Category Archives: New Zealand

Image of Little Barrier Island view

Hidden gems: Great Barrier Island

It’s strange. Would you, if you already live on a remote island, sit in your living room and think the following: “There’s this even more remote island which is not even connected to the national power grid, let’s go!!!” Well, I did.

If you ask Kiwis about Great Barrier Island, you might get a comment like “Is this by the Great Barrier Reef? Nah, haven’t been!” (In fact I did get something similar). This even seems to be true for Aucklanders, despite possessing the easiest access to NZ’s sixth biggest island. I was curious about the place, and, of course, had eyed with the Aotea Track – a tramping track that crosses the island’s highest mountain Hirakimata (also called Mt Hobson) – before when browsing the DOC website. It appears pretty overlooked: Most visitors I encountered were from Auckland, and only more intrepid backpackers make their way here while travelling Aotearoa.

Is it a hidden gem? Read on to find out! Continue reading

Image of's banner – Valid warning or exaggerated shaming?

I always find it very striking: No matter how much you read, how many videos you watch, photos you look at or accounts you listen to – actually visiting/being at a place is more often than not different from what you’ve heard before and has you seeing the real thing with your own eyes, and subsequently shaping your own experience.

Taking my first trip to China as example, I knew that Beijing is horribly polluted as well as crowded with people, like many of the country’s major cities. I’ve also heard that a number of visitors suddenly suffered from respiratory problems after staying for a while. And the reality? To be honest, nothing can prepare an ordinary “Westerner” for seeing the thick and grey smog for the first time – it is depressing if you can’t see further than 100 metres in front of you, because of something man-made. At the same time the air did not smell much different from any European city, nor did I personally have any breathing problems (don’t get me wrong, inhaling this stuff over the long term can’t be good for anyone). There are heaps of people around, for sure, but at least on the streets it’s not as bad as I have imagined – places like the South of Hong Kong’s Kowloon peninsula are where the real insanity starts.

Let’s move back to Oceania and the country that’s the topic on this blog. I stumbled upon, a blog which fires frantically against New Zealand and strongly advises potential migrants not to move to this “third world hellhole”. I had a closer look at what this community has to say and why I think most people active on this site would have had an equally bad time anywhere outside their home country’s sphere. Continue reading

Image of SH1 to Turangi

Climbing Mount Ruapehu – NZ’s highest volcano

By now you may already know that I’m attracted by mountains, so it should come at no surprise that I looked at Ruapehu a few times and thought: “Why the hell not?” While it has been a few months already, here’s a little insight into the climb of Tongariro National Park’s uncrowned king. As it turned out, it is much easier than Mt Ngauruhoe (known as “Mt Doom” from Lord of the Rings – more on this beast another time) and well worth the effort. Continue reading

Image showing immigration counters at Auckland Airport

How New Zealand protects its borders without security theatre

Note from the author: Normally the following would be one of my German language articles belonging to the “Datenschutz” (privacy) series, however it gives a contrary view for those people who argue the vast, ill-founded collection of all travellers’ personal information, including biometrics, makes a country safer – and presents NZ as good example how to do it differently and achieve the same, if not even better results.

While living in a foreign country long term, it always pays to keep up to date with immigration legislation and practices. This may be easy or rather difficult, depending on how developed a country’s immigration department, their systems and their resources are. I’m in luck, since Immigration New Zealand (INZ) maintains an excellent website with a dedicated news section, so every expat/migrant can immediately check what’s going on.

Along this, they also publish media reports related to immigration matters – and this where I stumbled upon “Year at the Border”, an apparently annually published paper talking about immigration statistics and the work of INZ throughout the year. I did take some time to read most of it and as it turns out, it contains very interesting information about how the country handles incoming passengers.

Read on if you want to find out how NZ manages to keep their borders safe without – this is the point I want to make – the security theatre that one has to endure in the US, Canada, Australia, other developed nations and, unfortunately in the near future, Europe. Continue reading

Image of a group of friends

Von der Schwierigkeit, Kiwis als Freunde zu gewinnen

Es handelt sich um einen ziemlich starken Kontrast. Wenn wir uns auf eine Gegebenheit in Neuseeland konzentrieren, von welcher zuhause in Mitteleuropa geschwärmt wird – zumindest wenn wir von Deutschen, aber sicherlich auch von einigen anderen unserer Nachbarn sprechen –, dann ist das vermutlich nicht unbedingt die spektakuläre Landschaft, sondern die Freundlichkeit der Kiwis.

