Being a foreigner in New Zealand affords me the opportunity to see Kiwis from a different perspective. I arrived in this beautiful country 8 years ago and feel like I have lived a lifetime since. I have come to appreciate the beauty of this little paradise at the bottom end of the world. I love the people and the way of life.

As an African by birth and a New Zealander by grant I can highly recommend the lifestyle. Kiwis are down to earth people with good hearts. Their lingo is unique and sometimes a bit strange. This is what makes them special. They say it like it is. I like that. I always know where I stand with them. Kiwis like to strike up a conversation. I have met countless people while tramping, cycling and traveling across the country who want to engage in the friendliest of ways. They talk about the weather a lot because in New Zealand it changes from moment to moment and a sunny day gets the appreciation it deserves. Kiwis look out for others. They are keen to warn about danger situations like slips and black ice and other natural phenomena. Complete strangers look out for the wellbeing of others. I have always felt welcome here.

The beauty that I have seen and experienced can almost not be described in words. I travelled extensively throughout the North and South Island. I really should write a book about the experiences. There are so many memorable moments and certainly too many to mention. A few stand out among them as being exceptionally special.

The South Island is probably my favourite for my own personal reasons. The North Island definitely has a beauty of its own. Aotearoa (The Long White Cloud) is a truly magical place. I am still getting to terms with the pronunciation of some of the names. Whangamomona. Whakatane. Te Anau. Kaikoura.

Aoraki/Mount Cook took my breath away. I could see the weather change in a matter of minutes on the highest slopes. I watched as a thick band of cloud moved over the mountain covering it in a blanket of unsettled turmoil. The noise of the approaching storm made me feel small and insignificant. The howling made me fear and love the experience at the same time. I almost felt like it wasn’t real.

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks looked more like a scene from a science fiction movie than an authentic landscape on the west coast of the South Island. The blowholes sounded eerie. My first awareness upon hearing it was that I could finally hear the voice of the ocean. I was fascinated to try and understand how the rocks came to look like they do.

I have always wanted to travel through space. As a young girl I wanted to become an astronaut and dreamed of seeing the stars, planets and suns in splendid colour. I once again found myself struggling to believe that the thousands of glow worms against the cave walls at Te Anau were real. With no light or noise inside the cave I felt like I was floating through space and looking at those stars that I dreamed of as a child. I felt alone in that instant but so at peace. It was exciting to travel to the cave deeper into the sound via ferry. We left civilisation behind for a short while to get to that remote spot. I was a true explorer.

Queenstown is a bit of a tourist mecca these days but is remains one of my favourite spots. Lake Wakatipu is huge and embraces the town in its belly with open arms. The view from the top of Bob’s Peak is breathless in beauty. The gondola ride up to the peak is no less exhilarating but was a challenge for someone like me who has a serious fear of heights. It was worth the anxiety in the end.

Another favourite of mine is the hills around Taumarunui in the King Country. I spend a lot of time there. I never really want to leave the place. The beautiful green and tranquillity of the surroundings combine for the best stress reliever in the world. I feel at home there. The charm of this little goldmine is unequalled in my mind.

I have only touched the tip of the iceberg. It is almost disappointing to have to stop writing. New Zealand is unlike any other place on earth. It is unique and mesmerising in its presentation. To live here is a truly remarkable gift. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.