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Learning Something New

Hello, Everyone,

> Frank and I have been back from our delightful week in Puerto Vallarta just a little over a week now. We have gone from balmy, relaxing seaside ambience to rain, cold, rain, cold, depressing weather. Today, while we were driving in the rain, I spotted a Mexican grocery store, La Superior Supermercado, in North Highlands. Hmm, I thought to myself, I wonder if this store has masa already mixed, that I could use to make homemade tortillas. I was remembering the tasty little treats we had enjoyed on our day trip to the villages in the hills above Puerto Vallarta.

Fresh homemade tortillas in Mexico

We stopped at the market, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how large the interior of the market was, and I was impressed with the variety of fresh food available. Once inside, the first counter was a taqueria, serving up all manner of Mexican food, as tacos, burritos. Next was a fresh cheese counter, then a butcher counter, with some tasty-appearing steaks, roasts, chickens, and some not-so-tasty-appearing (to me) delights, such as tripe, chicken feet, pig feet.
On the other side of the store was a large produce section, where I found the little Mexican limes that I love, as well as avocados, chilies, both fresh and dried, bins of dried beans. There were also tomatillos and jicama, lettuces, tomatoes, and some vegetables I was not familiar with.

I wandered through the store, looking at everything. Frank enjoyed conversing with different employees of the store while I browsed. The market did have prepared masa for making tamales, but did not masa ready-made for making tortillas. However, since it was a rainy day, and we had nothing else on our calendar for the day, we decided to make a Mexican dinner, and I decided I would try to make some homemade tortillas, although I had to mix up the masa myself.

The package of instant masa. Just add water and mix.

My little dough balls, ready for the tortilla press.

The first little dough ball pressed out nicely, into a tortilla that was about 3 inches in diameter. So the rest of the dough balls got remade, but my finished tortillas were still pretty small.

The tortillas were small, but big enough for our afternoon snack.

On the griddle. Pinto beans are simmering in the pot.

I made some guacamole and some pico di gallo, and Frank grated some of his favorite cheese, cotijo, for our snack.

Lunch is ready.

Frank is happy with the outcome.

I had learned a new skill. Well, I should say, I had tried something new. The tortillas were too small and they were thicker than I wanted, and certainly not big enough for making enchiladas, but I was not too disappointed. They tasted good, and I will try to make them again, soon.

I couldn’t replicate the balmy, breezy weather that we enjoyed in Mexico, but we had fun reminiscing about our most recent adventure, while we cooked and ate.

Later, for dinner, we made chicken enchiladas (using store-bought corn tortillas), pinto beans and Spanish rice. All together, we had a delightful afternoon, doing one of the things I love most: cooking. Frank got to do the clean-up, and while that is probably not his favorite activity, he did not complain.

So, although we can’t travel to exotic places all the time, it was fun to remember our vacation while learning something new.

Until our next adventure,

Adios,
Dolly

Talpa y Mascota

Good morning, all,

After a brief walk down to the beach, now I will get to work and tell you about our adventures of yesterday.

It was difficult to write when these two pelicans were watching, so I moved.

Yesterday we took a tour up into the Sierra Madre mountains, just east of the city of Puerto Vallarta. We had an excellent young tour guide, and I thoroughly enjoyed his telling us about Mexican history as we went along.

After we had driven for about an hour and a half, our driver stopped at a little place where we got to stretch our legs, use the restrooms, then we had a snack.

The young lady was pressing balls of masa into perfectly round, flat tortillas, which she threw onto a wood-fired grill. We each took a warm tortilla, filled it with cotijo cheese, guacamole and salsa. Yum. That little snack was so delicious, some of us had two little tacos.

The view from this roadside stop.

After our snack we were off again, going further into the mountains. Eventually, we reached the village of Mascota. This little town is old, primitive-appearing to us, but it is a thriving community. The primary industry of all this area is farming. We went to an extension of the local high school, where students learn different aspects of farming. We visited a cheese factory at the school, then went into town.

We had the opportunity to visit the ruins of a cathedral. The construction of the church started in 1840’s, while Santa Anna was the leader of Mexico. In 1850, due to one of the many Mexican revolutions, construction stopped. The church was never finished, but left to ruin.

One of the outside walls of the ruined cathedral.

Here we are, under a Bougainvilla bush, along one of the inside walls.

From there we went to a bakery that was operated by six sisters. We had another treat here…Mexican hot chocolate and fresh baked cookies. Of course, I was very interested in the operation of the bakery.

