The Best and Worst of New Zealand

New Zealand is a country full of highlights. There’s got to be some reason directors keep choosing it for their movie sets, right?

However.

It’s not all roses. It’s mostly roses, but not all.

Here’s what sticks out in my mind – good and bad – from one year in New Zealand.

Best

Northland, Auckland, New Zealand

Northland dunes of the North Island. Seconds later, I completely wiped out.

Waitomo & The Shearing Shed

Waitomo is famous for glow worm caves, which were certainly worth their salt. But what it is lesser-known for is The Shearing Shed. I’ll give you three guesses what they shear at this shed.

Sheep? Wrong.

Goats? Wrong again.

Llamas? Nice try, but no.

The answer is rabbits. But not just any rabbits –  German Angora rabbits, who will overheat and die if they are not shorn four times a year.

The Shearing Shed, Waitomo, New Zealand

I just want to squeeze the crap out of it. Figuratively, of course.

Just look at it. It’s so amazing. And I got to touch it.

Admittedly, it rubbed me the wrong way when the guy strung it up on the shearing mechanism and got to work, rotating it like a rotisserie as he went. I’m sure the rabbit was even less impressed, though it was pretty placid.

The Shearing Shed - Waitomo - New Zealand - Rabbit

If that's not embarrassing, I don't know what is.

Half of his hair was shorn, then he was detached from the rotisserie. “We’ll shave off the other half when the next tour bus arrives,” the man explained.

How…demoralizing.

But oddly fascinating. And besides, you wouldn’t want the bunnies to DIE, would you?

Didn’t think so.

Geothermal Activity

For whatever reason, New Zealand is awash with  geothermal activity. I suppose it has something to do with it being a volcanic island, but I’m no geologist.

Wai-O-Tapu in Rotorua is worth your time, as are the Craters of the Moon near Taupo. Yes, it’s true what they say, the city of Rotorua smells like rotten eggs.

Big deal. Just have cereal for breakfast. It’s a small price to pay when you get to see sights like this:

Champagne pool - Wai-o-tapu, Rotorua, New Zealand

The Champagne Pool. Don't drink it.

Mud puddles, Rotorua, New Zealand

The bubbling mud puddles of Rotorua. I kind of want to dive in.

Colored pool - Wai-O-Tapu - Rotorua - New Zealand

Looks like somebody melted Kermit over a fire.

Craters of the Moon is near Taupo, about an hour from Rotorua. When I went in 2006 it was FREE, but now it costs $6.00. Bastards.

Craters of the Moon, New Zealand

Mystical.

 

Franz Josef Glacier

There are two major glaciers in New Zealand: Fox Glacier and Franz Josef. I chose Franz Josef because it was closer (barely) to Christchurch, where I was based at the time.

Franz Josef Glacier - New Zealand

The original Ice Age.

I’d never hiked on a glacier before, and chances were good that the opportunity wasn’t going to come up again anytime soon.

Plus, they give you a pickaxe, which was EXCELLENT. I felt like one of the 7 dwarfs, outfitted in my spiked shoes, carrying a pickaxe, marching in single file up a glacier. Despite all of the ice, if you go on a sunny day you won’t even feel the cold.

Franz Josef Glacier - New Zealand

It's all fun and games until someone gets stuck.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Akaroa: A pretty little town near Christchurch with gorgeous views of blue water and green foliage. Bonus: there’s a fudge shop.

Northland: The region north of Auckland, at the very tip of the country. You can slide on the sand dunes and see the oldest tree in New Zealand. Impressive.

 

Worst

Sand dunes - Northland - North Island - New Zealand

I bounced.

The Nevis

Bungy jumping in New Zealand was one of those things on my ‘list,’ back when I used to have a ‘list.’ I never really thought about why I wanted to do it, I just did.

Here’s the thing, though. I’m afraid of heights. Like, terrified.

The Nevis - Queenstown - New Zealand - Bungy

It still gives me heart palpitations to look at it.

So I chose to do the Nevis in Queenstown. At 134m high, it’s said to be the highest bungy in the Southern Hemisphere. What does that even mean? Probably just that I can count myself among the biggest idiots in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Nevis Bungy Jump - Queenstown - New Zealand

You have to take a gondola just to get out there. It's horrible.

Things started to go poorly when they weighed me and wrote a big ’73’ on my hand with a marker. Thanks, jerks.

Then I had to put on a harness and ride a shaky gondola to a swaying hut, which was suspended between a ravine by cables. It sucked.

Nevis bungy jump, Queenstown, New Zealand

I am so unhappy right now.

The worst part is when you’re standing on the edge and they throw the soft orange cone over. It’s attached to your cord, near the feet, so it tugs you forward. I’m sure it has a purpose. I don’t know what that purpose is.

When I showed the video of my jump to my family, my dad was in hysterics as he counted the number of steps it took me to reach the edge of the 2-foot platform.

63.

There was no adrenaline rush when I jumped. Only terror and regret. It was 100% awful and I will never do another bungy jump as long as I live. A sky dive, yes. A bungy jump, no.

OK, I guess I’m glad I did it once, but still. Never again.

Sky Jump

Sky jump - Auckland - New Zealand

Is that it?

I got bored when I lived in Auckland, so prior to the Nevis I actually jumped off the sky tower. Standing on the platform, gripping a pair of metal poles, I feared for my life. Auckland stretched out around me for miles, and the concrete waited below.

I jumped.

It was lame. There are about two seconds of free fall before the cords tighten up and you are essentially lowered to the bottom. It was really expensive (almost $200NZD) and I still don’t understand what possessed me to do it.

