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Aotearoa is the Maori word for New Zealand. Literally translated, it means “land of the long white cloud.” There are other types of white clouds, here, too. And frequently some grey ones.

New Zealand is made up of two main islands – the North Island and the South Island – and a bunch of smaller islands.

The country is named after the Dutch province of Zeeland.

The capital is Wellington, located at the southern tip of the North Island.

There are approximately 4.4 million people living in NZ. That’s less than half the population of NYC, just to put that in perspective for ya.

New Zealand is sometimes called the Shaky Isles, due to the large amount of seismic activity. Oh yeah, this country is made up of many extinct and a few active volcanoes. We are in the Ring of Fire.

NZ is separated from Australia by the Tasman Sea, and is a “close” neighbor to Tonga, Fiji, and New Caledonia.

There are no mammals indigenous to NZ. Before the Polynesians settled NZ, the islands were inhabited mostly by birds. And plants. Oh, and bugs. In fact…

New Zealand is home to the world’s longest earthworm (approx. 11 ft long), the world’s heaviest insect (the giant weta, w/ a mass of up to and over 70g), a stick insect 15cm long, and a plethora of other icky things.

More on the sheep situation later…

UPDATE: I found a tidy little webpage w/ some up-to-date info on NZ.
Check it out.