ABOUT NEW ZEALAND
When filmmaker Peter Jackson scoured the world for backdrops for his screen rendition of Lord of the Rings trilogy he knew that only New Zealand had the breadth and scope of stunning natural terrain to replicate Tolkein's Middle Earth.
Years before the Lord of the Rings hit the screens NZ Adventures was guiding off road enthusiasts through terrain just like you see in the film. In fact we regularly pass through at least six locations used in the films.
New Zealand's incomparable wilderness is now accessible through NZ Adventures, but let me tell you a little about our country.
Transplanted in the Northern Hemisphere, New Zealand would in European terms stretch roughly from the southern tip of England to Casablanca in Morocco, or in America from Seattle to San Diego. A little larger than the United Kingdom New Zealand is home to just four million people, three quarters of whom live in the smaller of the two main islands, the North Island.
Kiwis have access to an un-crowded and incomparably varied and beautiful natural world, so it's no surprise that outdoor recreation is a passion verging on obsession.
New Zealand is a developed first world country, but it's tiny population means that there are still places where enthusiasts can drive and ride off road.
Former BMW Rallye Raid rider Andrea Mayer, the fastest lady in races like the Paris to Dakar has sampled NZ Adventures off road hospitality. "Normally I have to go to Africa to ride off road trails, but here you can ride better tracks, with all these mountains, even though this is a western country - it's amazing."
Yet this is not a dangerous Third World country. Travel in New Zealand comes with the bonus of first world infrastructure; stable government, potable tap water, great food and wines, no nasty snakes, or spiders, hospitals that work, free medical facilities and relaxed road conditions.
The people are interesting too. Founded on strong egalitarian principles, you will find Kiwis, as New Zealanders are called, open and friendly. This is a nation of doers and with so much outdoors, sports and adventure pursuits of all kinds are a national obsession.
New Zealand is also an off road motoring paradise. Apart from the larger city of Auckland, traffic can be very light. The constantly changing topography means that the views are always varied and the mountainous terrain results in tens of thousands of kilometres of gloriously winding roads. For the adventurous spirit it gets better. Though main centres are linked by sealed roads, country areas still rely on a network of unsealed gravel roads, which twist and wind through breathtaking terrain.
Beyond even where the gravel roads end are regions of mountains, and forests which Kiwis mystically call 'the back country'. This is to New Zealanders what the outback is to Australians.
It's unspoiled, beautiful and remote and in many parts only accessible to off road enthusiasts who don't mind dirt under their tyres.
New Zealand's regions have sometimes bizarre contrasts in weather, and scenery, over relatively short distances. A spine of mountains running North to south divides the country almost into a variety of sub regions. Images cast in the strong pollutant - free light can be bewildering.
Try; azure blue water with a palm forest spilling down to a crescent shaped sandy beach, a sprawling town of brightly painted bungalows, each set in the classic lush quarter acre garden, countless ranges of hills, as emerald as Ireland, but impossibly steep. Then contrast expansive dry high country uplands, immense and alive with waving golden sedge, or a blinding white glacier plunging through luxuriant rain-forest to a wild sea.
It may sound like the ravings of a copy writer, but its all true. We would love to have you share the experience with us.
John Nicholson - NZ Adventures founder and owner until 2007.
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