Saturday, March 22, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Dunedin, New Zealand

I have tonight watched Australian versions of 1 vs 100 and Deal or No Deal.

Yesterday was a wonderful day. First I went on an included tour of Christchurch. Stops included a beach and Mona Vale house and gardens, neither of which I had seen before and Littleton harbor and the Sign of the Takeha, which I have been to before. We passed Burnside High School, Anne's old school. A sign in front said Burnside's 50th Anniversary, Easter, 2010. It would be nice if Anne could go to that. They dropped us at the airport Antarctica Center. The tour guide negotiated a reduced rate for those of us who wanted to visit it.

I enjoyed the center especially the Storm Center. You get coated and booted up and go into a chamber where an Antarctic storm is simulated with severe cold and high winds. One man from Minnesota did walk out. He said he suddenly thought, "What am I doing here? This is what I left back home."

They do have a penguin exhibit.

I also took the Haaglund Ride in one of the track vehicles they use at the South Pole. These will go up 45 degree hills and we did. We also tilted at 30 degrees, went across 4 foot gaps, and went across a small lake. It was exciting but not worth the money.

I ate lunch there and then took a city bus back to Central Christchurch.

I called Tim Gibbons' mother Mary Anicich and we arranged for me to take her to supper.

She came at 6 and we had just a wonderful evening. We walked over to the Boulevard restaurant on the banks of the Avon. She had lamb loin and I had lamb shanks. It was very good but there was too much food. Strangely we drank two wine bottles of water.

Afterwards we walked to Mary's car where her daughter Kathryn met us. Kathryn drove us around. I sat in the front passenger seat which is on the left side. It is a strange feeling; I feel I should be driving.

Then we went out to Canterbury University where we hound the house lived in in 1986. I feared it had been torn down to construct a new building for the university. Instead, while it was still there, the university is using it for offices.

The neighborhood is also different. The corner stores where the girls used to buy me flowers is all gone, replaced by a brand new service station. The roundabout in front is gone, replaced by a traffic light.

After the university, we drove up to the hills for a wonderful view over the night-time lit up Christchurch. Kathryn pointed out the Southern Cross in the sky to me.

Then it was back to the hotel after a perfect evening. We talked solid for four hours and we could have spoken for 8 more.

By the way, Tim is in Australia and has never married. Mary prays for partners for Tim and Kathryn. The other daughter Tanya is married, lives in Wellington, and has two adorable little girls.

I had such a good time that I forgot to take pictures of Mary and Kathryn. Darn.

On this trip I did not see the Wizard at Cathredral Square. I understand that he is semi-retired and seldom shows up anymore.

Wednesday morning we had an early wakeup call. My suitcase had to be in the hall at 7:30 for pickup. We left at 8 for Dunedin.

We saw a lot of sheep along the way but the role of sheep in the New Zealand economy has declined. There are 4 million people in NZ and 44 million sheep but that is down from 80 million 20 years ago.

The other important sectors in the economy are dairy farming, natural resources, particularly timber and coal, and tourism. Tourism will soon account for 25% of the economy.

The most memorable sight in rural South Island is the Macrocarpal windbreaks. These trees make a solid hedge of 2o feet high. They are trimmed to their perfect rectangular shape by huge hedge trimmers mounted on trucks. The hedges protect people, houses, and livestock from the strong south-westerly winds from the South Pole.

We stopped for breaks at Timaru, Oamaru, and Moeraki Boulders. The boulders are naturally occurring perfectly round rocks of 3 to 6 feet in diameter strewn on the beach.

We had a short tour of Dunedin. While Christchurch is all English, Dunedin is all Scottish. We went to Baldwin Street, which they claim is the world;s steepest street. San Francisco says it is Lombard Street. We also visited the University of Otago.

I am now staying in the Scenic Circle Southern Cross Hotel, the most luxurious hotel I have ever stayed in. I have a huge plasma TV. The bed linens are soft and I have a down comforter. I have heard of Pillow Menus but never thought I would see one.

Other potato chip flavors: Lime and cracked pepper, also spicy tomato.

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