New Zealand, where we’ve just spent a two-week holiday, is also known by its Maori name, Aotearoa, meaning “Land of the Long White Cloud.”
More than one person mentioned this mythical cloud before our visit. I’ll leave it to those of you interested in learning more to look up how the islands got this name. We had clear days and cloudy days, but somehow, even the gray skies looked lovely against the deep green and grey of the mountains in the landscape. I’ve always been an ocean lover—I’d choose the beach over mountains pretty much any day, but my admiration of New Zealand’s beaches will have to wait until our next visit. It was the mountains I fell in love with this time around.
We were also advised, repeatedly, to pack for all weather. Again, I’m glad we listened. We saw temperatures that, even in summer, ranged from 3C (or about 38F) all the way to 25C (about 77F).
We were fortunate to be able to spend a whole two weeks in New Zealand, but it was only two weeks. I won’t pretend to have a deep or thorough understanding of the country or the dynamics of its white New Zealander-Maori relations, but I will say that, on first impression, I’m struck by the degree to which Maori language and culture have been integrated with modern New Zealand. Examples: road and other public signs are bilingual, there are a couple public Maori TV stations, and plenty of merchandise, etc. lists the Maori name along with or instead of the English name.
We spent several nights in the southwestern area of the South Island: the Southern Alps. In addition to the breath-taking beauty of the mountains, the area includes one of about ten dark sky reserves in the world: areas where artificial light sources are so strictly controlled that the stars can still be seen with unreal clarity. Orion, which has become a familiar constellation to us in Australia, was actually a little harder to spot because we could, for the first time, see so many other stars crowded in and around it. It’s rather astonishing that lit nights, which we regard as generally beneficial, actually diminish something so beautiful.
This natural beauty was on the South Island. Before that, though, we began our trip with a few days on the North Island. For all you Lord of the Rings fans out there, you might enjoy these pictures from Hobbiton, where all the [outdoor] scenes of the Shire were filmed.
We would drive a hired car around to the various destinations, as New Zealand is small enough to be quite drive-able (especially compared to Australia or the United States). On the advice of our Kiwi neighbours, we decided to stay in holiday homes, or “bachs,” along the way. This was advice that we heeded and are so happy we did. I mean, what hotel would give you a view like this?
All this beauty came at a price: internet access was very hard to come by. It was a revealing insight for me on a personal level to realize how much I relied on having my friends Google, email, WhatsApp, etc. at the tip of my fingers. I didn’t like how uncomfortable–initially, anyway–their absence made me, and it has given me something to think about.
Deep thoughts aside, here are some more moments from the trip:
Anyway, in the end, it was a special and memorable trip, ending with some quality time in Christchurch with old friends from Columbus.
People have asked and will ask about it. As we have done since photos were invented, I will show pictures, like this,
But in the end, pictures don’t capture what it’s like to be here. To feel the magnificence of this place, you’ll just have to visit New Zealand yourself.
Kia ora, everyone.