The big mixer

The oven.

Their work table.
It was amazing, to me, that they could work as efficiently as they did in such cramped quarters, but they certainly turn out delicious cookies and cakes. One sister told us, since they all have children, the children play in the inner courtyard while the ladies work, and someone always keeps an eye on the children.

Once again on the bus, we proceeded to travel further into the mountains to another larger village, called Talpa. This town is known for a miracle happening in the small church on September 19, 1664. I will try to keep my interpretation brief: On this day, a priest came to the village to hold Mass. After the service, he instructed some women to take down all the religious statues, wrap them in cloth and bury them in the cemetery. The statues, which were made of organic material, such as corn stalks, had become faded, torn, and insect-infested. The statues could not be simply burned or discarded, as they were blessed. As one lady started to take down the statue of the Blessed Virgin, suddenly there was a great light and the statue was transformed into a brilliant, beautiful statue of the Virgin.

That statue still resides in the town, but has been moved to a larger cathedral. Every year hundreds of people make pilgrimages to the cathedral to pray to the Blessed Virgin. As one arrives within a mile or so of the city, we began to see sidewalks alongside the road, as many pilgrims will approach the city on their knees.

Inside the cathedral, with the Blessed Virgin statue. If you look closely, you can see some people approaching the Virgin on their knees. They got on their knees inside the church. Even so, I cannot imagine how their knees must hurt.

The main square of Talpa, by the cathedral.

Later, we got back in our little minivan and headed back to Mascota. Outside the town we stopped at a private bed and breakfast, where the owner had prepared a delicious lunch of bean soup, and fajitas for us.

It was a quiet place, far away from the town.

The bed and breakfast.

After lunch, we had about a half hour to walk around the grounds, relax, then we headed back to Puerto Vallarta.

It was a day I shall remember. I learned more Mexican history and had the opportunity to see how the people in these small, remote villages not only survive, but prosper.

We were very tired when we got back to our hotel, but happy to have had such an enlightening day.

Adios for now,
Dolly

Buenas Tardes,

Now I must switch to English. I have exhausted my Spanish vocabulary.

Frank and I decided we needed another vacation; therefore, we flew down to Puerto Vallarta on Friday.

We arrived at our hotel around 6:00 p.m., after spending almost 2 hours going through Immigration and Customs. The lines were long, but progressed smoothly. No one seemed to be upset or angry. Eventually, we retrieved our bags, ran the gauntlet through time share salesmen and found our taxi. We arrived here, at Club Regina, in time for Happy Hour. Our timing is impeccable.

The hotel sits among lush green gardens, palm trees and swimming pools. At the western edge of the property is the Pacific Ocean. The setting is so peaceful and relaxing, although the buildings are painted white with bubble-gum pink accents, interspersed with bright yellow accents. I think that design is to keep the guests from getting too bored.

The view from our room.

After we got settle into our room, Frank and I walked down to a bar to have an evening cocktail. Frank could not get a martini, as the bar did not stock vermouth. We settled for a glass of Chardonnay each, as the bar did not have Pinot Grigio, either. Hmm. This could be a long week. We did have a delicious seafood dinner, though, and as we were both tired, we turned in early for a good night’s sleep.

Yesterday, we went into town. The concierge told us we could get a taxi to town for about 100 pesos, which is a bit under $6.00 US. I asked if there wasn’t a bus that went to town. Yes, there was. We found the bus, paid our 7.50 pesos. ( 45 cents US). Not that we are cheap, but I thought the experience of taking local transport would be interesting. That it was.

One of the buses.

The buses run every 15 minutes, and are an efficient mode of transport, but we had to hang on tight, as the young driver weaved his way through traffic. Oh, to be young and fearless. We made it to our destination, though, safe and almost sound.

Our destination was the Malecón, which is a one mile, 12 block promenade that borders the sea.
This esplanade is traffic free, flowers and trees planted in a median all along the route. There are many sculptures in this area, as well as some innovative sand sculptures.

Some of the sculptures.

One of the sand sculptures.

Eventually, we reached the southern end of the Malecón. We knew there was an excellent restaurant nearby, and we found it.

We went into an almost empty restaurant, as it was about 4:00 p.m by then. The waiter was very gracious. We told him we had been there before, several years ago. He was pleased that we remembered his restaurant and that we came back.

After our late lunch, we then caught a bus going back toward our hotel. Another adventure. We got off the bus this time at Walmart. We wanted to buy some groceries, so we didn’t have to eat out every meal. Of course, our grocery bags were so heavy when we left, we got a taxi back to the hotel, for a cost of less than $4 US.

