If you have the opportunity, go.
On the 11th January 2013 at 9:30pm I got on a plane to travel half way around the world to visit a dear friend and the country that they have adopted as their new home. And wow, what an incredible country it is. I only got to spend three weeks out there, which I would suggest is the minimum anyone should stay to visit, but they were three fantastic weeks seeing some incredible sights around the north island.
I’ve never experienced a place quite like it. Huge mountains, volcanoes, lakes, winding rivers, massive waterfalls and acres upon acres of countryside and thick forest. It is really quite beautiful.
The people are potentially the most friendly and inviting I have ever met. Although I am sure there are some rude people I certainly didn’t meet one of them and everyone seemed to want to have a chat and help you out. This was a breath of fresh air compared to some across the UK, it saddens me to say. Their way of life is very relaxed and chilled out. It takes some getting used to but once it clicks you realise that this is probably how we should all live.
I have heard some people say it is like stepping back in time ten years, I’m not sure I agree on that point. There are some things that are missing (central heating, double glazing and some roads need some attention) but largely it is a thoroughly modern country. Shops, restaurants and bars tend to open later and shut sooner than I am used to, which was frustrating a couple of times, but then that was really just my problem and something I had to work around and be understanding of as this is part of the more relaxed way of life.
Aside from the huge number of sheep and cattle and the odd horse and pig here and there, New Zealand is full of weird and wonderful wildlife. For the squeamish you might not be too keen on the odd array of bugs on offer, especially the Weta, but you can sleep easy knowing that none of them can kill you…they might give you a nasty nip but thats about it! I got to see a few Kiwi’s including a rare white one in captivity. They are possibly the oddest creature I have ever seen, scurrying around digging for food covered in what looks like fur rather than feathers. New Zealand is home to some fantastic zoos and nature reserves so there are plenty of chances to see the different animals up close.
If you ever get the chance to go to New Zealand here are my top tips:
- Save – NZ is more expensive than you might think despite the favourable exchange rate
- Stay for a minimum of three weeks, aim for a month or more if you can
- If you want action head to Taupo for about a week and book yourself in for all the different activities
- If you want to relax and enjoy incredible scenery and a great beach culture go to Raglan… actually go there whatever as it is gorgeous
- LOTRs geek? Go to Hobbiton in Matamata and Weta studios in Wellington
- Get advice from New Zealanders on what to do. There are a lot of tourist spots that are just that. If you want the real NZ and to see great things speak to the locals
- Visit the museums and get to know the rich Mãori culture
- Hire a car and travel at your own pace – there are plenty of motels and backpacker hostels around to stay in
- If you want some real fun get to Wellington during the rugby 7s tournament and bring your best fancy dress
- Aim to get there during the summer months – December, January, February
- Wear sunscreen all the time. You will burn (my poor ears)
I can certainly say I really enjoyed my time on holiday in New Zealand and I am definitely going to go back. Next time I would like to explore the south island as apparently it is even more stunning.
I completely understand why people move there…