First thought is: 34 days! (or really 29 days if you remove the 5 days I was at linux.conf.au). That was a lot of time, but at the same time, barely enough to see New Zealand.
Clearly, New Zealand has a lot to see, and we got highlights, but there are things left for another trip, or to see and try again. We owe a big thanks to Penny Voigt from boutique travel for designing the trip for us. As per my request, she limited the amount of distance we'd have to drive (prefering busses and planes where possible) and did a good job designing the itinerary for us.
If you'd like to work with her, you can reach her at penny @ boutiquetravel.net . Note that for our trip I asked her to find what made the most sense to us and offered to pay her for the time she spent on the trip (usually agents only get paid for booking you with hotels and attractions where they get a commission, which can be a conflict of interest of course, but more generally I don't like the idea of them only being paid for some limited things we'd be booked at vs just being paid for all the time she spent organizing the trip for us).
Also, thanks to my friends and coworkers who provided their own suggestions on what to go see.
As for my thoughts of New Zealand, obviously we liked the country and its culture. People are very layed back, and enjoying the great nature they live in, even if there is the price of earthquakes and the much less frequent but very deadly risk of volcano eruption.|
I was also very happy to learn about the Mauri (Māori), and have grown much admiration for them. They are descendants of polynesian people who were crossing the oceans some thousand years ago, more than 500 years above westerners started to venture the oceans, and they used stars and migratory bird patterns for navigation.
What worked out well for them though is that they were organized and fierce enough to scare the British invaders and effectively forced the British Queen to give them mostly proper rights (it's a bit more complicated, see my Northland page). Even if they obviously adjusted to western culture and technology, they are still a proud people that presents about 15% of New Zealanders, and I say "good for them" !
Anyway, we had a great time in New Zealand, hope to go back one day.