A few days ago I hit my six month-a-versary of being in New Zealand! As I sat wondering just where the time has gone, I decided to tell you about a few of my favourite things about this country.
I could be all clichéd here and say ‘Ooooh the scenery is so beautiful’ or ‘The people are super friendly’ and leave it at that, but you can read that stuff about New Zealand anywhere.
And it’s true that I encounter jaw-dropping scenery on a very regular basis, and incredibly friendly, helpful, and generous people such as Linda and Mark or my bosses at Glendhu Bay, who gave me not only a spare tent but also a sleeping mat and camp stove they had!
But if you’ve been following my facebook page you’ve seen regular photos of the scenery, and have probably heard stories about the friendly people, so here are a few other things that I adore about this country.
1. Everyone has a dog.
I love dogs. Cats are ok but I’m totally a dog person, and will go out of my way to give one a little scratch behind the ears or above the tail and look into those big brown eyes. One of the things I like about house sitting is being able to snuggle up to a sweet doggie on a regular basis, although it’s rough when I have to leave! I do tend to get attached.
It seems like everyone here has a dog. Or sometimes two. And the dogs are sweet, well-trained creatures so that I never have to worry about petting a random dog that I encounter (although, of course, I’m always careful!). They come up to me with a hopeful, curious look and a wag of the tail and we have a little bonding moment before moving on.
I can only think of one ‘mean’ dog I’ve met, which I didn’t actually ever see. When I was house sitting in Dunedin and took the dog, Max, for a walk, he would always walk right next to the fence, away from the road. But on one occasion a very big, mean sounding dog barked at him rather suddenly, he yelped and I swear he actually jumped, and from then on would walk on the other side of the sidewalk just for that section of road! Smart boy. But maybe if we’d encountered that dog on a path somewhere he would have been perfectly friendly!
2. There are about eleventy billion different walks to do.
Everywhere in New Zealand there are walks you can do. There’s a spectacular network of tracks both in the towns and cities and in rural or mountainous areas, and the local information centre or DOC centre can always give (or sometimes sell) you a brochure or map detailing them all. It’s a great way to get out in the countryside or mountains, and guess what? It’s FREE!
There are parks, short nature walks, or historical town centre walking tours. There are walks ranging from a 5 minute jaunt all the way up to multi-day tramps.
They are often just a stop on the side of the road. Many times I’ve been on my way somewhere but jumped out of my car to take short hikes through alpine scenery, to the Blue Pools, to a stunning beach, or longer walks such as the hike along the Rakaia Gorge.
That’s why, when someone asked me why I’d decided to stay in Greymouth another night, (what was I going to do all day?) I had no doubt that I’d be able to keep myself busy. And while the weather could have been better, and the walk I took up to the lookout was a bit muddy, the view of the valley was still lovely. Not to mention the satisfaction I got instead of being one of those who simply resigned themselves to there being nothing to do in Greymouth.
And by the way, there’s also a lovely little small-town museum crammed full of historical objects and information about Greymouth’s mining and shipping history. You can even sit on the very same chairs that Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh sat on during their visit in 1954. Actually I’m not sure you’re really supposed to sit on them, but I did anyway. Gotta feel like royalty once in a while, right?
3. Nothing is going to jump out of the forest and kill me.
One of the best things about exploring the wilderness here is that nothing, I mean absolutely nothing, is going to jump out of the forest and kill me.
There are no bears or cougars or wolves to attack me in retaliation for invading their space. The only large-ish mammal I might encounter here is a terrified sheep or a curious cow.
I remember hiking in Lake Louise, Alberta and having to get a group of six people together to make enough noise to keep the bears away. Or going with a friend and us singing Beatles songs very loudly for the same reason. (And really, people of New Zealand, aren’t you glad you don’t have to hear me sing? Trust me, you are!)
And there are no snakes or deadly spiders, or even jellyfish or sneaky poisonous shells at the beach. Just the odd bird soaring over the perfect, beautiful sand, and clear blue water, and if you’re really lucky, a sea lion or penguin!
4. The air is wonderful.
I guess this also somewhat goes along with the walking theme, but the air here is beautiful. It’s clean and fresh and scented with pine or fir in the forests, and lupins or other flowers in the summertime.
After three and half years in Hanoi’s dusty, polluted environment and living with my ‘Hanoi Hack’, my lungs love me for being here. Sometimes I find myself just gulping in huge lungfuls of that beautiful air.
5. Honesty boxes
I’ve seen these all over the place here. Someone wants to sell something: fruit, farm produce, homemade jam or honey, plants or cut flowers, baked goods, used books, crafts, you name it, it’s out there on the side of the road somewhere.
But no one wants to spend hours on end manning a stall just to sell a few things, so they leave an honesty box. If you want the product, you put your money in, take the item, and it’s all done without ever seeing another person. Sometimes it’s even possible to open it up and make change.
This says something about the society here. People are honest and good, and there must be very little petty crime. I do wonder how often the money or the product just gets stolen, but it must not be often or honesty boxes wouldn’t exist. I feel like one of these left in most other countries would result in either the money or the items (or both) being gone within a matter of an hour.
The whole concept, the fact that it works so well and that people are able to trust that others won’t just steal their money or product is something that I find rather comforting.
Ok, so lots of countries have Cadbury chocolate, but here I got to tour the factory in Dunedin, where they gave me a baggie full of treats and a discount in the shop, which I took full advantage of!
And Cadbury chocolate is everywhere, and there are a ton of different types which are regularly on sale. I always have a bar or two with me, most often the Old Gold (dark chocolate) Peppermint or the Dairy Milk Black Forest varieties, but occasionally Almond or Hazelnut. And I think I might be developing an addiction to Jaffas.
I guess this is minor, compared to some of the things I mentioned above, but hey, I just love chocolate!
So there you have it; six things I love about New Zealand. Don’t you wish you were here too?
My next post will be a few things I don’t like about New Zealand. Really, there are actually things to dislike here! Can you guess what they might be?