Aotearoa: The Land Of The Long White Cloud

New Zealand is one of the southern most livable spots in the world.  It is comprised of two main islands (north and south) and a third tiny island called Stewart Island.  This part of New Zealand is the only place in the world you can see a Kiwi bird in the wild, so while you can hike the island and there is a place to stay/eat, it is considered a Wilderness Refuge.  
 
    New Zealand was originally occupied by tribes of Maori, a polynesian people, similar to the Hawaiian and Samoan tribes.  The culture of the Maoris still thrives today, and many of the myths and folklore are still told to travelers.  Many town names still have the original Maori names and you will hear a fair amount of people mixing Maori words in with english.  The artwork also is prominent all through New Zealand, more so on the southern island however, as it is not as commercialized as the north, or maybe just not in the same way.  One Maori tradition anyone that watched Rugby will know, is the Haka.  The Haka is a war dance, designed to intimidate and invoke fear into the enemy.  If you have never seen it, search for it, it is beautiful.
 
    The abundance of hiking trails make this a great place to visit if you enjoy being outdoors.  I recommend hitting the stairmaster every day for about three months prior to going to make sure your legs are ready.  Kiwi’s (nickname given to those from New Zealand) are very active, outdoorsy people for the most part so you will find many clearly marked hiking/biking trails, huts, and campsites.  Almost anywhere you go along the coast you can rent a kayak or take surfing lessons.  There are also plenty of places to do skydives, bungy jumps, and I absolutely recommend the Queenstown Canyon Swing.  
 
    Peter Jackson did his part putting NZ on the map, and so the abundance of Lord of the Rings attraction is not too surprising.  You can walk around Hobbiton, learning facts about making the movie, and tour a Hobbit home.  Around other parts of the country you can skydive over Mordor, hike the Tongariro Crossing (Mt. Doom), etc.  
 
    I taveled the bulk of NZ on the Stray Bus.  It was a great way to make new friends and see the country without the stress of planning the trip myself.  I spent the bulk of my time there, however, in a small fishing town called Kaikoura, located on the north eastern coast of the south island.  It was beautiful there.  The abundance of marine wildlife,  spectacular, ever changing views of mountains meeting the sea, and great small town community made it a very comfortable place to stay for a few months.  I spent most of my time helping out on a fishing charter and at a local pub.