• I had never heard of steampunk. Retro futuristic literature, art, style….whatever, think about how people of the Victorian era, with their steam technology, might have imagined the future to be. Vaguely Jules Verne. The little seaside town of Oamaru, with its beautifully preserved Victorian architecture, has become the Steampunk capital of the world. It is a bizarre delight.
• The Northern Explorer is a train running from Auckland to Wellington in the North Island. Takes all day, though we broke the journey with a couple of nights in Tongariro. I get a sense of scale on a train ride, seeing the changing landscapes, and what a great idea to have a commentary of all the key points of interest that you can switch on or off, and listen to on your headphones. Unintrusive and informative.
• We stayed overnight in a very authentic Scottish Castle – Lanrnach Castle. A wonderful welcome, great food, a truly country house/castle experience, great history, and the rug in our bedroom had a life-sized picture of Robbie Burns woven in.
• Sand flies are nasty. They are annoying and they bite. At worst, you just have to retreat indoors. Use a ton of insect repellent. Come to think of it, they are probably the nastiest thing NZ has to offer….so not so bad really! But they too tend to stick around a specific places, if I think of the months I was there, I only had a handful of encounters, usually in beautiful locations!
• If you even vaguely like the idea of hot springs, spa relaxation thingy, Hamner Springs is a must visit. A host of lovely hot bubbly pools at every imaginable temperature, in the middle of nowhere in particular in the South Island. Loved it.
• I had never seen a glow worm before. Mesmerising, magical, unlikely and otherworldly. They hang out in spectacular limestone caves in a few different parts of New Zealand.