The year of my life it is, then. It does feel like it though, looking back. What I have learned, experienced, worked, enjoyed and loved in all these months is really quite astounding. AOTEAROA, the “Land Of The Long White Cloud” as the first people like to call it, is a true force of nature. Tremendously beautiful & seductive all along: North & South Islands stretch out over 3.000 kilometres from north to south, producing an explosion of colours and habitats that are unique in the whole world. As a part of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana, New Zealand bid farewell to Australia millions of years ago slowly sinking into the sea – until the forces of the plate tectonics gave rise to what you can see today as islands: Countless fault lines, many of them dangerously active, run across the land above and below sea level. They add a unique charm to this country. This charm is what I would like to share with you in this series of travel articles from Aotearoa, New Zealand.
I first arrived in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, right in the middle of summer. Head over heels. Full of high hopes. And with an appetite for adventure. “We are a very small company and cannot offer to pay you, but if you still want to come and help support Creative Tourism New Zealand, you are more than welcome to stay with us for a while.” This was the reply of my lovely Kiwi family Denise & Crispin Raymond following my application after finishing my studies in World Heritage & Culture Tourism management. I really just googled “creative tourism” and found “Creative Tourism New Zealand“. Half a year later, I was there. 19.000 kilometres away from my home Austria. Rock’n’roll!
Auckland is … “not New Zealand!”, is what I kept hearing over and over. To me, however, everything during these first few days in Aotearoa New Zealand felt exciting, new & very KIWI!
The Maori people stick out their tongues as part of a cultural performance at Auckland Museum, and enjoy having their photo taken. Somewhat shy, you can see me grinning at the camera with them. As a wine lover, I also discovered cute little Waiheke island in the Hauraki gulf near the city of Auckland. Parts of it have been freed of cars (and roads), all that is left are gorgeous walking trails and long, endless empty beaches. Beautiful. How was I to know way back then that this was only the beginning of my hiking & trekking adventures in the “Land Of The Long White Cloud”?
Auckland also impressed me with the fact that the entire city is built on volcanoes, many of which are still active. Seriously! The Kiwis, however, seem to be quite cool about it, continuing to stroll on Queens Road and down to the harbour, watching crazy tourists bungee jump off Auckland Sky Tower 😉 and enjoying the sun-kissed fruit that gave them their name (or vice versa).
My first few days in New Zealand went by in peace, sunshine and high hopes for the future. I bought a cell phone including a local SIM card in order to stay connected, as well as a good outdoor rain jacket from Mountain Design that I still wear today. Went into the travel centre and booked my bus for Tauranga, Taupo & Wellington in order to cross over to the South Island. Denise & Crispin Raymond were to come and get me in Motueka near the Abel Tasman National Park as previously arranged. Exciting !!
Next time, I will tell you more about these unique trips in the land of the Kiwis. Please excuse a likely hint of excitement that you will notice in all of my “Tiki Touring New Zealand” posts: Today still, thoughts & images about this country cause me to smile and be happy. New Zealand … A dream come true!