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Published: February 28th 2010
New Zealand is located in the south-western Pacific Ocean, about 1,200 miles southeast of nearby Australia. Other neighbors include New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga.
New Zealand consists of two main islands (imaginatively called the "North Island" and "South Island") and dozens of smaller islands (see the map). Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand but not its capital - that honor goes to Wellington.
There's something else that you should know about New Zealand. It has a relatively tiny population of about 4 million people (compared with about 300 million in the U.S. - including 8 million alone in New York City - and 22 million in Australia). But there are 44 million sheep. And a whole bunch of cows and deer. Farming is a very important industry here and you can't drive more than about 20 miles without seeing a bunch of fluffy, wooly sheep baaaa-ing contentedly in a green pasture.
Even more interesting, about 75% of Kiwis (New Zealander's call themselves Kiwis - more on that later) live on the North Island, which means there are only about 1 million individuals populating the entire South Island - an area of 58,000 sq miles, which is larger than the entire state of New York.
And a few more fun facts that you should know which will help to put our travels in perspective:
- New Zealand was colonized by the British in the 1800s; this means that many Kiwis speak with a slightly British accent (although distinct from Britian and definitely different from the Aussie accent).
- Kiwis drive on the left-hand side of the road and so must we.
- There are no snakes in the entire country and really the only poisonous creature is a somewhat shy brown spider that hides under rocks and logs in the Far North.
- The indigenous people - who arrived around 1200 AD, LONG before the Brits - are called the Maori (Mauw-ree; would rhyme with "dowry"); the integration has gone much better than the Aborigines in Australia but is still not perfect. The Maori culture is very, very cool and we're looking forward to telling you more about it.
- Since New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, it's summer here now.
- There are fabulous beaches in the north and mountains/rainforest in the south.
- All three of the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed here and "LOTR" tours are a major (and often funny) part of the tourism industry. We'll tell you more about that later.
So what are our plans for our three glorious months in this outdoor paradise?
1. December 26th - February 3rd on the North Island.
- One week in Auckland
- Two weeks exploring the Far North (everything above Auckland), the Coromandel Peninsula (remote beaches near Auckland) and Rotorua (a great mountain biking area a few hours south of Auckland - Adrian's in heaven!)
- Two weeks in Wellington, located on the far southern point of the North Island. It's the capital and supposedly has the best restaurants, music and theatre scene, etc.
2. February 4th - March 26th on the sparsely-populated and mountainous South Island:
- A week driving from Wellington to Christchurch and across the Southern Alps to Queenstown
- Three weeks in Queenstown, using it as a base to explore the dramatic Fiordland
- Three weeks in Nelson, a sunny and slightly hippie area near fanastic national parks on the northern part of the South Island
Please join us for our adventures!
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