New Zealand: Nature’s Potpourri

February 28, 2003

Again an overflow crowd filled the Obsidian Lodge, this time to enjoy Lana Lindstrom’s account of her travels in New Zealand. She called for a show of hands of those who have been to New Zealand — a large fraction of the audience had done so. Lana’s presentation made it clear why New Zealand is so popular.

New Zealand’s unique geography makes for a bountiful choice of outdoor activities. The two islands, with an area only very slightly larger than Oregon’s, stretch for 1000 miles and are only about 160 miles at their widest and 50 miles at their narrowest. This makes for an extremely long and varied coastline. High mountain ranges (many over 10,000 ft.) are found on both islands, with active volcanoes on North Island and Alps with glaciers on South Island. And take note, you don’t hike on trails in New Zealand, you “tramp on tracks”. Many huts can make the carrying of camping gear unnecessary and transportation to some trailheads is available. Trail distances are given at times that, Lana told us, are unreliable.

Unique flora (1000-year-old Giant Kauri trees) and birds (flightless Kiwi and 12-ft.-wingspan Albatross) are to be seen. Surprisingly, there are virtually no native mammals; the majority are “imigrants” that have done the country much harm. Hunting is encouraged. Trophy rainbow trout (transplanted from California in 1883) are to be caught in the many rivers.

Because of the north to south configuration of the islands and of the mountain ranges every variation of the weather occurs, differing appreciably on the east and west sides and on the North and South Islands.

New Zealand franchised women in 1893 (before the U.S.); there are no nuclear power plants (nuclear ships are not permitted in ports); automatic weapons and pistols are illegal; the indigent Maori culture has been respected and flourishes (the language is taught in schools). All this with a hospitable people (who can tolerate many one-way bridges on the main highway through the country); a favorable exchange rate; no language barrier and inexpensive food and lodging. So what’s keeping you?

Bep Fontana

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