“You will love New Zealand,” said every person I ever spoke to about this vast, remote and completely beautiful country. And that, surprisingly, includes the Aussies who, though separated by 1000 miles of ocean in the Pacific, still maintain a long standing rivalry of sorts with their Kiwi neighbors.
“Beautiful country,” said our Australian immigration official registering sincere appreciation of New Zealand’s natural gifts as she stamped our passports and ushered us onto the plane waiting to take us from Sydney to Auckland which is a place she promised we would “never want to leave.”
“Well, that is something! “ exclaimed a New Zealander when I told him about her comment quite chuffed that even the hard to please Aussies appreciated his home.
DEBATE.ORG says although physical beauty may be subjective-that is, who we find pretty and who we don’t. “Natural beauty is universal, transcending subjectivity.” And no where is that statement more appropriate than when you see the mountains, glaciers and beaches of the two major islands that make up New Zealand.
I never thought of myself as the outdoorsy type but New Zealand has changed all that. What they have here is so visually captivating that you just want to keep on seeing it. From every angle.
“How long have you been a helicopter pilot,” I cheerfully asked Cameron just before we took off from the ominously named Mount Difficulty in Queenstown NZ to experience first hand those legendary natural wonders. My seemingly upbeat attitude clearly did not mask the terror I felt at placing my bottom in his craft and my life in his hands.
“My father was a pilot. My grandfather was a pilot. And I have been a pilot for 14 years,” he answered with the kind of low key confidence that inspires trust.
His chopper carried 3 in the front so it was a tight squeeze for the pilot, me, and my friend whose hand I involuntarily kept grasping as we first shuddered and then soared over a mountain range covered with snow except for those shattered peaks too steep to support it.
In truth, I had been hoping right up to take off that this trip would be canceled.
It has to do with either my Irish or Lithuanian heritage which at times casts an uncharacteristic shadow over my typically sunny disposition. “We’re doomed’” my husband will often tell others is my mindset whenever danger lurks.
But I won’t stop flying-statistically, the safest way to travel and all. It is a small physical risk I am willing to take in return for the adventure it provides. But the risk/reward ratio associated with another sort of sport popular in New Zealand provided absolutely no incentive to try it.
From a safe distance, I observed Bungee jumper after bungee jumper screaming their bloody heads off as they leapt from a bridge, downward 300 feet above a river, only to be jettisoned skyward at the last minute by an elastic band moments before flesh met earth.
Bungee operators actually weigh you before you jump to calculate the length of the cord needed to ensure smooth sailing. Well, for the most part anyway. “According to the Law Offices of Mark A. Kaire, between 1986 and 2002, only 18 bungee-jumping-related fatalities were reported. The risk of a bungee jumping accident is about 1 in 500,000. This risk is roughly equivalent to that of driving a distance of around 100 miles in an automobile.”
Needless so say, the lengths I will go to to travel through the air will never extend to an elastic band, balloon or parachute. Metal is fine for me.
Whether it is bungee jumping, sailing, hiking or golfing New Zealand is made for people who love the outdoors. It is about the same size as the UK but with far fewer people. 64 million in the UK versus 4 million in New Zealand, So you can see there is a lot of open space to explore.
As a child, New Zealander and famed director of the LORD OF THE RINGS series, Peter Jackson, actually referred to his homeland as an “adventure playground” and found 150 different locations which he thought resembled the “look” of J.R.R Tolkien’s fictional Middle‑Earth. “From majestic peaks to rolling green hills, bubbling brooks and desolate volcano valleys, it’s easy to see how Jackson morphed the land of New Zealand into his fantasy realm of Middle‑earth,” according to the site 100% Pure New Zealand.”
Fellow director James Cameron also choose New Zealand as the location for his film AVATAR. But he then went one step further and moved there.
“It’s like a living painting,” Cameron says. “If you happen to like helicopters like I do, you could see ten of the most stunning places you’ll see in your lifetime in a day. If you are driving, an hour and a half or two hours, the country just unrolls toward you like an Imax film.
In fact one of the country’s advertisements perfectly captures the Hollywood theme of Cameron’s analogy with this slogan: “If locations were awarded an Oscar…New Zealand would be a natural winner.”