Put Charles Darwin, Claude Monet and JRR Tolkien in a room with six bottles of vodka and a party pack of recreational drugs and, combined, they could not come close to the concept of New Zealand. If nature had a design studio, full of her most surreal and stupendous ideas, it would be ‘The Land of the Long White Cloud’ or more recently ‘Middle Earth’.
On the map, the physical geography of New Zealand looks simple, yet in content it is incredibly diverse and complex. The two main islands North Island and South Island are both quite different. North, which is far less mountainous, is home to more than two-thirds of New Zealanders - or Kiwis - who live life to the beat of a faster rhythm than their countrified neighbours to the south. For the tourist, North Island generally holds less aesthetic appeal than South Island, but few miss, or indeed forget, the expansive views across Auckland from its hypodermic Sky Tower; the dramatic displays of Maori culture in Northland; or the brooding and colourful thermal features in and around Rotorua.
South Island, however, is said to offer the ‘true essence’ of New Zealand. To travel through it is like a fun-filled lesson in geography. Vast empty beaches where you feel guilty leaving a single set of footprints; endless mountain ranges blanketed in snow and rainforest; pristine lakes, waterfalls and fiords; giant glaciers; vast limestone caves and arches; natural springs and hot soothing pools...
Whatever your intention, if you choose New Zealand one thing is for sure - never mind ‘Middle Earth’, New Zealand is heaven on Earth at the end of the Earth. It is like making an appointment with Doctor Nature and her able assistant nurse Adrenaline. And now is the time to ‘take the cure’.