Friday, February 28, 2014

New Zealand & Environs: Random Observations

New Zealand is a relatively young country that did not see the beginning of major settlements and influx of settlers until the 1800s.
And even now, vast stretches of the nation remain largely unoccupied. Of course, much has been permanently established as open land or national parks.
And then there are all the farms - miles and miles of sheep, dairy and some deer farms as venison remains a popular dish.
Farms are set off by hedgerows that have been here forever. The hedges or long lines of trees were planted by early farmers both to set off property and to prevent erosion of the soil. Today, the hedges among these property boundaries are regularly and neatly trimmed. They rise 15 feet are more and are trimmed with special tractors equipped to trim them neatly across the top and along the sides.
And, here's more:
--As New Zealand approaches the centenary of World War I this year, there are many memorials and other observances planned throughout the nation. The so-called "war to end all wars" took a mighty toll on New Zealand.
--The kiwi (not the fruit but the bird) is a national symbol of New Zealand and is protected. It can only be found in New Zealand but you're not likely to see a Kiwi, for two reasons: 1) The bird is endangered and 2) It's nocturnal. It is characterized by a long, pointed beak and a brownish, fuzzy exterior.
--The North Island of New Zealand was created by volcanic eruption while the South Island was created by glacial erosion. Consequently, the topography of each island is distinct.
--The Tasman Sea separates New Zealand from its much larger island neighbor, Australia. You're well advised not to confuse the two or to even pair them. Each of the two nations is very proud of  its individual identity. When Aussies or New Zelanders travel from one nation to the other they say they are "crossing the ditch," referring to the Tasman Sea. It takes about three-and-a-half hours to fly from Queensland (NZ) to Melbourne (AUS).
--When you eat out in New Zealand your tax and tip are included. In fact, a 15% tax is simply included on everything your purchase and is not shown on your price or bill of fare. If you feel your service in a restaurant has been exceptional you may leave a tip but it's not necessary. When you have finished your meal, you must ask for your check (it will not be brought to you automatically) or simply pay at the door on your way out.
--It is not uncommon to find baked beans and grilled tomatoes on the menu for breakfast. Both of these seem to be staples here.
--In all our travels along vast stretches of farmland here we've only encountered one small area of farm markets -- a place that sold fresh and dried fruit. We purchased some peaches which were okay, but finding fresh fruit at our hotel stops has been difficult.

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