Honorable Mentions:

The food poisoning epidemic of 2006-2007: This wasn’t really New Zealand’s fault, but I got deathly ill for 24 hours, twice. The first time was in a hostel in Auckland – I passed out while on the toilet then had to assume the fetal position on the floor in the hallway. A girl stepped over me on her way to the stairwell. The second time, a nurse at the South Island hospital wouldn’t come close to me, claiming that I had some sort of airborne virus.

The pathetic summer of 2006-2007: “This is so weird,” everyone said. “It’s usually really nice in the summer.” But for some reason, that summer was a long time coming. It did finally arrive, about a month before I left to go back to the States.

 

The downsides of New Zealand paled in comparison to the highlights – the variety of things to see is stunning, and you could easily spend months driving around, exploring. There are plenty of things I left off the list, so let me know what you think!

What were your favorite (and not-so-favorite) parts of New Zealand?

 

11 Responses to “The Best and Worst of New Zealand”

  1. Lived in NZ for 16 months (and in AKL no less) and I never had the urge to jump off ANYTHING, no matter how much tourism pushed it under my face. I loved watching people jump off the Sky Tower, but never had any urge to do it myself. Though when they opened the SkyWalk, I considered it. But at that point I had been to the top of the Sky Tower like 10 times (yay for working at SkyCity and having to go to the top for “work”!) and didn’t really want to pay for it.

    YAY for Akaroa LOVE!!!!! CHC is my least favourite town in NZ, but Akaroa is my most. Funny how they are like so close to each other:-).

    • You did it right – see the view from the top of the Sky Tower, then go back down! I am really baffled as to why I did it that day. So not worth the money.
      And Akaroa! What a cute little place.

  2. I continue to read about your fear of heights? Is this genetic? I have the same fear…and didn’t know it until our honeymoon in Mexico. Sweet hubs set us up for an adventure filled day…zip lining? I ran into that bunch of Mayans at the end like they were bowling pins (head buried, NOT even attempting to use the brake stick)…and rappelling? Not a chance. I got all suited up…looked at the guide and said “surely there is a back door here? Show me how I get down…with stairs…” — I had no idea. Life of flying…high in the sky…never really imagined I had a fear of heights. But I do…I really, really do! That said…I’d love to see New Zealand…on foot, or well secured into something 😉

    • Well, I can buy into the genetic theory because my dad is insanely afraid of heights! So it’s on the right side of the family. I can understand the difference between being in a plane and flying down a zip line! Growing up flying, it would seem natural, but swinging through the air, tethered to a rope? Not natural. Fortunately there are plenty of ways to get around New Zealand that have nothing to do with heights!

  3. I took one look at pictures of the Nevis and couldn’t sleep before I was supposed to do it, so I changed to doing the Kawarau Bridge. It’s still bungee jumping but there’s no cable car to a shaky platform aspect!

    I loved glacier hiking and Rotorua and caving in Waitomo. Didn’t see the Shearing Shed though I did hear about it. I also just enjoyed Dunedin even if it was kind of dirty… the Catlins were beautiful, as was Wanaka. Mostly I spent my 5 months there marveling at how beautiful everything was! Except for my flat. My flat was disgusting.

    • The Kawarau Bridge looked so much more appealing. I saw it after the Nevis and think things may have been different if I’d seen it first. I really wanted to get to Dunedin, mainly for the Cadbury factory, but missed out.
      My flat in Auckland had cockroaches. Definitely not one of New Zealand’s main attractions.

  4. I’m looking into getting a one-year working visa for New Zealand, ideally something connected with wildlife and/or nature. I really enjoy hiking and the great outdoors, which is why this country is so appealing. What’s the best way to go about finding work over there? I would like to like to have a job before heading over there if possible.

    • I think you’d have a tough time arranging work before you got there. You could research organizations where you’d like to work and send in your resume shortly before going, but most companies will want to see you in person before hiring. I got all of my work in NZ through recruitment agencies, but word of mouth is great, too, especially for more flexible/casual jobs. I know there’s fruit picking work available, too. Choose a base on the North or South Island and go from there.
      If you like hiking & being outdoors, New Zealand is definitely for you!

  5. I’ve been living with my expat friend (and fellow blogger – Canuckiwikate) for the last 9months on 90 Mile Beach. I truly believe that Northland is one very special place in the world – so naturally beautiful, laid back and close to some of the world’s best beaches – what more could you ask for?

    Also LOVE the Coromandel peninsula – not enough people make the trek there!

    As for my least favorites – Auckland in general. It bores me, I feel it has no personality… I try to be there as little as possible.

    I also dislike how my parents back in Canada can never seem to grasp the fact that NZ gets earthquakes/tremors every single day – and at least once every few weeks I get an urgent text asking if I’m alright – meanwhile I’m nowhere near said tectonic activity! 😛

    • 90 Mile Beach was beautiful – I will always be baffled by the variety of natural landscape New Zealand has. And why I chose to spend 6 months in Auckland, of all places! I agree – the city lacked personality and never grabbed me. But it was relatively easy to find work, and I had some great co-workers, which is the only reason I wouldn’t have done it differently. The Coromandel! Gorgeous. I took an overnight trip there from Auckland but it was during the winter so a bit chilly.
      Your earthquake experiences remind me of how, when I was in South Korea, my parents would question me whenever anything about North Korea appeared in the news. Actually, whenever anything happened in Japan or China, too, even if it didn’t affect my daily life at all. It’s like “This random event happened on the other side of the world and my child is on the other side of the world OH GOD! What if something’s wrong?!”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Learning to Dance Like Nobody's Watching | Lateral Movements - November 11, 2013

    […] bought MAC makeup in New Zealand because I thought it was […]

Leave a Reply