Top 10 New Zealand Souvenirs

It's been five months now that I've left New Zealand.
Finally I came around to finish this list of my top 10 souvenirs. Have a look what I collected :)

10. Native Timber Bookmark

I saw these in many tourist shops, and there is other nice things made of native timber all over the place mostly related to kitchen utensils…Kiwis are in general very proud of all native – flora and fauna – and grateful about the species that are still left. It is indeed beautiful wood and I was given it by friends in New Plymouth, which makes it a beautiful memento of my time with them.

9. Festival Shirt

For New Years I volunteered at a music festival, Rhythm and Vines, and my remuneration was this shirt and a great time!

8. Shell Rings

Found these cool shells, while walking on a beach in Northland with my then couchsurfing host and now friend Dion, whose family has welcomed me several times. So again the meaning is created through good memories rather than the actual souvenir, in this case shells.

 7. Signed Book

When I was in Queenstown I met Craig, who happened to be a gifted musician, children's book author and genuinely great guy. He was the housemate of my couchsurfing host and I happened to bump into him a couple of times, when coming back to town. Although most famous for his book "The Wonkey Donkey", I chose to get "Willbee the Bumblebee", the story is just adorable and his signature tops it off as a wonderful souvenir. Listen to the song here.

6. (useful) Kiwiana Kitsch

There is some beautiful souvenirs and as a graphic designer I appreciate well made patterns and illustrations. To be found in shops like f.e. Pauanesia, which I stumbled upon because my first Auckland couchsurfing host, Olivia, was the graphic designer for this cute little store. They have these unique little plush kiwis, which I would have bought for sure if I wasn't still traveling and just cannot need any useless items in my backpack.
Whereas the tea towel made the cut, because I can actually use it during my travels. And the little wallet was given to me for my birthday and also last day in New Zealand by the wonderful friends I made (read their story here) in Auckland.

5. Mānuka honey

This is a very typical NZ souvenir, which I bought on the South Island in a little road shop between Cromwell and Queenstown. Mānuka is a native plant and the honey made from it enjoys a really good reputation. I could tell you the reasons behind its high quality, but as I'm too lazy if you're interested just read about it here :) And get honey here.

This one actually caused me quite some trouble at the post office as they didn't want to let me send the honey in a parcel to Germany, because they were in the wrong believe it would be against German customs regulations. I emailed the German customs later and they confirmed it's legal as long as there is no trace of honeycomb or bees. But anyway I had to take the honey on a journey to India, passed it on to my friend, who brought it to Germany for me, as I was certainly not allowed to bring it to Australia,  thanks New Zealand Post!

4. Paua Shell

For me, one of the things representing New Zealand are paua (there is no plural -s in the Māori language). An iconic sea shell with thick black flesh and beautiful colourful marbling behind it. It is very popular kai moana (sea food) for kiwis.
On my way south from Marlborough Sounds to Christchurch I got a ride with a bunch of awesome lads (how I met them). Just before Kaikoura they decided to have a little dive to see if they can find some Paua, which they did. They were all happy to bring home some good food that night, I was thrilled to get the shells. I have seen them quite often, used as soap holders or ash trays. I decided to smash one up and make pendants out of the pieces and keep one as a whole. A couple of months later I got another even bigger one from the guys on Stuart Island.
I couldn't resist keeping that one as well :) You can also buy paua in tourist shops with a coat of varnish, but it's just not the same without that connection to the people who dived for it.

3. Travel Journal

I reckon it is good to write a diary on any kind of journey. Unless you have impeccable memory, it is the only way to preserve those thoughts, special moments, interesting characters… I can't wait to read them again in 50 years or let my grand children find them and discover what an adventurous Oma they have :)

2. Tui my Ukulele

This is not particularly a NZ souvenir, rather something I picked up along my journey. But as it is a very popular instrument in New Zealand, it was just a matter of time I came across it. I played the recorder in primary school, Kiwi kids play the Ukulele...
My friends in Wellington showed me the first chords and I was hooked immediately. After thinking about it daily for three weeks straight, I finally bought my Uke in Christchurch. NZ$100 – the most I have spent on one object in that whole year (excluding air fares) and it was a decision I will never regret. Tui is the best little travel companion I could wish for, it is impossible for me to ever be bored again :)

1. Pounamu (=Greenstone, Jade) Necklace

For Māori pounamou is a treasure (taonga) and has strong spiritual meaning. Amongst others it is a symbol of peace and is said to bring bad luck if you buy it for yourself. It is only found on the South Island and small Hokitika calls itself the Greenstone capital of New Zealand.
In late summer 2013 when I hitched down the West Coast, Tom from Hokitika happened to pick me up. A 60-something ex NZSAS – half Māori with plenty of interesting stories – invited me to stay over night. Before I continued my journey the next day (not without getting a little guitar serenade and self made bread), he introduced me to one of his friends – a greenstone carver – who grabbed a handful of jade left overs from inside his car and gave them to me. I had them in my backpack for half a year, always looking at them, trying to decide which one would be the best to make into a bracelet, unsuccessfully asking around who had the tools to drill a hole in this hard stone…before finally I returned to Hokitika (which wasn't planned before). I stayed at Toms again and visited his friend, who was happy to help me make a necklace.

This is my favourite keepsake of NZ. I wear it every day and it reminds me of this beautiful country, its people and the wonderful year I spent there. I suppose it's a very symbolic way of having a piece of New Zealand always close to my heart, but that's way to cheesy and spiritual for me to write this without feeling awkward and surprised that my head could produce those kind of thoughts…

Anyway…Of course the best souvenirs are not the ones you blindly buy in a shop but the ones with meaning, those that have memories attached to them.

With this in mind, happy travels, happy memory creating!