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‘EAR, NEWS, AND THROAT’
The Magic of New Zealand DOWN UNDER … AND A LITTLE TO THE RIGHT
I am fortunate to have traveled a lot in my life. In the year between finishing my residency and moving to Texas, I enjoyed a time frame in which I alternated between working and traveling for a fewmonths. For about three months in early 2011, I spent some time exploring Australia and New Zealand. February of 2011 was spent entirely in New Zealand, and it was one of the best months of my life. When I think of wonderful trips, I think of New Zealand. I flew over from Sydney, Australia, rented a car, and drove all over the North and South Islands. It was summer down in the southern hemisphere, so I was able to hike mountains and go to the beach in February. One of the best sights was Milford Sounds, a fiord in the South Island. And even though it was the middle of their summer, the jagged mountains outside the city of Queenstown —which are literally called The Remarkables —were capped with bright white snow. Everywhere I looked, there was something beautiful to see. New Zealand was isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years, so life looks different there. Yes, you’ll see birds and grass, but you’ll also find plants and animals that are unique to that area. It makes every inch of the country — the trees, the grass, the mountains, even the sand — look magical. There’s a reason Peter Jackson decided to film the Lord of the Rings movies in New Zealand. There are only around 4.9 million people living in New Zealand, meaning there aren’t many massive cities or traffic. Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, is home to 1.6 million people, more than the entire population of the South Island. For perspective, there are 39 million sheep in New Zealand, outnumbering humans 8 to 1. It’s this small population that makes New Zealand so special. What I loved most about New Zealand was how it felt like driving through an idealized version of 1950’s America. I just drove through untamed wilderness, passing through the occasional small town. Everyone I met in these towns were so nice. I was always welcomed with open arms and got the feeling that everyone really was friends with everyone else.
Most of my New Zealand trip was a magical time, but there was one thing I never hope to experience again. Towards the end of my trip, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake occurred in Christchurch, the city where I happened to be staying. This earthquake became New Zealand’s fifth-deadliest disaster, and I was lucky to have made it out okay. The earthquake and the aftershocks were terrifying, but the evening after the earthquake, I saw something pretty amazing. Everyone in the building I was staying at all gathered together outside just to hang out. I met so many cool people and established relationships I would have never found anywhere else. People bond after going through a disaster together, and I take it as a sign that we can get through anything as long as we remember that we have each other. New Zealand is my favorite place in the world. I haven’t been back since, but I would love to return with my family when Audrey is a little older. If you ever have the opportunity to visit New Zealand, I recommend staying for at least two weeks. That’s the minimum amount of time to justify flying halfway
around the world. And that’s howmuch time you’ll need to explore the islands. Be sure to rent a car and drive around yourself. It’s the best way to soak up all the beauty. Just don’t forget that Kiwis drive on the opposite side of the road. –Dr. Seth Evans
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