If I had a dream job, it would be working with words and pictures, improbably as a roving blogger and photographer for Tourism New Zealand. I’m not greedy; they could just pay me say $90,000 a year and give me a Ute and some petrol money. I’d travel the length and breadth of the country, documenting and photographing all the awesome stuff we take for granted every day. Not just the big places we already know about, but the places no tourists go on purpose.
I don’t think I’d get that job though because I’m not young and cool enough. So fingers crossed for an awesome role combining pictures and words for money. Also because I’m going to shoot my roving blogger and photographer prospects in the foot by documenting the following. I can’t remember how this came into my head, and I haven’t visited my blog for ages. I simply decided to write it down for no good reason.
New Zealand is a nation of superlatives like stunning, awesome, amazing, incredible, magnificent, spectacular, and breathtaking. New Zealand is also a nation of things that are surprising, shocking, shameful and incredible for the opposite reason. I like a bit of balance, so I’m going to talk about both sides of the coin for those who can’t be bothered reading travel guides or newspapers.
The awesome is everywhere, the most awesome in order of my personal preference, Northland, Fiordland, Mackenzie Country, Central Otago, Central Plateau, East Cape, Marlborough Sounds, Rangitikei and Manawatu.
Northland because of the beautiful beaches, Pohutakawa shaded coves, the laid back vibe and it’s where I was born.
Fiordland because it’s such an epic, awe inspiring dramatic wilderness, Mackenzie country because of blue and gold. Central Otago because of the magnificent mountain backdrops and lakes, Central Plateau because of volcanoes. East Cape because of beauty, history, beaches and legacy. Marlborough Sounds because of the peace, bird song and the light. Rangitikei because of the high white cliffs and jagged drops into the long winding river. The Manawatu because of big skies and wide plains below the two mountain ranges.
Those places and many others take up most of the superlatives above, each incredible foreground and backdrop is a photographers dream. New Zealand is very helpful to aspiring landscape photographers, it works with, rather than against you, which I always felt, was the case in England. There was always something buggering up the shot, or in the way, or you couldn’t get to where you needed to stand because you couldn’t stop or didn’t have time. I digress, this isn’t about photography.
You know what’s surprising about New Zealand? The surprising, shameful, awful, disappointing and shocking stuff.
What’s surprising is how bad the roads are and how they are all covered in roadworks so often. This is for two reasons though, probably more but mostly two. The lack of infrastructure investment and the fact that the land keeps moving under the roads. We are a young, earthquake prone country. Which reminds me that for a country so prone to earthquakes, and we have a lot of them, my Facebook feed is full of surprised and alarmed chatter about the earthquake every time we have an earthquake. While regular, common even, earthquakes are the worst of all natural disasters, there is no warning, you can’t escape, and there is no running away, nowhere to hide apart from under something.
What’s also surprising, and shocking is how bad the driving is here. Kiwis like to blame it on tourists; particularly Asians but the New Zealanders are the worst drivers in the developed world. I’ve discussed this before, but while we are a largely friendly and helpful bunch in person, the kiwi driver is a different breed of animal. Selfish, intolerant, ignorant, aggressive, impatient and stupid. Not all of them of course, but a surprisingly, disappointingly large percentage.
Speaking of Asians, there are a surprisingly large number of Asians in New Zealand, Auckland in particular. Entire suburbs and districts have been Asianified, which is a word, I just made up. Kiwis, and I’m generalizing, are disappointingly racist in respect of Asians in particular. We don’t like to talk about racism of course, but there is a deep, and wide undercurrent of mistrust, disrespect and outright contempt towards Asians and people from the Sub-Continent in New Zealand.
We have a shocking amount of domestic violence here. Some of the worst in the world, but it depends upon which statistics you consult. We don’t breed violent people, men in particular here, but we brew them. The ultimate expression of manliness in New Zealand is by show of physical prowess. We mock and ridicule the geek and boffin, we bully the weedy. We have a dismal tolerance towards anyone famous who knocks their partner about. Ask a certain high profile sports journalist, he’d just have a go at us for going on about it though, besides, he knows so much his sports and that’s all ancient history, and she probably was asking for it. You would be astonished how many of his fans will give you that line.
