New Zealand was OK. We ended up spending two weeks on the rainy southern island and a week on the north island where were introduced to Cyclone Pam. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the weather wasn’t great during the three weeks we were there and the good luck we’ve had with weather for the last six months ran out. We had planned on spending a great deal of time outdoors and hiking but were typically relegated to the indoors due to crap weather. The parts of New Zealand we did see were fairly pretty and we did manage to find some neat things to do.
New Zealand is an odd place: incomes aren’t all that high yet things are extremely expensive or exceptionally poor values, nothing is really that close together (we put 2,000mi on our rental) yet driving is pretty much the best way to get around, kiwi’s speak English yet they have really funny accents, everyone we met is OK with living in a very geologically active country where they could easily be wiped off the face of the earth, and there are tourists everywhere – about 3million people visit New Zealand, a country with a population of 4.4million. Tourist fatigue was very pervasive.
I think the word indifferent best describes our interactions with most New Zealanders. We haven’t run into this too often on our travels but it was surprising. If I were to guess it’s simply because of the sheer number of tourists that inundate their little islands – tourists are everywhere at all times. We had a pretty hilarious interaction with a New Zealand couple we met through Airbnb: they stated that they “really liked America and Americans” and when I asked why I found out it’s because “Americans are stuffy and so full of themselves”. I wasn’t sure how to take that.
Things, in general, were a pretty poor value. We can handle expensive, that’s not a problem. Poor value is different. Fuel was about $6/gal, food was insanely expensive and lodging, in most places, was the most we’ve ever paid. It was mind blowing to me that we stayed in a place that was $135/night and they didn’t provide WiFi or even change our sheets! We had arranged other tours and activities, like flightseeing, but ended up cancelling them because we were so underwhelmed with what we saw and experienced in New Zealand; we were done giving the country money.
There were three great experiences that really stood out. First was when we were in a lake and the bottom of the lake was heated by the thermal activity in the area. We sunk our feet into the sand and had a free spa day. I felt fabulous. Second was when we met an super cool family through Airbnb. They happily showed us around, brought us to their favorite fish and chips place and gave us some great advice on where to visit. The last awesome experience occurred on our last night in New Zealand when we met Jacquelyn’s relatives who moved to New Zealand from the US back in the early 80s; we had an awesome chat and learned about their unique perspective of New Zealand. It was great to end our time in New Zealand on a high note.
So, overall, I don’t think we’d rush back to New Zealand. We didn’t find any reason to travel half way around the world to see New Zealand; we’ve been other places that have similar landscapes that have better weather and better value for the money.
Enjoy the photos!