In February 2015, I finally found my favourite place in the world. Unfortunately, it just so happens to be as far as physically possible from my hometown while still being on Earth. That’s right, it’s New Zealand, and I have to go back.
A friend from university had long since wanted to go to New Zealand, primarily for Lord of the Rings geekiness purposes, and I volunteered myself as travelling companion and general nuisance. I’m a pretty big LOTR fan myself, and an even bigger fan of travel and new places, so I was pretty damn excited about the trip. I’d travelled with Matt, my uni friend, when we went with a few other to Egypt for a study tour in our second year, but we’d never spent that much time alone together. As it happens, he reminds me of my brother, and we get along like a house on fire. The best thing about travelling with Matt is he’s super into hyper-organising things, so I don’t have to do anything but agree to stuff and show up when he tells me to – my kind of holiday.
I had high expectations of New Zealand; we’ve all seen the panoramic shots in LOTR, The Chronicles of Narnia and countless other movies. New Zealand blew my preconceived ideal out of the water: it was even better.
I’ve gathered a some of my favourite photographs from that trip to illustrate far better than I can just why I love this country so damn much. This post pretty picture heavy, but it could have been far worse as I took almost four thousand pictures over the course of the holiday. I haven’t put them all in, I promise…
Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, and is the business hub of the country. I found it to be a city of clashing cultures, with fish and chip shops next to sushi restaurants. New Zealand in general is like this, but there was a greater Asia influence on the North Island and in Auckland in particular. Also, Auckland has the best bus service ever. Matt claims I’m exaggerating, but seriously, you could jump on a bus and go around the whole city centre for the equivalent of about 25p.
Selfie included because I think it looks like the cover of a bad indie album.
GUYS. Hobbiton is real. Like, actually real. I’ve been there and I’ve drunk the cider in The Green Dragon. The whole place is incredible and immaculately maintained by an army of gardeners, and was a verdant paradise during North Island’s drought. Cue lots of pictures of hobbit holes.
Wellington is known as The Windy City, and on our first night there we got a taste of why. A sea breeze that blew us backwards and whipped my hair up, late at night on the harbour front with Matt desperately trying to get a panoramic shot of Wellington at night. I spent a good half hour laughing at the wind, leaping and running like I was five years old again, and feeling completely and utterly at home. We feasted on some seriously incredible fish and chips, and I fell in love with the city. That night is quite possibly my happiest memory.
Our geekiest tour was definitely this one is Wellington. The sign translates as “Come, walk this path to Rivendell”. If you’re not a LOTR fan you may not understand the reference in the odd looking horse photograph, but it’s a recreation of a famous scene from the Fellowship of the Ring. The horse is comprised of three members of our tour group, and they struggle to hold the horse for long because we were all laughing so hard.
Before catching our evening flight to Nelson, we took a trip to the Zealandia National Park, which is about twenty minutes outside of Wellington. You see that weird looking bird? That’s a Takahe, one of the rarest birds in the world and Matt and I spent ages looking for them, having been assured that they were very shy and not often spotted in the park. Where did we find them? Chilling with the ducks.
We didn’t spend long in Nelson, which although technically being a city, has a very small town feel. I felt it was a little quiet, preferring Wellington, but it suited Matt down to the ground. The main reason we came to Nelson though, was a really amazing helicopter tour. If you’ve never been in a helicopter, they’re amazing, unless you get travel sick.
Oh, you’re wondering why the picture of the duck? Because this little shit sat on my back and then pecked my legs. I was attempting to get some pictures of some more unusual avians and ended up lying in the grass for 45 minutes, and several local ducks decided I either looked comfortable or tasty.
Our visit to Christchurch was extremely emotional. Devastated by earthquakes in 2011, much of the city centre was still, four years later, in ruins. The city still functions, as the suburbs were mostly untouched, but the city centre is still strange. We struggled to find anywhere to eat at night as many of the restaurants had been destroyed and business had yet to move back to the centre. It felt wrong to take photographs of a city with its soul torn out, especially after visiting the QuakeCity exhibition, which left me in tears and Matt not far off. As a result, all of my photos are from our 4X4 tour out to Edoras and Helm’s Deep. The tour was the absolute highlight of the holiday, due to the spectacular scenery and the guides, Phil and Sandi, who are incredible people. Seriously, if you’re going to NZ and are anywhere near Christchurch, check them out.
I actually really want to go back to Christchurch, because despite the horror of the earthquakes, the whole city felt hopeful. There was a real sense of them starting again, and looking forward to it.
Dunedin was probably my least favourite city on our whirlwind tour, but it was let down in part by the weather. While it brightened up for our drive to Queenstown, our day or so in the city itself was pretty dreary. The city itself was oddly familiar in parts, as it is heavily based on Edinburgh which I know well. There’s ever a statue or Robbie Burns in the town square which amused me to no end!
Queenstown is easily the most beautiful city we visited. While the vibe wasn’t very me, lots of backpackers and not much culture, I still look at these photographs and can’t quite believe they’re real.
So there you have it! I’m in love, and it’s with a country on the other side of the planet. If you ever get the chance to go to New Zealand, do it! It’s Scotland on steroids, and huge mishmash of cultures and has the friendliest people I’ve ever met – and I’ve met a lot of people.
I hope you enjoyed this post; I’m aware it’s quite different to my usual things, but I have travelled quite a lot so I may do more posts like this (although perhaps not quite as long winded).
P.S. I hate ducks now.