Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

“My strongest impression of the people was how they all had such friendly smiles – the New Zealanders certainly don’t skimp on kindness. The immigration officer who checked our passports smiled, as did the cashier, the waiter, and the people we passed in the street. Straightforward, genuine kindness. As though the infection of the modern world hasn’t got here yet. They’re also laid-back, and don’t get stressed – whatever happens, they’ll figure it out. Sometimes this laid-back attitude was too much for me, but sometimes I loved it.

The only place we saw people hurrying was in Wellington, and it really stood out. They’re relaxed behind the wheel, too – let people out at junctions, don’t overtake, don’t brake suddenly, keep to the speed limit and don’t bother one another. Or at least, that’s what it was like when we saw another car – sometimes we barely saw three during an hour’s drive. Only truckers drive fast – everyone else seems happy to get there when they get there.
I think the New Zealanders are more natural than the nature which surrounds them. When you see that someone has exploited the landscape for money, it strikes you as serious. For instance, if someone has cut down a forest and left a barren hillside, they plant a new forest – it’s a big deal here.

The whole country is clean, and I mean the WHOLE country. Period. Cities, roadsides, and even public toilets. Everywhere. And it’s as though this isn’t the result of massive clean-up efforts, but rather a collective agreement: we won’t litter here.

Travelling home, I take with me the vastness of New Zealand’s landscapes. The river valley opens wide, and behind the distant mountains you see still higher and more distant mountains. The coastline is endless, the bays and inlets are wide, and the lack of people just emphasizes this vastness.

There are hardly any major settlements on the South Island. You can go 50km without seeing a house, or anything built by humans beside the road itself. Sharp light illuminates everything, and lends everything a very rich color: the sea is very blue, the forest is very green, the lambs are very white. All types of natural landscape can be seen here, almost right next to each other. At the same time I can see lush tropical vegetation and snow-capped mountains, dry river valleys and rainforests. A real once-in-a-lifetime experience.” (2017)



New Zealand - the Haka, sticking out the tongue - a now world-famous Maori tradition to indimidate the opponents - Elter photo

New Zealand - South Island - Milford Sound - Mitre Peak - Elter photo

Practicals

Transport

New Zealand has left-hand traffic. The roads are good but have mostly two lanes only.

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"There is virtually no train service in New Zealand. There are only a few routes expressly for tourists, which are good, but they often close, for example after earthquakes. As for buses, Nakedbus and Intercity operate on South Island, while Manabus covers North Island. These are relatively expensive, with a one-way ticket starting at $20-33 for a 100-200km journey. Although they have season ticket offers, several tourists have complained to us that you simply cannot take advantage of them: in the high season (December-February) tickets run out two or three days in advance, and in this case, you cannot travel with a pass.

If your trip is already too expensive and your bus pass seems worthless, you should consider hitchhiking. New Zealand is one of the last countries in the world where hitchhiking works well and is not dangerous (though of course, it’s still worth being cautious). We hitchhiked several times, never had to wait more than an hour, and generally got picked up after an average of about twenty minutes. The locals take this for granted. They’re interested in tourists, and tell stories ... you can find a lot of useful information from them. One of our drivers, for instance, saved us from trying to stay in Queenstown, and even fixed us up with cheap accommodation in Wanaka. It is advisable to write in large letters on a sheet of paper where you want to go.... They’ll pick you up, even if they’re heading part of the way to your destination.
The downside to hitchhiking, of course, is that if you‘re going a long way, you can never be sure when you'll get there, and because of all your bags, you can’t always look around when you’re on the road. It is cheaper to rent a car for two or more people than to take a bus. The price of car rental with full insurance (zero deductible CDW) is about $33 per day for 7-10 days. The longer you rent, the cheaper it gets, even going down to $20-23 if, say, you rent a car for more than a month. If you want to travel in one direction (and want to drop off the car somewhere else than where you picked it up), then it will mean a $100-200 one-time extra cost. If you are going from south to north, you can search for good-priced campervan rentals on imoova.com. However, it is not worth booking through the website because there is a brokerage fee. The terms of the rental, on the other hand, are usually taken from the car rental site, so copying the text to google will quickly reveal which company’s offer has been collated... and you’ll get the same thing cheaper on their site. (We saved $25 this way when we found the same offer on the Thrifty site.) There are a few other campervan hire sites (e.g. transfercar.co.nz) we looked at these but didn’t use them in the end.

