Episode #2 – Amazing New Zealand
Hopefully, you read my two cents on things I wish I knew before coming and are ready to know all the great stuff about this country. Let’s not waste any time!
The Landscapes are as Promised
Just like everyone told you, the nature is spectacular everywhere you go. If you are a big outdoorsy person, Mt. Cook, Milford Sound, and 90-mile beach will not disappoint. The landscapes are phenomenal and nearly every biome is represented including stunning sand dunes, crystal clear beaches, glaciers, forests, and even active volcanoes. If you’re a nature buff, you may never want to leave.
The Sunsets are Stunning
I have to admit how amazing the sunsets are in the city. Of course, the sunsets are amazing everywhere in New Zealand, but I recall one particular sunset that surpasses anything I’ve seen (even in pictures) right by my home in west Auckland. The entire sky was on fire with at least a dozen shades from pink to bright red. The picture above is was probably the second best.
People with Disabilities Are Out and About
Pretty much every country in the world has people living with disabilities. Whether they are mental or physical impairments, too many societies would rather keep them at home and pretend they don’t exist than to help integrate them to be a functioning member of the community (looking at you Korea). One of the most impressive and heartwarming things I experienced is how many of these people are accepted and taken care of in New Zealand. It is not a shameful thing and New Zealanders have chosen collectively to help their less fortunate brothers and sisters. Seriously, other countries should take note.
Note – About a year ago, I posted these tips from Vitalise, an organization that aims to help people in wheelchairs travel around the world if you are interested in helping.
The New Zealand Dream
When I was around 2, I immigrated to the US for what my parents thought was a better life. I was too young to appreciate what it meant to leave everything and everyone you know, and rebuild in a country where you don’t fluently speak the language or fully grasp the culture. New Zealand has reminded me of what a special gift it is to have the opportunity to start over. I’ve met tons of people, from a middle aged German couple to young Korean families who have chosen to immigrate and love their new home. For those choosing to come here for good, New Zealand has some of the most straight forward paths to permanent residence (and eventual citizenship) in the world (looking at you USA).
While it may seem like the amazing nature is a result of being so isolated and scarcely populated, there is something else that deserves acknowledgement. Big kudos to the general consciousness of not depleting resources at a destructive rate. Kiwis seem to understand that nature is to be protected and used wisely if we are to have it long-term. While I have always said that the US National Park Service was unmatched anywhere on earth, I think it has serious competition with the New Zealand Department of Conservation.
I always thought of this profession as housing some of the grumpiest people around. Not so in New Zealand. Bus drivers are super nice and incredibly helpful. One of the things I noticed was how they often wait for you to sit down, especially if you are carrying heavy things, before stepping on it. While this may seem like simple manners, I had never experienced this before anywhere on earth (although I hear it is similar in the UK). Bus drivers always greet you with a smile and a friendly wave. Ending a ride with “thank you bus driver” was one of the best habits I picked up.
Despite being a huge animal lover, I never really gave birds much of a second thought. I always associated them with pigeons and seagulls, the scum of the animal world. Yeah, that sounds harsh, but how many of you can honestly say you LIKE seagulls? That’s what I thought!
New Zealand has some amazing birds though, and my quests to find and photograph them have been some of my favorite memories. Pukekos and Yellow-eyed penguins were at the top, but I also liked the super fat NZ pigeon, the ultra endangered takahe, the kea, and of course, the kiwi bird. Near my work place, we actually saw a family of two adult pukekos and two babies grow up before our very eyes :).
The Great Walks
I always thought of multi-day hikes as a thing for the ultra experienced or rugged macho types. New Zealand has made a fantastic platform for making it easy to book, plan for, and enjoy some of the best hikes in the world. The Great Walks are a series of 9 multi-day trails with campsites and huts along the way making for as easy or difficult a trip as you want. I was able to do the Routeburn Track, but unfortunately, the Whanganui Journey escaped our grasp. I also recently learned that an equivalent exists for bicyclists, called the 22 Great Rides, and people in the know are already aware that New Zealand is a biker’s paradise.
The Nature is FREE
I may not have had the money to swim with dolphins or gone white water rafting in a cave, but it is amazing the amount of natural places that are absolutely free in New Zealand. In the US, parks like Yosemite, The Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone will cost you $25 a pop (per car) which I thought was a bargain. In New Zealand, any national park or national land, including all beaches are 100% free… and that includes the river out of Taupo Lake which is pictured above.
People are Relatively Content With Their Life
One of the things that made me happy was seeing how many New Zealanders are generally satisfied with their lives. They are aware of the serious issues and there is always room for improvement, but seeing a typical person smile instead of frown on a daily basis is really nice. Pride is definitely high in the country.
The average Kiwi is pretty resourceful. Many things are overpriced or unavailable but people make due with what they have. I think many of us (especially Americans) could learn a think or two here.
People are Generally Nice
I think this goes hand in hand with most people being satisfied with their lives. Beaming smiles, overall friendliness, and people going out of their way to find out how you are and if there is anything they can do to help is absolutely wonderful. Auckland itself is not as friendly as the rest of the country (I’ll talk more about that in the next post), but even here, I would say close to 75% of people are pretty nice.
The Tap Water is Amazing
One of the biggest recommendations that are tossed around in developed countries is to ditch bottled water and drink tap. I try to do this as much as possible at home, but it absolutely does have an off kind of taste where I’m from in California. I don’t know what it is, but in New Zealand (minus central Auckland) tap water tastes AMAZING. I’m not even saying it will fool you into thinking it’s bottled. It is actually better than that.
If you have also been on a Working Holiday in New Zealand, please share some of the highlights in the comments below.