My long lasting dream has finally come true!
Six years ago I had the great pleasure of visiting one of the most wonderful countries in the world, New Zealand, or Aotearoa (meaning “The land of the long white cloud”) as it is called in the native language Maori. Ever since I was there I have dreamed of going back to this amazing country, and this week I finally had the opportunity when a project came up in the New Zealand capital, Wellington.
The last time I was in New Zealand I was on holiday for three weeks, and my companion and I drove from Auckland down to the south island and back up again. Hence, we got to see a great portion of these beautiful islands. This time I am here for work, so I haven’t had a chance to see much, but nevertheless, I have enjoyed every second of my visit.
So what is so great about New Zealand? Well, first of all the islands have amazing nature and a range of different types of landscapes. For instance, in the north you will find nature similar to the tropical nature in Australia, with miles and miles of beaches, azure water, palm trees and pleasant climate, while in the south you will find mountains and fjord more similar to Norway, and the climate is more similar to northern Europe. As a biologist I find the nature in New Zealand very interesting. There are no native large carnivores, hence the development of strange flightless bird species like the kiwi. Apparently, New Zealand has more species of flightless birds (including the kiwis, several species of penguins, and the takahe) than any other country.
Another thing I love about New Zealand is the presence of the indigenous Maori culture. The origin of the Maori people has been traced to the islands of Eastern Polynesia, and apparently their journey to New Zealand occurred in a number of epic canoe voyages over a significant period of time. Typical aspects of the Maori culture include art, legend, tattoo (moko), performances (notably kapa haka), customs, hospitality and community. Since the early 1980s Maori culture has undergone a renaissance in New Zealand, and today communities are trying to keep the native language alive.
I would also like to mention the Kiwi people (as people from New Zealand prefer to call themselves). I have travelled to and worked in many countries around the world, and I think that you would have to look a very long time to find friendlier people than the Kiwis. For instance, in New Zealand I have experienced hospitality that I have never experienced any other place, such as strangers allowing you to stay at their place when you can’t find a vacant motel room and taxi drivers who will drive you for free to save you from the rain. There is something very different with the kiwis, they are very polite and trusting, and they have a most pleasant nature.
Today I have to fly back to Singapore via Sydney, and it breaks my heart to leave this wonderful place. I really hope it doesn’t take another six years before I am back here again.