Expected things about New Zealand
- It is indeed very green, especially to a jaded Australian eye from old wide brown land, etc.
- There are indeed a lot of sheep (in fact, so many that this nearly makes it into the list of unexpected things about New Zealand, because there are really lots and lots, although Roger at the Bed and Breakfast in Oamaru tells me that there are a lot less sheep than there used to be).
- You can eat a lot of delicious stuff including ice cream, lamb, venison, squid, salmon and oysters.
Unexpected things about New Zealand
- There's not a lot of traffic south of Dunedin.
- Regional towns act like small cities instead of horrifying outposts of boredom and Mad-Max-ish driving.
- If you drive for a couple of hours the geography looks really, really different to the place you left (alluvial plains, snow capped mountains, rolling green hills, rugged coast, valleys).
- Nearly everywhere looks very tidy (even the sheep are clean). I realise this may be only to the uneducated, Australian eye. Although I did see a hedge made of gum trees. I don't think it has ever occurred to an Australian that you can tidy up gum trees.
Highlights of our New Zealand experience
- The $1.50 ice creams at the Rob Roy Dairy in Dunedin. This may explains why many University of Otago students looked both happy and perhaps slightly chubbier than some other university students I have known. Or it might have been their puffy jackets -hard to tell. Anyway, for $1.50 you get a gigantic scoop of delicious creamy goodness, and when you are amazed at how cheap it is, the person serving behind the counter will laugh at you. May have a big queue.
- Botanic gardens and parks. We closely inspected the ones in Christchurch, Invercargill and Queenstown, but I must say that there are many more that deserve a visit. We got there just in time to really enjoy the daffodils. And I may also add that bulbs and annuals and flowering bushes really make sense in New Zealand gardens - they don't have that look of grimly holding their leaves to their stems until the rains come that many non-native plants (and really a lot of natives too) have here. Poor old drought-ridden Australia. It makes me sad how we misuse you so.
- Bookshops, art galleries and museums. It seemed like every town we stayed in had all three, or more than one of each. My favourite was the public art gallery in Dunedin, which arranges the work in its permanent collection by a method other than sequentially, which led to some interesting conversations. Also, top merch.
- Lake Wakatipu at Queenstown. It's huge and blue and so clear that when you go to the top of the Skyline thingy on the hill behind Queenstown, you can still see through the water. Also, you can catch the TSS Earnslaw across the lake, and be amused by a man about some sheep. The husband (who enjoys a good holiday) and I had some discussion about whether or not enjoying this made us Old Codgers, but we decided that we would have probably enjoyed it any time and at any age. I think we were pretending to be in a turn-of-the-century novel. Well, I know I was, I shouldn't speak for others.
- Pretty much everything else.