Fri, March 25th, 2011 - By

Kiwi Culture Down Under


Have you ever travelled around the world to visit our antipodean pals in New Zealand?  If not, you’re missing out, as it’s certainly one of my favourite countries.  Blessed with scenery that looks as if it’s from another planet and hospitality to rival any European country, the Kiwi’s have built a wonderful culture that supports their spiralling tourism scene.    And although getting there means a long trip (even airlines who fly “direct” from Heathrow, make a stop either in Los Angeles or Hong Kong on the way), you’ll find prices quite reasonable once you arrive and a bustling “budget” infrastructure of backpacker hotels, inexpensive restaurants, and options to scrimp and save elsewhere.  Here are a few of my fave activities to enjoy while in New Zealand.

“Tramping” (Hiking)

Hiking, or what the Kiwis call “tramping,” is a popular activity for locals and visitors.  The entire country is covered in amazing trails and routes and it seems every one of them is perfectly designed to get the best photographs of massive waterfalls, sweeping mountain ridges, and wildlife spotting.  The New Zealand website has descriptions of all of them, but if you’re coming all this way, I’d suggest you try to at least walk a partial route (if not the entirety) of one of the “9 Great Walks of New Zealand.”  These routes were chosen for their spectacular beauty, and having walked on 4 of them, I can tell you, they are spectacular – many have called them the best walks in the world.

If you plan on doing overnight routes on the trails, you MUST book your accommodation huts in advance (all can be done online) – there is a charge but it is very inexpensive.  I found that the hotels and hostels have rental camping equipment you can hire, so you don’t even have to bring stuff with you from the UK – just pop into the grocery store and then you’re ready to go.

Maori Culture

The Maori people are the indigenous tribes who originally made the islands of New Zealand their home. As you can imagine, living in such a remote place gave the opportunity for the Maori people to create a very unique culture.  That culture is still in many ways alive today, with over half a million Maoris still alive and living in the country; many Maori words are commonly used as expressions of speech by every kiwi, such as “kia ora,” which means hello.

There are lots of opportunities to sample Maori culture while you are here.  A few suggestions:

  • Eat at a Maori “hangi” where food is cooked for hours over hot coals.  Delicious.
  • Visit a tribal Maori village – not all are open to visitors, but many are
  • Attend a dance show, where tribal members show off the many dances and customs, such as the “haka” (made famous by the country’s rugby team, the All Blacks, who perform it before games)

Food

Last but not least is the food – I found eating out in New Zealand to be really cheap, and delicious too – lots more to be enjoyed than a slice of kiwi fruit!  It seemed many foods “from” New Zealand were sugary foods, like chocolate pineapple or their national dessert, the pavlova.  But you’ll find in many restaurants they serve food with fresh veg from their garden, meats from farms not too far away – after all, they’re quite isolated, so sourcing locally comes naturally.  Also, did you know New Zealand has its own variation of Marmite?  I think it tastes slightly sweeter and maybe less “tangy,” but you’ll have to try it and decide for yourself.

Have you been to New Zealand?  What was the highlight for you?

Photo by Phillip Capper, Tim Musson, Telportfolio, pissodisevo

Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Posted : Friday, March 25th, 2011 at 12:00
Category : Spotlight
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