Archive for the 'new zealand' Category

farewell my kiwis

Friday, August 18th, 2006

our last day in nz, and i am sad to be leaving. i’m loathe to say goodbye to this beauty, this sense of space, this feeling of freedom and grounding and appreciation. it’s far and away the most gorgeous place i’ve ever been.

don’t believe me? in case you missed them, the pics are here and here and here and here and here.

the parks have been *immaculately* maintained, the people genuine and warm, the public toilets sparkling and well sign-posted (which makes a big difference when you’re camping.)

it’s been incredible. i’ll be back.

we’re off to chile tomorrow morning, where i’ll be tripping over my own tongue trying to remember some spanish… until then my chickadees.



Thursday, August 17th, 2006

the maori believe that aoraki (mount cook) is a sacred symbol of their spiritual ancestors – a link between the supernatural and natural worlds. that the ice and mist and peaks and valleys all combine to tell a story of the land’s and people’s beginnings – a story of father and mother and son, of love and parting and tears and loss and eternal love.

as we’ve passed through sprawls of dizzying mountains, endless rolling pasture, thick rainforest, and crashing coasts… it becomes clear that it’s impossible not to worship at these altars, impossible not to find yourself silently and instinctively offering thanks to whatever forces brought them into being. impossible not to be moved, stirred deeply and inexplicably in some very primal way to exaltation. it’s more than awe and wonderment. it’s an inspiration to glorify, to pray to some benificent being, to pay homage to something omnipotent and almighty – an undeniable and urgent need to praise something or someone for the magnificence that is this extraordinary planet. it’s the spark of all belief and theism and religion and myth.

when you find yourself at the foot of a mountain, lost in an unconscious and unspoken meditation on the meaning of life and the birth of the universe – suddenly you understand the endurance of something as enigmatic as faith in this crazy world.

it’s impossible not to.

sir david attenboro has nuthin’ on us

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

so later that same day (after the bungy jump) we headed out to the otago peninsula and made our way to the beach, in a bid to see the rarest penguins in the world, the hoiho/yellow eyed penguins, of which there are about 3000.

but first (and it neglected to mention this in the guidebook) we had to pass through an obstacle course of (also rare, but far less cuddly) sea lions, which were scattered over the sand laying in the sun like slugs. giant, powerful, dangerous slugs, that is. aiming to give them a wide berth (and avoid a small group having a vociferous spat), we climbed through the maze of high sand dunes, only to stumble upon more of them sleeping in the tall grasses. not an animal you want to accidentally surprise.

we finally made the (very long and circuitous) route to the penguin blind, hid ourselves in the little shelter, and waited patiently (or in my case, not so patiently) for them to make their arrival.

and as the sun began to set, in they came – surfing in on the waves like fat sleek bullets in the shadows, then waddling wetly and ungainly over the large rocks, and finally (and most comedically) bunny-hopping their way up the steep cliffs to the nests high above. a spectacle of nature unmatched anywhere, guaranteed.

have i mentioned recently just how lucky i am?

crossing off number 37 from the list

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

bungy jump

i took the plunge old-skool style at the world’s original bungy site just outside queenstown.

just like when i had my skydive, i was completely fearless, until *after* i had already launched into nothingness – at which point my heart came up into my throat and multiple choice epithets escaped my lips. apparently when faced with what it perceives to be imminent death, my brain’s response is a rapidfire “ohshitohshitohshitohshit”… or so i was told.

still, it’s an amazing little rush – and a cool t-shirt to prove it!

hitting the slopes, part 2

Monday, August 14th, 2006

and so we make our pilgrimage to the mountains of wanaka. i say pilgrimage, because there are parts of this trip which take on a mystical or spiritual quality for one of us, and the ski slopes have been j’s version of mecca back since we booked our flights. no matter how tight the budget or time, there was no way we were *not* going.

i, on the other hand, was a little trepidatious – worried i’d forgotten how to ride this particular bicycle. after all, we’ve only been boarding once before.

and the first 10 minutes on the toddler slope were maddeningly frustrating… until suddenly, it all clicked back into place.

and from there on out, we had a fabulous time. we both improved by leaps and bounds, giggling with glee over how much fun we were having, laughing at ourselves when we landed hard. we were like kids, challenging each other to go faster, turn harder. it was snow play like i haven’t experience since i was young. put simply, we had a blast.

