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Its diverse landscapes                                                                                                                                                              IMG_5641

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Beauty everywhere, always. At the drop of a hat..Truly God’s own country…The Maori name for New Zealand is ‘Aotearoa’. It means ‘the land of the long white cloud‘. From the thundering waterfalls in Milford Sound, to the crystal clear waters of the Abel Tasman to the snowcapped mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand never fails visually to disappoint. Volcanic beaches, glaciers, hot springs, geysers and fiords, rolling hills to mountains to rainforests. Other countries around the world may have diverse landscapes, but I have yet to find one that takes my breath away quite like New Zealand.

That it’s adventure central

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If it’s extreme, this is the country to push all boundaries from Jet Boating to Bungee to paragliding ..It is the world capital of adventure and people are extremely outdoorsy. After all, New Zealand is the country that invented bungee jumping and gave birth to Edmund Hillary. Extreme everything- rafting, thunder jet, quad, skydiving, dirt bike, rock climbing, luge, canyoning. extreme caving or raft a 7-metre waterfall.  Or you can climb or hike on Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. How’s that for choice?!

That it’s safe and progressive

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New Zealand is one of the safest countries in the world, ranked number 4 by the Global Peace Index in 2014. I heard of many people who don’t lock their homes. And have you heard of honesty boxes? I saw many of these by the roadside.. Someone who wants to see fruit, farm produce, honey, or baked goods it’s out there on the side of the road. But no one wants to spend hours manning a stall just to sell a few things, so they leave an honesty box!!  New Zealand is extremely progressive- it was the FIRST country in the world to allow women the vote! Did you know that? Great healthcare system, public transport, and facilities.

That there ARE actually more sheep than people!

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Yes, this is not an exaggeration because when you drive miles and miles outside the cities in the land of 4 million people,  you do see many of the 40 million sheep dotting the rolling hills, in the paddocks like white fluffy balls…These  cuddly creatures  are an omnipresent national motif.

Exotic Feijoas juice and Hokey Pokey ice cream… and Fergburgers!

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Feijoas are actually native to South America ( also called pineapple guava) but are commonly grown as a garden plant in New Zealand. The taste and smell is extremely distinctive – I loved the juices and smoothies too. Hokey Pokey ice cream is vanilla with actual pieces of honeycomb..very different to any other flavour. And in Queenstown I braved the queues to eat that legendary Fergburger- a small shop that makes the most legendary burgers- and has  great choices for vegetarians too!

Black volcanic beaches  and unique flora and fauna

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Having seen golden sands all my life, ( except for one volcanic beach  in Greece),I just loved the colour and texture of their volcanic beaches like Piha.  I was also wowed by the country’s  unique natural environment where more than 80% of the plants and insects are not found anywhere else. There are no snakes, fierce animals or predators to watch out for..  Silver fern fronds, the cheeky kea bird, the list of natural oddities is endless….

That the earth boils over

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Rotorua known for its spectacular geothermal activity was a unique experience-skyrocketing geysers, hot springs and boiling mud pools. The sulphurous vapour rises up your nostrils in all around. Just loved basking in the Polynesian Spa with its water at different temperatures.. And feeling the potent power of nature all around.

Christmas in New Zealand

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Not the usual  tinsel-covered pine trees and Christmas cards portraying snow & reindeer. The pohutukawa tree comes into peak-bloom in late December and is known as New Zealand’s Christmas tree. It’s just a gorgeous sight!

Auckland

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I love this city’s carefree vibe and the fact that that the CBD is right on the waterfront. You can just take ferries across the harbour and reach the islands around the gulf.  You can take a short trip and do a wine trail at Waiheke.

Its Maori heritage

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I love that this country embraces its Maori heritage, with cultural offerings all over the country. Maori is actually one of the country’s official languages.There is Maori representation in its national legislature. I loved watching the  Maori haka (war dance) at the Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua and feasting on a traditional hangi.

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A typical Kiwi scene- by 5:30 people are running in the park, walking with the dog or having dinner at the waterfront. Idyllic right? What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare??

 

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