New Zealand is a large country in the Southwestern Pacific known as Aotearoa (land of the long white cloud) among native populations. The human population is relatively sparse, while the ovine one is huge. There are literally 10 times as many sheep as people in New Zealand. English and M─üori are official languages, and other Pacific Islanders form a significant minority group. There are numerous islands, some with mountains and volcanoes, along with rainforests and grasslands.
Native animal species include the tuatara (a reptile regarded by some as a living fossil), the Polynesian rat, and the flightless kiwi bird. Mainstays of the economy include small manufacturing, high technology, agriculture, and tourism. International trade plays a crucial role. While in New Zealand, you may or may not want to try a pastime created by Kiwis called zorbing, which has you rolling down a hill in a giant rubber ball. If you want to do something a tad more serious, scrutinize the impressive collection of M─üori and Pacific Island artifacts at the Auckland Museum. You can also scramble around caves where Kiri Te Kanawa and the Vienna Boys Choir have given concerts, or explore aquatic life and the edges of the islands in a kayak.
K┼½mara (sweet potato) and taro were once popular starchy staples in the traditional M─üori cuisine. Wheat and pumpkin were introduced by European settlers. Now, the boil-up (pork, potatoes, k┼½mara, and dumplings) and pork and puha (sow thistle) are dishes that really represent modern M─üori cooking. Typical vegetables include spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes, among many others. Kiwis seem to love meat, and fish like paua (abalone) and kina (sea urchin) are M─üori favorites that frequently appear on menus. Fish and chips are available just about everywhere. If you want to go on a real culinary adventure, seek out an old school barbecue, also known as M─üori hangi, which may include fish or meat cooked for several hours in a hole in the ground.
You can usually find a few restaurants serving vegetarian and/or organic Asian and Western dishes in a typical New Zealand town of some size, and the selection of health food markets is actually better than your average country. A lot of produce is grown here, so you can probably get by on a veggie and juice-centric diet. Of course beer and wine are plentiful, and if you want some wild desserts there’s choices like decadent, buttery Anzac cookies (made with oats, coconut, and golden syrup) or hokey pokey ice cream, which has bits of honeycomb toffee. That’s what it’s all about!