Maybe the men are all angry because it is literally impossible to find good quality, well made, reasonably priced clothing or footwear in New Zealand. There is actually no such thing. If it’s well made, it’s rare and horrendously expensive. I import almost all my clothing from England. (I lived there for 20 years remember?) Unfortunately and amazingly, our men’s clothing and shoes in particular, are poor quality, cheaply made, badly finished, yet inexplicably expensive. I know it makes me angry.
Our Capital city is little more than a shantytown where it’s almost impossible to find a house to rent which you might like to live in. You simply can’t imagine the volume of what can only be described as hovels unless you saw them for yourself. They are shockingly expensive which means we have a disappointingly large amount of homeless people. We have a generous and fair welfare system; there shouldn’t be anyone homeless who doesn’t want to be. But we don’t have enough houses because of lack of investment in social housing infrastructure by successive Governments.
Wellington is also in an incredibly bad location for a Capital city. It’s extremely susceptible to earthquake and Tsunami damage and when there is a proper natural disaster the city will be cut off for months, accessible only by sea, as the Airport would also be destroyed. Wellington gets cut off for a couple of days if there is heavy rain. It’s a ridiculously perilous spot. There are only two roads that actually leave Wellington and both of them at the foot of unstable cliff faces.
People overseas, who haven’t visited New Zealand yet, imagine a traffic jam to be some sheep crossing the road. We have epic, world class, queuing traffic every day though. Somebody didn’t expect our population to grow so much so didn’t bother to plan any decent motorway infrastructure in the cities, so the morning and evening commute for many city dwellers is at walking pace. Kiwis aren’t really fans of public transport either. We like to drive our own cars. This is because our public transport is woeful in many cases.
There are a handful of commuter trains in Wellington and Auckland, but in Auckland, that’s not an option for North Shore dwellers because the there are no trains north of the harbour bridge. Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour only has one central crossing point. It’s harder to buy a house in Auckland than it is in London if you compare average house price with the average wage. I have no idea why Auckland house prices are so shockingly inflated. Aucklanders will tell you it’s because of all the Asians.
We are a primary food producer; we are the world’s largest dairy exporter and have abundant food and wine, which we make ourselves. Which is amazing, yet for some reason we have some of the highest food and drink prices in the developed world. Why? When people with lots of money go out for dinner, the restaurant will hit them for 300% mark up on a bottle of wine. I don’t know how people who like a glass of wine can afford to eat out in NZ.
I can’t imagine anywhere in the world were people drink more coffee. You should see the places that sell coffee here. Who is drinking all the coffee? Near where I live there is a container on the side of a country road that sells coffee, there is coffee everywhere. So much coffee!
I sound like a grumpy old man, or a misery guts now but I’m just documenting what I see, or know, or read, I could go on, I will a bit. I’m nearly back to the good stuff..
Had enough? No, really, it’s awesome here. I love New Zealand and I’m hopeful a brave and forward-looking leadership can sort these things. Many Kiwis think we have that now in Jacinda, I’m not convinced. In my view anyone who does any sort of deal with Winston Peters just to get elected is not someone we should set too much store by.
On a positive note, we are amazing at sports, because we have an agreeable climate, huge outdoor spaces and for some reason, a surprisingly large percentage of Kiwis are extraordinarily tenacious and gifted athletes. Look at our efforts in Rugby, Netball, Cricket, Motor Racing, Horse Racing, Sailing, Rowing, Cycling, Softball, throwing heavy things, climbing mountains, extreme endurance sports to name a few. We even have a couple of people who play American sports, like Baseball and Basketball and Boxing. However, we don’t really play soccer, tennis, run like we used to, or swim very fast in a straight line.
New Zealand is a road trip, come and look at the scenery, enjoy the coffee and wine if you are rich. Expect the other people on the road to do stupid things and you won’t be surprised when they do.
Don’t look too closely at the housing stock and be careful where you swim. The bottom line is, despite our surprising flaws, New Zealand is way, way better than Australia. Smiley Face
I’ll expect my call from Tourism New Zealand. I could do the blogging and photographing alongside my day job. I’m sure they’ll see the benefit of my cataloguing and extolling the virtues of our (insert superlative) country.