In the spring of 2016, Henderson Productions took an extended do-it-yourself driving tour of New Zealand.  We’re excerpting portions of our trip in this blog beginning with  

We had a leisurely final morning in Auckland with the only timeline to get the car returned by 11.    Unbelievable how easy Juicy Rentals made the drop off – literally came out as we were emptying trash into bins, said “any problems with the caaa?”, asked for the keys and said “All right then, the driver is thae waiting to take you to the terminal.  Have a great flight.”    And that was that.

The west coast of the North Island as we departed

3000 kilometers in 13 days – we liked the round number of it.   Once checked in to Fiji Air for our 12:45 flight, we had time to sit and reflect on the trip and New Zealanders in general.

We think, maybe, these are the people most like us (Americans) in the world.   Good and quirky sense of humor and fairness in common.   Not all that fussy about propriety, they appear to dress casually for most events and days.   They are similar in shape and size – which is to say there are just as many ginormous girths and broad beams as you’d see in the US.   There were suits in places where there should have been – like the lunch break near the Dunedin courthouse or in the city centers; but most folks were dressed as we would with fleece/jeans in cold weather and polos/khakis in warmer.   We never felt under-dressed although we intentionally packed for no dressing up at all.   No one, as in Italy or the UK, looked at us funny if we were walking down the street bedraggled and wrinkled which we surely were at this late stage in the trip. 

We wish we’d had more opportunity to interact with actual Kiwis.   Most of our servers were under-30s working their way around the country.   (What a great visa structure.  Kept trying to figure out which of our grandkids I can coerce into doing the same.)  We never felt in any danger.   As a matter of fact, Jeffrey Masson got it right with “I was struck by how benign, gentle, friendly and safe everything seemed.”   We, of course, locked our car whenever we got out but never once worried we could be robbed of passports or computer or the stinky bag of laundry in the trunk.

We ate more and better than we might have expected but not as healthy.   But we likely walked off the meat pies and sweets and beers and cheeses.   It’s a gorgeous country in all directions to be sure.    We kind of missed the isolation of the South Island once we hit the north – especially Auckland – but we wouldn’t recommend doing it in the opposite.   I was ready for some city by the time we got there.

Typical view on most days of the trip

We got lucky with weather – not a rained-out day.    Lost the Bridal Falls walk crossing over the Arthur’s pass on our first full day in country but otherwise never stopped at all for weather.   We underestimated the cold possibility but soon sorted out some snuggly jackets – probably COULD have done without but why not bring something home?

I do enjoy foreign airports especially when Americans are decidedly in the minority.    Passed the time browsing the duty free and tourist shops and purchasing our last 2 meat pies – OMG YUM!   Rick had steak and Guinness and mine was lamb and kumara for our last taste of Kiwi hospitality.

What’s your experience in New Zealand?   We’d love to hear your thoughts about New Zealand and suggestions on Facebook at “suehendersonphotography