New Zealand is a country of rare seismic beauty: Glacial mountains, fast-flowing rivers, deep, clear lakes, hissing geysers and boiling mud. There are also abundant forest reserves, long, deserted beaches and a variety of fauna, such as the kiwi, endemic to its shores. Any number of vigorous outdoor activities - tramping (hiking), skiing, rafting and, of course, that perennial favorite, bungy jumping - await the adventurous. Swim with dolphins, hopping with newborn lambs, whale-watch or fish for fattened trout in many streams.
The people, bound in a culture that melds European with Maori ancestry, are resourceful, helpful and friendly overwhelming. The extraordinary place names - try Te Awamutu, Whangamomona or Paekakariki for heavy-trippers - are resonant and, with a little practice, easy to pronounce. Because it `s such a compact place, travel in New Zealand - whether by plane, bus, train, car or bicycle - is affordable and efficient. Housing is too cheap and varied. And the culinary promise of venison, fresh seafood, sublime ice cream and award-winning wines, more than stir up the appetite.
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