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Christchurch May 28, 1988 - Australian visit ends in Melbourne

By Bob Van Leer

  (CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND, May 28, 1988) - The day began in Melbourne, Australia with a visit to the Queen Victoria Market, a covered market for produce, meats, fish and general merchandise similar to, but better than, Paddy's in Sydney.

  The food sections of the market were a bedlam, jammed with people and merchants volubly selling their wares. If the price of the vegetables was too high for the customer the sellers were willing to make a deal. Much of the produce was familiar, but there were some strange ones, a knobby green thing about the size of a baseball called custard apples, passion fruit, and some strange vegetables.

  The meat and fish selling area was a huge building cut up into small stalls with different kinds of merchandise in different areas. In the fresh meat section there were whole sheep carcasses for $35.00, spring lambs for $28.00, and any kind of cut meats. One stall featured rabbits and venison. The only kangaroo meat on sale was for dog food.

  In the fish section some of the lobsters look big enough to fight back. The poultry section contained the normal assortment but one booth featured a local delicacy, "mutton birds", a wild shearwater, a shore bird that is harvested commercially.

  To get to the market we took a tram, an electric streetcar. Melbourne is still served by a network of these, which seem rather efficient.

  In the afternoon we boarded our bus for a trip to the airport, ending our Australian visit. Our plane was a Quantas Boeing 767, which was to take us on the three-hour flight to Christchurch. The peculiar name Quantas is an acronym for the airline, which started out as the Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service.

  The flight was uneventful until near Christchurch when the pilot said the airport was fogged in and we may have to go to Auckland to land. However, the pilot found a hole in the fog and got us in. We didn't see the airport until the wheels touched down. Customs was no problem and we got to our hotel around midnight.

  Landing at Auckland would have been a problem, because it is on North Island and our tour is on South Island. These are the two principal islands that make up New Zealand. The country is about the size of Colorado with a population of 3.3 million people.

  Apparently all is not well here, because the population has dropped 20,000 per year for the last two years. Christchurch, with a population of 300,000, is the largest city on South Island and the third largest city in the country. The New Zealand dollar is worth less than the Australian. When we converted money we got $127.70 for 100 U.S. dollars.

  Tomorrow we will be back on a bus to start our tour of South Island.

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