Finest New Zealand
I know. At this time of year most of us are thinking about our summer holidays and activities beyond September are not on the radar screen. But now is the time to start thinking about getting away from the nasty European winter and heading to warmer climes before prices (particularly airline prices) start to go relentlessly upwards.
If you are going to get away, why not caste your eye over a destination that is on the other side of the planet? You can’t get much further from the UK than New Zealand either in distance or time. Auckland is a mere 12,000 miles away and 12 or 13 hours difference in time. So everything is completely upside down: the seasons, daylight, the direction your garden should face, even speaking inflection. If it wasn’t for gravity the locals would all fall off the planet!
A trip to New Zealand can suit just about anyone. Those who want to laze about can go to one of the many beautiful beaches of the North Island, the inquisitive can explore the history of the two main islands steeped as it is in Maori culture, the foodies can enjoy the fusion of Asian, Polynesian and European cooking whilst enjoying the finest sauvignon in the world, and for those of an outdoor disposition, the possibilities are endless from everyday fun stuff to blood curdling extreme:fishing, trekking, rambling, sailing, diving, climbing, whale watching, skydiving, skiing, white water rafting, bungee jumping, canyoning and endless other options that involve risking life and limb. One thing’s for sure, you won’t be bored!!
An additional delight is the hospitality of the Kiwis. They love sharing their spectacular country with visitors and genuinely want you to have a good time during your stay. You shouldn’t be surprised to find yourself being passed from one family to another as you move around and enjoy the country, staying in the spare room or sleeping on the couch of friends and relatives. Such interactions with locals make for lasting friendship and enduring memories. To paraphrase a Maori poem: “What is the most important thing in the world? It is people! It is people! It is people!”
The Maori came to New Zealand about 800 years ago, leaving an indelible print on the environment that confronts the visitor every day. Indigenous Maori culture is prominent, potent and easily accessible in contemporary society. It is unmistakeable in language, music, arts and crafts, performance, tattoos and sport. Catching a cultural show somewhere significant like Rotorua is well worth the effort and feels genuinely authentic rather than fabricated for tourists. You can experience a haka (war dance), a hangi (feast) or a kappa haka (cultural dance) with traditional song, dance and (particularly) storytelling.
Not surprisingly, most Kiwis live in and around the cities. Over 70% of the population reside in the 16 biggest urban areas and one in three live in Auckland. Clean, modern and complete with café culture, restaurants and bars, museums and galleries, they offer everything (and some unexpected surprises) that the modern traveller could wish for. The only missing ingredient is the commercialism we experience in Europe and which seems to pervade everything we do and, frankly, that’s something from which we can all take a holiday.
However, it has to be said, New Zealand’s tour de force is its outdoor activities. Some suspect that this is something that has evolved to attract tourists but, I suspect, that it is innate in the Kiwi psyche - a love of the outdoors mixed with a splash of daredevil and a twist of showing off. Queenstown is the undoubted global centre of adventure activities.You probably need to spend a month here to cover everything that is on the menu so you need to choose what you do carefully so as not to miss out on your bucket list of physical adventures. It’s also relatively expensive.
But for the brave, or the stupid, you can bungee jump off the bridge where the activity was born, or you can throw yourself out of a perfectly good airplane, or hurtle down a mountain on a bike without brakes. Alternatively, for those of a quieter disposition, you can trek in the most wondrous and unspoilt scenery or hop from one vineyard to another to sample the fine local wine and cuisine.
Whatever you do (and please spend time talking to us about what you want), you will not be disappointed and you will return home full of lasting memories and friendships. So start planning now to avoid disappointment!