I would like to draw your attention to Apex car rental: there is no extra fee for different-location drop-off between big cities! For example, driving from Wellington and leaving the car in Auckland cost the same as if we had dropped it off in Wellington. (I would add: this was also a south-north route! That may not be a coincidence...) A liter of petrol is currently $1.3-1.5, a good 50-70% more than in Australia!
Be sure to include in the cost of renting a car that accommodation is much cheaper outside downtown areas ... and so the car can save you money on that too. Staying in Cromwell instead of Queenstown, for instance, we saved enough in one night to pay for the car and petrol for a whole day!” (2017)

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Here are a few things I liked about transportation:
• You can quickly get used to left-hand drive and left-hand gear shift. Although you always have to watch out at first – don’t let yourself fall into autopilot! The last day we headed to the airport, turned nicely out of the campsite, and a few meters later, a terrified oncoming car alerted me that I was driving on the right side! So just be careful!
• For the first week, we didn't see a police officer at all. Nowhere! Not even a police car!
• Then, the second week, a policeman saw us… Doing 98 in a 70! He was very kind, but told us to pay attention and keep to the speed limits! Juci promised, and afterwards paid closer attention to how much Gábor pressed the accelerator pedal!
• They’re very careful about accident prevention.
• Everywhere on the main roads, and even on some smaller roads, there are raised bumps close to the side of the road, which, if you drive over them, make the car judder, indicating that you are leaving your lane.
• In corners where it is worth slowing down, the speed at which it is safe to take the corner is always marked!
• There are plenty of warning signs on the side of the roads! E.g.: At least two signs in front of a stop sign warning that a stop sign is coming soon. It is always indicated when an extra lane will soon be joining, and where you can safely overtake. They then indicate several times when an overtaking lane will end.
• On giant boards, a quirky kiwi bird kindly warns you that if you are driving while sleepy, drunk, or going too fast, you should stop at once!
There are no toll roads in New Zealand, except for a short section north of Auckland, and it costs $2! It can be easily avoided anyway.



New Zealand - Auckland - McLaren Park - You speed people die - z.a. photo

New Zealand - South Island - scenic road at Lake Hawea - s.v. photo

New Zealand - Rotorua - de Haviland hydroplane - Elter photo

Food

Wellington has more restaurants & cafes per capita than New York.

Fun

"Myth - New Zealand is boring and lacks attractions, everything closes at five o'clock every day, there's nothing here, and everyone is bored stiff. Well, the country is indeed different from Western norms –not in everything, but close enough.

Urban life is much slower than in a big European city, but at the same time, if you’re looking to go out, there are all the usual options available. There are theaters, movie theaters (including Imax), bars, nightclubs, pubs, sports bars, 24-hour golf courses, swimming pools, brothels, and everything from basic street food to super-exclusive restaurants. All the usual fast-food chains and brands can be found here, and are even supplemented with shops catering to the Asian market. In addition,  there are of course endless possibilities to enjoy the natural environment, where pretty much everyone does what they want, except maybe cross-country skiing. If you want to hunt, (even for food) you can easily get a hunting weapon, if you want to fish, you can do that too. Aside from the normal restrictions (species/size limit/season), you do what you want.

You can do the dumbest sports outdoors, and no one will look at you funny if you walk backward on the beach swinging dumbbells, or walk 20 km a day with a weight of 100 kilos on your back, or go sea kayaking in the storm, or demonstrate every week for the inclusion of unicycle violin playing at the Olympics. You can find all the equipment for these activities in sports shops (the violin, of course, can be found in the musical instrument shop) and on the Internet, you will also find community groups for runners, dog runners, multi-dog runners, stroller multi-dog runners, and stroller multi-dog violin-playing unicyclists.

