At first sight I thought that what people had told me of the land of my birth was true - it looked just like England. Rolling green hills dotted with sheep, luxuriant copses and spinneys of trees, smiling, friendly people - but then I took another look.
The smiling, friendly people had the broad brown faces of the Polynesian and more than one boasted tatooes on chin or cheek. These were the famous Maoris.
The stands of timber, on closer examination, proved to be trees that I had never seen before. What looked like palm trees weren't, but were a sort of giant fern. Kauri trees towered above their companions and flocks of tui tui flitted among the branches. Everything looked the same, but nothing was the same. It was fascinating.
Then there were those rolling green hills, which on closer examination proved to stand above huge gorges, to be crowned with pa instead of hill forts, and every so often were obscured by a film of steam.
If you've never been, New Zealand is a must - but beware: there may be more expensive places on earth, but thank goodness I have never visited them!
If you fly into Auckland and want somewhere to stay on your first night, I can heartily recommend Regis Park B&B. It's far enough out from the town to be quiet and peaceful, but close enough to make a good base for exploring Auckland and the surrounding area. Evie and Warren are excellent hosts and will bend over backwards to make you welcome.