My discovery of New Zealand!

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When I moved to the opposite side of the world from the UK, I always hoped to get the opportunity to visit New Zealand which was now much closer!  Now having just retired and therefore with plenty of time, we set off to drive around the north and south islands of New Zealand for one month. Below are some of my immediate observations, and later I will show some of the hundreds of photos taken when travelling around this beautiful country.

My Aunt and family lived in Auckland in the 1950s and 1960’s and all I recall from their conversations was the emptiness and remoteness of the place. Well, those features remain but the greatest shock was the relative lack of sheep!  Every Englishman knows that New Zealand is full of sheep and that there are more sheep than men! But this is no longer the case with dairy cattle far out-numbering sheep, and men.

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My other expectations was, that by visiting at Christmas time, I would have a hot sunny Christmas. And, the Britishness of New Zealand would make it Christmassy.  But no!  We arrived in Auckland on a grey and wet Christmas Eve (see the rain band moving towards Auckland harbour bridge) and hardly a Christmas decoration in sight except for the Auckland Skytower shown below.

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Indeed the rain played havoc with many of our planned activities, and views of the sunny Coromandel coastline were masked from view (photo above).  Still, rain provides other opportunities for a photographer:

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New Zealand history was something I realised I knew little about, but a day at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds brought me up to date.  Thereafter, it was easier to understand the relationship between the Maori and the white man (pakeha).  Shown here is a portrait of To-Aho-o-te-Rangi-Wharepu in the Auckland Museum.

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But, the relationship between New Zealanders and their history is harder to fathom. At the present time, they are about to vote on whether to change the national flag to one including the silver fern motive and lacking the Union Jack.  This was a topic that everyone seemed to have an opinion on!

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The relationship between New Zealanders and Great Britain is not easily lost as you travel around, for even the tiniest village seems to have a war memorial at its centre to remember those who died in the two World Wars.  Many small towns and villages also have wonderful museums describing the life of the settlers who came from all over Europe looking for a better life (Bohemian Museum shown below); probably the best museum was the Settlers Museum in Dunedin.

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Once you visit New Zealand, you can understand the importance of the silver fern. This country has at least 200 species of fern, ranging from small ground level plants to huge trees.  Indeed, the green-ness of this land and the variety of ‘green’ is truly remarkable.

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The principle colour of flowers in the north island at this time was blue and blue/purple, but the main flower everyone spoke of was the New Zealand Christmas tree, who’s red flowers bloom at Christmas time.

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Living in cities, one also appreciates the blackness of New Zealand at night.  Special areas in the south island have been specified to have no lights at all at night time so one can observe the stars.  Sadly the rain interfered with our plan to view the stars with an expert, but I did get a couple of night sky photos:

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The natural beauty of the New Zealand landscape is hard to capture in photos; it felt like a new vista opened up around every corner.  There were stunning mountains, glaciers, rolling hills, thermal bubbling and smelly landscapes, gushing rivers and waterfalls, and of course the beaches!

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And, while we learnt that 70,000 birds are estimated to be lost every night in the north island, the birds we did see were fascinating to watch.  We spent an afternoon at a gannet colony and most well visited lay-bys and cafes would have some resident kaka who would try and steal your food.

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Of course, New Zealand is the land of adventure, and we loved the zip-lining adventure in the forest canopies of Rotorua, the quadbiking excursion in Franz Josef Glacier, and the Segway tour in Queenstown.

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H on quadbike

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We also loved all the delicious food and wine, so we were really spoiled on this trip!



Of course, no trip to New Zealand would be complete without a visit to Hobbiton, so I shall finish here and hope that you will come back later to read more about my adventures in New Zealand!


Day 1: Auckland »

© Helen Gray 2021