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A Bluffers Guide to New Zealand Rugby

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, you can’t have failed to be aware of the Rugby World Cup fever that gripped the nation throughout September and October  and as the furore dies down, for us in the UK at least, we thought it fitting to write a blog post to fill you a little on the history of New Zealand Rugby, as we can guaranteed that for anyone heading over there in the next few months after the All Blacks World Cup victory, it’s bound to be the number one topic of conversation!!  If there are any doubts, check out this video of the reception the All Blacks got on their return to New Zealand this week – just brilliant!

Read on, and you’ll be able to hold your own in any conversation with somebody who knows somebody who knows one of the All Blacks – It’s bound to happen at some point during your holiday.

It was in England, back in the 1820’s when William Webb Ellis a student at the Rugby School, (in Rugby funnily enough!) disregarded all the rules of football during a game and instead of kicking the ball, caught it and ran forward with it, instead of carrying it back to his own line. Somehow, it caught on, and although it took a little while for the rules to be agreed, by the 1860’s Rugby was a firm favourite of sportsmen and its popularity started spreading further afield.1280px-New-Zealand-in-NSW,

In the late 1860’s Charles Monro, a New Zealander who had been studying in England, headed back down under, having developed a soft spot for the sport and suggested to his local football  club in Nelson that they might like to give it a try – they did, and must have liked it – in 1870 the very first Rugby match in New Zealand was played.

Later on, that same year, during a visit to Wellington, Monro arranged a game between the Nelson Club team and a Wellington selection – the first inter-district match in New Zealand – and after recruiting and training the Wellington team, Monro took to the pitch as both player and Referee (not sure how impartial he’d have been!)

That was it – the Kiwis embraced the game, and by the end of the 1870’s unions were formed in Canterbury and Wellington. Not long after in 1884 a national side representing New Zealand took to the field and in May 1892 the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (as it was known then) was formed.

The All Blacks played their first test match against Australia in 1903, and then powered through a tour of England in 1905 taking everyone by surprise with their innovative style of Rugby. The fastest players ran with the ball rather than kicking and chasing it, and the New Zealand teams held the field with such ferociousness and nimbleness they were soon heralded as the most fearsome side to be pitted against.

It was during the 1905 tour that their kit was redesigned, from blue and gold to all black. The Express & Echo in Devon was the first to use the term All-blacks when a writer, reporting on the win the team had against Devon during the 1905 tour penned “The All Blacks, as they are styled by reason of their sable and unrelieved costume, were under the guidance of their captain (Mr Gallaher), and their fine physique favourably impressed the spectators”. The name stuck and the team has been known as the All Blacks ever since.

Not a great deal  has changed since then really – Having just won their second World Cup in a row, we think it’s safe to say that they retain that reputation both for their skilled and formidable rugby playing, and, having watched a few games, for their fine and impressive physiques!



Rugby has become not only a game that Kiwis are particularly good at, but also a huge part of their National Identity over the last century  and there are several places you can visit during a holiday in New Zealand that are unmissable for fans of the game.

If you’re planning to visit Nelson during your holiday in New Zealand, be sure to walk The Centre of New Zealand Walkway, alongside the Matai River, where the very first game of Rugby in New Zealand was played. If you’re joining us for one of our Small Group Journeys, we’ll stroll along a section of the walkway too.

Other ideas of ‘must see’ spots in New Zealand for rugby fans………………

Take a tour of Eden Park – scene of the All Blacks world cup triumph in 2011


Visit the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame which tells the stories of the country’s greatest sports stars – mostly rugby players.


Spend a morning or afternoon exploring the Rugby Museum in Palmerston North



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Travel Tips: Surviving a Long Haul Flight to New Zealand

We’ve all heard the saying that ‘life is about the journey not the destination’ but in the case of surviving a long haul flight to New Zealand, we have to admit that the opposite is probably true – actually getting to New Zealand is never going to be the highlight of your trip, but we do think that with a bit of preparation and some organisation, the 11689.8 mile journey doesn’t have to be something to dread.

We’ve travelled between the two countries more times than we can remember and although when we can, we usually choose to stop for a day or two en route -both to break up the journey and to explore other countries while we’re so close to them – sometimes time is of the essence, and if you’ve only got a couple of weeks scheduled for your trip you’ll probably want to get to New Zealand as quickly as possible to make the very best of your time there.

We’ve put together our favourite tried and tested flight survival secrets to make sure that you arrive in New Zealand, if not feeling as fresh as a daisy, then at least not like you want to hide away in a hotel room for 24 hours!

Before You Go:

Get Your Gadgets Ready


It’s true that long haul flights have much better in-flight entertainment than they used to, but you never quite know what will be on the schedule, so it makes sense to have some entertainment back-up for the flight (and for the in-between times when you’re passing time in the airport lounge).