We bought a papaya, a pineapple, some little limes, a couple of pastries, to make our breakfast this morning. The fruit was so delicious…we have enough papaya to last the rest of the week.

The rest of our day was spent just being lazy..we watched football…(.hey, did the Seahawks get lucky, or what?) later, I went down to one of the pools. Nothing like floating on my back, looking up at palm trees and wispy clouds to relax the mind.

This is just one of the pools. Peaceful, isn’t it?

We are having Happy Hour in our condo, then we will go down to a restaurant for dinner. Maybe. We have fruit, bread, cheese and wine here. Who could ask for anything more.

So I will say, Adios, till next time. More adventures to come, I am sure.

Your traveling blog writer,
Dolly

Lake Tahoe

Hello, everyone,

I know. I usually write blog posts when I am in another country; however, right here in Northern California, we have a most beautiful place to visit: Lake Tahoe. The lake does sit on the border of California and Nevada, and both side are very lovely. We (Frank and I) decided to take a week, for R&R, and stay (almost) local. This area is a two hour drive from our home. We came up here Friday afternoon, and checked into the Lake Tahoe Vacation Club. This is a very nice resort, and our room has a kitchen that makes it easy to do some cooking, if I want to do that. We weren’t here to cook, however, so we looked at other alternatives, like having fun!

Friday night, we took a dinner cruise on the paddle wheel boat, Tahoe Queen. That was a nice treat. Although it did get too dark to see much of the lake scenery, we enjoyed the dinner, visiting with our table companions and hearing the captain’s commentary on the history of the lake. The history is very interesting, but I would have to do more research to write intelligently on the subject. What I do know is that the lake is 2 to 3 million years old, and that it is the second deepest lake in the United States, surpassed only by Crater Lake in Oregon.

We arrived at the boat dock just as the sun was setting. I couldn’t ask for a more striking sunset.

So lovely.

Although the lake is shallower than usual, due to the drought, the boat was able to get through the narrow inlet into Emerald Bay. We enjoyed our little voyage. We had to be bussed from our vacation resort over to Zephyr Cove to take this trip. Usually, the Tahoe Queen sails from a dock not 100 yards from our hotel. Again, the drought is to blame.

Sunday we took a drive, went over the Carson mountain range into the desert terrain of western Nevada. We wanted to see Virginia City, which had been a booming metropolis in the 1890’s, during the silver mining heyday. It is hard, for me, to imagine the hardships people had to go through, to get up to Virginia City during that time. The road up to that city now is twisty, windy, lots of gear shifting and we were driving on a highway.! We had driven over the mountains from the very green, mountainous region of Lake Tahoe, crossed the Carson Range, and went immediately into desert country. However, visiting Virginia City is a step back in time, about 150 years, so I felt it was worth the drive to see this old city.

At St. Mary’s’ of the Mountains.

We parked near this church. This church was built in 1875, burned to the ground in 1875 and rebuilt in 1876. That tells me that the church was a very important part of the silver miner’s life. One block away stands the Episcopal church, built in the same era. So the miners had choices for their religious needs.

The Episcopal church

To get to the city center, we walked 2 blocks, uphill, to the Main Street.. On this street we saw saloon after saloon, a few brothels and an opera house. One saloon had a Suicide Table. I didn’t really investigate that, but we enjoyed our step back into time, without finding how to kills ourselves.

Yesterday, with the wind blowing all clouds away, leaving us with a wonderful sunny day, we decided to drive all the way around the lake. From our hotel, we drove west, then took a right turn onto Highway 89, and started following the highway that goes up the western side of the lake.

We stopped at an overlook where we could see the island in Emerald Bay.

There is one of the paddle wheel boats, going around the island.

We continued on our trip. I wanted to stop in Tahoe City, and see the area which is the only outlet from Lake Tahoe to the Truckee River. Usually, we would stand on the bridge, watch the fish swim up into the lake. So many people would be hanging over the railings, watching this, that the bridge became known as Fanny Bridge. Not so, now.

Not so good for swimming or diving.

We continued on our way, stopping at Gar Woods, in Carnelian Bay, for a late lunch, then back on to our home for the week.

Despite the drought, this area is still so peaceful, lovely to see, and lovely to stay here.

Today, the sky is an ominous gray. The temperature reached a high of 60 degrees F. We really hope that the rain predicted for tomorrow, does comes about, although it would impact our hiking plans. We need the rain..

