Travels in New Zealand 1999

by Marc H. Mehlman

written 9 August 1999

July 22: North Island

Friends and Family,

This is only a preliminary report on Kiwi land. Four days here is not enough time. There are only 3.8 million natives but in square kilometers it is the size of the United Kingdom. I gave it my humble best, but much remains here to be explored and analyzed. My travels and remarks pertain only to the Northern Island, as the Southern Island is completely unexplored (by me).

Kiwi land is gorgeous. It is sort of like Hawaii with cooler weather. The streets and towns all have Hawaiian type names (to my ears and eyes - long names starting with K's and W's). It can be confusing to the likes of me. The Maori language is a Polynesian language, just like Hawaiian.

The terrain is hilly and very green. Much of Kiwi land was once rainforest before the government started a tree eradication program (that ended only in the 70's). Giant tree ferns still grow wild where they can. Most of the rest of the land is dedicated to either timber farms (Californian pines) or grazing. There are plenty of sheep here along with exotic breeds of cattle, deer (venison) and emu.

New Zealand and Iceland are the two most active large volcanic islands in the world (not including Hawaii). They are also exactly opposite each other on the globe. Coincidence? Hardly likely. Approximately 350 million years ago a small comet, the size of a blue Toyota Corolla, consisting of only neutrinos, collided with the earth where Iceland is now, traveled through the center of the earth and exited where New Zealand currently resides. In doing so it created two conduits for magma to travel from the core to the surface. The resulting lava flows created the islands of Iceland and New Zealand. New Zealand is actually two islands due to the splattering effects of the geological exit wound. Anyway, this is my own theory based on the scientific observations I have made this trip. This theory should become conventional wisdom after I submit my ideas for publication upon my return.

While New Zealand is obviously a first world country, it is also obviously poorer than Australia. The Kiwis and the Aussies are like siblings; the Kiwis are the younger sibling, loving but somewhat jealous of its older, more successful brother. Perhaps it is not coincidence that Kiwis also tolerate much more government interference, ownership and regulation of their economy than the Aussies do.

The Kiwis are somewhat more restrained and quiet than the Aussies. Their ancestors were not convicts. Outside of Auckland the countryside shuts down at 9 PM (hardly Aussie behavior). A German I met was positively horrified to discover that there is a strong temperance movement here (again, hardly Aussie like). The Kiwis seem more prone to religion too.

The island's politics seem obsessed with the Maori. The Maori representatives in parliament (five seats are reserved for the Maori and they can run for any of the other seats) sometimes speak Maori and no one understands them. The Maori arrived in New Zealand sometime in the 14th century (beating the Europeans by a few hundred years). The Maori certainly have better claims to parts of New Zealand than the Albanians on parts of Serbia, but fortunately Bill Clinton and Tony Blair are not planning to ask the American people to fund any humanitarian aerial bombing campaigns against the European settlers, yet.

Auckland is a fine town, quite interesting, but I spent very little time there. I rented a car (a Mazda with 177,000 kilometers on it for $20 a day), slept in backpacker hostels for about $15 a night (single room) and frantically tried to "do" the entire country.

In my four days on the road I managed to fit in:

New Zealand has lots of adventure tours. This is the bungy center of the world. Skydiving is very popular here. There are tours of active volcanoes where hard hats (for flying rocks) and gas masks (for poisonous gasses) are mandatory. One can swim with a large pod of porpoises (the German guy I met did this). There is tons of white water rafting here too.

In short this preliminary report concludes that these Kiwi Islands need more exploration. Neither Captain Cook nor I have fully explored them. I hope to make it back soon.

I am now somewhere over the Pacific (between today and yesterday - over the international date line) on my way back to the Americas. Rather than write to you about my coming California adventures, I'll just sign off here. Hope to catch up with you all back in the motherland.


Copyright 1999 Marc Mehlman
Last revised: 14 August 1999

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