Thank Goodness New Zealand is back in business for travelers, and I’m joining BlogNZ to encourage people to GO.
I won’t live long enough to see all the wonders this world has to offer. While I struggle to accept that fact, I can console myself that in two weeks I saw more of earth’s variety than most people ever see…and it was all contained in one skinny, thousand-mile long country–a mere speck on the globe. I went to New Zealand.
Glaciers, fjiords, rolling green pastures, rough rocky sea coasts, rain forests, sandy beaches, thermal blow holes, mirrored mountain lakes, volcanoes past and present, caves and canyons, rivers in gorges and rivers inches deep meandering across flat lands.
1. The Alps and Glaciers
… a small plane piloted by a sturdy farm woman–large hands and keen eyes. As she headed the Aspiring Air plane out of Wanaka, she tilted slightly as she pointed out her place–a farm hidden away in a lakeside valley at the foot of thousand foot high cliffs.
For an hour the plane followed the valley toward Mt. Cook, at 12,365’ the higheset mountain of New Zealand’s Alps. Banking and turning, the pilot made sure the passengers got good views of the glaciers stolidly creeping down the mountain side. From the plane we saw not a sheet of slick ice, but a blue/green bed of nails.
2. The Fjords
Learning that forty tourist buses a day stop at Milford, a small fleet of sightseeing boats ply the waters through Milford Sound, and the air is filled with helicopters and planes, we opted for a quieter destination.
Doubtful Sound, our choice, is called the Sound of Silence. One boat, carrying about ninety people, cruises the sound each day. Doubtful is harder to get to than Milford, where the road leads right to the boat dock. This discourages casual visitors.
The tour begins with a boat across Lake Manipouri to the underground power station. Board a sight seeing bus for a short narrated drive from the west arm of Manipouri over a rain forested mountain pass.
The weather was cool and grey and rainy the day we went to Doubtful Sound. Too bad, you say? No, no. That’s good!
There are at least hundreds, if not thousands of waterfalls in New Zealand, each of which would warrant a whole park to themselves anywhere else in the world. When it is raining they are more numeous, wider and longer around the fjords. Rain also brings low clouds flirting with the peaks that have their feet in this inlet of the Tasman Sea. The eerie mists handing over the water affords irregular glimpses of the rain forested hills adding to the other-worldliness of the experience.
3. The Rain Forests
On the way to Doubtful Sound, the bus stops and we alight to see ancient trees dripping moss worthy of a horror film’s enchanted forest. The dense forest is crowded with silver beech, totara and tree ferns towering above limestone rock coated with brilliantly colored mosses.
The first sight of rain forest confounds all previous impressions of “forest”. There is no soil holding the roots of these huge trees. Sheer granite mountain sides provide surface for lichens to grow, crevices allow mosses and tiny plants to cling to life, and eventually shtrubs and trees spread their roots through the lichen and moss. Because the tree roots are shallow and intertwined, when one tree falls, it takes hundreds with it. Great bare patches of rock are the result of “tree avalances.”
Hokitika is only one of the “hot-beds” of New Zealand crafts. On its main street one can buy greenstone, wood carvings, wool products, hand-blown glass or pottery. And if that isn’t enough, this is also the center of gold mining, and gold nugget jewelry abounds.
Besides the cluster of artists in Hokitika, where I bought my treasured designer sweater in a crafts cooperative and toured the workroom of a New Zealand jade factory, we chatted with Karen and her toddler showing off sheepskin products in Mossburn; Derick and his black birds that looked like Hopi pueblo pottery; Kathleen who quilted and baked fresh bread at her Christchurch B ‘n B;
5. Performing Arts
The wooden floor of the old town hall reverberated from the shouts and singing of Maori, painted in their fierce warrior faces. We realized as the emotions built that we were a minority in an audience-participation performance that once would have been performed outdoors or in a pole meeting house. From there we went to a cool jazz performance, passing a concert hall with opera and street theater all around us. By accident, we had landed in Wellington during the Biennial Arts Festival, which fills every corner of Wellington in February-March 2012.
It is true I have not been Everywhere. But I’ve done the next best thing. I’ve been to New Zealand.
This post is part of a global effort by bloggers to support tourism to New Zealand, called Blog4NZ. After the devastation of earthquakes in Christchurch, the country needs our visits. (Discovered that I posted a week early. But I’ll come back next week with more pictures.)
Have you already been? What’s your favorite thing about New Zealand?
(Photos are from Flicker through Creative Commons License except for the art picture. Click on any of the pictures to learn more about the source.)