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A lot has changed in New Zealand since the isolation of earlier days. It used to be that you couldn’t find a decent cup of coffee on either island; today you can’t pass a village without an espresso stand. Kiwis used to head out on walkabout and see the world. They still do, but now they actually come home. On one list of the world’s most livable cities, New Zealand has two in the top 15: Auckland and Wellington. (The U.S. has none in the top 25.) The draw is so great that some towns are plagued with housing shortages, and prices have increased 83 percent in the past seven years.

How all this will affect the Kiwi character, one can only guess. Personally, I doubt much. Heading back to the car after the waterfall and the fur seals, we reached a small wooden bridge. From its edge I could see down to the beach. Coming up the creek all alone was perhaps the littlest pup of all. Whether a runt or a particularly young one, who knows, but it gamely made its way up the streambed, cresting rocks, sometimes toppling, sometimes slipping backward, but always determined. I can’t be certain, but it sure seemed like he was having himself a bit of fun.

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