I arrived in Tasmania late last night and I have to say that I am very happy to be back in Australia! I enjoyed my month in beautiful New Zealand, but I left the country feeling completely exhausted! I have done more hiking, climbing, and extreme sports in the past few weeks than I have in years! I need a vacation from my New Zealand vacation!
The ironic thing about New Zealand is that there is a lot to do but also nothing to do at all! If you are not tramping through the country, climbing glaciers and mountains, cascading down waterfalls, jumping out planes, zorbing down hills, exploring caves, white water rafting, abseiling, etc…, then you will realize there is not much else to do. I realized that while I do really enjoy the outdoors and extreme sports, I like to do these things in moderation and my interests go well beyond the great outdoors. New Zealand is also a great place to go to relax and appreciate the country’s natural beauty. I do like to just chill out and just take in the scenery of a beautiful place, but again in moderation. Most of the cities in New Zealand are small towns and all shops and cafes close down very early, way before I was ready to call it a night. I also realized how much of a city girl I really am. I love to be able to walk to wherever I need to go and I like a variety of options to entertain myself. In comparison to Australia, I definitely prefer Australia, as I love the variety that OZ has to offer, the big cities, the friendly people, and the warm weather! I see New Zealand as a great place to visit but I personally couldn’t live here at this point in my life.
New Zealand has a total population of 4 million people and 40 million sheep! That is 10 sheep for every one person!!! Of the 4 million people, 3 million live on the North Island. Auckland is the largest city, followed by Christchurch and Wellington. New Zealander’s are called Kiwi’s after the National bird (a bird that actually can’t fly). While Kiwi’s seemed nice enough, I found Aussies to be much friendlier and helpful to travelers.
The history of New Zealand dates back at least seven hundred years to when it was discovered and settled by Polynesians, who developed a distinct Māori culture. The first Europeans known to reach New Zealand were the crew of Dutch led by explorer Abel Tasman. British Navel Captain James Cook visited the islands more than 100 years after Tasman during (1769–1770). From the 1790s the waters around New Zealand were visited by British, French and American whaling, sealing and trading ships. From the 1800s missionaries began settling in New Zealand and attempting to convert Māori to Christianity and control the considerably lawless European visitors. In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British Crown and various Māori chiefs, bringing New Zealand into the British Empire and giving Māori equal rights with British citizens. New Zealand was invited to join the states of Australia but declined. New Zealand became a colony in its own right on May 3, 1841. The country rapidly gained some measure of self-government through the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, which established central and provincial government.
The Fifth Labor government led by Helen Clark was elected in 1999 and is the current government of New Zealand. Foreign policy has been essentially independent since the mid 1980s. New Zealand contributed troops to the Afghanistan War, but did not contribute troops to the Iraq War although some medical and engineering units were sent.
If I could describe New Zealand in one word it would be EXTREME. The country is extreme in beauty, terrain, weather, natural disasters, sport, cost of living, people, and attitude.
New Zealand is by far one of the most beautiful counties I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. I was most taken by the variations in terrain across the country. I have never been in a country that has so many gorgeous works of nature in such a small area. I was able to see beautiful beaches, volcanic mountains, vineyards, waterfalls, rolling hills, icy glaciers, thermal areas, bubbling mud, farmland, steaming vents, limestone caves, and many other beautiful sites. It is truly a remarkable place.
One of the most beautiful sights I saw was by chance while traveling on a bus from Queenstown to Christchurch. I saw the most gorgeous rainbow I have ever seen, one in which you could see both ends of the rainbow! I had never seen a rainbow in full before nor had I driven through the middle of a rainbow before! It was both freaky and beautifully amazing at the same time.
This peaceful country can quickly turn into a scary scene, as the country is vulnerable to most natural disasters. New Zealand has a long history of natural disasters including earthquakes, floods, snowstorms, cyclones, windstorms, landslides, avalanches, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis. New Zealand is home to 9 active volcanoes, perhaps the biggest eruption in the history of earth occurred in Taupo, which created the crater Caldera that filled with water and is now Lake Taupo.
New Zealand is sitting on a sliding split – the boundary between the Australian and Pacific plates. The country is literally a land on the move as the city of Christchurch (located on the Pacific Plate) moves away from the city of Hokitika (on the Australian plate) 25mm to the Southwest every year. The most recent big earthquake occurred in December 2007 near Gisborn, which measured 6.8 on the richter scale. On a side note…Gisborn is the first city in the world to see the sunrise! Now that is a good enough reason for me to justify waking up early in the morning!
The weather is very cold the majority of the year and amazingly the majority of homes in the country do not have insulation or heat! I was definitely not prepared for the colder weather I encountered on the South Island and usually slept in many layers of clothing.
I found New Zealand to be extremely expensive. I am too scared to look at my credit card statement at the moment, but I feel like I spent more money in one month in New Zealand as I did in three months in Australia!
When traveling in New Zealand, it is helpful to have a car. I looked into renting a car, but it was super expensive, so I got around via buses. There are several “backpacker” tour buses that allow you to hop on and off as you want, i.e. Kiwi Experience, Magic, & Stray Bus. I decided not to do one of these tour buses, as I wanted to be removed somewhat from the backpacker scene and the hordes of 19 year olds. I ended up taking the Atomic Shuttle, InterCity Bus, and Naked Bus. I spent a lot of time traveling on buses, as many key places are 4-6 hours apart.
New Zealand welcomes both visitors and those who wish to migrate to the country. As I am sure it is in any country, it is very different to visit a place than to actually live there. There is an interesting site that shares the thoughts and frustrations of those “ex-pats” who have migrated to New Zealand and feel that the country is not as welcoming as they had expected. The site is called Expat Exposed.
On the flip side, I have met many people who absolutely love to live in the country and seem to really be at home here. It seems for one to live happily in New Zealand you need to be a “hard-core” outdoor person with a “can do” attitude: I can keep warm without a heater, I can grown my own food, I can climb any mountain, I can fix my own car. Many people define this attitude as “Kiwi Ingenuity”. This is the idea that New Zealanders display a MacGyver-like ability to solve any problem, often using unconventional means or whatever happens to be lying around.
I hope to visit New Zealand again one day. Although it may seem that I saw much of the country, there are so many places I did not get to explore.
But for now I heart Australia! I have entered Australia on a 3-month travel visa and I plan to see as much of the country as I can in the next 3 months. I will be traveling alone the majority of the time, but I will be meeting up with a few friends along the way. I am traveling through Tasmania for the next 10 days. I just rented a car and I have to pick it up this afternoon. May God be with me as I attempt to drive alone on the wrong side of the road for the first time in my life!!!