Kia ora (Hello)!
Before we left for our travels, we set up this blog to have a place to share our adventures and pictures with family and friends. I had great plans to write regularly. However, the time has flown by! We left for our trip over two months ago and we are about 3 weeks away from returning home and only NOW am I getting around to writing our first post. Sorry! Rest assured that even after we return home, I hope to continue writing and sharing pictures — we have A LOT of pictures ato share! Of course, to keep you in suspense we won’t be showing them all at once. What would be the fun in that? 🙂
The land of the long white cloud
As I write this, we are currently in Auckland, New Zealand. Auckland is on the North Island. We spent a few weeks on the South Island exploring, but have been using Auckland as a “home base” for the bulk of our time here.
NZ is also known as Aotearoa (pronounced like “ow-teh-ah-row-ah”). Aotearoa is Māori and the word loosely translates to mean “the land of the long white cloud.” The Māori are the indigenous people of NZ and their cultural influence is evident. Māori is recognized by the NZ government as an official language and many cities, towns, and other landmarks in NZ are officially known by their Māori name.
So if it’s “the land of the long white cloud”, does that mean that NZ is always cloudy? Nope! Since New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere their seasons are flipped when compared to the US. Right now (beginning/mid March), summer is coming to an end and the evenings are getting cooler and the days are getting shorter. However, the summer on both the North and South Island were gorgeous. The South Island was a bit cooler even in the summer than the North Island (it is closer to Antarctica!) but we were lucky with the weather during our travels there. We did have some days that were cloudy, overcast, or raining, but the majority of the time we’ve been in NZ the weather has been great.
Just call them Kiwis!
You may have heard that New Zealanders are called “Kiwis”. For some reason, I used to think that calling someone a “Kiwi” was derogatory and offensive. It’s actually not! It’s a term Kiwis use with pride and they use the term to describe almost anything that has an association with New Zealand. During current and past trips to NZ, our experience has been that Kiwis are helpful, welcoming, and down to earth. Activities like bungee jumping and Zorbing (what I like to call “hamster balling”) were popularized in NZ, so they like to have a good time as well!
As you might imagine, since we speak English traveling around in NZ has been fairly straightforward language-wise. If you have ever heard Australian English, then you have an idea of what New Zealand English sounds like, but there’s still quite a bit of a difference. Sometimes when I’m talking to someone with a very Kiwi accent it takes my brain a few seconds to process what they’ve said – but I imagine it must be the same for them when they are listening to my American English! One of the fun parts of traveling to a new place is learning local phrases and slangs. There are so many interesting New Zealandisms that we’ve learned while we’ve been here. Here are a few:
- Tramping/walking: refers to a long hike, generally overnight. A day hike would generally be called a “walk”. However, I’ve found that these terms aren’t consistently used. The NZ Dept of Conservation has a list of what they call “Great Walks” and if you look at the list you’ll notice ALL OF THEM take multiple days. So if you’re in NZ don’t assume a “walk” is short and easy just because it’s called a “walk”!
- Tramper: a person who goes tramping
- Togs: swimsuit
- Jandals: flip-flops
- Bach: a small beach or holiday home (pronounced like “batch”)
- Macca’s: McDonald’s
- Chilly bin: cooler (like you use for food/drinks at a BBQ or the beach).
- Ute: short for “utility vehicle” aka pickup truck
- “She’ll be right”: essentially means that something will be fine
Which kiwi came first, the bird or the fruit?
Why are New Zealanders called kiwis? Are they named after the bird or the fruit? I used to wonder this myself! I’ve recently learned that New Zealanders derived their “Kiwi” name from “kiwi”, the small, fuzzy, brown, and flightless bird that is a national icon of NZ. As you might have guessed, the word “kiwi” is of Māori origin. Unfortunately, we haven’t had an opportunity to see these birds in the wild as they are nocturnal and very shy. I’m hoping we get a chance to see them up close one day because they are super cute!
So what about the kiwi fruit? I had assumed that kiwifruit was native to NZ and that the name was inspired by the fact that it bears some resemblance to the kiwi bird – small, brown, and fuzzy. Nope! Although NZ is a major producer of kiwifruit, the fruit are native to China. In the 1960s, the fruit formerly known as Chinese gooseberries were a major agriculture commodity in NZ. As part of clever marketing strategy in their exporting markets, NZ began to call the fruit “kiwifruit” (as in “fruit from New Zealand” NOT “fruit that looks like a bird”). Mystery solved!
Robot birds, dinosaur birds, and IKEA birds
As you might imagine, NZ has quite a few interesting species of native birds and while we have been here I’ve had a lot of fun learning about them. My favorite bird (besides the kiwi, of course) is the tūī bird (pronounced “too-ee”). Notice the white tufts of fur on their necks. Because of this distinctive characteristic, these birds used to be referred to as the “parson bird”.
Tui are pretty birds, but I enjoy these birds because of the interesting sounds they make. They sound like robots, maybe even like a certain robot from Star Wars…Apparently they can also imitate sounds and human speech like parrots do, which is pretty cool in itself.
Have a listen to the audio clips I took below.
While we were on the South Island, we paid a visit to the Orokonui Ecosanctuary near Dunedin. There were many birds there, but one of the most memorable was the takahē. They are yet another flightless bird native to NZ. One of our AirBnB hosts called them “dinosaur birds” and I think it’s an appropriate name for them. They look like prehistoric chickens, don’t they? They are critically endangered but through conservations efforts it seems like they might have a chance.
Another interesting bird from NZ is the kea. We learned about these mischievous South Island birds when we were heading to Milford Sound. To get to Milford Sound, you need to drive through a one-way tunnel through the mountains. While traffic is going through on one end of the tunnel, vehicles on the other end line up to wait their turn to go through. The kea have learned to stand along the road where the cars are to beg for food.
There are signs in the area asking people not to feed the birds, but people probably do it anyway. One of our AirBnB hosts told us that there was a period of time where the traffic control folks at the tunnel were having issues with the kea moving traffic cones around. The birds would move the traffic cones to block the traffic going into the tunnel in order to keep tourists in place to feed them. Pretty crazy, right?
Unfortunately, the kea have a curious and destructive streak as well. They have been known to steal backpacks and other items from tourists and to take apart cars and they apparently seem to have an affinity for rubber parts. While we were on our boat tour of Milford Sound, we saw this kea-inspired poster. I thought it was quite cheeky.
That’s it for this post! For future posts we will focus a bit on specific places we’ve visited. I recently came back from a trip to Japan, so expect to see some future stories from that trip as well. See you back soon!