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Landscape of Auckland, New Zealand

New Zealand -The Land of the Shamel

By Georgia Wilson

Last updated: 29th May 2014

“Why go to New Zealand when Scotland is just a few hours away?”  – The most frequent question I got asked when bragging about my impending trip across the world to the beautiful New Zealand.

“You’re only going for A WEEK?!!” – The second most frequent question I got asked when, once again, bragging about my trip.

Yes OK, I went to New Zealand for a week. Well just over a week… we left on the Wednesday and were home the following Friday. So technically, TECHNICALLY…. it was 9 days.

I was lucky enough to check out our Kiwi Discovery programme, to discover the natural beauty of the country so we can better sell it to our customers. It certainly worked, I’ve not been able to stop going on about it since my return.

A group of people sitting at a table with drinks

After what seemed like days, we finally arrived into Auckland. We were 20 weary travellers, who wanted nothing more than a shower and a lovely soft bed as we were about to be thrown into a jam packed week with no time to rest. Spirits were instantly lifted however (as we were a group of predominantly girls) when we were greeted by a 6’4 blonde haired, blue eyed, tattoo riddled bus driver making me immediately wish I had brushed my hair in the last 24 hours.  His name was Spoon… our beloved Spoon… and he was doomed to take us on our quick scoot around the North Island.

One of my favourite stops, which happened to be the first, was Raglan, a beautiful sea-side village with their industry based predominantly around fishing and surfing.  We spent the evening on a fantastic sunset cruise with canapés, wine (in my case, for some reason I reverted back to being a 15 year old – Smirnoff ice) loud music and the delightful sound of strangers drunkenly bonding into friends.
Bright and early the next morning was time for our surf lesson. The bay was a brilliant location for beginners, with an enormous stretch of beach and perfect one-direction waves, it made for a fantastically giggly morning as we all attempted to stand up on our massive foam surf boards.

A waterfall

Another one of the lasting memories I will have of the trip was our stay at this incredible eco conservation reserve called Blue Duck Lodge. A really interesting fact about New Zealand, is there was originally no land predators before the European arrived so many of the birds evolved not to fly, because they didn’t need to! Since the introduction of our land predators such as stoats, rats, cats and weasels many of their indigenous birds are now extinct.
It’s really sad, as they had some of the rarest and most beautiful species of birds that are no more and this wonderful eco-lodge spends their time trying to conserve the real nature of New Zealand, specifically the Blue Duck.
We arrived in the dark with the beauty of this reserve just an image in our minds put there by the bus drivers who clearly idealised this stop. It was quickly forgotten however thanks to the camp fire and the arrival or beer. The next morning was such a beautiful surprise (even if our heads were a little sore) to see how absolutely stunning this place was. It was like a mix between Lord of the Rings and an Asian rain forest!
Another nice surprise was a huge horse trotting towards us being ridden by none other than a real cowboy (or so it seems to us city folk – oh how we swooned). My hand shot up at the chance of going horse riding across the gaping craters, idyllic waterfalls, brambly rainforest and breathtaking scenery and it was by far my favourite experience of the whole trip.

Lady in front of a red skydiving plane

Did I mention part of this trip was to do a Sky Dive over Lake Taupo? I do like to think that I’m a bit adventurous even though there is ZERO evidence to prove this… except maybe the grade 2 white-water rafting I did in Australia, which really was just like canoeing down a slightly bumpy river. The sky dive was part of the trip that I was DREADING but knew I’d absolutely have to do it.
The day came… the butterflies started attacking me… the nausea increased… And I started to calculate all the ways I could die. We arrived at the air field (I got the picture with the plane, so all those random FB friends can think I did it) and we got set up. They told us we had to wait for a bit more blue sky before we could go up, so naturally I was praying for rain. THANKFULLY for me, the weather was too bad to do it. OMG THE RELIF!

A Maori man in traditional garb

Last but not least I thought I’d mention the night we stayed at a Marae, which is a traditional sacred and spiritual place for the local people – the Maoris. It was really great to get to learn about the people who originally inhabited this country, to find out about their traditions, their beliefs, their ways of life and how they’ve adapted to the introduction of western modernity. We watched their performance and we spent all evening asking questions and listening to fascinating stories. I found it really special the way they spoke about the females in their culture – we are more important than men… FINALLY someone has realised!! They explained women are the givers of life, the makers of a tribe and should only be treated with the utmost care and respect. It was awesome; a really unique experience that I was so pleased is included in the bus route.

All this is just a snippet of the North Island, I haven’t been able to cram everything in, so imagine how much you could do with 4/6 weeks around both the Islands! New Zealand is just fantastic. It’s is terrifyingly adventurous, outrageously friendly and ridiculously beautiful.

…oh and you might be thinking to yourself ‘yeh that all sounds great but what the hell is a bloody Shamel?!’ …  I can’t give it all away can I! Guess you’ll have to go and find out!

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