I am happy we chose to do this time away from home. I am so glad to see the beauty of our Sierra mountains, and I am also happy that we only had to drive 2 hours to get here.

As I was driving, I remembered that one item on my Bucket List, is to kayak around the perimeter of the lake. The lake has 72 miles of shoreline. I think, that by kayaking 8 to 10 miles a day, I could do this in 10 days. However, I do not want to sleep on the beaches. I want a boat that has a motor, to follow me, just in case I get into trouble, and also someone to ferry me up to a nice hotel at the end of each day, so that I can shower, have a good meal, a glass or two of wine, sleep well, then be ferried back to my kayak the next day. I also would like someone to kayak with me.. Do I have any takers to join me on this trek?

This gorgeous lake.
Until we talk again,

Ciao for now,
Dolly

Hello,

I have to apologize. We were so busy during our last few days in New Zealand, that I simply did not have time to write without feeling rushed; therefore, I am writing about Wellington after I am back on United States soil. Nevertheless, Wellington is still very much in my mind. What a lovely city.

The official welcoming sign, showing how breezy Wellington can be..

We were fortunate that the weather continued to be in our favor. We had arrived in Wellington at night, so we were very happy to wake up to a beautiful sunny day for our tour of the city. Aaron had arranged a tiny little minibus with a driver, to take us on our tour. As Wellington is a very hilly town, we soon saw the wisdom in that choice.

First, we drove up to the top of a hill that can also be accessed by a cable car. From this vantage point, one can walk down through the lovely Botanical Gardens. We did not have time for that leisurely stroll, so our little bus took us down to the glass buildings of the gardens.

Some of the lovely orchids growing in the glass house.

Next, our driver took us up another very winding road to an overlook, where we could see the city and the Harbour.

Looking down at the city and the Lamdon Harbour

We visited Old St. Paul’s Church. This church was built in the 1860’s, by shipbuilders. It was the Diocese of the Anglican Church for over 100 years. When a new cathedral was built, this church was in danger of being torn down. Thank goodness the Historical Society prevailed, as this church is beautiful.

Looking down the aisle of the church. You can see the ceiling looks like an upside down ship’s hull. There is so much lovely wood in the church…engraved beams, the pews, the altars.

We drove past the Parliament houses…

The Beehive. This is the Executive Wing of New Zealand Parliament. I assume the beehive shape is to project how busy the Parliament is, in there.

But my favorite place of all was the National Museum, Te Papa. It is situated on the waterfront and is a fabulous collection of Maori culture, memories and exhibits of both World Wars, science exhibits, showing, and letting one feel, earthquakes. Dioramas of how volcanoes erupt, how the mountains are pushed up by sliding tectonic plates. We entered the realm of the deepest seas, and saw a giant squid, who was under glass and dead, I am happy to say.

Part of the quilt exhibit. Handmade quilts tell many stories in the Maori culture. These were so pretty, stitching so intricate. Maori women make these quilts, often as a social get-together, but there is a story in each one.

There was so much to see. Nearby our hotel, the waterfront area was so entertaining. Many shops, restaurants, outdoor art works, places to sit and relax. It is hard to believe this area was a thriving United States Marine Corps base during World War II. When the Marines left, they gave this land back to New Zealand, and this waterfront area was developed. What a great gift.

The day we left, I just had to go back to the museum. It had made such an impression on me, and there were areas I hadn’t seen, some I wanted to see again. One very nice feature of the museum is that is open to everyone, free of charge. There is a donation box so that contributions can be made to keep it free.

All in all, Wellington is a lovely city. There were so many little nooks and crannies…small parks with children playing, people sitting on the grass eating lunch, enjoying the sunshine. I could have spent more time there. However, all good things come to an end, so Wednesday afternoon we had to trek off to the airport, fly to Aukland and from Auckland fly back home to the United States.

This was a marvelous trip. Everyday was a new and exciting adventure. I enjoyed every minute of the trip.

There are still some stories and pictures I would like to share, in future posts. Particularly some of the foods that are considered ?delicacies? So, as I continue to re-live my fabulous New Zealand adventure, I will write more about the country.

Can you believe I have hardly mentioned the fantastic wines from this country? Oh, my. Definitely more posts coming your way.