In addition, in the local newspapers – among the pictures of funeral entrepreneurs with attractive smiles – you can come across some great activities, like “let’s watch birds together”, “let’s pick up trash on an uninhabited little island in the bay together”, “let’s look at each other’s beautiful gardens while drinking tea”, and such like. People entertain themselves, and each other, and as superficial as they sometimes seem, they pay attention to each other, to the neighbors, without installing angled mirrors on their upstairs windows. The number of small local communities for music groups, Rotary Clubs, painting, hiking, amateur radio enthusiasts, diving, dancing, esotericism, sailing, and various sports clubs is endless, and whether they are into doll’s-house restoration or nature conservation, they welcome new members.

There are plenty of museums, galleries, concerts, as you’d expect in a regular big city. During the holidays, street parades are very popular, from the ANZAC Day Military Parade to the Santa Parade, and on summer weekends the downtown offers busy evenings for those looking to enjoy themselves. Of course, in tiny settlements, the above is only true to a limited extent, but that’s the case in every country. Exploring the beauty of the local nature can supply enough sights for a lifetime, travel is easy and not too expensive, and domestic tourism is a strong and well-functioning industry. Anyone who is bored here wants to be bored.”

New Zealand - Kawarau Bridge, near Queenstown - Where publicly the first-ever bungee jump was performed by a certain Mr. AJ Hackett, back in 1988. - Elter photo

Auckland - UFOs over the city - Elter photo

Public safety

Violent crimes against tourists are rare and mostly happen in the bigger cities.  Somewhat dangerous areas are the entertainment districts of Auckland (Central West) and Wellington (Courtenay Place) and in specific neighborhoods inhabited mainly by immigrants (Auckland - Papakura, Wellington - Porirua, Christchurch - Linwood). In these places mentioned above, the number of crimes committed against tourists is several times higher than in other parts of the country.

New Zealand - police - s.e photo

Health

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New Zealand - Kawakawa - Hundertwasser public toilet - n.l. photo

New Zealand - Kawakawa - Hundertwasser toilet - n.l. photo

Others

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New Zealand - Maori bottom - Elter photo

Background

New Zealand - beesiness since 1865 - Elter photo

New Zealand - national flag - There is a flag debate going on in NZ - change this one or not?

Destination in brief


New Zealand is a country located in the Oceania region, in the Southern Hemisphere, southeast of Australia. The shortest distance (as the crow flies) between Australia and New Zealand is 4,163 km (2,587 miles).
New Zealand is the 3rd closest country to Antarctica, behind only Chile and Argentina

Size: 268,021 km² (103,483 mi²) - New Zealand consists of 2 main islands - North Island and South Island – plus about 600 much smaller ones. The South Island somewhat bigger than the North Island.
 
The country’s giant neighbor, Australia, is 29 times bigger than New Zealand.
 
Capital city: Wellington – pop. 414,000 (2020). The country’s largest city, however, is Auckland, with 1.6 million (2020) inhabitants. Wellington is the southernmost capital in the world.
 
Population: 4.8 million (2020) – More than three quarters of New Zealanders live on the North Island. The locals are nicknamed Kiwis (after the kiwi, a native, flightless bird, which is a national symbol of New Zealand). (The kiwi fruit is not native to New Zealand! It’s actually from China, but it was named after the kiwi bird.)
 
The indigenous people of New Zealand are the Maoris, settled here from Polynesian areas before the English came. About 15% of the country’s population is Maori (2020).
 
New Zealand is growing increasingly multiethnic. As of 2020, about 29% of the population was not born in New Zealand. Asian immigrants (mostly Chinese, Indians and Filipinos) already outnumber the Maori minority (2020).
 
There are 9 sheep for every person in New Zealand, making it the highest ratio in the world.
 
Language: English, Maori and the New Zealand Sign Language are New Zealand’s 3 official languages.
 
New Zealand used to be a British colony (1981-1907). The Maori minority has its own language. This indigenous language (which originally had no written form) is classified as endangered and the national government supports policies aimed at revitalizing it.
 
Religion: About 48% Christian – Increasing ethnic diversity is making the population more diverse religion-wise as well.
 
