Saturday, September 6, 2014

Saturday: Fox Glacier -> Picton

Saturday was mostly spent driving, my longest stretch of the trip. From Fox Glacier to Franz Joseph the road was very twisty and slow going, but after that it mostly straightened out, and I was able to make good time for most of the day. I had lunch in Westport, after a stretch of driving along the west coast that reminded me of the final scene of the original Planet of the Apes movie: long beaches under steep hills with lots of big, broken rocks littering the coast (no ruined monuments though). From Westport I headed inland, and basically drove across the country in an afternoon, arriving at Picton around 5pm. Tomorrow I get the ferry across the Cook Strait (yes, just about everything here is named after James Cook) to Wellington, where I'll spend 3 nights.

After I settled in my room I did my laundry and then walked down the street for dinner at a pub, where my first drink was free when I showed my motel room key. I enjoyed a nice dinner while watching the first half of the Argentina-New Zealand rugby match. I got to see my first full Haka (the ceremonial Maori war dance that the All Blacks and other New Zealand national teams do before a match); some at the bar were sort of joining in on that. And I was impressed that the New Zealand national anthem played before the game was fully bilingual - one verse each in Maori and English.

Watched the second half of the match in my room.

There is an election approaching in a few weeks here, and l've been seeing signs along the road everywhere I go. New Zealand is a parliamentary democracy like Canada, but they are one of the few countries using the MMP electoral system, a form of proportional representation in which some members of Parliament are elected to represent a district, while others are appointed from party lists. This means that any party that either wins a district seat, or reaches 5% of the party vote gets a share of the seats that very closely matches its percent of the vote. This means there are lots of parties in Parliament, and normally coalitions of some sort are needed to form a governing majority.

Last night I watched a televised debate, featuring only the small party leaders (i.e. the 8 leaders of parties who had no hope of actually winning the election. The largest of these was the Green Party, with double-digit support, but there was quite a range of very focused parties, including the Internet-Mana alliance which is partly funded by Kim Dotcom! It was pretty interesting, and a bit strange to see the reverse of what is the norm in Canada: a debate where the major parties are excluded and the fringe parties get to talk!

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