The DougBlog
"Et sans savoir pourquoi, disent toujours: Allons!" —Baudelaire

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Doug & Karen's Kiwi Adventure Part 3: Tongariro & Wellington

Happy New Year! Now that this was officially “last year’s vacation” I think it’s time to finish the blog. When we last left our Kiwi Adventure, I was made Maori Chief we were off once again on a looooong but scenic drive to the capitol city of Wellington. Our first stop was at the shores of Lake Taupo:

This deep, huge lake fills the remnants of an ancient volcano’s caldera and provides a stunning reflection of the volcanoes around it. It was also full of many lovely waterfowl:

Driving south around the lake we arrived at Tongariro National Park, which encompasses three major volcanoes: Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe, and Mount Tongariro:

Me and Karen in front of Mount Ruapehu (I think—I kept getting them confused):

Mount Ngauruhoe is the most dramatic of the peaks, and we hiked of a trail that offered inspiring views thereof. A digitally altered version of it served as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings, much of which was filmed in this park.

Much of the park is also a ski area, on the northwestern slopes of Mount Ruapehu—an area with a rather entertaining name:

It’s more disturbing when you consider that in Maori, “Wh” is pronounced like an “f”. But I digress...the skiing also seemed to inspire this little bit of vandalism on a Kiwi crossing sign. I don’t normally support graffiti but this was pretty cute:

Tongariro was one of the many areas that we had to cut short because New Zealand has so much to offer—and to see what you want to without taking a year’s hiatus requires some tough decisions. So we continued on toward Wellington but wouldn’t get there until well after dark. En route we decided to take an opportunity to commune with that New Zealand icon, the sheep:

Yes, they are everywhere—and I believe the current statistic is that they outnumber New Zealanders themselves 10-to-1.

The funny thing is that you would assume with so many sheep—all domesticated primarily for wool and therefore in the constant presence of people—they would be very tame. But once this little guy gazed up at me with his moist little eyes...


Good shots of the kids (get it? Haha!) after they ran away, thanks to a telephoto lens:


Yes, everything so far was in a single day on a very long drive, and well after dark we arrived in Wellington.

Wellington is New Zealand’s capitol, centrally located on the southern tip of the northern island, on the Cook Strait. It is also wisely built right on a seismic fault...but I digress:

The actual capitol building is nicknamed “The Beehive” for obvious reasons. It’s also quite ugly, in my humble opinion...but I digress:

The city has a lovely waterfront filled with lovely cafes and the such:

There’s also a famous statue if Kupe Raiatea, the Maori explorer who discovered Wellington Harbor:

There was also this less-famous statue of a naked guy diving into the harbor... Karen decided to get in on the fun:

A decidedly more modern landmark, the Fern Ball. This metal sculpture of New Zealand’s symbol is suspended over the Civic Centre:

We enjoyed this old-tyme piano player who apparently just randomly parks in various locations around Wellington and plays ragtime melodies:

A clear night’s view of the Southern Cross over Wellington—a constellation you can only see in the Southern Hemisphere that figures prominently on New Zealand’s flag (where it is NOT upside-down):

If it seems like we didn’t see a lot in Wellington, that may have something to do with the fact that our hotel room was too nice to leave. Upon checking in to the Bolton Hotel we were informed that we were being upgraded to the Presidential Suite for no apparent reason other than they liked us. (In retrospect, shouldn’t they be calling it the Prime Ministerial Suite? But I digress...) It was a huge swank pad with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen, three terraces, and solarium!

Needless to say, the washer and dryer was an added bonus:

Next up…we fly to the south island to see glaciers and fjords—not to mention car-eating birds and glow worms!! BUT BEFORE WE GO…A FEW PARTING SHOTS!

I had this T-shirt made for the sole purpose of taunting Karen on the trip so I wore it every night:

This hot dog is SO mad:

Apparently the “three most important words in real estate” are different in New Zealand:

Clear evidence of gays in New Zealand:

Our swanky suite had mud masques:

Our swanky suite also had bedspreads that looked like they had been made out of a Kiwi bird—so I made Karen wear one against her will:

She says she doesn’t see the you?:

Also before we go...
As 2010 said goodbye, so did two relatives of mine—so I’d like to take a moment to remember them.

My Aunt Jean Halpern died on Dec 31 at the age of 89. Okay, technically she was not my aunt—nor related to me at all. But we always knew her as “Aunt Jean” and I was an adult before I realized the truth. She had been a family friend since her first husband, Dr. Harold Rosenhaus, was a fellow student with my Papa Tischler at medical school in the 1930s. After his untimely death, she married Harry Halpern, a prominent NYC Rabbi who married my parents and I think might have officiated at my bris (thankfully I don’t recall).
I always liked Aunt Jean. She was spunky and feisty and opinionated and never afraid to speak her mind. She was the epitome of moxie, and whether you agreed with her views or not you enjoyed listening to them. And she never forgot a birthday! She’d been quite sick for a few years now, though, and I know that for someone like her the loss of independence was probably worse than death itself—so I am glad she is a peace and sipping martinis with my Papa again.

Aunt Jean at my Bar Mitzvah:

With my Grandma Tischler around 1940 (in Prospect Park, I believe!):

With my Grandma and Papa at the 25th anniversary party she threw for them:

I also just learned that my Great Uncle Sam Kahn passed away while I was in New Zealand. He was 97. He was married to my Aunt Estelle, baby sister of my Grandma Anne Hirsch. Sam was born and raised in the Jewish community of Livingston Manor in the Catskills, growing up on the borscht belt. His family lived next door to another Sam—my Great-Granduncle (whew) Sam Resnick—and he met Estelle when she visited one summer (as many Jews did to escape the hot Brooklyn summers). They were married for more than 50 years until she died in 1988.
He was a very kind and jovial man who loved to scuba dive (until he was 85!). For many years he and Aunt Estelle split their time between the Cayman Islands where he would go diving and New Hampshire, where he loved to garden. I still remember touring his extensive vegetable garden in Nashua and how proud and generous he was.

Uncle Sam around 1984:

Uncle Sam with my Aunt Estelle (behind him) and the rest of the Miller siblings and siblings-in-law. He was the last one to go:

Back row: Aunt Janet Miller, my Grandma Anne Hirsch, Aunt Jenny Shayon (grandma’s sister), and Aunt Estelle (grandma’s sister). Front row: Uncle Harry Shayon, Uncle Freddie Miller (grandma’s brother), and Uncle Sam.

Next stop, the natural splendors of the south island!


  • Thank you for the wonderful tour of New Zealand.....spent a happy hour with you as close to there as I am likely to get.
    Uncle Harry and another Sam (Sam Shayon) were also step-brothers to Anne and Jenny and Estelle because our Grandma Becky Shayon married their father Morris Shayon after her fist husband Meyer Millman(Miller) died in the flu epidemic of '18. from Aunt Ellie

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:29 AM  

  • Congrats for your excellent photos.

    By Anonymous Calogero, at 7:47 AM  

  • Hi Doug,
    I really really love the Tongariro picture with "kiwi crossing". Is that possible for you to send me it in a good (better) quality. I'have been in NZ, and would love to print it for my house....
    Tell me!

    By Anonymous Dounette, at 4:56 AM  

  • Hello, Have you red my comment ? Please !!!

    By Anonymous Dounette, at 12:51 AM  

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