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Aotearoa - Land of the Long White Cloud
Member Name: logberg
Date: 31/01/06, updated on 31/01/06 (361 review reads)
Advantages: Clean, green and beautiful
Disadvantages: Long way from anywhere!!!! Perhaps not a disadvantage?
Fished up by a Maori God, Maui, in never-never-land tales, New Zealand is paradise, in the South Pacific. The myth tells that he stepped all over bush-clad land; leaving crystal-clear lakes in his footsteps, glistening in cool-green native bush, amid massive, rugged mountains, some so virginal they stand today, unconquered by man.
In the millions of years that this beautiful country has evolved it has seen primitive life, the Moriori, Maori and European settlement,less than 200 years ago - so it is a new country in civilised history.
It's thought that the Maori arrived in their wakas (canoes) around 1000 years ago, from an area you won't find on any map but it is loosely called Hawaiki. Maori legend tells of Kupe, the first warrior, finding The Land of the Long White Cloud - Aotearoa (Maori) or New Zealand, and the tribes following to settle in the land they have occupied ever since.
Troubles came when the Europeans arrived, mostly from Britain in the 1840's, and it's fair to say a time of `settling' followed - with Maori wars and the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi all prominent in the country's early settlement days.
Time has passed and history has in a way returned to troubles between some of the Maori and the rest of the country, via the government's legalisation of modern Treaty law. The jury is still out on the controversial subject of the Treaty of Waitangi and how it is being administered today. As a traveller you will not notice any of the ''issues'' so it is not really the place to go into them here.
It is fair to say that many ``people'' from diverse cultures, who have moved to New Zealand from all over the world, have made this fairly young country a thriving, cosmopolitan place to be. When you live there you are one of over 4 million people who appreciate, stunning, beautiful countryside, known as ``clean and green'', freedom to live a life of choice, democracy where your vote determines the government you deserve (MMP system has resulted in people having the chance to govern who normally would not have a look in under the Westminster system), tolerance of others and of course good health, education and welfare structures.
You can drive from the northern most tip, (Northland) via the Cook Strait Ferry system, (Inter Islander)to Bluff in the South Island, then take a smaller ferry or fly over to Stewart Island, the third island that makes up the three main islands.
When you visit, you may well hear of the claim, ``I live on the Mainland''. It depends if you are listening to the view of a North Islander for a South Islander. Personally,I live on the South Island (when in New Zealand) so, of course I am writing this as a Mainlander, but would never dream of writing any bias into this review!!!
The Centre of New Zealand is in my hometown, Nelson which is absolutely beautiful with clean, safe beaches, lakes and rivers, wineries, orchards and a strong and vibrant art and craft community. Heaven!
Like the rest of New Zealand it has survived on exports, and in the early days the country pioneered frozen storage and transportation of sheep and beef products to the 'Mother-land' or `The Home Country', being England. This continues today with the Nelson Port being one of the busiest in the South Pacific Rim. Nowadays, it exports seafood, apples and other more specialist lines like MDF building panels,to the world.
Colonial life was a huge challenge for both men and women and it's that sort of hardiness which has seen the nation evolve to enhance a culture of 'do-it-yourself' where a 'Kiwi' can do anything. Talk to people and they will boast of doing all sorts of repairs and maintenance with a piece of number eight wire! Well, not everyone runs around with number 8 wire to do creative things but it does show that New Zealanders give it a go when it needs a little inventive, creative approach! Just a little aside and of no real travel interest!
New Zealand welcomes visitors, while always being known as 'friendly' I feel there was a lack of the necessary levels of service in years gone by. But, tourism is a major income earner now so training is in place to ensure visitors are treated well and assisted to get the best out of their travel dollar. Universities, polytechnics and Maori groups work hard to provide tourism industry graduates who can lead and develop a tourism industry the country can be proud of. That education is matched by keen, active 'Kiwi's who appreciate that people need the best when they are on holiday, or who are local and want the best for visitors and friends.
You'll find lots of motels in New Zealand, something I don't see so much of in the northen hemisphere so I'll mention a bit about them here. It is best to book in advance, when you arrive you will have a little home-away-from home. You pick the number of bedrooms you want, you get a well equipped kitchen, and of course the ablutions area. Then, your holiday us up to you: self catering, but some do have restaurants attached. There may be a swimming pool, spa, sauna, barbecue or other things to attract your custom. So, it's a convenient way to accomodate yourself all over New Zealand. The moteliers go out of their way to inform you about local attractions, events and inside information so use them well and be sure to really see and experience New Zealand.
Camper vans (mobile homes) are hugely popular in New Zealand and the roads are so less busy than others in many countries of the world. Whether you are in a mobile home or a rental car, you will drive on the left-hand side of the road. The open road speed is 100 km/h (60m/ph) and in towns you have to drive 50km/h; don't think of drinking then driving, the law is strictly adhered with police out on ''surprise'' breatherlyser checks, often. Seat belts are compulsory and if you are caught without one you'll get an instant fine.