But I must say, goodby for now,
Dolly

Kia Ora,

It is now late at night. I am in my very comfortable hotel room in the heart of Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city. We had such a long day, I was certain I would sleep well. But, no. That was not to be. I was jolted out of a deep sleep by the sound of an emergency vehicle siren going past on the street below. I realized then, that we had not been in a big city since we left Auckland, which was nine days ago. How quickly my mind and body had adjusted to the quieter atmosphere of the smaller towns and the peacefulness of the great outdoors.

Early this morning, right after breakfast, we boarded our bus and left the west coast town of Greymouth. We had been blessed all week with sunny, pleasant weather. This morning, though, there were some clouds in the sky, and the air was quite chilly. With our excellent driver, Paul, we started going inland traveling a bit south and east, traversing the Southern Alps. We went over Arthur’s Pass, one of the highest mountain passes, driving on a steep, winding highway. Paul stopped the bus at a turnout, so that we could take pictures. The temperature outside was 34 degrees Fahrenheit, and a sharp, cold breeze blowing.

Looking back at the road we had just traveled, to get to the top of Arthur’s Pass and the river flowing along the base of the mountains.

We each took a couple photos, and we’re more than ready to hop back on the bus. We went just a bit further up the road, and stopped again at a cafe, so we could all get a cup of coffee. Then Aaron, our tour guide, led us on a short walk to a small chapel, then to the Visitor’s Center The little church was very pretty, as the window behind the pulpit looked out at a grand waterfall. Unfortunately, my picture did not turn out well, as the sun was shining brightly on the waterfall.

I will show you the window in the chapel, anyway, even if you cannot see the waterfall.

This area has many different kinds of outdoor activities: hiking, mountain biking, white water sports (don’t think that tiny river below the highway is the only river here). There is river fishing, lake fishing, just about any kind of outdoor activity is available. This is very rugged country, so one has to be knowledgable and prepared for dealing with the elements. One poster in the Visitors’ Center was entitled, “How to Kill Yourself in Arthur’s Pass”.

Back on the bus again, we started our descent into the valley, leaving the Alps behind us.

Sheep grazing in the mountain fields. This is prime country for Merino sheep, as they thrive best when they can graze on the mountains. We were told, later, when we visited the sheep station, that Merino sheep need a very different diet from the sheep that are raised in the valleys.

We visited a working sheep station, where the owner and his dog, Pete, gave us a demonstration of the herding qualities of the Border Collie. The shepherd actually use another dog, called a Huntawey (I don’t know how to spell that). The Huntawey barks, causing the sheep to group together in a herd. Then the Border Collie keeps them in a herd, and directs them towards the shepherd. We also got to see sheep shearing.

Pete, being loved by Stephanie

The naked sheep, with her wool on the floor.

Next, we went to a remote resort area for lunch. We had grilled lamb patties, sausages, baked potatoes and salads, along with several dessert selections. After lunch,we visited the alpacas, and some more sheep.

The alpacas.

When we left this place, we continued on to Christchurch, on the east coast. Christchurch had been devastated by two earthquakes: the first, in September, 2010, but the second one, in February, 2011, caused the greatest destruction. For me, it was very sad to see the city as it is now. Rebuilding has been very difficult. So many buildings have been torn down; others waiting to be restored or demolished. We had stayed in Christchurch in 2005, and the vision I saw today made me very sad.

The ruined cathedral.

We left the city, went towards the airport, and visited the Antarctic Center, which is right near the airport. I loved seeing the little blue penguins. That cheered me up.

These are the tiniest penguins in the world. The ones we saw today have been rescued, having suffered injuries to their tiny feet or flippers, rehabilitated, but they would not survive in the wild again, so their permanent home is at the Antarctic Center.

After our visit there, we were taken to the airport; there we had to say goodbye to Paul, who had been our driver and companion for the past several days. We flew from Christchurch to Wellington, arriving a little after 8:00 p.m. As I said earlier, it had been a very long day, but with so many interesting stops and sights.

We will be here for the next few days, and then our fantastic New Zealand adventure will come to a close. I will fly back to the United States late Wednesday afternoon.

I will try to get another blog post written, after we have had the chance to visit Wellington.

I do trust you have enjoyed visiting this amazing country with me, and that you are planning your own OAT trip to New Zealand.

There is so much that I haven’t written about. I haven’t told you about the food, the cultural differences between our countries…I will try to write about those things, and more, after I get home.