Man kommt sofort ins Gespräch, wird eingeladen zum angeln, essen, jagen oder was auch immer vor Ort möglich ist, und kriegt auch sofort Hilfe angeboten, wenn etwas nicht in Ordnung ist. Eigentlich sweet as, oder?

Nun ja: Solange es bei dieser oberflächlichen Bekanntschaft bleibt, ist alles knorke. Darüber hinaus kann es aber schwierig sein, wie meine Erfahrung zeigt. Continue reading

Image of the Mackinnon Pass Ascend

Out there, doing “the finest walk in the world”: Milford Track

As someone who calls hiking (NZ English: “tramping”, “New” English: “trekking”) a passion, I absolutely wanted to go to the majestic Fiordland in New Zealand’s South West and walk the Milford Track, supposedly one of the world’s finest tracks. The problem: You have to book it about one year in advance, no good if you haven’t got a clue where you will be in one month’s time. After all however, I got very lucky and booked the huts as well as transport about five days before the planned start. Read on if you love mountains with waterfalls coming down, rainforests in between and anything related to a stunning, rugged and pure natural landscape! Continue reading

Photo of Chinese Beef Fried Noodles

Essen gehen in Neuseeland

Zugegeben, das klingt zunächst banal – das Folgende könnte jedoch für den ein oder anderen Anhänger der Gaumenfreuden von Interesse sein. Zunächst: Ja, man kann in Neuseeland gut und günstig (leider oft nicht gleichzeitig) essen gehen, warum auch nicht. Sich ein paar Details im Vergleich mit Europa bzw. Deutschland anzuschauen, hilft jedoch möglicherweise, Frustration, Verwunderung und falsche Erwartungen auf ein Minimum zu reduzieren. Continue reading

Picture of one of the forest's waterfalls

Hidden gems: Tawarau Forest

Sometimes one doesn’t have to venture far off the beaten path to find a real gem – this is especially true in New Zealand, no matter if North Island or South Island. “The beaten path” I will start this post with today are the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, which are about one hour drive from Hamilton, that rather soulless city in the Northwest of the Waikato.

Being on most NZ tourist itineraries, virtually everybody has done “blackwater rafting” or a related activity with one of the many tour operators that own licenses to go into the caves. Yes, I’ve done it too, and don’t get me wrong: It’s a cool activity and often a highlight for many of Aotearoa’s visitors. Very few of these tourists though wonder where the road that continues past the big visitor centre leads to: Te Anga Road can bring you all the way to the coast, and it’s a really nice drive scenery-wise, albeit very windy and narrow, like so many of NZ’s backcountry roads. It also allows you to reach the destination I present to you today: The beautiful Tawarau Forest. Continue reading

On the way through NZ, part 14: Queenstown

It’s time to have a look at one of THE destinations in New Zealand: Magical, annoying, stunning, crowded and love-hated Queenstown (which I will abbreviate as QT).

In the past, this wasn’t more than a sleepy settlement in the middle of nowhere and with the exception of a few years of gold mining, QT never got much attention by people until the middle of the 20th century. 50 years later it’s a madhouse and labels itself “adventure capital of the world”, which might very well be true given the myriad of activities it offers…let’s get into it. Continue reading

A woman uses a NZ$20 note

Datenschutz in Neuseeland: Bezahlen

Ja, das liebe Geld. Nach wie vor dreht sich alles darum, heute noch viel mehr als in Vergangenheit. Heutzutage sind viele Zahlungsmethoden untrennbar mit dem Preisgeben der Identität verbunden – im Internet so gut wie immer, aber auch im alltäglichen Leben, sobald man sich vom Bargeld entfernt.

Auch wenn Finanzwesen und -wirtschaft nicht zu meinen Interessen zählen, finde ich persönlich so etwas immer recht spannend: Womit zahlt die Bevölkerung eines Landes ihre Güter und Dienstleistungen, und welche Möglichkeiten gibt es überhaupt? Während wir Deutschen unser Bargeld lieben, wird in bspw. Kenia überwiegend mit dem Handy bezahlt: Karten und Bares werden gar nicht bzw. selten verwendet.

Und in good old New Zealand? Verträgt es sich mit dem Schützen der eigenen Daten? Continue reading