Confused? In New Zealand you will be

I'VE JUST lost a week from my summer by flying into the middle of winter by accident. What they say turns out to be true: in New Zealand things really are upside down. This means you can eat your Christmas turkey on the beach but it also means you can spend a week of your summer vacation huddled by the fire. Can you imagine anything more disorienting?

There's a stiff, grey wind blowing into Wellington this morning from somewhere in the vicinity of the Antarctic. Snow-covered volcanoes are brewing on the horizon. I'm wet and cold and ready to believe that I have made a huge mistake.

The other problem is the time of day. The difference between New Zealand time and Greenwich Mean Time is a round 12 hours (leaving aside the one hour of British Summertime). In a sense, things could not be more convenient: you do not have to move your watch-hands at all. You merely have to declare to yourself that it is, in fact, dinner-time not breakfast-time. In practice, the strain of eating buttered toast every day for dinner and lamb shanks and seared tamarillos with wine for breakfast can get you down.

Not that I have anything to complain about. It's the people who fly from Los Angeles to New Zealand who really have grounds to be confused. Say your plane leaves LA on Saturday evening, it will arrive in New Zealand twelve hours later the next day in the morning - Sunday morning, you suppose. Except that, in fact, it will be Monday morning. You will have crossed the International Dateline on the way across the Pacific and an entire Sunday will have vanished from your life forever.

Coming back will be equally disorienting. If you leave New Zealand early enough in the morning, you may have the pleasure of arriving in Los Angeles on the previous day in the evening.

No wonder people want to go bungee jumping in this country. International tourists to New Zealand need the correction in perspective that only hanging upside down from a piece of elastic can give you.

Yes, the pavements are stained wet in Wellington and umbrellas blow inside out, just like in (say) England. And yes, people also seem to speak English here. But other things are grotesquely unfamiliar. Spiky green leaves, dangling tendrils and scaly pods drip rain from every tree and shrub. Purple flowers with giant flabby petals quiver under the weight of dew. It is cold here (honest!) but to judge by the flora you have to wonder whether it ought to be the tropics.

Is New Zealand deliberately disorienting? I have just been to the new national museum known as Te Papa, in search of answers to the problem. Maori carvings, Kiwi fruit, The Rainbow Warrior, the All Blacks, earthquakes and the world's biggest insects all feature, as do simulated bungee jumps, in which the participant is held upside down in a cage by the ankles. Queen Elizabeth II (whose head still appears on New Zealand coins) and the Union Jack are never far away either.

But the section on New Zealand's immigrants is the most enlightening. I saw an interview with a Hungarian who had sneaked across the iron curtain in the snow; an Indian who had landed in a flying boat; an orphan who had come in a cattle-ship from Iraq. Unlike today's international tourists, these people had bigger things to worry about than losing a week of their summer holidays.

When they arrived by ship in the 1950s they first glimpsed New Zealand on the horizon as a country covered in grey boulders. Then they came nearer, saw the boulders move and realised they were sheep. There's disorientation for you.

Suggested Topics
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Lifeguards / Leisure Club Attendants - Seasonal Placement

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Qualified Lifeguards are required to join a fa...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Exhibition Content Developer

    £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in South Kensington, this prestigi...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - major leisure brand

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Partner

    £25000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Partner is required to ...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn