Having travelled to over twenty countries in the last two years I can still say that I am yet to find a place that impresses me more than home. Maybe I am bias or maybe Aotearoa New Zealand really is one of the most amazing countries in the world! I will have a lot to say about this place and it will take more than just one blog so this one will be dedicated to what makes Aotearoa New Zealand special and unique.
Aotearoa is the Māori name for this land which is most commonly known to translate to ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’. The name was given by Kupe, a polynesian chief that lead his people across the pacific ocean to settle there. Many hunderds of years later the Dutchman, Abel Tasman came across this land and called it ‘New Zealand’ as it reminded him of Zealand in the Netherlands. Today the name New Zealand is most commonly used but I believe it’s original name is also important, if not more so, and therefore I will always refer to my homeland as Aotearoa New Zealand. The picture on the left is a Marae (meeting place) and the middle image is typically what the inside of a traditional meeting house (wharenui) might look like. The picture on the right is of myself with a traditional canoe (waka). This one is located at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and represents the waka that brought Kupe’s (polynesian chief) people to Aotearoa.
Although race relations are not perfect, we do try hard to work together as a bi-cultural nation by honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi). This was an agreement between Māori (not all tribes) and the British Crown, signed in 1840. We have two official languages, Māori and New Zealand Sign. English is often assumed as an official language but it is a de-facto language as it is most commonly spoken and the first language of most New Zealanders.
The silver fern is a national icon, just like the kiwi which is a native bird to Aotearoa New Zealand. Both can be seen in our forests but the kiwi is a lot harder to find. You may often hear a New Zealander refer to themselves as a kiwi, by this we mean the bird, not the fruit. Our flora and fauna is very unique as humans have only inhabited this country for around one thousand years. The country consists of two main islands and hundreds of smaller ones. Before people came along the life on the land consisted mostly of birds, lizards and insects. Many of the species became extinct once man arrived with predators like ermines, possums, rabbits, rats and cats. These are still today a huge threat to our native plants and animals.
Despite being just about the furthermost place from anywhere in the world, Aotearoa New Zealand is a very popular tourist destination. With approximately 3.5 million visitors arriving in 2016. That is a lot of people when the total population is just over 4.7 million. Our unique landscape is a big part of the attraction as we have just about everything from beautiful beaches to gorgeous glaciers. There are volcanoes and plenty of thermal activity which includes natural hots springs for soaking that weary body. However, with that also comes regular earthquakes which are happening every day but mostly they are never felt. There are lush green forests and rolling hills with lakes and rivers scattered throughout. We have four very distinct seasons with normal summer temperatures getting into the high twenties early thirties (celcius) and in some places to below zero in the winter. The further north you go the warmer it tends to be but the weather can be quite unpredictable and we often say you can get four seasons in one day.
We kiwis are proud of our little nation, for a country with a land mass just a little larger than the UK but with 60 million less people we do all right. We have something we call a number 8 wire mentality. Number 8 wire is a wire commonly used for fencing but has been know to fix many things. To have this mentality is to have ingenuity and to be resourceful. We are known to be good problem solvers and to think outside the square. This characteristic was definitely necessary for the early European settlers who built this nation from scratch. Even though we have a treaty of two nations with a very bi-cultural heritage we are a very multi-cultural place. Māori arrived about a thousand years ago and Europeans along with other nationalities started arriving only a few hundred years ago. I believe this makes us more tolerant and accepting and one thing I always hear from other travellers about kiwis is how friendly we are.
If you are looking forward to hearing more about New Zealand, especially the real travel treasures and hidden gems then be sure to follow my blog as I will be writing more about this place I call home. But for now let me leave you with some interesting facts you may not have known about Aotearoa New Zealand.
New Zealander, Sir Edmund Hillary along with Tenzing Norgay were the first men in the world to climb Mt Everest
You can sometimes see the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) from Aotearoa New Zealand, the southern cousin to the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)
Aotearoa New Zealand was the first country in the world to let women vote in government elections
The Atom was first split by New Zealander, Ernest Rutherford
Russell Crowe is a kiwi, not Australian (Australian’s like to claim our things)
The city of Gisborne is the first city in the world to see the dawn of a new day
We have no snakes or poisonous spiders (with the katipo spider being an exception but I don’t know anyone who has ever seen one)
We make the best Sauvignon Blanc wine in the world
Over one third of Aotearoa New Zealand is made up of protected parkland and marine reserves
New Zealand is home to the most successful sports team in history, the All Blacks Rugby team.
The first commercial bungee jump opened in Aotearoa New Zealand having been invented by New Zealander AJ Hackett
Aotearoa New Zealand has the worlds only flightless parrot, the Kakapo
There are no nuclear power stations in Aotearoa New Zealand and all energy generated comes from over 80 percent renewable soures
No where in Aotearoa New Zealand is more than 120 kilometers from a coast
We produce 100 kilograms of butter per person per year. Dairy is a big industry!
New Zealanders own more cars per capita than just about any other country in the world.