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This week we moved from the North Island of New Zealand to the South. During the past month we walked on beaches, collected glass, shells, and driftwood, drank coffee at a wonderful local cafe, visited museums and wineries, strolled in parks and botanical gardens, climbed hills, and watched birds. Every day held vivid and memorable scenes. Rather than a list of where we were and what we did, here are some of my impressions.

The forest here is many shades of deep green, and dense. The first people to arrive here, both Maori and then European, must have felt an oppressive challenge. Not enough to arrive on shore, newcomers had to make a dent in that dark wall.

Despite vast changes in the landscape over time, nature remains a watchword to Kiwis (New Zealanders). It’s not all birdwatching.

Nature is a visible presence, even in the large cities. Seagulls complain as boats moored along city sidewalks rise and fall. Yet the people are equally important. We see personal statements, like the pink stump on Te Horo Beach.

In Te Horo Beach, the Bus Stop Cafe is the community center and general landmark, open Friday through Sunday. Kirstie’s famous jam and cream donuts seem to get a lot of neighbors out of bed on the weekend. Kirstie also sells hand made goods by local artisans. When I was at the eye doctor in Wellington, chatting about our stay in New Zealand and mentioned Te Horo, Dr. Long said, “Be sure and stop by the Bus Stop Cafe and say hello to Kirstie for me.” Turns out, Dr. Long spins and dyes wool that Kirstie carries. (And yes, she’s also an opthalmologist and retina specialist.) It’s a small country and everyone multitasks.

On a visit to Scorching Beach, Wellington, we saw a cafe with all-out abalone decoration.

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We admired the range of beaches. Some bloomed with flowers, others were covered with driftwood. Some were ready for surfers, and others were on estuaries that became vast tide flats during low tide. We found intriguing patterns and textures. Some beach finds  became part of the decor around our house.

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We found many things to like in the cities. Museums, botanical gardens, street life, and good restaurants. For us, the appeal of the coast and the bush far outweighs the allure of city life.

We gravitated to parks like Zealandia, or the Wellington Botanical Garden, where there were flowers and sculpture at every turn.

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We have enjoyed every minute on the North Island. Off to the South!