We’ve absolutely loved New Zealand and we’ve learnt a lot too. Here are 10 things that we didn’t know about the country until we travelled here.
1-In spring on the west coast of the south island, people go mad for whitebait. When we stayed in the tiny village of Haast, the owner of our accommodation said that there were 1,500 fisherman with nets in the area. Haast has a population of 297! Nigel decided to try a whitebait sandwich. He imagined he would get fried whitebait between two slices of bread. Instead the whitebait was cooked into an omelette.
2-Possums are a protected species in Australia. In New Zealand, you don’t even need a licence to shoot them, because they are not an indigenous species. Their fur is even sold without conscience.
3-The Marlborough vineyards are vast. Neither of us had seen so much land laid to vines. It fills a valley 20 miles long and a couple of miles wide.
4-There was a huge goldrush in the mid 19th century. I think we knew that. What was surprising was that Chinese immigrants played a big part in the rush, panning (or fossicking) for gold and establishing retail businesses. The Chinese and Europeans didn’t mix much.
5-There are only two indigenous mammals on New Zealand – both of them are bats.
6-The Lord of the Rings trilogy brought in so much income to New Zealand that the government appointed a Minister for Lord of the Rings to make sure that the earnings were maximised.
7-The temperate rainforests in the west of the south island are thick and jungle-like. The forests are unmanaged and you would imagine that you are in the tropics. But while we were there, it averaged 15 degrees Celsius.
8-To make a burger a ‘kiwi burger’, you just add beetroot and a fried egg. As neither of us is all that keen on beetroot, we’ll have to take New Zealanders’ word for it that it’s ‘awesome’.
9-Many of the birds are native flightless, because there were no natural predators until Europeans introduced them. We met a very curious and friendly Weka in a layby.
10-Supermarket trolleys are known as ‘trundlers’ and hiking is more often referred to as ‘tramping’. And we’re pretty sure they’re the only country in the world that refers to flipflops as ‘jandals’.
We did our New Zealand adventure independently as part of a round the world trip. If escorted tours are more your thing, this trip with Titan Tours covers a similar itinerary: