When winter bites, there are few better places to escape to than New Zealand. I’m just not too sure about the names of the sports teams. ‘Tall Blacks’ and ‘White Caps’ anyone?
A degree of smugness accompanies those who leave these isles for warmer climes in the winter months. There’s no doubt about it – December, January, February and March are grey and often cold in the UK and the lure of the sun and a different way of living is attractive.
My choice is New Zealand. No language barriers, no harsh heat, no noticeable class, religious or ethnic difficulties. A land full of beauty. A countryside of hills and mountains, plains and valleys – all in easy distance of each other. Friendly, genuine people – practical, interesting, proud and modest. Their characteristics eclipse many other nations. There’s a comfort about driving on the familiar side of the road, seeing open libraries in most towns and villages, having banks that are helpful and approachable, enjoying numerous fitness and sports clubs and outdoor activity centres, and reading newspapers and periodicals that support the nation rather than belittling it.
Of course, it’s not all roses: New Zealand can be a dangerous, volatile land. I have been traumatised by earthquakes, marooned by cyclones, horrified by fires and now shocked by gunfire. I have known of tragedies in small aircrafts and in treacherous waters, crashes on unmarked roads and accidents on farms. Legislation is tight but it’s no nanny state. Adventure sports, gruelling walks and challenging cycle treks are encouraged.