Daily Archives: October 15, 2008

The Seven Wonders of New Zealand

Posted by on October 15, 2008

Ladies, gentlemen and Kiwis of all ages. With the assistance of New Zealand native son Craig Martin, author of the Travelling Europe ebook, I present to you the Seven Wonders of New Zealand!


White Island

White Island

White Island
Known as Whakaari in the local Maori dialect, the name “White Island” came from Captain Cook who thought it was always in a cloud of white steam. Located in the Bay of Plenty near the North Island, it is an active volcano and was the former location of a sulfur mining operation which ended in disaster. Helicopter and boat trips to the island leave daily from Whakatane.



White Island

Milford Sound


Milford Sound
Perhaps the most magnificent location in all of New Zealand, Milford Sound is technically a fijord. Viewing the sound is done via many boat tour operators which operate from the harbor. Day trips leave from Queenstown, which is the closest major city to Milford Sound. The Milford Track is also one of the most popular hiking trails in the country. The number of hikers on the track is limited to 40 per day. If you visit during a rain storm, you can witness hundreds of waterfalls which will appear on the walls of the sound.



Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier


Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers
The only glaciers in the Pacific, Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers have the unique distinction of being the only glaciers in the world which flow into tropical forests. Only a 30 min drive from each other, the glaciers can be accessed from the town of Franz Joseph Glacier. Both glaciers are very accessible by walking, though it is not recommended to get to close because of dangers from falling ice. Also unlike many glaciers around the world, both glaciers have been advancing since the mid 1980s.



Poor Knight Islands

Poor Knight Islands by David Galvan

Poor Kinights Islands
The Poor Knights were named by Jacques Cousteau as one of the 10 best dive locations in the world. He probably knew what he was talking about. Located in the north end of the North Island, the Poor Knights shows the diversity of the geography of New Zealand, as you can go diving in tropical waters one day and visit fjords and glaciers the next. The Poor Knights are a protected marine reserve. The Poor Knights are best accessed from Whangarei or Tutukaka, north of Auckland.



Rotorua Hot Spring

Rotorua Hot Spring

Rotorua
Rotorua is one of the most active geothermal areas in the world. You can find boiling mud and pools of scalding water in the city parks. There are also geysers and geothermal spas nearby. You will know when you are close to Rotorua because of the strong sulfur smell in the city. In addition to the geothermal attractions, Rotorua is also a hub for adventure tourism as well as water sports on Lake Rotorua. Rotorua can be reached in a days driving from Auckland.



Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park
Home of the real Mount Doom and many of the landscapes from The Lord of the Rings, Tongariro National Park is home to three active volcanoes: Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro. The park has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Tongariro Track is one of the most popular hiking destinations for backpackers in New Zealand, and Tongariro also has one of the most popular ski slopes in the country.



All Blacks

All Blacks by Darren Waters

All Blacks
While not a traditional type of selection, the All Blacks are perhaps the sports team which is most closely associated with a single country. The three most popular sports in New Zealand are rugby, rugby and rugby. The All Blacks are the New Zealand national rugby union team and have been playing for over 100 years. The team name is believed to have come from a typo in a British newspaper who wanted to describe the Kiwis as all backs. Always ranked near top of world standings, they have sadly only won a single world cup. They are famous for the haka, a Maori war dance, which they perform before every match. Watch a video of the haka.


Other articles in Gary’s Wonders of the World series:
Seven Wonders of the Philippines | Seven Wonders of Australia | Seven Wonders of New Zealand | Seven Wonders of Japan | Seven Wonders of Egypt

Gates at the Fushimi, Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan

Posted by on October 15, 2008

Gates at the Fushimi, Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan

Gates at the Fushimi, Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan


The Fushimi Inari Shrine is, in my opinion, the most impressive shrine in all of Kyoto. It is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirit Inari, who looks over agriculture and personal fortune. The path up the mountain is lined by orange gates which are sponsored and constantly being built and rebuilt.

Forget Obama and McCain. Vote Gary!

Posted by on October 15, 2008

Top 10 reasons to vote for me over Omaba or McCain:

    10) More foreign policy experience.
    9) I don’t need no running mate. I’ve been doing it solo for a year and a half.
    8) Unlike Sarah Palin, I have a passport.
    7) Unlike Joe Biden, I write my own material.
    6) I’m younger than McCain and Obama COMBINED! (….wait, that makes no sense)
    5) I’ve seen the movie Maverick AND Hope Floats.
    4) I’m quite certain that I could beat either guy in a debate. (seriously, I could. I’ve doing it since 1984)
    3) Fulfill your obligation to celebrities who want you to vote, without having to choose the lesser evil.
    2) No long lines at the polling station.
    1) Dimples!

    There you have it. This is my last annoying post begging for your vote. Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote and to those who haven’t, you have your assignment. Voting ends on the end of the 15th.

    VOTE!

    On some other news, I have an article on Travelblogs.com on podcasting while traveling, and one at Boots N’ All on the World Heritage sites of the Australian Outback.

    I have my visa to Vietnam and will be leaving Phnom Penh on Friday to Saigon (Ho Chi Min City). I did some photography at the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng prison. That will be its own post when I process the photos. (and I still have a LOT of photos from Angkor to go through).

