Tim Stead - Fantasy Writer

This was my contribution to the GSRG Blog Hop.

Five things to do in New Zealand - July 12th 2014

Rain Forest Rakaia Gorge
Go for a Walk

The country is renowned for its multi-day walks: the legendary Milford Track, the Routeburn, the Heaphy, and many others. It is the character of New Zealand that makes these special, with just four and a bit million folk in a place about the same size as Japan (100 million plus) or the UK (sixty million or thereabouts). There is a lot of empty land that isn't uninhabitable.

We also have the Tongariro Crossing - touted as the best day wak in the world - and a host of other short walks that wil lead you to spectacular scenery. You can walk on endless beaches, rivers of ice, through dense rainforest, across alpine passes. It's all here for the asking. Just to make it easier the Department of Conservation maintains hundreds of wilderness huts and tracks connecting them so you can sleep the night out in the wild for an incredibly modest fee.

Be Afraid - be Very Afraid

This is the country that invented the Jet Boat and Bungy Jumping. Terror Tourism is a niche industry here. You can jump off a pretty bridge in the middle of nowhere with an elastic rope tied to your ankles, hurtle through a narrrow gorge at 50 miles an hour, do a three hundred foot free abseil into a cave, or sample such various delights as white water rafting, black water rafting (that's in a cave with an inner tube and a headlight), or any of the several other ways that have been devised to scare you out of your wits. Yes, if you want to get bumped and bruised, shocked and amazed, this is the place...

Kill Something

There are no native NZ mammals (well, I think there might be a bat or three) - no marsupials - nothing, and yet the mountains teem with pigs and possums, red deer, thar, chamois, just about anything that anyone ever thought might be useful to have around. They are essentially all vermin, damaging the environment, making it harder for the natives to survive. Hunting is a big thing with Kiwis, but to do it right you walk in, make your kill, and carry it out again. Just think for a moment about how much these animals weigh...

It might be easier to kill a fish instead. New Zealand is reknowned for its trout fishing. You can fish with fly (for the purist) or spinner. You can hire a comfortable boat on Lake Taupo with a skipper who'll gut and grill the rainbow trout you catch and serve it with a nice Sauvignon Blanc, or you can stalk the banks of a south island river with an expert local guide pitting your collective wits against the wily brown trout.

If trout's not your style they have big game fishing in the Hauraki Gulf, Salmon runs, or simply finding a quiet cove in the Marlborough Sounds and casting out a line to see what turns up.

Wet Your Whistle

New Zealand is a beer and wine country. There are half a dozen seperate wine regions, most notably Hawkes Bay, The Wairarapa (Martinborough), Marlborough, Canterbury and Central Otago. Having said that, vineyards crop up all over the country. NZ is best known for its Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, after all, we don't have the heat to do a really serious Cabernet, but more and more different varieties are emerging, and a lot of the vineyards are adding restaurants to their cellar door operations. The more expansive ones are even becoming music venues. Can I recommend a wine? I am, alas, forever barred from enjoying white wines, but most of the pricier Pinot Noirs are excellent, especially from Central Otago and Martinborough, but I don't exactly have the budget to do the required research.

Micro breweries are everywhere. There are a dozen or more locally, all producing a good range of interesting beers - porters, lagers, wheat beers, dark ales, alight ales, pilsners and even the occasional barley wine (a personal favourite). I like English style beers, full flavoured and lacking the gas that everything else seems to have, and so I feel compelled to recommend The Twisted Hop on Ferry Road in Christchurch, and their own dark destroyer: Enigma. This comes in at a nice 9% abv and had a powerful but smooth flavour to match.

Oh, and it's legal here to run a still and make your own hooch, as long as its for your own comsumption.

Watch a Game of Cricket

OK, I know this isn't for everyone, but New Zealand has some of the most delightful cricket venues I've ever seen. In Wellington you have the Basin Reserve - the classic green oasis in the heart of the city, and if you go along for the evening session of a test match there's every chance you'll get in, get a seat and watch two hours of excellent sport for what amounts to small change.

Every now and then they play a one day game in Queenstown, and this is possibly the most spectacular venue in the world, sitting beside a lake and surrounded by snow capped mountains. It can be difficult to concentrate on the cricket with so much natural beauty around you.

The Otago University Oval in Dunedin is another delight - a relaxed and green place set about with trees and low hills.

The Village Green in Christchurch used to be a pleasant ground, too. We went there once to watch England play Canterbury, and on asking what we could bring into the ground we were told 'anything you can carry'. The people next to us excelled at this, bringing in a keg of beer, a gas cylinder and their own beer tap.

It's worth pointing out that NZ currently has quite a useful team, so unlike English football fans you have a good chance of seeing them win.