New Zealand has a well deserved reputation for its cultural events, like the Wearable Arts Festival, the South Pacific Festival and a strong New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, New Zealand Ballet Company. Its historical heart is Te Papa Museum in Wellington. ''Our Place - Te Papa'' is an ideal way to learn about where the country has come from and how it is dealing with life today. It's a happening place, not really a traditional museum.
Best months to visit are late January through to early March as the weather is so much more reliable if you like the summertime outdoors. Adventure tourism is hugely on the rise and throughout the country you can absail, parapont, tandem skydive, rock wall climb, tramp, white-water rafting, jetboat riding and a host of other white-nuckle activities. The country is surrounded by water, the Pacific ocean, so water sport and recreation is big with fun in the sun, the right of all New Zealanders.
New Zealand is a travel destination where you can experience just about anything you like in a holiday. Be sure to take lots of time in this holiday haven - it's a long way to go to get there so make sure you don't short-change yourself when you do go.
You fly to New Zealand. There are an ever increasing number of cruise ships visiting but generally the usual way to get there is by international flight. Several airlines operate out of Auckland, Wellington in the North Island and Christchurch and Queenstown in the "Mainland" South Island. (Just a little bias creeping in there!!).
If you did a stunning New Zealand drive from it's northern most tip, Cape Reinga to it's southern most city (on the "mainland")South Island, Invercargill you would have driven 2008km (1245 miles) and it may take you around 30 hours (without the 3 hours Cook Strait ferry crossing). But, you would not have explored and visited so many fantastic towns, cities and attractions of Aotearoa.
If you fancy a New Zealand driving holiday, contact the
AA (Automobile Assn) who will make sure you get maps along your chosen route - then you won't miss things along the way.
If you don't want to drive within New Zealand you can take a bus, fly on several 'national' airlines from regional and link airports or on a train from Wellington to
Auckland or the Picton to Christchurch daily route. Bus tours offer a 'guided' way to see and learn about the country and can be combined with self-drive if you wish, either before or after your tour. Eco-tours are popular too.
Special Maori performances, whale watching and swimming with dolphins are some things worthy of consideration and there are plenty of internet sites which specialise in more indepth information about these.
The Christchurch to Greymouth train offers alpine scenery you'll never forget. It's timely to say that train travel is not a high priority in New Zealand so don't rely on daily trips like you may be used to in most of the world. There are of course the metro links in the major cities like Auckland and Wellington but not in other towns or cities.
Some small points but things which may just add to your comfort on your New Zealand holiday journey.
(a) Night can be a little chilly, even in summer so take warm clothing.
(b) Some parts of New Zealand you will be inconvenienced by sandflys or mosquitos so include an effective insect repellant. (Bush and beach areas are at risk.)
(c) Take note of beach notices about swimming, boating and other local marine hazards. Use sunblock generously as there is a hole in the ozone layer above NZ and the ultra violet rays are strong, burning is quick in summertime.
(d) In high season, December to March it pays to book accommodation in advance. Most restaurants appreciate you booking.
(e) If visiting a Maori Marae (community facility) do be sure you know the protocols. There are plenty of Maori sites on the internet to advise on custom and culture.
(f) The currency is NZ Dollars and cents.
(g) Banks open Monday to Friday - usually 9am to 4.30pm (I think this is still the time structure!!!)
(h) The Department of Conservation (DoC) has reliable information on National Parks, all over the country and the way accessibility can enhance your visit.
A New Zealand High Point: Mount Cook, (Aoraki in Maori) in the Southern Alps, South Island. 12,316ft (3754m) high - the place where Sir Edmund Hilary, New Zealand's famous first climber to reach the top of the world's highest mountain - Mount Everest, practiced his alpine experiences. It's now a part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site. Alpine enthusiasts will marvel at the unusual plants and animals which have adapted to life in the Southern Alps, formed by two tutonic plates crashing together, forming 19 peaks over 3000metres (10,000 ft).
The beauty of New Zealand is that you can travel along the road and the landscape/scenery changes in a mile or two. Particularly noticeable in the Mount Cook - Mackenzie country.
Some accommodation options:hotels, B&b, backpackers, hostels, lodges-(both luxury and not so 'posh'), farm stays, home stays, motels, camping grounds and private home swaps.
Finally, Aotearoa, The Land of the Long White Cloud must have been a welcome site to those ancient Maori warriors when they rowed their primitive canoes through dangerous Pacific waters..... today it welcomes people from all over the world whether they travel to it for a holiday for for a new place to live - the visit will be what you make it. Prepare well in advance, pack your camera and then just plan on having the time of your life in New Zealand.
Summary: New Zealand welcomes all travellers, drive a diverse country