I was asked to share my favorite place this month, and I’m going patriotic. I live in New Zealand and while I’m not blind to the cons of living at the ends of the earth, at the moment I’m pretty happy to be tucked down here out of the way. We’re quite happy to have most of the world forget we are here!
New Zealand (or Aotearoa – land of the long white cloud, because it is usually cloudy), truly is one of the most picturesque and photogenic places on earth (I’m trying not to be bias). NZ is a small island nation of just over 4.5 million people, made up of two major land masses (North Island and South Island – aren’t we original) and a number of smaller islands including Stewart Island located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The two main islands are divided by a 22km stretch of water called the Cook Strait, which is a 3 hour ferry ride but most people hate it as it’s usually a rough crossing.
New Zealand is located approximately 1,500km east of Australia (no you can’t walk to Australia when the tide goes out. It’s a 3 hour plane ride) and about 1,000km from the Pacific Islands. Due to its relative remoteness and being water locked, New Zealand was one of the last countries to be found and settled in mid 1850’s.
We have some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes, from vast mountain ranges, steaming volcanoes to sweeping coastlines. It is a natural playground for thrill seekers and adventurers and those who simply want to visit for the culture and landscapes, mainly because you can be on a beach in the morning, and skiing in the afternoon.
While the land masses of the North Island and South Island are similar, approximately two thirds of the population lives in the North Island and the remainder in the South Island. The majority of New Zealand's population is of European decent while Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, is the most ethnically diverse in the country and has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world. Auckland has about one third of the population (over 1.3 million), followed by the capital city of Wellington and the South Island city of Christchurch (each has approx 400,000).
I live in the wine making region of sunny Hawkes Bay, a population of only 55,000 people. Blessed with a sunny, Mediterranean-style climate, Hawke's Bay is one of New Zealand's warmest, driest regions.
The landscapes of Hawke's Bay begin with the high, forested Ruahine and Kaweka Ranges. From the mountains, the land steps down towards the coast, flattening out to become the Heretaunga Plains. A number of wide rivers run swiftly to meet the blue Pacific Ocean.
New Zealander's are affectionately known as "Kiwis". The name derives from the kiwi, a flightless bird native to New Zealand. It is also the national symbol. Kiwi's are characterised as rugged, industrious problem solvers and people who innovate. Kiwi's are great travellers themselves with many exploring and making an impact on the world (sport, business, politics, etc). Younger New Zealander's often travel to England for working holidays before settling back in New Zealand and any New Zealander can travel and work in Australia indefinitely.
English is the predominant language in New Zealand. After WWII, Maori were discouraged from speaking their own language in schools and workplaces so it really only existed as a community language. Nowadays it has undergone a revitalisation and is declared one of New Zealand's official languages with immersion in schools and tertiary sectors. Many places throughout the country have dual English and Maori names.
The climate varies between the North and South Islands and is quite complex. The general climate is mild and temperate however areas in the far north experience warm subtropical temperatures while the far south is much cooler. Alpine conditions ensue in mountainous areas. In the South Island, a North West wind – known as a Nor'Wester – can see heavy rainfall on the West Coast and a hot dry wind in Canterbury on the East Coast less than four hours drive away.
Visitors are advised to come prepared for all types of weather, as the temperature can change quite rapidly during the day.
For a small nation, New Zealand has dominated the playing field in many areas. The major sporting code is Rugby Union (more commonly known as Rugby). The All Blacks are the world ruby champions and are known for performing a Maori war dance called the Haka before each game. It’s a challenge to the other team. Other codes include netball, cricket, soccer and rugby league.
The one thing I’m really proud of is that NZ was the first country to give women the vote. On 19 September 1893 the governor, Lord Glasgow, signed a new Electoral Act into law. As a result of this landmark legislation, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world in which all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections.
New Zealand has also achieved highly in track and field, rowing, yachting and cycling. Mountaineering also features with Sir Edmund Hillary conquering Mt Everest in 1953.
Not only is New Zealand up there with their sporting prowess, but Kiwi's are also responsible for some of the most famous inventions of all time. Adventure sport pioneer AJ Hackett introduced the Bungy Jump to the world in 1986 and Sir William Hamilton pioneered the Hamilton jet in 1954. The waterjet is the most advanced and innovative marine propulsion system in use today. Other credits include the referee's whistle, the eggbeater, electric fence, disposable syringe and the national dessert – the Pavlova, a fluffy meringue of goodness.
Other famous New Zealander's include Lord Rutherford who managed to split the atom. Sir Peter Jackson is a New Zealander most famous for his direction of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Burt Munro broke several world land speed records in the 1960's, one of which still stands today. These iconic New Zealanders are just a handful among many more putting this beautiful country on the map every day.
I hope one day you’ll think it worth it to get on a plane and travel for between 12 and 24 hours to get here! Pop in and say hello!