From December 3 2008:

"G-day mate" Welcome to New Zealand

Hi everyone. This is a long read since we haven't written in a
couple of months. There are 2 categories with headings so you can
read all of it at once or you can read the part that interests you
first and the other when you have more time.

#1. GENERAL INFORMATION about New Zealand:
We had great expectations of New Zealand...fantastic scenery,
friendly people and very safe. The country is only 4 million people
with 3/4 of the population living in the North Island and 1/2 of them
residing in the city of Aukland alone.

Our expectations were met and far surpassed. After traveling now
through 37 countries, New Zealand has taken the lead in natural
beauty and scenery. Runners-up are Norway and Columbia. New Zealand
is also neck and neck with Argentina for first place in
friendliness. "Please and thank you" are very normal words from
school children all the way into high school. The people on the city
bus actually say "Thank you Mr. bus driver" from the back door of the
bus. The bus driver yells back to them, "Have a g-day".

We feel very safe here. It almost feels like Decorah. No one really
wants to take anything from you as they all have what they need. The
economy seems to support most people in a comfortable lifestyle and
most everyone takes pride in their property and their cultural. The
lawns and farmsteads are all well maintained and show a strong
attention to the natural beauty of flowers and blooming trees.

The North Island has a large Mauri population and it is apparent by
the many Mauri TV and radio stations. The culture also exemplifies
itself in the many facial tatoos and the special warlike "Hacca"
dances. The North Island is primarily made up of Mauri, Indian,
Southeast Asian, Samoan, English, Scottish and Fijian. The South
Island only has a small amount of Mauri and very few Asian or Indian.
They are mostly English or Europeans. The South Island has 30
million sheep and lots of Merino wool.

New Zealand is a land of volcanos and volcanic activity. The
landscape is so varied. Its really hard to believe it can all exist
in one country and be so close together. We visited one of the 3100
glaciers in the country, the Franz Joseph glacier. Simply amazing, as
it was in a rain forest and/or the edge of the Tasman Sea.

The mountains are actually growing about 2 cm annually but because of
erosion they lose about 2 cm annually, a zero net growth. In a
matter of 3 hours by car we saw a rain forest, a glacier, a snow
covered mountain range, a dessert, fjords and lush green pastures for
livestock. Everything was so relatively close for visitng, even
though the roads were quite twisty and narrow.

As we cycled around the Coromadel Penninsula, we were challenged
again by the tight, narrow curvy roads. Oh, did I mention steep?
According to some cycling sources, it has the steepest grade of paved
roads in the Southern Hemisphere. (I recall one climb into Coromandel
that was 3km. I stood up for the entire climb. Jacky got to the top
and she looked like a whipped pup.)

We did take time to rest at a hot water beach. During low tide you
can take a shovel and dig a hole in the sand and get boiling hot
water to surface. You blend this with some cool sea water and you
have a nice personal hot tub. What a treat that was for us. I tried
to hard boil an egg but too much sea water was coming in. The egg
was actually starting to cook.

The volcanic activity also created hot mud baths. The mud was
constantly bubbling and giving off an intense sulfur smell. It was
very interesting and unique.

New Zealands primary economy is based on agriculture. The dairy
industry is the strongest, then sheep, and then lumber. Tourism is
the second major industry and with all the camping sites, hotels and
camper vans, it is very easy to see that to be true.

The dairy industry exports 95% of its production to the Asian and
South American market. The cost of it is about 1/2 of that in Iowa
because the cows are striclty grass fed in rotational grazing
paddocks and the climate is mild enough that cattle sheds are not
needed. The sheep are primarily in the South Island and really cover
the landscape. The planting of trees occurs as regularly as do the
harvests. The country has a very "green" environmental philosophy.
(The reason we know this is because of the people we visited with and
the literature and signage promoting the environmental philosophy.)

