|New Zealand: Sheep at Lake Pukaki, South Island|
New Zealand wasn’t on my bucket list, but I recommend you put it on yours. It’s actually now on my list of countries I would return to explore more. With little to no tourism advertising or iconic pictures beckoning me to New Zealand, it had simply gone unnoticed until a colleague recommended it, knowing how active we like to be.
|New Zealand. South Island landscape.|
I would be remiss if I didn’t start by mentioning one of New Zealand’s biggest attractions –they are the friendliest people you will ever meet. The people of New Zealand became called Kiwis after soldiers donned a patch of the national bird, the kiwi, on military uniforms in World War I. They are proud to be called Kiwis, and they are eager to have visitors to their country. To my surprise, a simple connection turned into an offer for dinner in Auckland with a lovely family, who are now new friends. Throughout our trip, it was easy to strike up conversations with locals, who openly shared their stories, adventures, and heartbreaks.
The Māori, who self-identify as 17.5 percent of the population, are the indigenous Polynesian people who settled in New Zealand in the early 1300s, before the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman became the first European to sight New Zealand in 1642. The official languages of New Zealand are English, Māori, and New Zealand Sign Language. New Zealand was a colony of the British Empire from 1841 – 1907, and then a dominion from 1907 – 1947, when it gained full statutory independence with the British monarch remaining the head of state to this day.
The fact that Kiwis like to welcome visitors is perhaps why I was able to find amazing AirBandBs for every step of our trip. For each stop, I had researched hotel options and AirBandBs, and opted for the AirBandB every time, and they met or exceeded our expectations every time while giving us easy laundry and kitchen facilities. Another option we may do if we return is to rent a camper van, as free or low-cost camping is plentiful.
In Part 2 (to post next week), I will recap our week on the North Island, and in Part 3 (to post in two weeks), I will recap our week on the South Island.