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Why haven’t you visited New Zealand?

I am here to prove you are missing out big time if you don’t have New Zealand as your next long-distance travel destination. Finns, forget about Thailand and Bali. NZ is the place to be – and Australia isn’t too bad of a place to stop over on the way either.

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“Never say goodbye, because saying goodbye means going away, and going away means forgetting” (Peter Pan)

First though let’s be honest. Yes, it’s expensive to get there – but I am, among so many others, a living proof you can do it even with a student budget (and a few years’ of work + saving live crazy of course).. Secondly, it takes a hell of a lot of time to get there so you wanna stay for at least a couple of weeks. Preferably longer, especially if you are such a cheap-ass stingy person like me and rather travel for 42 hours and change planes five times just to save 300e. (Note, that 300e later paid for my sky diving adventure in Australia, so I gotta say it was totally worth the physically and mentally exhausting 42 hours. One way that is.). But, if you don’t go, you’ll regret it – so start saving up for your next big adventure!

Anyway, the top three things you probably know about New Zealand so far are:

1. Amazing nature.

Thanks to movies such as The Lord of the Rings, The Last Samurai, Whale Rider etc. I am pretty sure you have a pretty good idea of what an exotic beauty, blue sea and emerald green scenery awaits. Beach holiday, hiking or culture – it’s all there.

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I went on a quiet stroll on this beach, somewhere near the Bay of Islands maybe, two weeks before leaving for good in 2014

2. Sheep.

There’s a lot of them – enough actually to be frozen and shipped across the globe just to be sold in pretty much most supermarkets here in Finland… And I think during some English lesson in high school I learned that there are ten times more sheep in that country than people- though the truth is actually closer to six. Anyway when you get to NZ majority of the sheep are actually down south and people up north, or that’s how it seemed anyway, so you as foreigner end up more or less confused with the sheep shagger etc. jokes Aussies had been telling you about the Kiwis.

3. Wine? Rugby?

The third one is a little more difficult to come up with. I’d guess you’ve tried some excellent NZ wine? Or maybe you know rugby and the goosebump-raising, crowd-silencing war dance “Haka” the All Blacks do prior to the big games. Wow. Just wow. Google it.

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Me, Laura and her two brothers on Mt Taranaki, 2009

Anyway, recently my friends asked for advice re the Working Holiday visa and general life in New Zealand as they are heading over there later this year. And as so many great memories have now flooded my mind completely drowning out the important university assignment stuff that ought to be a priority over this silly daydreaming about going back to my second home once more, I decided to write down some key things here. Just thinking about the time spent in NZ makes me smile..

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Four hours. One fish. Still smiling.

So the top 3 things I hope you don’t miss out during your trip down under are:

Surprise surprise,

1. Amazing nature.

Yup you’ve seen photos, but in reality it’s even better. I loved the long scenic drives down the coast; having the bright blue water on the right and green hills and bushes filled with odd-looking plants on the left, with snow-topped mountains in the distance. Or the evergreen rain forests, gorges, waterfalls, and so on – hiking is definitely one of the must-do’s of your trip.

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We were camping by this stunning river, somewhere near Taupo

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Found this on the door one morning..

Why not conquer a mountain while you are there, climb to the top of Mt Taranaki for example? Or explore the Waitomo Caves and see the fascinating glowworms? Maybe even check out some wine regions? And it’s nice to know that as oppose to Australia, everything in the good old NZ is NOT trying to kill you so can feel pretty safe with all the wildlife and spiders and such.

Most of the time.

But forget about the daytime beauty. It’s is night when the magic happens.

Imagine. The sky gets filled with stars, with Milky Way showing it’s gorgeous form right above you as you get surrounded by a strange silence, wrapped in a comforting pitch-black cocoon with the stars forming a sparkling map of past and future, a place where you feel alone and small and insignificant, and empowered and alive and the ruler of the world all at the same time for that one moment when you just let go of everything else and be amazed how good it feels to be there. To feel fully free of constraints. To feel alive.

Please Google “New Zealand night sky” and see what I am talking about!

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Please let me introduce: Graeme, aka world’s best host dad and the bbq master of the family

2. Food.

Now I do admit NZ does not have the stereotypical stuff like what pizza is to Italy, sushi to Japan or tortillas and salsa for Mexico. But what is has is a wonderful melting pot of fresh produce, world-class wines (that don’t cost a fortune!) and some of the best seafood and meat available! There’s just something cozy about the Sunday dinner of roast lamb and three veggies. Not to forget fish n chips, or Chinese takeaway or any other fast foods enjoyed on Fridays by the beach – if it tastes good, does it really matter where the original recipe came from?

Paua jewellery is gorgeous, but why not taste the actual seafood? Or whitebait omelette? Maybe go to Rotorua and try the traditional hangi? For dessert there are so many puddings to choose from – but boysenberry, hokey pokey or rocky road ice cream, Pavlova, and maybe also Jaffas and pineapple lumps are among the things you do wanna try out yourself. ❤ And I gotta say, the beer and wine selection is pretty good, pretty good indeed. And I heard in the last couple of years they have started to get some decent local ciders as well 😉 I wouldn’t recommend trying to try drink a Kiwi under a table though…

3. Culture.

It’s seriously a laid-back, chilled, an informal and relaxing life they enjoy there. Yet everything works, things get done, and at the end of the day you can hang out with friends and have a beer while waiting for the bbq to heat up. In summer time life is great and the beaches are filled with people, in winter it’s cold and wet and quiet, quite like everywhere else. But they don’t usually get totally covered in snow in winter which is nice, and most of the time don’t need to pay attention if there’s a + or – when talking about the outdoor temperature. Little happy moments of life aye. By the way, you can actually get sunburnt in winter – I learned it the hard way! Sissel my dear friend, that’s a warning for you.

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WOMAD 2009

Nevertheless, with culture I also want to emphasize the arts – have you seen the amazing detail of Maori tattoos and carvings for example? Or read about the history? Don’t forget the music and the great local bands (check out music festivals such as WOMAD), or the abundance of different culture and sporting events – you need to check out the atmosphere of a proper rugby game at least!

 

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NZ is home to some pretty decent street art

Moreover, there are also the crazy tourist attractions and the adrenaline-spiking stuff like bungee jumping, skydiving and hang gliding among many others.. That country knows how to keep the tourists from getting bored!

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Queenstown – home to every adrenaline sport you need

So all in all, if you go there on a tourist visa or stay longer and complete a working holiday, I assure you there’s plenty to see and experience. And their tourism services are world class and the locals are super nice! Even though during my three years there I had plenty of ups and downs, a true culture shock many times over, all in all it was an amazing experience thanks to all the truly spectacular people I met ❤ One day I’ll be back.

So what are you waiting for, why aren’t you booking your flights already?

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Chasing the bubbles at Back Beach, New Plymouth

 

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