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The Kiwis call it, "Godzone" which
means "God's own". They say that after God created the
world he decided to make an ideal place for his own enjoyment. I'm
inclined to agree. Mile for mile New Zealand is the most spectacular,
inspiring, beautifully diverse land I have ever seen.
Comprised of two main islands, and small Stewart Island to the south,
New Zealand spans about a thousand miles, roughly the length of
California. The total land area is equal in size to the state of
Colorado and no point on the narrow islands is more than 70 miles
from the sea. Historically isolated by "the tyranny of distance",
its closest neighbors are the archipelago of Fiji, and the island
continents of Australia and Antarctica.
Three and a half million people live in New Zealand, along with
100 million sheep, and 70 million possums. The remote island nation
is home to no native mammals, except for a few species of bats.
There aren't even any indigenous snakes. The relatively benign natural
environment produced the flightless nocturnal kiwi, the odd ground-dwelling
bird that gives New Zealanders their national nickname.
Majestic peaks border Milford Sound in Fiordland, South Island.
Jutting inland from the Tasman Sea, Milford Sound has accommodated
seagoing vessels as large as the Queen Elizabeth II. >>>
<<< A secluded tarn, or mountain lake,
along the Routeburn Track in the Fiordland region of Southern New
On the Routeburn Track in Fiordland National
Park I hiked the rugged South Island bush following the river across
swing bridges, tramping across open meadows and climbing in the
misting rain up to Falls Hut. The hut, perched high above the Routeburn
Valley, was designed to shelter twenty people. About forty of us
stayed there that night.
A couple of New Zealand keas, pesky wild alpine parrots, flew down
to check out the newly arrived trampers. The brazen Keas have a
tendency to steal food, small objects, or anything else they can
get their powerful beaks or claws around. They've been known to
rip open rucksacks and tents and abscond with the contents. One
of their favorite tricks is to crash onto the sloping sheet metal
hut roof early in the morning, waking everyone inside.
Next morning the rain began just as I passed the falls on the upper
trail beyond the hut. Under a grey sky I wound along a rocky cliff
trail past Lake Harris, a dark still tarn just below the Harris
Saddle crest. The storm turned the trail into a river. Rushing water
flowed ankle deep, leaving the rocky trail a slippery challenge.
Three and a half hours later I made my way down the steep ridge
to the hut at Lake Mackenzie. The roaring wood stove inside radiated
with concentric circles of wet hiking boots arranged on the floor.
Soggy clothes hung from makeshift lines overhead and half a dozen
waterlogged people huddled by the stove's warm fire. The hut was
filled with animated conversation and lively card games. Tasty odors
of hot food cooking on propane stoves hung in the air mixed with
blue gray cigarette smoke.
The sky cleared the next morning. Holyford Valley was visible in
the bright morning sunlight providing a vista of everything I missed
seeing the day before on the other side of the valley. The bright
warm sunlight slowly dried out the muddy trail as I wound down the
ridge to Howden Hut a few hours later.
On my final day I hiked the last stretch of trail to the Divide
at the end of the 40 kilometer Routeburn trek. I savored the sights,
sounds, and smells of the peaceful forest along the final downhill
path. After three nights and four days, I had grown comfortable
out in the bush. I left the trail with a mixture of exuberance and
The still waters
of Lake Matheson reflect Mt. Cook and the other snow capped peaks
of the Southern Alps. >>>
<<< The lighthouse at Cape Reinga at
the northern-most point of New Zealand. The Cape is the sacred "jumping
off place" where the native Maori people believe the souls
of the departed leap from the end of the world.
On an overcast day at Cape Reinga, the small
spit where the last pohutakowa tree stands struck me as an eerie
place of quiet power. The stark white lighthouse stood alone on
a remote point near the end of the peninsula where the Tasman Sea
and the Pacific Ocean meet. Beside it was a signpost with yellow
arrows that pointed off in all directions. Each sign was marked
with destinations and distances of places from Sydney to Los Angeles,
London to Tokyo.
A sailing yacht
anchored in the tranquil waters of the Bay of Islands near Port
Russell on North Island. Once called the "Hellhole of the Pacific"
during its 19th century whaling days, Russell is now a popular tourist
<<< A traditional Maori ceremonial
building at the popular tourist attraction of Whakarewarewa near
the town of Rotorua on North Island.
Whakarewarewa is a famous geothermal tourist
site and Maori cultural center. Whaka is home to the Pohutu Geyser,
the New Zealand equivalent of Old Faithful. The geyser spews hot
plumes of water upwards of a hundred feet on a regular basis. An
unmistakable sulphur smell of rotten eggs is a constant olfactory
reminder of the region's abundant thermal activity. The surrounding
area is filled with erupting geysers, hot springs, and bubbling
hot mud pools. Whaka also contains a replica of a traditional Maori
village and a Maori crafts center on the site.
More about New Zealand -
As a service to you, if you click on the linked items below, a window
will open to Amazon.com for
more information and the opportunity to purchase these and other
Lonely Planet New Zealand - a Travel Guide by Peter Turner,
Jeff Williams Paperback - 720 pages 9th edition (September 1998)
The Bone People by Keri Hulme Paperback - 450 pages (October
The Happy Isles of Oceania : Paddling the Pacific by Paul
Theroux / Paperback / Published 1993
Films: (Available on video)
The Piano - The Piano (1993) Starring: Holly Hunter, Director:
Angel At My Table - An Angel at My Table (1991) Starring:
Kerry Fox, Director: Jane Campion
Once Were Warriors - Once Were Warriors (1995) Starring:
Rena Owen, Director: Lee Tamahori
Vigil - Vigil (1984) Starring: Penelope Stewart, Director:
The Navigator - The Navigator (1988) Starring: Bruce Lyons,
Director: Vincent Ward
Heavenly Creatures- Heavenly Creatures (1995) Starring:
Melanie Lynskey, Director: Peter Jackson
This Quiet Earth
Split Enz - History Never Repeats: Best Of Split Enz -
Audio CD (August 10, 1987)
Crowded House - Recurring Dream: The Very Best Of Crowded
House - Audio CD (July 23, 1996)
Tim Finn - Escapade - Audio CD (July 7, 1994)
Neil Finn -Try Whistling This - Audio CD (June 16, 1998)
T R A V
E L M E N U
I N M E N U
Text and Photography by Paul Picus.
Copyright © 1996-2008 Paul Picus. All Rights Reserved,
Copyright © 1996-2008 Gar Benedick,
All Rights Reserved.