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Robin John’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 19 Oct 2011

Location: Sonning Common, UK

MapFarewell New Zealand
After a very long but uneventful journey home, I am slowly unwinding the 12 hours of jet-lag and catching up with things, so it is time to record my final diary entry and sum up the lasting impressions from my trip.
New Zealand is a great country for the outdoor life, with a combination of mountains, lakes and coastline allowing for lots of sporting and outdoor activities. I spent most of my time in the North Island, because of the locations for the rugby matches I was attending, and the scenery was very impressive, especially the snow-covered volcanoes. But many people told me that the South Island has the most spectacular scenery, with lots more mountains, glaciers and fiords, so I will have to come back again. New Zealanders value their countryside and put effort and resources into maintaining it. The various tracks that I walked on were well marked and well maintained. Steep uphill sections frequently had steps installed and swampy ground had sections of wooden rafting in place. A lot of this work is done by volunteer teams. And, of course, one of the benefits of being in the southern hemisphere is the traditional barbecue on the beach at Christmas!
New Zealand essentially is sustained by its agriculture. Everywhere you drive, the fields are full of cows and the dairy industry is a huge exporter, especially to Asian countries. Milk is referred to as 'white gold'.
It is a young country, initially populated by the Maoris who arrived by canoe from islands in the Pacific, probably a thousand or so years ago. After the arrival of Captain Cook, European settlers began to arrive around 1800, which marks the beginning of any form of written history. This marked the beginning of a century of troubled relations between the resident Maoris and the settlers, with battles over land rights and sovereignty. The Maoris had their own well-established administrative and justice systems, based around the tribal groups, and they resented being treated as subjects of the British Empire, with all its implied superiority. The consequences of the large scale confiscation of tribal lands are still being worked through in the courts today, but there is certainly a resurgence of Maori culture and traditions. One only has to look at the enthusiasm and commitment with which the All Blacks perform the haka today, compared with the half-hearted attempts demonstrated by All Black teams in the 50's and 60's.
Turning to rugby, while I met many Kiwis who are not ardent followers of the sport, the RWC has caught the imagination of the country as a whole, with everyone following its progress. If the All Blacks do not win on Sunday, then the whole country will fall into mourning and a collective depression. C'mon the AB's!
Finally, I have been impressed by the unfailing generosity, hospitality and friendliness offered by New Zealanders to their visitors. It is certainly true that there is an affinity between Wales and New Zealand, so perhaps I have been especially fortunate, but the general reaction of visitors is how warm the welcome has been here. The Kiwis are very direct and open, will look you straight in the eye and tell it like it is, with no side or hidden agendas - a very laudable national trait.
Well, that's all folks. If you have been following this all the way through, thankyou for your patience and I hope you have found it interesting and at times entertaining.