On Poverty

Posted by on October 15, 2008

I have been meaning to write on this subject for many months now. The Blog Action day (October 15) sort of gave me an excuse to go ahead and do it.

Over the course of my trip, I’ve seen the most severe poverty I’ve seen in my life. From tin shacks in the Solomon Islands to stick shelters in Cambodia, I’ve seen some things which were truly shocking. Intellectually, you know these things exist and you’ve seen photos and television shows about it, but until you can see it first hand, it doesn’t really sink in.

I’ve spent a lot of brain cycles thinking about poverty on my trip. I have no answers, but I have come to some conclusions based on the things I’ve seen. I may very well revise this list in the future as I see and experience more, but I feel confident with the following observations.

Poverty is the default condition of humanity.
Go back even 100 years, and pretty much everyone on the planet was poor. Go back 200 or 1,000 years, and this was definitely true. I don’t think there are many people who would prefer to be a nobleman in ancient Rome versus an average person today. The question of “why is there poverty?” is the wrong question. Do nothing, and you’ll get poverty. The recipe for creating poverty is easy. The truly horrible poverty in the world today isn’t a result of prosperity which disappeared, it is a case of prosperity which never happened. The problem with poor in the developing world is that they still live a material existence similar to those 100 or 1,000 years ago did. The greater and more important questions is “why do some countries become rich?”, which incidentally was the same question Adam Smith asked 200 years ago when he wrote An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations..

Decades of civil war helped create conditions which lad to some of the worst poverty I’ve seen in East Timor

Decades of civil war helped create conditions which lad to some of the worst poverty I’ve seen in East Timor

Culture Matters
Cultural institutions may be the most important thing which determines the overall, long term prosperity of a country. This is good and bad. Good policies cannot overcome cultural institutions which prevent growth, and bad policies can be overcome by positive cultural attributes. I can give two examples of this: In Hong Kong I several times walked into or by a store which had bouquets of flowers all around. I thought someone might have died or perhaps there was a wedding. I eventually saw a card on some of the flowers written in English. The flowers were sent there in celebration of a new business opening. Look at the names of many Chinese businesses and you’ll see references to fortune, prosperity, and luck. Something about Chinese culture encourages entrepreneurship. When I was in Samoa, I remember talking to a cab driver. He mentioned that most of any money he earns (up to 90%) goes directly to his village. While he doesn’t mind helping his village and his family, there is little incentive to work or take risks because almost everything goes to the chiefs. Most of the GDP in Samoa now consists of remittances from people who left to work in New Zealand or the US, away from the village structure. Institutions which were developed to cope with a pre-industrial life do not always adapt to modern economies.

The girl on the left made me come the closest to crying on my trip. She and her friend were both orphans, but she couldn't speak and I believe was born with a cleft pallet.

The girl on the left made me come the closest to crying on my trip. She and her friend were both orphans, but she couldn't speak and I believe was born with a cleft pallet.

We Confuse Types of Poverty
We use the word “poverty” to describe people in the US who make less than $20,000/year. Earning that much would make you wealthy in most countries on Earth. Poverty here in Cambodia (where I’m writing this) describes a totally different phenomenon than what the word is used to described in developed countries. This is not to say that some extreme poverty doesn’t exist in the US and other developed nations (American Indian reservations, the rural south, Australian aboriginal lands come to mind) but from a strict material stand point, they are apples and oranges. We should develop a different word or vocabulary to describe the type of poverty which exists in the developing world.

There is no lack of motivation
All over South East Asia I’ve seen people working, hustling, and doing what they can to make ends meat. In Phnom Penh I was struck by how the street level of almost every building is in some way devoted to commerce. Every village I went through in Indonesia and the Philippines had people selling and offering services in addition to farming. You often have large numbers of people competing in the same line of work, because the work has a low capital requirement for entry. Massage parlors, tuk tuk drivers, food carts, and roadside gasoline vendors are all good examples.

Despite the per capita GDP numbers, you could find extreme poverty in Brunei directly across the street from the National Mosque and a mile away from the largest palace in the world.

Despite the per capita GDP numbers, you could find extreme poverty in Brunei directly across the street from the National Mosque and a mile away from the largest palace in the world.

Numbers Lie
When I go to a new country, I always look at economic data for the places I visit. I have concluded that for the most part, they do not really tell the story of where a country is at economically. The best example of this was when I crossed the border between Brunei and Malaysia. On paper, Brunei has almost twice the per capita GDP of Malaysia. When I crossed the border into Malaysia however, instead of seeing a poorer country, I thought the average condition of houses, roads and buildings was better than in Brunei. Anecdotal evidence is really a much better indicator, even if it is much harder to work with for academics. Condition of roads, state of the power grid, mobile phone usage, home construction techniques, number of cranes you can see in major cities, are all better indicators than the quantitative ones you’ll see in reports.

Conclusion
I don’t believe there is a silver bullet policy which will bring people out of poverty. While the recipe to make poverty is easy, each country has its own set of issues to face: different governments, different cultures, different ethnic mixes, different histories, different geographies, and different sets of resources.

Organizations like Kiva.org I think are great ways to do something on a personal level. They use techniques which I believe are much better than the heavy handed “give stuff away for free” approach which often destroys local crop markets, making matters much worse.

There is much more I could have written on this subject, but a blog post should only be so long. This will definitely be a chapter in my book which I’ll be writing in 2009.