Named Aotearoa or Land of the Long White Cloud by the early Polynesian settlers, New Zealand is divided into two main landmasses – the North and the South Island, separated by the waters of the Cook Strait. At 2000km southwest of Australia it was the last landmass on earth to be discovered by man and stands as the world’s youngest country! Elizabeth II, as the Queen of New Zealand, is the country’s head of state, (although she has no real political influence and her position is essentially symbolic). With its diverse cultural melting pot of European, Maori, Pacific and Asian influences, and breathtakingly beautiful landscapes it is hardly a challenge to extol the virtues of this remote land and not a surprise that the magical Academy Award winning trilogy Lord of the Rings chose New Zealand as its setting. My enduring memory of New Zealand will be of the generosity of its people and the beauty of the land.
With a ten day whirl wind tour of the two islands highlights are too numerous to mention but in my top three…..
Nestled in a private bay in Queen Charlotte Sound at the top of the South Island, tucked between palm trees and pohutukawas, and accessible only by boat, lies the boutique guest house The Lazy Fish. The magical homestead was the perfect spot for a weekend stay and for those, who, in Greta’s immortal words….just want to be alone. At night you can watch the Picton to Wellington ferry glide across the glassy waters of the sound, its lights twinkling and reflecting into the inky blue with nothing to be heard but the occasional murmurs of penguins that also inhabit that stretch of shoreline. At the end of the wooden jetty is an English telephone box, resplendent against the backdrop of the Sound and complete with working telephone it gave new meaning to the idea of a private telephone call…..
With a reputation as the gem of New Zealand’s glaciers, the helicopter flight over the Franz Josef Glacier on the West Coast of the South Island, proved to be both a memorable and exhilarating experience. Unquestionably the best way to experience the enormity of this 12km long glacier with absolutely no physical exertion (sometimes it’s good to sit back and let someone else fly), it is unique in the world, along with its neighbor the Fox Glacier, for descending from the Southern Alps to less than 300 metres above sea level.
Situated 180km north of Christchurch, on the east coast of the South Island is the enchanting town of Kaikoura , becoming the first local authority to reach the Green Globe tourism certification standard as outlined by the United Nations. The Kaikoura Peninsula extends into the sea south of the town, and the resulting upwelling currents bring an abundance of marine life from the depths of the nearby Hikurangi Trench providing wonderful opportunity for whale watching and dolphin tours. With such stunning vistas it is no wonder that some of the locals choose to have their bathtubs outside, complete with fire underneath, so that they may gaze up at the stars and bathe by moonlight…. could life be anymore blissful?