Tales from the New Zealand Road

A few tales from the roadside. In Australia, we flew from city to city. Here in New Zealand, the travel is by motor coach, which provided a few interesting attractions as we rambled on…

The first is about the Kauri Tree. New Zealand has a group of really picturesque trees that are native to these islands, but the Kauri is the most interesting. It grows to a height of about 175 feet, and then gets wider without putting on additional height. They can live over one thousand years. The Maori and early colonial settlers used the wood for a variety of purposes, and also cut them down to produce more fields for grazing and agriculture.

Estimates say that 90% of their virgin forests were milled.


Timber has always been one of New Zealand’s primary exports. But fortunately, an edict was passed that says no native tree can be cut done anymore…NONE. Now, they plant thousands of trees each year as a crop, similar to what we do in the USA for Christmas trees. These trees are harvested in 15-20 years on a rotating basis, and the wood is shipped off to China, Singapore, and Japan. Meanwhile, the only way the local craftsmen can get Kauri wood is to wait until one falls over by becoming so wide that the trunk can’t support its own weight.

On the road to Rotorua, we stopped briefly in a small town. There was a hobbit house around the corner.

The movie sets for the Tolkien trilogy were on the North island in New Zealand. We didn’t get to visit there, but it was fun to see this littler sampler.

Finally, another flooded volcanic crater… The lake at Rotorua was not really accessible because the town was building a new set of walkways and piers. But 40 miles down the road, we visited an even bigger crater lake,

Taupo. This one was the result of a super volcano eruption about 26,000 years ago. Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand, and actually looks more like a sea from the shoreline. Depth reaches 400 feet. This must have been a huge volcano before it blew its top off!!

One more interesting tidbit… While walking around Rotorua, we had quite the interesting afternoon while looking for a late-lunch spot. We first found the Atticus Finch Cafe !!


This was a must place for lunch…  Who would ever have predicted that a New Zealand eatery would be named for a character in “To Kill A Mockingbird !!” Alas, it was not open, so I couldn’t find out the story of how this name was selected.  So we ambled down the lane a bit further…


And then we found our first Irish pub in New Zealand. Since I hadn’t had a Guinness since arriving Down Under, I convinced Mrs Bear that we should dine there. BUT, despite having all the correct colors and names, “The Pig and Whistle,” they did not sell Guinness !! Unheard of !!  Instead, they had about ten samples of beers from a local craft brewery as their ware.  Oh well…

Which leads me to one more beer observation. When I was growing up, the national beer of Australia was Fosters. They imported it to the USA in an oversized blue aluminum can ( 25 fluid ounces). The beer was featured in the Crocodile Dundee movies. Well, there was not a Fosters to be found during our three weeks in Australia. I got on their web page and it is still brewed… But I guess Fosters is no longer “ Australian for Beer!!”

One more observation: Walking through both Australian and New Zealander cities, people put their trash on the curb in large plastic bags…No actual trash containers. No skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, crows, or rats.  It must be nice!!

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