|Wed., Oct. 23rd
My title means “Welcome to New Zealand” in Maori, the native inhabitants. Actually, the Maoris came here about 800 years ago, ate the indigenous people, the Moriori, and took over their land. Fortunately, with the advent of Western civilization, the Maoris are no longer cannibalistic. Despite its harsh beginning in the history books, this country is spectacular. In fact, we landed here, gaping at the Remarkables, a truly well-named mountain range.
Our flight was unremarkable, though, and we passed through customs and border inspection without a hitch. Then we proceeded to the TRS desk, Tax Refund Scheme, to get back the 10% luxury sales tax we paid on my new jewelry. Darrel covered my passport with his hat and coat, and then picked them all up when we walked away. I was frantic, trying to find my passport! Went back to the TRS desk to ask for it, when he motioned to me, he had found it. Just a few heartbeats shy of a heart attack! We proceeded through the bio-screening. All bags were X-rayed, and then we walked out to the coach. It was then I missed my little suitcase! I hustled all the way back to the airport and the bio-station, where I met Carolyn with her baggage cart. “Missing something?” she asked. The angel had found it and carried it out to me.
Off to the hotel, with a little stop at an overlook on the most beautiful scene. It reminds me of Lucerne, Switzerland or Banff, perhaps. Alpine and quaint, Queenstown has a small city center, but houses and second homes line Lake Wakatipu on which it is situated.
We checked into our rooms with lovely views and balconies, then we walked with Yvonne down to the city center to change our Aussie money at a bank that charges no fee. I had a $5NZ note Jennifer had given me after her trip here 14 years ago. I asked if it was still current. Actually no, said the clerk, all our paper money is now made of plastic. Prevents counterfeits!
Then some went to the Bottle Shop (ABC Store), some to a pharmacy, some to the grocery. D&I went off shopping. NZ is the capital of merino/possum wool, soft and non-scratchy and washable! Got some gifts for the kids and some yarn to knit (Yes, Prayer Shawl committee, I will come home prepared!)
Joined the group at Prime, a restaurant overlooking the lake (but what doesn’t overlook the lake here?). Delicious dinner and then a brisk walk back to the hotel as it was sprinkling. The weather is like Michgan in April. It’s cooool, and the rain on Darrel’s head was like ice! So he pulled on a girl’s cap I had just bought, tag and all, for the walk home. Sorry to the owner, it has been used once! We passed trees just beginning to bud, cherry trees in full bloom.
But now, our early morning wake-up call is getting to us, so now, to bed.
TOMORROW: Cruise Lake Wakatipu on an historic coal-steam ship, The Earnslaw, to Walter Peak Station for a sheep farm tour and morning tea. Good night, everyone.