I’ve concluded that no photo or video can do New Zealand justice – it is beautiful and majestic beyond words and very different in way that is difficult to compare to anywhere else. New Zealand is wild and filled everywhere with dense, impossibly green foliage , except for places cleared for farming or settlements. The landscape, climate, flora, people, culture and feel of the place is unique enough that saying, “it is like” won’t work. If you haven’t been to New Zealand, you must go before you die. For me it is “that” place I was always looking for and no longer believed existed. It has the feel of a dream, an idealistic place of childhood fantasies of a world untouched by the stain of modern psychosis. The people there are innocent, and are by and large not living in any kind of fear. The “fear matrix” that is so pervasive here in the U.S. is conspicuously absent there. I saw 16 year old girls, beautiful ones at that, hitchhiking across the country for summer holiday. I picked up this young hippy fellow during my trip in the south island and mentioned that as a rule we don’t pick up hitchhikers in the U.S. It was so outside his experience that I failed in my attempts to explain it. They still allow you to pump gas on the honor system.
I was surprised at how integrated the Maori and white people are. I saw many mixed race people, some in their 60’s, and as many mixed race couples as not. Maori’s are huge Reggae fans. The entire town of Rotorua had town flags up celebrating it’s upcoming Reggae festival. On the streets, stores, restaurants and bars, nobody was is in a hurry. The mood was always very relaxed. The downside is you might have to wait 30 minutes for a “quick” order, but what’s the rush in such a beautiful place? The road on the other hand was a different matter. Kiwi’s love to speed, and cut corners. I know of no sign anywhere in the U.S. that says not to cut corners, but in New Zealand they are everywhere. I would see drivers cut corners around a blind corner with a large truck coming the other way – simply crazy. Otherwise the mood everywhere is relaxed. The kiwi people know how to have a good time. They excel at it. Everywhere I went there were fun things to do for kids and adults. I even saw a circus camp on the far end of the north island – an actual place where you could do trapeze!!
New Zealand is big. Far bigger than it looks on a map. I was surprised how long it took to go from one place to the next. The general experience is driving for three or four hours through wilderness and farmland before coming to the next town. Any place there are people, chances are the next nearest places with people is 20 or 30 miles away. My time there (3 weeks) was not nearly long enough. I barley got to see the two islands. Much of it was through the window while I drove. To do New Zealand justice I don’t recommend any time there less than a month, but two or three months is much better. If you’re on a budget, there is plenty of cheap or free camping.
One of the things I liked most about New Zealand was the landscape and a very real sense of no boundaries. There were huge stretches of land and beach that were simply wild. Even beaches near towns, like Nelson, are more or less wild. By wild I mean there are no signs, rules, fences or other constraints to wandering around. In the U.S. it seems there are very few places left that you can just wander without feeling like your are either on some one elses property or on a piece of regulated land.. In New Zealand it’s just wide open – wild in the truest sense. And with it’s relatively low population, it is very easy to get completely lost and leave behind civilization for a while. As hard as this is to believe, I had two miles of the most pristine and beautiful beach in Punakaiki almost entirely to myself. On this beach where large rock-cliff protrusions out on the beach that went up 60 feet, with dense green foliage growing on the top. It looked like something out of Pirates of the Carribean movie, and I had the whole thing to myself (I have photos and videos of this to show later). Only Phuket, Thailand comes close to how beautiful it was.
Some other highlights of my trip including visiting Yoshi’s ecohouse, the most advance of its kind in the world (in my opinion), hot water beach – where you can dig holes in the sand and make your own geothermal hot tub, the southern night sky (which is very different than here, including seeing the moon “upside down”), the north and west coast of the south island, and visiting Hobbiton (near Matamata) on my way back to Auckland. I unfortunately missed the Kiwi Burn, and the International Busking Festival.
The hardest part about New Zealand was having to leave. I wanted to stay forever. Either way seeing New Zealand helped me let go of some long-held baggage. I feel transformed.
The photo below was taken of me around 9pm (sun was setting around 9:45pm) in Tairua. A sleepy little beach town on the east coast of the north island.