Antipodean After-thoughts

Hi everyone,
It is Wednesday, January 2, 2008 at 10:22 p.m. Chicago time and we are safely ensconced back home (Andrew in San Diego, Wendy & Wayne in Chicago, and Em packing for New Orleans even as we speak).  We arrived home at 4:00 this afternoon (technically 3 hours after we left Sydney, but in body-clock time nearly 24 hours after we left; this was truly our longest day!).  We thought it would only be proper to top off our trip with some perspectives.

They (at least in the books I've read) call Australia and New Zealand the Antipodes (the other side of the world).  They are and they aren't.  The long flights (and days lost or gained) certainly make these countries seem somewhat other-worldly.  But, once you're there, the language makes them very familiar.

They (mostly people who haven't visited) also say that as long as you're going, see both countries while you're there.  We disagree.  They're so different.  As long as you're going, go deeper into one country and go back for the other.  There's so much to see.

For a primeval feast of the eyes with amazing fern forests, volcanoes, thermal pools, geysers, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, overall spectacular scenery, and more sheep than people, choose NZ.  An amazing place, it is a haven for foodies and for adventure lovers. Feels a little like the road to Hana on Maui...but more wild.  There is a cultural angle with the Maori story, but it is interwoven everywhere you turn.  In fact, many of the towns on the North Island have Maori names.

For more diversity, architectural triumphs, great cities, culture, incredible eats, amazing shopping, time in the tropics, extraordinary Aboriginal history and sights, choose Australia (keep in mind, we tend to find amazing shopping everywhere and had the customs forms to prove it).  And mind you, we only saw a small part of the country.  In terms of wildlife, unlike Capetown where the baboons are on the loose a half hour out of the city, you won't see kangaroos in the big cities of Australia (except perhaps in Perth on the west coast).  They're in the zoos but don't run wild elsewhere.

Other Things We Learned (beyond our region updates)
New Zealand is renowned for its honey.  (Luckily, we had a food expert on our team, Andrew, who actually found a honey store and purchased at least 4 different types.)

Did you know that the loo's in NZ and Australia enable full or partial flushes?  So eco-friendly.

Did you know that when the continents were separated (centuries ago), Australia got all the venomous creatures?  New Zealand got the earthquakes and volcanoes but not a single venomous creature. 

In Rotorua, don't forget the Agridome (campy must not miss sheep show) and the Zorb (another action activity for the brave of heart, of course Andrew tried it).

This is the best spot for t-shirts in the world (so far at least).  If you travel here, pack half the shirts you would have.  You'll pick up more along the way.

We discovered two of the world's finest airlines with our transfers--New Zealand Air and Quantas.  What an improvement over United!

Top Ten
1.Being together as a family, couldn't beat it.

2.Sydney Opera House, the whole experience was amazing.
3.The people, everywhere.
4.Auckland on New Year's Eve (while the fireworks weren't on a par with what Sydney does, it was awesome to see in the New Year 2 hours earlier than Sydney with fireworks off the Sky Tower which we had ascended only 8 hours prior).
5.The Botanic Gardens--everywhere!
6.Knock-out scenery in NZ.
7.The special dessert arranged by Andrew & Emily for our 33rd wedding anniversary.
8.Getting drenched at Bondi Beach and our great dinner there.
9.Our audio expert, John, with funny stories, and his Maori warrior impersonations while we tried to "keep to the left" on some pretty challenging, winding roads.
10.The Wharekauhau country estate outside of Wellington, NZ.

And, of course, everything else.  We could do a separate top ten of the meals...but you got the idea.

So, thanks for being with us on our journey.  Now, for laundry, some sleep, a lo-carb diet, regular exercise, paying bills, and a return to the real world.

Happy new year everyone.

wendy, wayne, andrew & emily

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