Welcome to Kiwi Land (Part II)

Let’s Set Off On A Tiki Tour Through The Wop Wops

Are these words new to you? Do not worry! I didn’t know what they meant either before traveling to New Zealand. Nonetheless, I thought it would be an exciting way to introduce you to New Zealand’s distinctive slang. New Zealand’s “tiki tour” is a short, organized tour allowing you to see a plethora of amazing wonders all in the span of one day, and the “wop wops” is a term used to describe places that are located in the middle of nowhere. I chose these two cultural terms in my New Zealand adventures Part II with the intention of sharing some of the most amazing landscapes with you, many of which you can find without having to travel great distances

Driving To Auckland To Pick Up My Father

In Argentina, my father would always be the one picking me up and driving me everywhere. In New Zealand, however, it was just the other way round. And, not only was I the one picking him up but I was also sitting on the left-hand side of the road while driving — a very bizarre experience to be sure! We were both so excited to embark on the adventures that lay ahead. The first night after my father had arrived, I booked a hostel so that he could experience the backpacker lifestyle. The very next day, we drove north to one of my favorite places in Northland — Tutukaka — a community located on the east coast of Northland. Fun fact — “Tutukaka” is a Māori name that comes from the term, tūtū kākā, meaning a parrot snaring tree.1

Fun Fact About New Zealand's Tutuka

According to the 2018 census, New Zealand’s Northland Region comprises speakers of a great many languages. Interestingly, there is a much greater percentage of Māori speakers in the Northland Region than speakers in New Zealand as a whole.

Graph of the languages spoken in Northland Region compared to those spoken throughout New Zealand

Data Source: New Zealand Government, 2018 Census2

Suba Diving In New Zealand

A few months before the trip, my father had suggested that I start a diving course. He wanted us to scuba dive together once he arrived, and I’m certainly glad I did. I took the course in Wellington, in Island Bay, during the winter. It was such a challenge for me as a native Spanish speaker all the materials and instructions were in English.

After having practiced in the pool for some time, the instructor took me for the first dive in the cold seawater. I remember that it was raining a bit, and I was very nervous when we submerged. However, the first thing I saw gave me the strength and the power to trust the process — we discovered a small seahorse! At first, it was staring at us but eventually, it started moving around and dancing freely in the water. 

I’m happy to announce that I passed my course. So, when my father arrived, we drove north — to Tutukaka — to experience our first underwater adventure. It was an unforgettable experience. Check out the video below to see us arriving into the first spot and saying “hi” from underwater.

From The Sea Straight To The Redwoods 

A photo of the author's father

Virginia’s Dear Papa

We then continued on in our adventures and spent a few days in Rotorua, a town located in the Northland. Here, we visited the Redwoods and one of the most famous geothermal parks — the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. The Redwoods consist of over 5,600 hectares (13,837.9 acres) of forest. It is truly an amazing spot to enjoy walking and being completely immersed in nature.

If you ever visit this area, you will be encouraged to “[e]mbrace the manaakitanga extended to you and show this ‘generosity and spirit’ in return by treating the environment and others who visit the forest with care and respect.”3

Meaning of the Maori word, Manaakitanga

The second stop was on the Waimangu Volcanic Valley,  the world’s youngest geothermal system. In the next video, you will see the earth boiling and bubbling.

From The North To The South Island

A photo of the author alongside her father

Virginia with her dear papa

We first arrived in Christchurch, and from there, we took the TranzAlpine train. On the first part of the ride, we traveled through Springfield where the Southern Alps rise from the plains. Then the route headed to the Waimakariri River George, an amazing aqua-blue river that contrasts beautifully with the vegetation and the mountains. The most breathtaking views can be seen from the edges of Arthur’s Pass National Park. The final stop was in Greymouth, an area embedded in its gold mining history. Here, the New Zealand jade called “pounamu” can be found in many different stores.

From The Mountains To Fiordland

I had never seen anything like Fiordland before. We started out in Te Anau, the closest city, and headed to this spectacular and unforgettable natural landscape. In order to get ready for this excursion, we were told to have all kinds of gear and to be prepared for sun, rain, snow, and wind. We even had to look for snow chains in a service station.

We had no idea what to expect but the funny thing was we actually experienced all the weather conditions we were cautioned about! The journey started with sun and warmth. Then, while driving,  it suddenly started raining. Then it stopped, and while we were coming back from the tour in Fiordos, it actually started to snow!

A photo of the mountains in Fiordland, New Zealand

As not many people know what Fiordland is, allow me to describe it a little bit. A “fiord” is a U-shaped valley that forms as a result of the action of a glacier flooded by the sea. There are 14 Fiordos in this part of New Zealand that took 100,000 years to form. On every side of the valley, spectacular waterfalls can be seen. 

We were very lucky, as we were told that in this region of New Zealand it rains 300 of 365 days a year. And although we did not have a clear sky during the entire adventure, we at least could enjoy the views without having to bear the rain.

You can see a little bit of Fiordland and the different types of weather in the following video.

Saying Goodbye In Wellington

As I had been living in Wellington for some months preceding this trip, my father and I decided to finish the trip there. This gave me the opportunity to show my father a few of my day-to-day experiences. After going around the city on foot, we spent our last afternoon together at my favorite bar located next to Wellington’s Airport. I loved it because you could see the planes landing after having crossed the sea into the airport. As Wellington is one of the windiest cities in the world, landing each plane is nothing short of an artistic maneuver.

When I think about everything that we went through in this 3-week road trip throughout the country, I can clearly see how that trip changed us and our father-daughter relationship. It’s not just about taking a plane and visiting places — it is about allowing the experiences to transform you. We spent so much time talking and catching up while driving from one place to the other and I would not have changed it for anything.

I hope you have enjoyed this trip to my favorite places in New Zealand. I am sure that one day soon I will go back to refresh the experiences.

Can you think of a particular place or trip that happened to have molded you or your beloved ones? We will be glad to read your comments!

Written by Virginia González

If you liked this read, here is a link to Virginia’s previous article entitled Take A Look At New Zealand The Kiwi Land (New Zealand Aventures Part I).


1“Tutukaka.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Aug. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tutukaka.

2 “2018 Census Place Summaries: Stats NZ.” 2018 Census Place Summaries | Stats NZ, https://www.stats.govt.nz/tools/2018-census-place-summaries/northland-region.