on a beach. Both of us not being too much into sitting on the beach decided to go for a 3 day option. This time all huts along the trek have been already booked so we rented a tent and went by campgrounds. Now, after having done that pretty walk I can definitely recommend it to romantic couples or to parents with kids that can hike at least 10km a day. However, this was not a trek to do with your climbing partner. Not that the trek is less pretty that way, but some significant other would have made it 10 times more exciting. I've got some pretty pictures which I'll hopefully post once I'll be able to download them from my camera.

Now, just a few observations and brief notes. 1. Smart bird. We were having a breakfast at one of the cafes which had sliding doors with automatic sensor. A bird, a simple wren, has been sitting outside the glass doors and waiting for some customers to leave. Once it sees the people leaving it gets closer to the doors and flies in once the doors open up and goes to the table which has not been cleaned yet, gets the best of the crumbs and then flies back to the door. Once at the door, which is closed by that time, it flies up to the motion sensor and flaps its wings rapidly. The doors open, the bird flies out and switches back into the waiting mode. It has repeated this trick at least 3 times while we were getting breakfast. Amazing!!!

2. Driving. So, New Zealanders drive on the left side of the road and the steering wheel is on the right side. We are slowly getting used to it, but sometimes, especially when there are no cars on the road to "guide" us, we get into the wrong lane. The trickiest are various intersections. It takes quite some mental effort to turn into the correct lane. We were trying to come up with an explanation of why there are two systems for driving in the world, but came up just with more answers. First of all, we noticed that people pass each other (when going towards each other) the same way as they drive, which actually creates some funny situations on narrow trail when both you and the person going towards you are not "left-sided". So we were wondering if during the times of carriages and horses there were also different passing rules in different countries? The only explanation we came up with is that when following local rules it is easier to shake hands with the person passing you. But that's just a stupid speculation. Anyone knows???

3. The Locality Principle. I keep making the same mistake over and over again when I call anyone I meet from New Zealand a "local". Their sense of locality is much finer defined. Pretty much as soon as they get outside their little town, they are no longer "local". Here is another example. In a wine store I asked a salesperson to recommend some local good wine. I've heard many times that white wines are very nice in New Zealand and wanted to try, so I asked for white. He said: "But there are no local white wines. Only Pino Noir is grown locally." I told him that when I was driving to the town we are in, I saw at least 5 wineries advertising their Rieslings, etc... And they were no more than 20km away. "Ahh.." - she exclaimed, "These are not local, this is a different region.." In any case the wine I got was good and the next one I got was just excellent!

4. Weather. This is the worst weather pattern I have ever seen. So far, there have been no more than 5-6 sunny days in the whole month. We've got lucky on our Abel-Tasman trek, as it goes along the coastline which has better weather. The rest of the Island was getting rain all the time we walked in the sun. The weather is really different here every 10km. You drive for 20 minutes and you get into rain, another 20 minutes and you are almost in the sun, a bit more and you are in the dense fog. May be this weather locality is infuencing people's sence of locality.

5. Christmas/New Year. There is no Chrismas/New Year/Holiday spirit in towns or villages. Just everything was closed on a Christmas day. No decorations, no nothing. Kind of sad. Maybe New Year will be more interesting in Wellington where I hope to be for New Year.

Oh well... Tomorrow I'm saying good-bye to my climbing partner and heading north to the North Island towards new adventures. My climbing partner will try for mt. Cook again with some other guy. I hope they'll be more lucky, but so far the forecast is for rain for the next 10 days.

I want to wish everyone a great New Year. May your dreams come true! Lots of health and love and best happenings in your lives!

Happy New Year!