Sunday, April 6, 2008

New Zealand

North Island: Auckland

After an early Easter church service in a wooden cathedral, I spent the afternoon on a sailboat with a German couple, a Chinese family, a Venezuelan mama and her precocious teenager (shouldn't let him near ropes), and a quiet Japanese woman who lost her hat to the wind. Bluest skies, a few cotton-ball clouds, islands and beaches gliding by.

Not too shabby. But I must say, the best part of the day was when I went to Shakespeare and Company, the first brewery in the country and home to a praiseworthy King Lear Stout. I was just sitting down by the window when a guy came over. "You can't sit alone." "Is that so?" He laughed. "It's a law in New Zealand." And then entered the dozen other members of his cricket team who had all been out on a chartered fishing boat for six hours. The next six hours involved white roses twisted from napkins courtesy of Vo, commissioned poems for the handbag boys courtesy of me, and an a capella "Wonderwall" courtesy of the entire team, which led to karaoke around the corner.

I like kiwis. I made multiple scribbles in my notebook that night. One page has only one line followed by a colon. "The goals of the kiwi:"

South Island: Queenstown

Mountains! Veritable mountains worthy of exclamation points! Since it is the tail end of summer/early fall down under, the tops were naked of snow. The Remarkables, the mountain range that played The Misty mountains in the Tolkein-inspired films, looked like broken shards of cooking chocolate. I hiked a bit, ate a lot (green-lipped mussels, paua patties), and met amazing people. A Belgian street artist invited himself to my table with his own order of mussels and told me about a recent art fiasco in town. A local chef let me sample his handmade ice cream in the kitchen. While waiting for the same bus, an elderly British gentleman showed me the kitty postcard he’d had signed by a vet in historic Arrowtown where a series called Remarkable Vets had been filmed. A Canadian river guide took me out for a night on the town (which served to remind me that the only things that change about nights on the town are the towns).

There’s more (soaring cliffs rising from fjords created by the Tasman sea, mirror lakes, long teas on lakes). But it’s getting late and tomorrow’s Monday. Back in the saddle.