This summer will go down in history as the first time that I stood in the shadow of the mighty L&P bottle in Paeroa. The rumours are true – I have never seen a botty so big.
After a sheepish look around for someone to take our picture, a young lad with a neon festie bracelet emerged bleary-eyed from his campervan to help us.
We took a photo, made some disastrous small talk about the traffic, and went our separate ways. A memory – and a friendship – made forever.
As we headed home to Auckland, I opened up Google reviews and compared our experience to those of other enthusiastic travellers. The five star reviews were brimming with the same national pride that I felt for the big drop of ice cold fizz.
"30 years between drinks" said Barry, five stars."Home away from home" said Rochelle, who also gave it five stars. "Never know what's going to be around the next curve in New Zealand" said Elaine, who also dropped a sizzling fiver.
Scrolling further down, the Google reviews began to sour. "In real life it's a lot smaller like the Leaning Tower of Pisa," humblebragged Lyn. "Would have been a longer visit if it wasn't for the torrential rain that day." Poor Lyn. Three stars.
"Its a bottle in a carpark mmm" wrote Angela ambiguously in her two star review. Alecia, who left only one star for the enormous bottle, was much clearer. "Just a big bottle that smells like wee," she wrote, "srry".
Inspired by the incredible combination of disappointment, melancholy and rage being hurled at one of our most iconic landmarks, I scoured Google reviews to see what else has been absolutely torn to shreds by furious tourists.
The Hundertwasser toilets
The famous public loo with a view (art), Friedensreich Hundertwasser's crappers are one of the few toilet blocks in the world also recognised as a work of art. Completed in 1999 by the reclusive artist, they are the most photographed bogs in the country and the main attraction in Kawakawa. Wow, what an incredible bit of weird Kiwi tourism. I'm sure everyone loves them!
Auckland Sky Tower
Oh, only the bloody tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere at over 300 metres high with a restaurant that SPINS AROUND very SLOWLY in the SKY. What a modern marvel, what a feat of engineering, what an icon of the Auckland skyline. Surely no complaints here.
Tongariro National Park
Wow, just the oldest national park in New Zealand and a UNESCO heritage site. "With its ruggedly diverse landscape, from volcanic peaks to lush native bush and rivers, the Tongariro National Park World Heritage Site is a natural wonder that beams quintessential New Zealand," the Visit Ruapehu site reads. Also home to one of the world's best one day hikes – aren't we lucky?!
"Witness the phenomenon of natural hydro power with more than 220,000 litres of water per second barreling over an 11 metre high waterfall." Sounds pretty good, no?
I have extremely fond memories of paddling my way through Splash Planet as a kid on a summer trip to Hastings. Waterslides, hot dogs and lazy rivers – still sounds like a cracking day out to me to be honest.
New Zealand's highest mountain at 3,724 metres above sea level, Aoraki can be seen from as far as 150km away. It was also the training ground where Sir Edmund Hilary prepared to climb Mount Everest. These days it is home to only our most adventurous of tourists.
Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo
By day it sits against the deep blue background of the stunning lake, by night it sits beneath the dazzling night sky, untouched by light pollution in the southern hemisphere's first ever Dark Sky Reserve. Such a beautiful place it would probably even make Ricky Gervais believe in God. Right guys?
The Big Cromwell Fruit
We love our Big Things here in New Zealand, and no cluster of fruit is more sizeable than those that greet you in sunny Cromwell. Home to a place to 'Bargarita' and also Gareth from Married at First Sight NZ season two, this landmark is absolutely unmissable and completely unforgettable.
You haven't really lived until you have taken a photo pretending to hatch out of one of these puppies, or pretending to have split one clean in two with your mighty strength. The Moeraki Boulders are a must-do photo opportunity and I am sure that absolutely everyone agrees that they are good.
It began as a joke between photographers, then became an Instagram cliché, and has now become the most photographed tree in New Zealand. Or the most loathed? Hard to say, hard to say.