It never ceases to amaze me how one can have their preconceived notions instantly popped like a bubble. I always thought of myself as a learned individual that keeps up-to-date by reading numerous journals, articles, and current topics or by meeting and conversing with people of different ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds.
Yet, when it’s time to travel off to a far away land such as New Zealand, I’m still surprised by how little I know about one’s land, it’s people, and it’s culture.
It’s for this very experience, or realization a ‘lack of experience’, that travel is so important to broaden one’s knowledge while living in this world.
It’s one thing to visit Zealand on a tour, stay in the cities, or to stop at all the touristy spots (though I did do that). It’s another to just get in the car and take some detours off major roads to truly experience the countryside. Living in rural Japan for a few years and exploring trails that don’t exist on any map has taught me a thing or two. So for me, it’s the rural countryside that truly captures the essence of a country’s vibe.
So what did I experience, off the beaten track in New Zealand?
Yes. Lot’s of sheep. But not as many as I expected. So bubble-pop #1 – sheep have been making way for dairy and meat cattle. I always thought of New Zealand (with 33 million sheep and 4 million people) as being the number one producer of wool. But I soon discovered that Australia gets first place for that title. New Zealand still produces the largest amount of crossbred wool, yet when talking about wool production in general, merino wool is THE wool for clothing production. On a side note, did you now that the United States produces more wool than New Zealand? I didn’t.
I also thought that New Zealand is THE place to buy the best quality wool products at the best price. Again, that goes to Australia. However, if you are looking for something made from possum, then New Zealand is the place to go. Again – something I didn’t know!
Other cultural wakeup calls for me had to do with ordering coffee. Short-blacks, long-whites, double-blacks, it was all a new experience for me. Something that I never saw coming. Of course I won’t go into detail, as some things should be left to explore on one’s own 😀
So back to sheep.
There are white-faced sheep and black-faced sheep. Each has their own unique ‘calling’, yet they don’t seem to mind each other. They all graze in the same fields. Each minds it’s own business while taking in the lovely country side. I had many opportunities to drive through winding country roads to stop along long sloping fields lush with green vegetation dotted with white fluffy humped critters where the odd baa or meh could be heard off in the distance.
Some would look up and check you out, while others would keep focused on the task at had – eating a nice green patch of food or taking a leisurely stroll to the next grand vista.
Now if only every day could be like that!