and j hasn’t stopped grinning yet :)

the eternal dance

Saturday, August 12th, 2006

advance. retreat. advance.

it’s the waltz of the glaciers, balletically yours since the last ice age.

abel tasman

Friday, August 11th, 2006

there is nature in abundance , and i am revelling in it. because it is nature that i need and nature that i miss most living in london. although i will always live in a city, i need opportunity to regular exposure to and contact with trees, birds. i need to be able to stand still in the silence. i need moss underfoot and pine needles overhead. without this i become sour and hard, like a bitter dried-up old seed. it happens gradually, this process of withdrawal, like the slow depletion of a vitamin. but when i get the chance to re-immerse myself in forest oxygen and sea breezes, i wonder how i managed to stay alive without it.

so where new zealand is famous for its spectacular nature, i ‘ve been looking forward to spending some quality time getting reacquainted with the great outdoors. given our time constraints, we can really only do day hikes, and i was so disappointed when the tangariro crossing was rained out. but we finally got our chance.

up at dawn, we bundled in layers against the freezing temperatures and headed up the abel tasman coastal track. in summer one can kayak/hike/camp the whole three day affair. glorious sunshine and blue skies graced us. we walked along shoreline and high into the forest with mountains above us and mountains across the bay. we had an amazing 23 km of the most amazing hike and at the end of the day i was both exhausted and invigorated.

which is lucky, because now it is raining once again…

more photos here

lucky duck

Thursday, August 10th, 2006

speechless. breathless. heart-stopping.

these are all the words people use to write about beauty so unreal that you can’t quite wrap your brain around it. these are all the wrong words. dead words.

there are no words which can adequately paint the kind of beauty which makes you feel so very incredibly lucky to be *alive*. so damn lucky that your heart beats and your lungs breathe and your eyes are witness to the kind of indescribable natural drama which exists only for you, only on this planet, only in your memory, only in this moment. this air, this blood. only for you – only now.

this is alive.

this is so damn lucky.

ocean and valleys and kiwis, oh my!

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

getting off the path continues to pay dividends – the last two nights we’ve camped on the shores of the wild western coast beachfront, lulled to sleep by the sounds of the sea, and high above the vast watery valleys of the marlborough sounds, lit by a full moon, and hosting an up-close-and-personal encounter with a real live kiwi!

can’t beat that with a stick.

looking backward to move forward

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

with a wet and cold afternoon to spend in wellington, we headed for “te papa”, the highly touted shiny new national museum. much of the most important exhibits centred on the role and history of the maori people here in new zealand. i found it extraordinarily moving for a number of different reasons. because the story of the maori people is both alike and unlike the story of indigenous people everywhere. alike, in that as with the native americans, australian aboriginals, paraguayan guarani, and other native tribes the world over, the shameful story has a hauntingly familiar refrain: europeans arrive, europeans exploit, europeans steal, europeans destroy. decimate land, customs, lineage, independence. strong and proud peoples reduced to whatever menial status the white man sees fit to allow.

lather, rinse, repeat.

but unlike the similarities in other colonised nations, the maori story has a very different outcome. because the maori have managed, in spite of the overwhelming odds, to rise above the tragedy of history and change the ending by commanding respect and retribution. in spite of having their rights and lands stripped from them, they have persevered and reclaimed their dignity. they demanded acknowledgement in a way other native peoples have been unable to. there is nowadays, a resurgence in maori pride. thier language is an official language of the country. their traditional ways and customs are being invested in and preserved. their remaining lands have been restored to rightful ownership. and perhaps most importantly, in 1998, they received a long overdue, unreserved and abject apology from the government for their gross dereliction of duty. this alone sets the maori history apart.

and you feel the impact this has had. while history cannot be undone, and wrongs cannot be righted… pride and heritage can be preserved and protected. and, in fact, recalimed by a nation as an integral part of its national identity – for *all* kiwis. collective ownership which ensures future collective responsibility. maybe that’s what other countries are so afraid of. it’s easier to pretend it never happened.

but it’s an impressive testament to the future of a nation when it is both humble enough to look backward, and strong enough to look forward. a lesson that more could learn from. a hope that others might follow.

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