Charge your devices, download your favourite television programmes or a few films onto your tablet and if you have a kindle or an e-reader make sure you’ve got some good reading material ready. (Top tip – start your book a few days before you go so you’re already into it and you know you like it by the time you fly – there’s nothing worse than looking forward to starting a new book, only to find it’s not a page turner!)

Pack Snacks


We’re not sure about you, but we’ve never been particularly fond of aeroplane food (except for the fact that it breaks up the journey and passes a bit of time) and even if you aren’t adverse to the culinary offerings on board you’ll probably want to eat to your own schedule –no-one enjoys being woken up from a much needed snooze by a flight attendant offering you a meal you don’t really want.

We usually take some fruit, some veggie sticks and a small pot of hummus, some cheese and some dried fruit and nuts. They’re all slow release energy and will fill you up without leaving you feeling uncomfortable and bloated.

Pack a Flight Survival Kit

Completely essential if you want any chance of managing to sleep during the flight. Although airlines used to always hand out travel packs, you never quite know these days, so we recommend packing your own. An eye mask (we love our lavender infused ones), some ear plugs, a travel pillow and a pair of warm cosy socks will go a long way to making the journey more bearable and they don’t take up much room in your cabin baggage.

Choose your Seats

Avoid a middle seat! We definitely recommend choosing an aisle seat whenever possible. You’ll want to get up and stretch your legs from time to time, and its so much harder when you have to wake up the person in the seat next to you, or try to climb over them without disturbing them!

Be Organised


Aim to get to the airport early so you’re not stressing and rushing around – consider an airport hotel the night before if you’re prone to anxiety!

In Flight

Stay Hydrated


And watch what you drink. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Well, actually, you are officially already on your holiday once the plane takes off, and we’re not total killjoys so maybe don’t avoid alcohol completely, but limit it to a glass of fizz to toast your travels, or a glass of  wine with a meal.

Although on long flights, you can request water throughout, we always find it easier to buy a couple of bottles once you’ve passed through baggage control so you don’t have to keep buzzing the flight attendant (note: another reason to book an aisle seat – upping your water intake also means more regular trips to the bathroom!) .

Check the Time


Set your watch to your destination time when you board your flight, and try, if you can, to nap at times that fit in with your new time zone – you’ll be more likely to arrive feeling more human, we promise!

Stretch your Legs

Make a conscious effort to get up and have a walk around the plane, move flex and stretch your legs regularly to encourage blood flow, and there are lots of exercises you can do in your seat too to stop muscles stiffening up. Granted, you might look like a bit of a wally, but they’ll keep you comfier.

Be Nice


Last but most definitely not least, be polite and friendly to the flight attendants and your fellow travellers. It can be hard to stay chirpy when you’re lacking sleep and have been squeezed into the economy cabin of a jumbo jet for the past 10 hours, but so has everyone else, so smile at the stewardess, don’t get grumpy in the queue for the loo and be nice to your neighbour, we promise you’ll arrive in New Zealand feeling so much better!

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Flag Up Your Vote

With media all over the world speculating on the change to the New Zealand flag in 2016 and the big unveiling of the final five designs, it’s doubtful you’ve missed the debates and opinions that are flying about, so we thought it would be Interesting to dig a bit deeper into the history of the flag and share the flag we’re voting for (we bet you can’t guess!)

If you had travelled to New Zealand before 1902, it would have been the Union Jack that you’d have seen fluttering from the flagpoles across the country, though now we all recognise the distinctive New Zealand national flag with the Union Jack in up in the corner and the four stars that represent the constellation of the Southern Cross as it is seen from New Zealand.

United Tribes Flag. Image courtesy of NZ History

United Tribes Flag. Image courtesy of NZ History

The history of the New Zealand Flag goes back further than that though with the original national flag voted in from a choice of three in 1834 by the United Tribes of New Zealand. The Flag became known as the ‘Flag of the United Tribe of New Zealand’, and to Maoris symbolised New Zealand being recognised by the British as an Independent Nation.(If you visit the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds today you’ll see the flag, still flying high from a flagpole in the grounds of the Treaty House).

It wasn’t long after this, in 1840, that the Treaty of Waitangi was signed and New Zealand became known as a British Colony, hence the introduction of the Union Jack. This wasn’t an entirely popular decision with Maori’s, many of whom felt that the Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand should have been flown alongside the Union Jack, but they were overruled and the Union Jack enjoyed status as the national flag for some 60 plus years until the passing of the New Zealand Ensign Act instituted the existing flag.

the five alternative designs. Image courtesy of New Zealand Government

the five alternative designs. Image courtesy of New Zealand Government

2016 will see New Zealanders voting, for the very first time, on a referendum on their flag and there are five different designs for them to choose from. If you’re travelling to Wellington before 20th November, head down to Civic Square and you’ll be able to see the designs on display flying above the Town Hall.

