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First Loves About New Zealand

 

Beautiful creek near downtown Christ Church
Beautiful creek near downtown Christ Church

Last night arriving with our boxed bicycles at the motel/apartment we’ve rented for four days, both Eric and I were so excited about being here that we tore open the boxes, assembled our bicycles, made plans for the following day and finally fell into bed at about 2:30 am. I felt like parents assembling new toys on Christmas Eve.

In spite of the horrible devastation from the earth quake of 2011, the spirit and pride of the city is evident. This "living' house is tribute to that spirit.
In spite of the horrible devastation from the earth quake of 2011, the spirit and pride of the city is evident. This “living’ house  near the Cathedral is tribute to that spirit.

We’ve been here in New Zealand less than 18 hours and the excitement has not worn off. As a matter of fact, I’m in love with this country.

However we are going through culture shock. Here are some things we’ve been missing but didn’t know how much until today.
Drinking tap water.
Dry bathroom floors and plumbing that we understand.
No toilet hoses.
Friendly help at the airport, bicycles shops and restaurants.
Bike lanes.
No stopped trucks backing up traffic in the only driving lane unloading plastic ware and chickens while talking on their cell phone and backing up the traffic for miles.
People stopping at red lights (although Eric misses the fun of running red lights with the locals)
Butter
Ale

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I’ve definitely missed a good ale.

Hamburgers with edible lettuce
No motorscooters
No texting while driving
Wearing a jacket and long pants
Families with children at the bicycle shop
A large, outdoor BBQ grill with attached propane tank available for our use.
No trash on the street
Clean rivers
Fresh air – no foul smells
No dishwashing on the street
No derelict shop lots
Longer – sunset tonight at 8:37 making today 13 1/2 hours long.
No traffic driving the wrong way down the street
Roses gardens.
Lawns.
Large, green, clean, peaceful parks with no loud music blaring
No Freight liner trucks driving down main street at 100 km/hour while honking its horn to clear the road of pedestrians, chickens and motor scooters
Street lights that work.
Sidewalks that are wide enough to walk side by side.
Sidewalks with no holes, obstructions or parked vehicles blocking the way.
Sporting good stores everywhere

Old alongside new at Cathedral Square in Christ Church.
Old alongside new at Cathedral Square in Christ Church.

With our culture shock also comes sticker shock.

Gone are the days of our $5.00 dinners. Replacing them with very expensive – albeit very big – hamburgers should induce us to get our money’s worth by riding lots of kilometers/miles.

The Java Everyone Raves About

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Beautiful peaceful roads today.

 

We arrived in Indonesia on Jan. 24th. We’ve cycled over 700 kilometers across Java. We’ve met some nice people and eaten some delicious food and even gotten glimpses of some beautiful scenery. But there is also a lot of traffic, pollution, noise, dangerous roads and hot temperatures. We hadn’t really been enjoying the ride or the country. We’ve even made plans to take the train part of the way to avoid some of the roads. But, today was different. We found lush, green, peaceful, beautiful java.

I wish I had the vocabulary to describe the green.
I wish I had the vocabulary to describe the green.

This morning we let Garmin 810, our bicycle GPS, find us a route to the ancient Hindu temple of Prambanan “the tallest and most beautiful Hindu temple in the world”, according to the English Version of the UNESCO World Heritage Site park brochure, located about 20 kilometers northwest of our hotel. Sometimes Garmin leads us astray and finds routes that don’t even exist, but today he was successful at finding us small, single lane village roads that meandered through rice fields, along streams and canals and through tiny neighborhoods. We shared the road with children riding to or from school, motorcycles laden with rice bags full of freshly cut grass for the milk cow at home, and an occasional motorcycle-truck ( a small motorcycle in front with a flat bed trailer mounted on the rear).

We stopped for lots of photos. We enjoyed the shade of large trees dividing the farms. We let our minds wander rather than concentrate on the traffic.

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The ride was a reward itself but the second reward was the destination. The Prambanan temples are pretty darn spectacular. I think the little 1×2 photo of Prambanan that I remember from a 6th Grade World History text book just don’t do these temples justice. They are huge, ornately carved, and in pretty good shape in spite of massive damage from an earthquake in 2006.

Today, the temples were swarming with school students on field trips which made the visit even more fun. There was a group of middle school students that were crazy about having their photos taken with foreigners. My guess is one of two reasons: 1) Their teacher told them to practice their English and give proof with a photo. 2) They had never seen Westerners before. In any case, pictures of Eric and I will be in many photos albums around Java.

Middle school girls on a school field trip.
Middle school girls on a school field trip.

Amy favorite part was being free to climb all over the ruins. I kept thinking that if these 8th century beauties were located in the United States, concerns about liability from falls or damage to the structures would limit visitors to photos from a distance or a close-up views from coin operated binoculars located miles away.

The ride back to our hotel was a little hotter and choked with a lot more traffic. But neither dampened our spirits. I’m relaxing after a swim in the hotel pool. And, I’m hoping that Eric is planning the route to our next destination, Mt. Bromo, another East Java favorite.