So I shall say goodnight for now, and try to get some sleep. I can only hope another siren doesn’t go by and wake me again. I shall try to adjust to city life again,

Dolly

Kia Ora,

We had stayed overnight in the little town of Fox, very close to Franz Josef. Today, on a beautiful sunny day,me drove to Franz Josef. We were met at the beginning of the nature walk path by Paul, a local guide and expert on the geology and history of this glacier. Paul walked with us for about an hour, telling us about this fast-moving glacier. I had seen this ten years ago, and could not believe how far the glacier had retreated in that time.

There were some lovely waterfalls coming down the mountainsides.

The geology and the dynamics of this glacier were pointed out to us by Paul.

Paul and our group.

After visiting the glacier, we boarded our bus again and headed toward Greymouth, where we would stay for the next two nights. Being the pragmatic person that I am, I had thought I would compose my blog posts as we drove along the roads to each destination. Not going to happen! The scenery was so astounding, and so lovely, I just had to look out the window and see the cattle in the fields, the sheep on the hillsides, the deer farms, where they raise this very tasty venison as a market crop. In the background were the icy, snow topped Southern Alps. Wherever we went, the scenery was lovely, relaxing and I simply could not do anything but enjoy the view.

So simple, so clean and unadulterated.

When we got closer to the sea, where the rivers meet the sea, fishermen were netting “whitebait”. This is such a cultural delicacy that I shall not go into it now..this merits its own post.

Whitebait and Other New Zealand Delicacies. Coming soon.

We arrived at Greymouth in the early evening, got settled into our rooms, then enjoyed a cocktail and dinner with our group at the hotel.

Today we headed further north, still following the Tasman seacoast, until we came to Pancake Rocks, a geological but unique and beautiful natural phenomenon along the coast.
If you can see the layers of rocks, resembling pancakes: layers upon layers of fossilized sea life and minerals. Amazing. These do not exist anywhere else in the world.

Back on the bus again, we traveled inland to Reeftown, an old gold mining town, but still alive and vibrant. We had a special guide, again, another Paul. (We have learned that most of our guides and/or drivers are named either Paul or Mike). We had lunch at the visitor center, where we were joined by several kids from the schools around Reefton, as well as a few adults, who joined us for lunch and told us about life In their hometown.

After lunch we went to the re-created Bearded Miners’ Camp, where the old guys told us about the miners’ life in early Reeftown.

One of the miners explaining life in the old days.

We finished our day trip with a visit to a dairy farm. There, Nancy, one of our travelers, got to check an item off her bucket list. She got to milk a cow.

There goes Nancy, into the pit.
We visited with the delightful family that own the farm, and we’re very captivated by Laughlin, the 9 year old grandson, who took over the tour guiding, leading us into the gardens.

Laughlin is either going to be an OAT tour leader in about ten years, or a politician. He was very charismatic, explaining how his artistic aunt had built the garden over the past thirty years.

Eventually, we made our way back to Greymouth. We had the best intentions of going down to the beach for a sunset picnic, but we had some wine and snacks in Margaret and Maureen’s room here in the hotel, and we never got to the beach.

This has been a most awesome trip. The country of New Zealand is so unspoiled..towns are small and separated by miles and miles of open fields, mountains, or just treacherous terrain. The people living here are resilient, able to fix anything with Number 8 wire…they are very friendly and receptive to us, as tourists.

Also, our group of twelve are probably the most compatible group of travelers I have ever had the pleasure of traveling with. All of us have traveled extensively. In fact, Aaron told us, that between the twelve of us, we have done 65 OAT or Grand Circle tours, and we don’t even know how many trips we have each taken independently. This makes a wonderful group experience, when we talk about our travels, as we did tonight, over wine and snacks.

> Aaron, our tour leader, is a native New Zealander; he is a real Kiwi. Aaron is so passionate about his country, and he is so knowledgeable. Here is a picture of Aaron, taken in the Redwood Forest in Rotorua, showing us the silver fern, which is the national symbol of New Zealand.

It is hard to believe that tomorrow we will fly to Wellington, and in three days we will have to fly home.

I will try to write more later, but, as I said, I am so busy soaking up the scenery, the culture, the history of this country, I have been remiss in my writing, I know you will forgive me.

After I get home, I plan to write about differences in New Zealand culture from ours, as well as cuisine of this country, other aspects of New Zealand that I just haven’t had the time to write about.

I know, if you come here, once you see those snowy peaks of the Southern Alps, you will understand why I am writing when everyone else is sleeping . This is the only time I am not being distracted by the beauty of New Zealand.

Just one last picture, and I will stop.

Goodnight for now. Are you booking your Overseas Adventure Travel tour yet? A visit to this country should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Dolly

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