Political system: Being a member of Commonwealth, New Zealand is formally a monarchy, and the British Queen is its head of state. The country, however, has a multi-party system and is completely independent from Britain.
 
According to the Corruptions Perception Index, New Zealand is the least corrupt nation in the world (tied with Denmark).
 
New Zealand is a left-driving country.
 
Currency: New Zealand dollar (NZD)
 
Average net monthly salary: about 2,100 USD (2020)
 
Most common surname: Smith
 
Safety:  New Zealand is a very safe country for tourists.
 
There are no snakes in New Zealand. None. (Except in zoos).
 
Best time to visit: December-February, which is summertime in New Zealand
 
Top tourist attractions:
 
South Island: Fiordland with Milford Sound, Marlborough Sounds, Franz Josef Glacier, Fox Glacier, Queenstown, Mount Cook National Park, Kaikoura, Christchurch
 
North Island: Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland at Rotorua, Bay of Islands, Lake Taupo, Matamata (where The Lord of Rings movies were shot), Tongariro National Park, Art Deco in Napier, Coromandel Peninsula, Waiheke Island, Muriwai Beach
 
Bats are the only native land mammals in the country. All the others were introduced by Maoris and Europeans.

Geography

Wellington is the southernmost capital of the world.

There are no dangerous land animals in New Zealand. The exception is a spider called katipo, which lives primarily in the coastal dunes. Biting of this protected spider can cause severe toxic, allergic symptoms, but cases are scarce.

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“Myth: New Zealand is a land of pristine wildlife, with endless forests, and Edenic landscapes. Almost, at least it’s trying to be! The appearance of man has fundamentally reshaped the wildlife of the island, even the early Moa Hunters exterminated the huge birds by burning the forest, while the appearance of the white man has led to the destruction of approximately 90% of the remaining woodland. They also unleashed the dog, cat, hedgehog, rat, and opossum upon the defenseless and previously enemy-free birdlife, and either burned the forests or turned them into houses. In their place, people started grazing cattle and sheep, growing grain and other crops, building roads, ports, etc., so the environment here has been treated in more or less the usual way.

These days, New Zealand is trying to reshape the landscape much more consciously, by creating vast nature reserves, fish, birds, and plants, where it seeks to create natural conditions from 1-2 thousand years ago, or rather, to let nature create them for itself. The well-thought-out "green" image and its promotion on all platforms is no accident: clean air, clean waters, and clean sheep can bring serious profits through food exports and tourism. The state does not try to keep visitors from these areas, and in fact even encourages you to go and see them, by building walkways, restrooms, parking lots, information boards (and honestly, there was more toilet paper in Tawharanui than I’ve ever seen.) There is still a lot to be done, which I think includes getting people used to not littering, because even though the streets are cleaned, many people still throw away their trash. On the other hand, it is true that the triad of old bathtub/burst car tire/rusty oil drum is not much in evidence in the nature reserves – far from it.”



New Zealand - blowhole - Elter photo

New Zealand - South Island - Franz Josef Glacier - Elter photo

New Zealand - kea, an endemic ,, Mountain (or Alpine) parrot" - Elter photo

New Zealand - South Island - idyillic landscape with the inevitable sheeps - Elter photo

New Zealand - A Kiwi presents an endemic kiwi - Elter photo

New Zealand - South Island - landscape - s.v. photo

Climate

"The first common misconception is that New Zealand is a country with a Mediterranean climate. It is a mystery why peoples in Europe think so, but for some reason they do. According to my anthropo-etymological (well, if this is not a new word…) research, Eastern Europeans especially imagine the country sweltering under a Caribbean sun, but the Germans are not free from this delusion either, and I have even run into a British-born individual who explained in outraged tones that he came here because he could not stand the rain at home. While New Zealand may be about the same distance from the equator as Italy, there is no Mediterranean sea here, only a polar wind, and an oceanic climate from the south – check your elementary school textbooks – while the (not too harsh) inconveniences caused by the weather are exacerbated by the peculiarly tin-pot residential buildings and high humidity. Still, there is no snow here in the north. Warm summers, chilly winters.”



