Cheema and I traveled to Auckland and spent a couple of days there. Auckland is New Zealand's largest city and is clean, modern, and multiethnic. We strolled along the streets shopping as tourists as they browse the discount racks searching for key chains, shirts, and coffee mugs. The food is excellent, and the people are friendly. Lunch was at our favorite restaurant, Burger Fuel. Delicious beef burgers from grass-fed cows and a bottle of kombucha.
- Area of the country spans 103,483 square miles, making New Zealand the 75th largest country in the world.
- The currency is the New Zealand dollar with an exchange rate roughly one U.S. dollar equals 1.41 $NZ dollar.
- The capital is Wellington.
- In 2021, the population was estimated at 5.1 million, making New Zealand the 121st most populous country in the world.
- Auckland is the largest city.
- New Zealand exports meat, dairy products, and fruits and vegetables. Other major exports include crude oil, paper products, and wood.
Cheema and I drove through picturesque small towns connected with narrow country roads. Some roads weave through mountainous passes with breathtaking views of valleys and grasslands. We reached northern New Zealand to see Cathedral Cove and the scenic beaches. New Zealand reminded me of the dangerous country roads in the Appalachian mountains in Arkansas with plenty of forests and grasslands where a wrong turn would plunge a car down into deep gorges.
Cheema and I drove down to Hamilton, the location of the mother campus. We spent a day there and visited Hamilton Gardens. Then we ate dinner at a nice restaurant.
My buddy had to see his girl when she worked in Plymouth, New Zealand. It is a lovely little town that took all day to get there. Many tourists visit this town and try to climb the mountain in the summer. We visited in the winter, and some days, it was freezing cold. The wind blew through my clothes and gripped me in shivering coldness.
We found a great little retro diner that transported us back to the 50s - a simple time with good burgers, music, and intellectual conversation. Their pecan pie was almost as good as my grandma's—the second-best pecan pie in the world.
My best friend, Cheema, lived in a resort town an hour and a half from Auckland. He taught finance at the University of Waikato, Tauranga Branch. This would be the perfect town to marry and raise a family. Unfortunately, New Zealanders have the same idea, and property prices have skyrocketed to the million-dollar range even for average looking homes.
Nearby, the town has this tall hill overlooking the city. Many people hike up and down the paths that wind around this hill. It was a great way to get in some exercise.
Cheema and I spent a day visiting the natural hot springs in New Zealand, called Wai-O-Tapu. It was chilly outside with a cold rain. However, the heat from the hot springs kept us warm. Then we went swimming in Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, a network of connected pools fed warm spring waters. There we were, swimming during the winter.