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People of New Zealand we met in our travels

There may be just a few of them, but they’re one kind, helpful and a friendly lot.

We have always said, “it’s all about the people”. Before heading to New Zealand, we were kind of prepared for this travel experience to be an exception. With a population density of 18 people per sq km, how many interactions would we have after all?


After 6-weeks of travels in New Zealand, yes, we saw more sheep than people. But we also returned with as many people stories from New Zealand as from any other travels.

Like everything else in New Zealand, we discovered some spectacular traits in the people of New Zealand.

”Outdoors” – isn’t just a part of life, it’s a way of life


From hanging out at the beach to camping in the national parks – with friends and also families, we saw the people of New Zealand enjoy it all. Kayaking, surfing, or cycling aren’t activities you do on a holiday. Celebrating birthdays by hiking up a peak with your group of friends isn’t uncommon.


While lunching on a beach at the Houghton bay in Wellington, we saw a woman get out of her car with her kids and a dog. As she set up her picnic and started to read her book, the children climbed up a little rock and started playing with their dog. No shouts of, “Careful/ Watch out/ Don’t go to the edge” were heard. Yet, everyone stayed safe and a good time was had by all!

Indoor rock climbing places are common, and packed. As are camping sites in the summer. Not surprising, considering it’s a country meant for a life of adventure and activity.



Naturally, many go on to make a living out of “outdoor activities”. Not surprising that New Zealand is considered the adventure capital of the world.


A passion for arts – even quirky ones


We happened to be in Nelson on a Saturday morning, the day of one of the biggest farmers markets in New Zealand. The enticing smell of rich coffee guided us to the market. Fresh, bright fruits distracted us from carts selling cheese, bread, honey (all artisanal) and food trucks with hot pancakes, sausages, noodles, even masala dosa!



In the midst of all this deliciousness were stalls of artists selling some pretty unique stuff. Like woollen dolls or an archery set. One man and his puppet were a striking standout. A flush of white hair, a scarf around his neck, a cup of tea in one hand and his whimsical puppet in the other, he was seated next to his display of “gorgeous stuff” – impeccable handmade metal jewellery.


Of course, we asked him if we could take a picture. “Of course”, is what his shrug told us. We showed him the photos and admired his stuff. Before leaving, we asked him for his email so we could send the photos.

To which he said, “It isn’t as simple as that”, and proceeded to pick a wire and his tools. For a moment, we thought he was probably lost in his own thoughts and the comment was in relation to that. What couldn’t be simple about giving an email id?

“You see, the email is on a bag. To give you the email, I’ll have to give you the bag. And I can’t give you an empty bag, can I?”, he said in the sweet lyrical Kiwi accent.

Wow! We were stunned and amazed seeing the wire transform, in a matter of minutes into a beautiful rose ring fitting perfectly around my little finger.


“Home is where?”, he asked us. “India.” “Oh, the mother of my children spent a long time there”, he told us. He had exhibited at a number of galleries, including one at the famous Museum of Wearable Art in Nelson.

Later, when we looked up the name on the bag, we realised that the artist, Mike Ward had also been an MP once, belonging to the Green Party which he had himself formed!

Kind, kinder, kindest

We had rented a car from her the previous evening, from Takaka in the Golden Bay – the most beautiful place we visited in the South Island. The next day, while returning it we expected it to be a matter of handing the keys and a car inspection.

Instead, it turned out to be a conversation of how our drive to the beach had been. She knew we particularly wanted to catch the sunset there and she had suggested we also check out the baby seals which are usually playing on the beach. We told her we had managed both – getting the sunset, and playing with the seals.


We waited for questions about refilling the fuel tank or the condition of the car to come up. Instead, what we got was, “I am glad you could put the car to good use”.

We couldn’t hold it any longer and asked her if she didn’t want to check the car. “Why, was there any problem?”, she said a bit surprised. “No none at all. We’ve also filled up the fuel tank.” “I am sure you have!”

What? She was going to trust us, just like that? We then told her we weren’t used to this trust-based style of running a business. “But it’s so much better when we are honest and can trust each other.” Who could argue with that?

Our most surprising encounter though was the day we decided to explore hitchhiking. This was again in the Golden Bay and our experience that day defied all the hitchhiking guidelines we had read.
Women generally do not stop their cars, they said. Well, our first lift was a single lady who went off her route to drop us right at the Pupu Springs, where we were headed.

People with expensive cars don’t usually stop their cars was another general guideline. A guy in an SUV not only stopped his car and picked us up but also spent an entire day with us.

He had thought we were Fiji-Indians when he saw us first. But on hearing we were Indians from India, he got super excited. He and his wife and spent a wonderful time in India. People had been so kind and generous, he was just happy that he now had a chance to do his bit, he told us.


“Do you have some time”, he first asked us as soon after. “There’s a bush here I would like you to show”. This was like asking for a finger and getting an arm. Of course, we had all the time in the world to see the places he wanted to show us!

We had met him at around noon, and place after place, he took us around the entire Golden Bay, which without a car of our own would have been impossible for us to get to. He took us to beaches, waterfalls and nature trails, sharing with us the story of Golden Bay and his life in the Golden Bay.


When he then came to drop us all the way to the hostel because it was getting dark, we asked him to join us for dinner. “Oh no, my wife is waiting for me”, he said. “How about a coffee then?” He said it was kind that we wanted him to join us for coffee, but he would have to pass. He was the kind one here, we reminded him. Is there anything we could do to express our gratitude?

He answered in one line, “Just pay it forward”.

We were expecting our 6-weeks in New Zealand to be filled with beauty – of nature. But beyond that, what this blissful beauty revealed was a heart of gold.

More stories from our travel in New Zealand to give your ideas for your road trip

Why a self drive road trip in New Zealand is the best way to travel

6 week travel itinerary for New Zealand

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21 thoughts on “People of New Zealand we met in our travels”

  1. wow,such a nice collection of pictures . I really enjoyed reading the post.thank you for the post.

  2. Sayanti aka Shine

    Very nice post. Loved your stories with people of New zealand. It’s so well narrated that a reader can connect with it very easily. Loved the the warmth you have came across through your trip from the localites. And the pictures are just awesome.

    1. Yup, yup! We were honestly not expecting much of hospitality in New Zealand, considering the sparse population there. But travel always throws in the most unexpected and pleasant surprises!

  3. What a contrast we experience in India! I think, this is because of the low population density there.

    1. Many travellers do meet some kind and friendly people in India too. As the saying goes, there are all kinds of people everywhere. As far as this “honest business” policy goes, it’s true though. Yet to see anything like that in India. The immense population is definitely a factor.

  4. corneliaweberphotography

    Such a beautiful story of your amazing New Zealand trip, This man had his heart in the right place. Thank you for sharing.

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