My name is Valeria Whitworth. I am a teacher of English in Lyceum №2 in Volgograd. I have been a reader of School English newspaper for a very long time and I especially enjoy reading articles about other countries and cultures. So I would like to share my holiday experience in an English-speaking country. My husband is from New Zealand. My first visit to his native country was for Christmas 2006, New Year 2006-2007. And I must admit that was the best holiday ever.
Let's start from the very beginning. We got the tickets for the plane Moscow-Bangkok-Auckland, packed the swimming things (in the middle of winter in Russia) and were ready for the long trip to this far-away country.
Travelling from Russia to New Zealand took around 2 days and time difference was a bit confusing. New Zealand is one of the first countries in the world to greet the new day, because the International Date Line lies to its east. New Zealand is 10 hours ahead of Volgograd, which made me change my day and night.
So we travelled through Bangkok (Thailand), waiting there for the connecting flight and relaxing after the first half trip. The airport in Bangkok is really cool! It is brand new and is now the longest airport in the world. There are endless rows of shiny shops with souvenirs and books, cosmetics, perfumes, and Thai clothes, so girls will understand that waiting even for 10 hours was not a burden. Also, there is a new world of exotic and exquisite foreign cuisine that you can try in more restaurants than we could even count – right there in the Airport.
11 more hours flying and we arrived in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand.
New Zealand is not a big country – the total country stretches for just 1600 km from North to South and consists of two large islands which are called simply the North Island and the South Island. As we flew in over the city I was looking out the window thinking how different the landscape was. People there live in houses so there are not any high buildings apart from the city centre where all the offices are situated. The plane was landing and we heard people applauding, which meant there were other Russians travelling that far! The first thing I thought when we went out of the airport was “Now I understand why they call it Clean and Green”. It was also amazing that it was so warm, actually it was the beginning of the summer because the seasons in the Southern hemisphere are the opposite of the seasons here.
The air was fresh and clean and as we drove to the house I could see lots of exotic trees and plants like Palm trees, Orange trees and even Aloe Vera plants in people’s gardens. One beautiful tree is called the Pahutakawa which is called the New Zealand Christmas Tree because it has bright red flowers right at Christmas time and looks like it’s been decorated with red lights.
In a sky gondola
We arrived on the 15th December and the next week we spent relaxing in Coromandel at the same beach where my husband Neil used to go with his family every summer holiday while he was growing up. So that was just a great time for us to relax on a typical New Zealand beach after the long trip. Next to the beach is a native Kauri forest where went for walks and Neil described the native trees and plants. The Kauri is a native tree that can live for thousands of years and these forests have some of the largest and oldest trees on earth. We also went fishing off the rocks and the only person to catch a fish was me!! So that was just a lot of fun – and I showed these Kiwis how we catch fish! Of course we took lots of pictures of that fish, and when we got back to the camp site we cooked it up and ate it right away – just great!
After the beach holiday we drove back to Auckland for the Christmas celebrations. New Zealand like most English speaking countries celebrates Christmas on the 25th December. But unlike Northern Hemisphere countries in New Zealand it’s the middle of summer! So their traditional NZ Christmas means a BBQ (barbeque), cold drinks, salads, steak and of course everything is eaten outside in the sun! Imagine Christmas on a summer day! I met my new relatives – my husband has a very big family and they were surprised to know that it was my first Christmas like that. I explained that we have all similar traditions, like presents under the tree, President Congratulation on TV and family dinner on New Year’s Eve but Christmas is an absolutely different holiday. There were presents for everyone and we wore funny hats and pulled Christmas-Crackers which opened with a bang and inside was a little toy for the kids, and I was very interested to watch Queen Elizabeth on TV giving her annual Christmas message.
Rotorua hot pools
After surviving Christmas – and covering all the mirrors because we’d probably doubled in size from all the food and stuff – we set off to Rotorua for 4 days. Rotorua is what’s called a “thermal” city. Under the ground there are hundreds of hot springs and around the city are many parks where you can see bubbling pools of hot mud and exploding geysers. Very scenically beautiful, but the smell is the first thing that hits you! All around the city is the strong smell of sulphur – which on the first day was quite disgusting, but we actually found that we quickly got used to it. In old times the Maori people who lived there would cook all their food in these hot pools and they still sell sweet-corn cooked in hot-pools to tourists. But we didn’t eat it – I just couldn’t get over the smell …
After experiencing the bubbling mud pools and the geysers we were aching for some adventure so we went to what is called “skyline gondola”. This is a gondola that takes you to the top of the mountain in Rotorua and from there we took the famous luge rides down the mountain. A luge is a little plastic kart with just one stick for both steering and braking. On this little flimsy thing they then pushed me down the mountain and I raced down a twisting bumpy scary race-track to the bottom of the mountain. It was definitely not for the faint-hearted! But I couldn’t get enough and so for the last ride of the day I did the super fast expert track – and it was like dropping off the edge of the world, as my kart raced from the top of the mountain to the bottom in less than a minute!