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