The Land of the Long White Cloud: Nature, Culture, Sky
New Zealand is definitely one of the wonders of the modern world. At least in the world of traveling. One of the last pieces of land to be discovered and inhabited, New Zealand is far from everything. This simple geographical detail makes it very exotic. Unless you come from Australia or… Antarctica, traveling to New Zealand is an experience in its own: several flights and stopovers, maybe more than one air company, different cultures. And plenty of time to imagine all over again your time in this new and exotic destination.
“Aotearoa” is the Māori name for New Zealand and it means “The Land of the Long White Cloud”. This is not accidental because the very first thing that may strike you here is the sky. The sky (especially the night sky when “the long white clouds” dissapear) appears different and that is simply because the southers hemisphere sky is not the same as the northern hemisphere one. But what makes it so special is that it contains a greater range of interesting features than any other skys around the globe. In fact, Aotearoa offers some of the best stargazing opportunities in the world. You don’t even need professional equipment to enjoy the Southern Cross or the Milky Way. Simply head towards the mountains, wait for the dark, grab a wine and look up.
Aotearoa is basically an island (actually two main islands and a few small others) in the middle of the Southern Pacific Ocean. Again, geography (and water) plays and important role. New Zealand is, geographically speaking, an isolated nation. Its culture reflects its geographical position. There are only a little bit more than 4.5 million people (and about ten times more sheep!) on roughly 270.000 square km, about the size of a large European country. It is the last major land mass to be settled by humans and it’s currently the home of an interesting mix of descendants of the British settlers, Māoris and other Polynesian indigenous people. Nothing can be more intriguing than this mixture of British stiffness and the wildness and free spirit of the local indigenous people, trust me! What resulted from this is one of the most relaxed and friendly people on earth, also known as kiwis.
Because the first settlers had a hard time convincing native people to wear shoes, they ended up barefooted themselves 🙂 Ok, there may be bit of a legend here, but the truth is kiwis love to walk in their bare feet and that must have something to do with their connection with nature and outdoors. Nature will definitely be the major thing that will strike you in New Zealand. Wild ocean, majestic mountains and glaciers, tropical forrests, turquoise lakes and massive open spaces, all in less than half a day drive around the island. It’s that dream destination when you can drive for hours with only the breathtaking scenery in front of you. It’s that place where at the end of every lake, mountain trek or town street, you get a glimpse of paradise.
Aotearoa is more than a holiday destination on the travel maps, it is an experience in its own. It’s different from anything else you’ve experienced before. It is an experince that may change your perception not only about travel, but about the world in general. If you ever visit this island, make sure you check these three things: the nature, the culture and the sky.
Sabina, Christchurch October 2018