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New Zealand - A Tale of North and South. Part Two

By Conor Delaney

For some reason, my passport jammed the machine (they never work, do they?) as I landed in the tiny airport in Queenstown (when you're outside the building in the town of Queenstown or in Frankton which is right beside the airport, you'd think the airport is bigger as this is high season and there's so many landings and take offs). I was asked a few questions by a friendly and cleanly presented immigration control officer with a twangy accent that many will love and he was surprised when he postulated "And that's all the baggage you have for 6 weeks?" Well yeah, I own a travel company, what do you expect? I've also adopted the excellent advice of one of our favourite American clients to travel with just hand-luggage. They can't lose your suitcase if you didn't bring one, can they?

Next, I put my bags through a scanner and an Argentinian guy was delighted to exchange a few words as Argentina (another of our favourite travel experiences here at GDT) had just won the 2022 FIFA soccer World Cup. So quickly I learned that South Americans are coming to New Zealand to work in a sector experiencing an absolute boom. New Zealand, and especially the South Island, just can't train people and hire people quick enough. If you're a chef, you are gold dust and you'll probably be remunerated here accordingly. On the notion of food, New Zealand can cook up a storm. In places like Auckland you're going to experience real Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Malay, Indonesian and Indian foods that any city in the world would be proud of. The ingredients are fresh and New Zealand has a genuine foodie culture. I rate New Zealand above most European countries and on a par with many Asian ones. What's even better about New Zealand is that you can stay traditional British/American style or really mix things up with the Pan-Asian offering. I've had noodles in the Airport in Queenstown that matched anything I had in Japan, so this is no laughing matter, it's proper nosh in NZ.

I booked a place called Breakfast at Tiffany's, run by a friend of mine obsessed with the Golden Age of Hollywood and it was one of the best accommodation experiences I ever had. Normally, I go for hotels and usually four and five stars as I need good WiFi (safari last year was interesting from that perspective) but the reviews were so high I had to give it a shot. It ended up being such an amazing experience where I learned all about the South Island, made loads of friends and met more of these seekers of truth and lovers of nature. There were Aussies escaping their hot summers, Germans who were hiking the Milford Trail (one lady even brough her own pots and pans all the way from Germany), Indians exploring the country in order to emigrate their later, Chinese Australians relaxing having flown in from Sydney and then myself. Peggy runs a great guesthouse where everyone gets to know each other and whilst we usually have our clients stay in more luxury offerings, you will not do better than the views overlooking lake Wakatipu that you can find staying here. If you're local for a few days as a young couple or a solo traveller and you want a B&B full of great characters, good chat and life experiences you can only dream of hearing about, stay here:

Peggy, originally from East Germany via Australia and some great experiences working in the Outback knowing Aboriginal culture, is an incredible host, as well as an excellent entrepreneur. She bough up snowboards during the pandemic when the slopes were closed and sold them all back when they reopened and has since purchased a couple of car hires that are available for her guests to rent. I think Peggy trusted me quite a lot and I was fortunate enough to have her white BMW 320 M Convertible for a couple of days which I used to drive to Milford Sound through the rainforest. On that drive I stopped in Te Anau for lunch where a really cool barman/waiter from England called Josh served me one of the best ever burgers I've had and reminded me of home with a very unique brand of British humour. Everyone in New Zealand seems to be happy and satisfied with life and that's something that even makes me think about living there. Probably the only dampener is the cost of living which already has seen many Kiwis move to Australia so you've got to be earning a buck to service the lifestyle.

I took some great pictures, breathed in the fresh air on the way towards the stunning glaciated pocket known as Fiordland in the South Island's South West and put the roof down in the car. Nobody makes better cars then the Germans in my opinion and to have a convertible Beemer with great tunes on the most beautiful road trip I've ever done really awakened the senses. So beautiful I had to pinch myself mentally. When you enter the rainforest on Route 94, the weather can change so quickly and the mountains get really pronounced. You feel like you're in Jurassic Park or Lord of the Rings (you are) and the only regret I had was that I came with nobody to enjoy the views and spectacle with. This area of New Zealand is very sparsely populated and that makes it an even better day out. You pass farmland as you head west and there's a couple of small towns with a couple of hundred inhabitants in each - Garston, Mossburn and Kingston for example. You feel like you're in a great blend of Scottishness, Englishness, Irishness and Māori-ness all at once and it's absolutely fantastic. The New Zealand government has done a great job of promoting the Māori language and it's a bilingual country. There are two official languages, the other being English, and both languages are prevalent on every map of New Zealand, every sign and every government communication. There's even a Maori language TV Channel, which I loved.

One thing I learned when visiting the New Zealand is that the Māori are such gentle and caring spirits. There's an attachment to the land and sea that's part of New Zealand's identity and part of the reason it's one of the most sustainable-focused developed countries in the world. Everywhere I went, Maori culture is embraced - art, language, cuisine, performance, music and history. New Zealand can be proud of it's embracing of both British and Maori cultures, something it does rather better than other countries with a double identity if you believe the press. One thought that of course did occur to me is that tourism really is better for the promotion of Maori culture. With such a distinctive Polynesian identity spread by rugby and popular culture, many visitors come to New Zealand to experience this. I've been to Hawaii, but it's just not as part of life as much as in New Zealand. To find out about it in Hawaii, you've got to search for it. Here in New Zealand, it's promoted. People start their emails with "Kia Ora" and end with Maori blessings. It's not contrived, it's real. Everyone benefits from the mix. So what else did I do in Queenstown? Read part three to find out.....

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