Allow me to begin by saying that, in no way, are eighteen-hour fligts that span half of the globe fun. Especially, when you have the window seat and the two people sitting next to you are the overtalkative chaperone and the girl who managed to sleep for the entire flight. Tavel Tip Number One: Get the aisle seat at all costs. Long plane ride and the need to get up and stretch without the ability to do so aside, the torturous flight is well worth what waits at the other side of the proverbial rainbow.
My first stop, besides of course the line for customs to unceremoniously rummage through my belongings as if I were trying to smuggle a destructive species in my socks, was the city of Auckland. The primary city on the north island of New Zealand, Auckland boasts an environment that is almost the perfect mix of a major city and a nature preserve. The first stop that any visitor to that great city must make is to see Mount Eden, a holy site for the local Maori people whose volcanic rim affords a perfect 360 degree view of the surrounding city.
After seeing the city from above, the group of students that I was a part of began the drive south, acquainting ourselves with both our tour guide, and the interesting expressions that she would use as if they were a part of everyone’s standard vocabulary, to the city of Rotorua along the country’s only main highway, which runs the entire length of the island from north to south. This brings us to travel tip number two: Be Prepared for a good deal of driving between your destinations when visiting both islands of New Zealand.
The next city that I visited was the beautiful town of Rotorua. The town, which frequently smells somewhat of rotten eggs due to the geothermal activity that takes place, is the Yellowstone of the Southern Hemisphere. Here, the Indigenous Maori people have built their lives around, and in harmony with, the many hot springs, mud pits, and rivers that steam in the morning as if they were flowing with bath water. Any visitor to this area should definitely see both the landmarks that the area has to offer, and the beautiful geothermal parks that dot the landscape, especially Wai-O-Tapu which features some of the most beautiful, and active, attractions as well as daily tours to various geothermal sites.
Visiting New Zealand would not be complete without a visit to an authentic Marae, a traditional meeting house of the Maori people. After visiting the Marae and sampling the native culture, it is back to the road and the journey further south to the city of Wellington, the seat of parliament. Wellington, one of New Zealand’s largest cities, takes almost two days to see, so be prepared to spend the night at one of the many hotels that the city has to offer. If you can, visit the Beehive, the place that Parliament meets, and the Te Papa museum, completely dedicated to the history and culture of New Zealand.
Unfortunately, the time constraints of my trip caused me to not be able to see the rest of an island that forever will capture the imaginations of people around the world. I will leave you with one final piece of advice: Remember that, in New Zealand, the farther South you travel, the colder it gets. Pack lightly, but pack to ensure that you stay comfortable in both the mild north and the chilly south. Enjoy your travels in the land of the Maori.
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