The five alternative designs were whittled down from over 10,000 and have been chosen after some deliberation, with the brief needing fit quite a criteria. Chair of the Flag Consideration Panel, Professor John Burrows, explained “We believe a potential new flag should unmistakably be from New Zealand and celebrate us as a progressive, inclusive nation that is connected to its environment, and has a sense of its past and a vision for its future” that’s a lot to get across in a simple design!!
The choices include flags featuring a Koru, an integral symbol in Maori carving, art and design that symbolises peace, growth, new life and strength, three variations on the Silver Fern design and the Red Peak, a late addition to the referendum.

Below you can watch a video of John Key, New Zealands Prime Minister making his case for why he thinks its time for a change

The first referendum is set to run from November 20 to December 11, where voters will be asked to rank the five options, followed by the most popular flag from the first referendum pitched against the current flag in a second vote in March next year.
What do you think? Which Flag do you think should be selected? Do comment below, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
And of course, we’re rooting for one of the three designs that encompasses our logo here at Silver Fern Holidays, The Silver Fern (as if you hadn’t already guessed!)

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Magnificent Doubtful Sound

A cruise out on the magnificent Doubtful Sound is an incredible experience and one that you won’t want to miss on a trip to new Zealand

We’re not sure quite how we could describe it adequately– even the first explorers got it wrong and incorrectly named it a Sound – which is a river-fed waterway, when in fact it is a Fiord, since it is a glacier-fed expanse of water. Anyway, who cares about the names – the fact is a trip out on one of the worlds most beautiful stretches of water is truly unforgettable.

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The Milford Track: The Finest Walk in the World

Were we mad enough to undertake the last walk on the Milford Track for the season with snow forecast? Yes we were! – along with another 35 brave souls who we met up with on the first day for the trip over Lake Te Anau to Glade House, the first lodge on the track. It’s only a 30 min walk to the lodge, if that, so plenty of time for us to get settled in, have a shower, test the flush toilets and have coffee and cookies before our introductory nature walk with Grace, one of four guides who accompany each group on their walk. The guides are not only superbly trained in mountain safety and interpretation, they’re also very sociable and empathetic with everyone on the walk – so a big thanks to Masako, Grace, Richard, and Helen.

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Abel Tasman Guided Walk

Along with six other Brits we met up at Wilson’s Abel Tasman Guided Walk Office in Motueka in preparation for our three day guided walk along the coastal path.

Darryl Wilson kindly stopped by for a chat – he’s been operating the guided walk with other family members for around thirty years now and a very impressive operation it is. Prior to departure everyone is given a Wilson’s holdall to put their gear in for the trip and this gets transported by boat to the two lodges you will stay in during the walk, at Torrent Bay and the Meadowbank Homestead – so all you carry is a daypack with lunch in and swimming togs.

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Singapore Stopover

We flew out from Heathrow’s new Terminal 2 – all shiny and whizzy-dizzy with right-on restaurants, computers everywhere and the usual branded shops, but no flight announcements, so of course only just made the plane!

Excellent service on Singapore Airlines – along with Air New Zealand, I think it’s one of the best for flights to New Zealand. The on-board media system is amazing, you’re really spoilt for choice as to what to watch – I plumped for the boxset of The Wire series and a documentary on the 1960s, which must have whiled away at least 4 hours!

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Waiheke Island

A great day trip out of Auckland is a cruise across to Waiheke Island, followed by a bus tour on the Waiheke Explorer, which takes in all the main sights during a two hour tour, leaving you to explore further in the afternoon – perhaps connect with a wine trip (of which there are many), or just relax on one of the beautiful beaches.

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Packing for New Zealand

Something of a nightmare to think of packing to cover temperatures in three countries – since we’ll be in the humidity of Singapore, the relatively pleasant temperatures on New Zealand’s North Island, but possibly cold nights on the South, particularly on the Milford Track, so I’m definitely into a multi-layered approach.

I also find New Zealand must be one of the best places in the world to get your washing done “en route”, pretty well every hotel or Bed & Breakfast we stay at has laundry facilities, and on some occasions, I’ve found our hosts have even done the washing while we’re out enjoying ourselves!

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New Zealand Here We Come!

Three days to go before we head off for New Zealand. Can’t remember how many separate trips this is to God’s Own – but it never ceases to amaze me how it’s always a mad panic to clear up the paperwork, sort out the technology and get packed.

Barbara and daughter Sarah (12) are with me for the first part of the trip, via Singapore and then walks on Abel Tasman Coastal Path and the Milford Track.

In between the track walks, we’ll catch up with friends at our favourite Bed and Breakfasts, and check out some of the latest New Zealand experiences – looking forward to a trip with Wanaka River Journeys and enjoying an overnight on Doubtful Sound.

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