History

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New Zealand - traditional Maori home - Elter photo

Nowadays

"The people – to European eyes – often seem rather underdressed, but walking in crocs/welly boots is only partly due to a lack of pretension. There are more practical reasons, as well as the potential for off-road walking. Due to low population density and long distances, the smaller roads are almost without exception without asphalt, but it rains a lot, and humanity has developed two things for getting through the mud: rubber boots and the off-road vehicle.

Agriculture, which produces only 4-5 percent of GDP, occupies one-tenth of the working population and is a big part of Kiwi culture. This means it’s generally not looked down on to be a farmer or to advertise a veal-calf food mix on tv. Farming is bloody hard work, and we’re not talking about a little garden vegetable patch: farms here cover huge areas, and time flies when you’re dealing with 80 or 100 thousand sheep. At the same time, far more city folk than I expected were able to place Budapest on a map, though according to local Hungarians, this is no thanks to the local education system, despite the fact that most of the universities here offer world-renowned degrees. Even in the cities, the countryside is charmingly present: where I work, the largest shopping mall in the country is on one side of the highway, while cows graze on the other side, but even right in the city center sheep and cow live in the 200 hectares of Cornwall Park.”

"Thanks to a colonial, pioneering lifestyle that still isn’t too distant a memory, moving and getting out from between your four walls is really very popular around here. (Some unkind souls say it's also because the walls around here aren’t the best.) Health mania and fitness fascism have taken hold here too, of course, and fell on fertile soil in this part of the world. The almost unhealthy sports mania has become a widespread and self-perpetuating process. The good side of this is that the majority of the population is doing some kind of exercise, even if it's just a walk on the beach, it’s still better than nothing. It's very good to see how the postman delivers the letters by bike, and alongside him, there are many cyclists, runners, joggers, dumbbell walkers, and kayakers, even in winter. You can really see the impact of having sporting opportunities right on your doorstep. Organically grown and labeled foods are very popular, and a real market has developed for it; what’s more, a lot of the food here is grown on land that has never seen artificial fertilizer or pesticides. raw materials are grown in these areas. Cereal bars are popular here, as well as a lot of sugar- or fat-free stuff. Maybe you can even buy a pair of socks with a low-fat or fat-free label.

There is another social group, however, who do nothing but eat the most garbage food in accordance with international competition rules, and immediately turn it into fat. I’ve never seen as many oversized, tank-shaped figures as I have here. Nor have I ever seen as much junk food as in New Zealand. Obesity is a national problem, but this is an aspect of the country which is obviously less widely known. The worst cases can be found among the children, and I don’t think there’s a more pathetic sight, or a sign of a more careless parent, than a child who has been allowed to swell to immobility. The obese among the Maori and other indigenous islanders at least have the excuse that in their culture, obesity has been a sign of prosperity and fertility for the past few thousand years (cf. Willendorf Venus), but this is not necessarily true today. Excessive levels of obesity are simply the result of the overabundance of cheap, easily accessible junk food. In addition to morbid obesity, alcoholism, smoking (which has been banned from pretty much everywhere), and drug use are all on the rise. Just today I heard on the radio that the country is one of the first in terms of the amount of weed grown and processed, and if one wants to do so, one can obtain it and even grow it in the garden without any particular risk – no one will notice.”


New Zealand - an informative show of sheep breeds - Elter photo

New Zealand - The Merino sheeps are in the majority - About 700 farmers keep 3.3 million Merino sheep, 97% of them in the South Island - Elter photo

New Zealand - The Silence of the Lambs (or these are sheeps, being over one year of age?) - social distancing? - Elter photo

Attractions

Auckland

Auckland - n.l. photo

Auckland - old building - a.t. photo

Rotorua

New Zealand - Rotorua - Tourists waiting for the (stimulated) eruption of the Lady Knox Geyser - Elter photo

Rotorua - Pohutu Geyser - Elter photo

Milford Sound

Queenstown

Queenstown - armchair lift to Bob's Peak - Elter photo

Christchurch

Christchurch - in ruins after the devastating earthquake in 2011 - Elter photo

Dunedin

New Zealand - South Island - Dunedin - Train Station (1906) - s.v. photo

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