Katie's Komments: My Impressions of New Zealand

After spending three entire weeks in New Zealand, I believe I have a good feel for at least a little of what this wonderful country has to offer. The next few paragraphs will describe some of my feelings about this great country and how I feel about the places we visited, and the variety of remote areas we explored.

Coming into New Zealand, I knew the scenery would be spectacular, I knew about the herds of sheep scattered across the hill tops… I learned this from guide books, pictures etc. However, I have realized guide books can't capture everything…

When people talk about New Zealand, the first subject that comes up is the landscape, but surprisingly this was not the only thing that really amazed me about the country. First of all I didn't understand anything about the people of New Zealand before coming here. The people are not only friendly among each other and visitors, but perhaps even more so to their animals and wild life. They all seemed to have a very extensive knowledge of their environment, and work hard to make it just as beautiful and interesting for the next generations. There are countless examples of these efforts, but here are just a few to give you a sense…

- Many people, including children, help their environment daily by pulling out invasive plants that are taking over New Zealand's native wildlife.
- Most people make large donations to wildlife reserves and other organizations working to protect their environment and animals
- The people are constantly reminding others not to disturb or touch any of their protected wildlife and animals.
- Many people help set up traps to kill off predators of penguins, albatrosses, and other protected animals and wildlife.
- Many people volunteer to teach others about the do's and don'ts when walking among the wildlife.
- There are numerous signs around protected areas, reminding people about what to do and not do when viewing wildlife and protected animals.

These are only a few of many efforts the people in New Zealand participate in, and the effects of these principals are very clear when hiking through the mountains, rainforests, and other settings in New Zealand. The air smells fresh and clean, the wildlife is beautiful, colorful and pure. There are all kinds of beautiful mosses forming an amazing carpet across the entire rainforest, the trees are twisted into unusual shapes, and the enormous ferns seem to reach out for you as you walk through the wonderful landscape. The sound of waterfalls and streams fill your ears, and the entire atmosphere is filled with a magical freshness. Do the books describe it like that?

Before I leave the subject of the people in New Zealand, I'd like to talk about another thing I found interesting about them. The Kiwis (New Zealanders) are proud of their culture. Thirteen and a half percent of the people are Maori (Polynesians native to the country), compared to the less than one percent of Native Americans in the US. We heard that many of the Maori people today are still practicing the traditions of their ancestors and Maori language is even being taught now in schools. The influence of this native culture is apparent throughout the country.

Another thing that amazed me about New Zealand was how many different settings there were. When I think of rainforest I think of Costa Rica and South America, but surprisingly there was lots of rainforest in New Zealand as well. There was also lots of grazing land, as well as snowy mountains, and coastal terrain. This enormous mixture was a big surprise to me. One of my favorite places was Arthur's Pass. I really enjoyed this area because we got to have lots of fun learning experiences with sheep and sheep dogs, and I also liked the cool stories about the river in front of the farm. Another one of my favorite places was Dunedin. I liked this area because of the beautiful beaches and amazing animals. I liked Doubtful Sound because of the spectacular views, and I liked Wanaka because we were able to fish right outside our hotel. Lake Moeraki had some incredible rainforest, and great kayaking.

As you can see I really enjoyed my stay in this wonderful country, and look forward to coming back here with my kids someday.