I have travelled to both the north and south island of New Zealand. To help first time travellers to
the country, here are some impressions that might be useful. As always, do you own planning independent of this article.
Conditions may have changed since my last visit, so consider this information as a broad guide only.
Tip #1: Driving in New Zealand
In dry weather, driving in New Zealand is surprisingly easy, even in the South Island. The road to Arthurs Pass from
Christchurch, for example, was much flatter and less windy than I expected. There are some treacherous roads, such
as the nerve-wracking climb to the Mount Hutt ski area, which in parts has views that seem to drop away from the side of
the road, straight down a loose gravel slope to the Canterbury Plains, one thousand metres below. However, this was more the
exception than the rule, and you can cover long distances quite easily. Make sure you factor in photo stops for your journey,
as there are plenty of places where you simply have to pull over and take in the view, such as when you first drive up through
Bourke's Pass for your first panaromic view of Mount Cook. In cold or wet weather, there are particular
hazards from black ice and landslides. Some of New Zealand's major highways have been closed for extended periods due to
rock falls and land slides. So if conditions are cold and wet, allow a lot of extra time for your journey.
Tip #2: Takeaway food confusion in New Zealand
You can read all over the internet about some of New Zealand's quirky foods, but one that I wasn't prepared for was the
Chinese / Fish and Chip Shop. In one neighborhood in Christchurch (Papanui), we were looking for some takeaway and couldn't settle
on potato fritters or fried rice. We walked into the local chinese takeaway, only to find that they also cooked Fish and
Chips. Determined to investigate further, we ventured to the local fish and chip shop a few doors down, which once inside, we
found also had an extensive Chinese takeaway menu. So we picked up some potato fritters from the Chinese takeaway and some fried
rice from the fish and chip shop and everyone was happy.
Tip #3: Gluten free eating in New Zealand
I really didn't have any trouble locating gluten-free options in New Zealand, both at restaurants and in the supermarkets. This included
a reasonable selection of gluten free breakfast cereals, some delicious gluten free turkish bread that I found at Pack and Save, and
gluten free takeaway pizza.
Tip #4: Shorts and gumboots are ok, no matter the weather
It was sunny day with a maximum temperature of only three degrees when the neighbor at the place we were staying wandered over for a
chat. Canterbury born and bred, he had a wealth of experiences to share, that were evident even before he started speaking,
in the myriad of wrinkles lain down on his weather beaten face. Did the cold bother him? I dared to look for goose bumps on the
follicles either side of his knee caps, but there was no shaking or shivering, and the geese that might have otherwise caused any bumps
seemed to have flown to the northern hemisphere many months ago. Suffice to say, they breed them tough here.
Tip #5: Some language tips
The shape of your mouth when speaking with a New Zealand accent is similar to how you would look when grimacing into an Antarctic
blast. Consequently, the vowel "e" is pushed to the roof of your mouth towards the front, displacing the "i" sound to the back of
the mouth so that to English speakers from other countries, it sounds a bit more like the "oo" sound in say "whoosh". Locally
unique words to look out for include "trundler" for shopping trolley and "bach" (pronounced like "betch") for a small holiday hut.
If you would like to leave a comment about these tips or to add your own, please fill in the comment box below.