Traveling Online - Take a Vacation Virtually Anytime - Logo 32K


New Zealand

Click for larger images

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.

Diamond Head 32KMajestic 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 mountain lake 32K
<<< A secluded tarn, or mountain lake, along the Routeburn Track in the Fiordland region of Southern New Zealand.

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 sadness.

The still waters of Lake Matheson 32KThe still waters of Lake Matheson reflect Mt. Cook and the other snow capped peaks of the Southern Alps. >>>

 The lighthouse at Cape Reinga 32K
<<< 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 Bay of Islands 32KA 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 resort. >>>


<<< 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 for more information and the opportunity to purchase these and other selections.

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 1986)
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: Jane Campion
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: Vincent Ward
The Navigator - The Navigator (1988) Starring: Bruce Lyons, Director: Vincent Ward
Heavenly Creatures- Heavenly Creatures (1995) Starring: Melanie Lynskey, Director: Peter Jackson
Smash Palace
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)
Shana Laing


T R A V E L   M E N U       M A 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.