I generally try to stick with the concept of exploring a new country every time I travel internationally rather than returning to the same place consecutively. There are just so many places I have yet to go and experience, but then there is New Zealand.
Before I first came to this place I had heard all the hype surrounding this country and it put me off a bit. Hype never seems to materialize for me; New Year’s Eve proves my point. When has New Year’s Eve ever been as epic as we pump it up to be? Well New Zealand lived up to all the hype and then some. This place has earned a soft spot with me, which is why I am here for the 3rd time.
It seems much easier to write about a place when it’s fresh and my first encounter but that time has long since past so allow me to try and explain the Kiwi culture as best I can as if it were my first time here.
The first time I arrived in New Zealand (after having slept off the jet-lag so that I could function well enough to cross a road) I was quickly smitten when I learned about their fresh fruit ice cream. Ian and I were walking past a strawberry farm wafting its warm summer scent our way when I saw the sandwich board sign offering fresh fruit ice cream. I’m a relatively sane person so of course I headed up the gravel road for a sampling. This operation was like nothing I’d ever seen before. They’ve got some Willy Wonka type contraption where they dump fruit in one place and shove ice cream in another and presto-change-o! You’ve got ice cream shooting out the bottom straight into a waffle cone. I thought this was a once in a lifetime ordeal and surely there isn’t another machine like this anywhere on the planet. Turns out this is a common kiwi offering and I say halleluiah, life just got better.
Kiwis, The Kiwi and A Kiwi. Confusing? Kiwis are the people of New Zealand, The Kiwi is a non-flying bird, and a Kiwi fruit is tasty goodness.
New Zealand is incredibly traveler friendly and ready for your visit. There are hotels, motels, hostels/backpackers, holiday parks, campsites, and backcountry huts. If none of those accommodations are to your liking you can rent a campervan and sleep inside whilst you tour around the incredibly winding roads at top speed.
I’m partial to the holiday parks and huts myself. Holiday Parks are like an upgraded version of KOA campgrounds. They offer campsites and about 5 different levels of cabin/room accommodations. There is always a large common area for cooking, community bathrooms and shower houses, as well as a lounging area. All of these offerings are always clean and tidy and these places are filled with foreigners and kiwis alike.
The huts. Oh, for the love. If I was smitten by the fresh fruit ice cream I am having a love affair with the huts of New Zealand.
The huts do not require a reservation and there seem to be an endless amount of them stashed throughout the tracks (trails) of the country. They vary in size and amenities but they all come standard with bunks, a wood stove, a toilet, and water of some sort. If you get out on one of the “great walks” the huts will be top of the line with running water, flush toilets, electricity, stoves and the like but really any hut is a win in my book.
Meat Pies, Cuppa, Fish ‘n’ Chips, Jandals, Torch, Haka and Dodgy As….
Envision a chicken potpie that can travel and you’ve got yourself a NZ meat pie.
Cuppa Tea? If you don’t drink tea with milk here you may get some quizzical looks. Fish ‘n’ Chips is done right rolled up in newspaper and piping hot, but recognize that ketchup and tartar are generally not given for free. I learned that the hard way when I was reprimanded for grabbing a ketchup bottle without paying for it. The reprimand was particularly jarring because Kiwis are incredibly friendly so I knew I had really made a mistake! Jandals are the flip-flops of the Kiwis and a torch is a flashlight. Haka is the warrior posture dance performed by the native Maori of New Zealand. It might be better witnessed than explained, i’m sure youtube can get you all squared away with this one. “I reckon that bloke was Dodgy As.” I like that the kiwis leave you to fill in the blank for yourself. Dodgy As, Sweet As, you get to choose your own expletive.
N-Zed. That is what you’ll hear over and over again on the radio should you actually be able to get a radio station to come in. New Zealand is behind the times in a mostly endearing way unless you’d like to have free Wi-Fi. Lonely Planet and other guidebooks are still the best option when trying to find your way around sans smart-phone accessibility. Or if you’re solely searching for a good hike just follow one of the countless kiwi fellas with the massive leg muscles in short shorts; he’s sure to be headed up something steep in short order.
Beyond all of the idiosyncrasies of New Zealand there is the most obvious and important component, the landscape. This place has got it all. There are gorgeous beaches, endless vineyards, formidable mountain ranges, beautiful lakes, geysers pools and plenty more. And if you’ve got a wild hair you can take on any of the countless adventure sports that are offered here in the out-of-doors. Ian and I took to the bungee and jumped off a bridge our first time here, which left me with a crazed expression for at least 2 days.
These reasons and many more are why I keep committing to a 9 billion hour flight to come back to this quirky and beautiful place. Posts about our current adventures here are still to come but my Internet time is- Fleeting As.