New Zealand has a hole in the ozone so when its sunny you can really
feel the sun's rays. All primary schools have a mandatory hat rule.
When the kids are out for recess they must wear a hat and use
sunscreen. But, I think this hole in the ozone may have something to
do with the brilliant colors of the flowers and the unbelievable and
many colors of green. Maybe it is the constant showers that wash the
air. The flower colors just jump out at you. (I wish I had a better

#2 FUN EXPERIENCES we've had:
Our cycling buddy, Ben Garrett from Iowa, and his girlfriend,
Christina, joined us November 1st for 10 days. To cover as much
ground as possible and see as much as we could in 10 days we had to
rent a car. We saw mud pots, glaciers, fjords, rain forests, the hot
water beach, snow covered mountains, really cool hiking trails,
mountain biking, sky diving and the most violent ocean I had ever
seen. We also saw a New Zealand stag party. (Ask Jacky for details

Ben and Christina were definitely thrill seekers as they sky dived in
the morning and tandem bungy jumped in the afternoon. They bungied
from the original bridge where it all started 20 years ago. I chose
to join them for the skydiving while Jacky put her portion of
the "fun money" towards an overnight cruise through Milford Sound.
When you are asked "Why would you decide to jump out of a perfectly
good plane??" I can honestly answer, "because it is relatively safe
and it is a rush." We jumped at 12,000ft above a beautiful lake with
snow capped mountains surrounding us and Mt Cook just peaking above
the clouds. We fell through a cloud and the ground opened up below
us. It was very cold....minus 15 degrees farenheit. When you jump
tandem there is no thinking about it. The jump instructor just pushes
you out the door of the plane. After 45 seconds of free fall the
parachute fully deploys and you have a very quiet and soft landing.
What a rush! (The other rush was driving the car on the left side of
the road.) Thanks, Ben and Christina, for joining us.

Prior to coming to New Zealnd we had a few things on our agenda, 1)
meet up with Ben and Christina, 2)see the sights and learn the
culture, 3) talk to school children about our Pedaling for Pencils,
4) visit Rotary Clubs, 5) work a little bit.

Two of our goals (visiting Rotary Clubs and talking to schools) were
easily met by the help of Barry and Lynn Williams from Paeroa,
NZ. "How do you know them?" may ask. The Cedar Falls Iowa
Rotary president gave us $20 to go buy his friends, Barry and Lynn, a
beer when we got to New Zealand. We had a mission. We emailed Lynn
and Barry and they hosted us on their dairy farm. I helped Barry with
a construction project around the 1200 cow dairy farm. They arranged
for us to speak at 10 schools (800 students) in their valley and also
for us to stay with his daughter's family and other Rotarians in many
other cities. It was interesting because none of the kids wore shoes
at these rural schools. Shoes are optional. They can afford them
but everyone grows up running around barefoot. We've even heard
adults say, "shoes are too restricting". We were also able to
attend "Calf Day", similar to our 4-H judging show. We learned alot
about kids in New Zealand. A huge thanks to Barry and Lynn for making
our "Pedalling for Pencils" program at the schools a success.

We presented our program to high schools in South Auckland as well...
thanks to 2 teachers I met mountain biking in Rotorua. Thanks Eric
and Gerrad.

We went on an overnight cruise in Milford Sound. It was a more
economical cruise so we were with many backpacker type of people and
felt right at home. As we cruised through the fjords we saw many
gorgeous waterfalls and steep rocky walls that also had unique
vegetation living on them. We were able to kayak in the bays and we
were able to see dolphins, seals and penguins. It was awesome. The
fjords are so mystical. They also provided us with an excellent
dinner and breakfast. It was well worth it!

We also cycled around the north penninsula (Bay of Islands) of the
North Island. New Zealand isn't exactly cheap so we decided to try
to work at the campgrounds as we cycled around. This worked out quite
well. We would each only have to work 1 hour a day to cover the cost
of our nights stay and then they would pay us for any time worked
above that. After they saw how hard we were willing to work they
wouldn't want us to leave. Not only did this arangement help the
pocket book is was good mental therapy for me.

Now we are off to Australia. Until our next e-group (Christmas
edition)...Happy Holidays!

Jacky and Ward

Some unique saying that we have learned:
"Hire a care" - means "rent a car"
"G-day" - means "Have a good day"
"Good on ya" - means "well done", "good job"
"choice" - means "amazing"
"bloke" - means "a guy"
"sheila" - means "a woman"