Spring in New Zealand
Mary Anne Moore November/December 2019
A land of so many contrasts! Ragged snow-capped mountains surround rolling hills of green grass invaded by yellow-blooming scotch broom and lupines of every shade of purple, mauve and fuchsia. Millions of sheep, some raised for wool, others for meat, graze amid herds of dairy cows and domesticated deer raised as venison.
Spring rains produce thousands of waterfalls in the majestic fjords of Milford Sound. They cascade down steep slopes towards swollen streams that roar and threaten to flood roadways. Cheeky flightless parrots strut parking areas begging for handouts amid signs pleading “Do Not Feed the Birds!” while buses wait their turn at one-way tunnels.
Nature reserves protect kiwis, the name given not only to flightless birds left over from the time before the Maori arrived eight hundred years ago, but also to a curious green fruit packed with potassium and Vitamin C, and the nickname adopted by the Australian people themselves. Three species of bats were the only mammals on the islands before the Maori came. They brought rats and dogs –and hunted the tasty ten-foot flightless moas to extinction before Europeans came with their sheep and cattle in the 19th century. Massive efforts to clear out introduced pests such as the stoat and ‘possum are probably doomed to failure. But the merino/possum woolen hat I bought will keep me warm this winter. The motto: wear your enemy!
Volcanic valleys with hot springs and bubbling mud pots provide scenes of austere beauty near Rotorua. The land is young, and earthquakes a reality. The Kiwis are a resilient people, and the ruins of the cathedral in South Island’s Christchurch are testimony to a community of people who pull together in crises. Parking lots dot the city where buildings once stood. The community library is a testament to innovation and regeneration.
And let’s not forget the food! Pasties, flaky pastries filled with salmon and leeks, or pork belly and apples, or vegetables or even corned beef and cabbage, or my personal favorite- creamy seafood. Incredibly light and delicious fish and chips, green-lipped mussels, and lamb- lots of tender, succulent lamb. My first taste of a flat white –a latte-like coffee with steamed cream, yellow and rich with butter fat. I was addicted at first sip. Wineries abound, and good craft beers are everywhere. Kiwis are friendly and hospitable hosts.
There is so much more. The natural beauty of the beaches and forests of thousand year-old trees, exotic bird life, vibrant cities such as Windy Wellington, and Awesome Auckland (check out ice cream at Gelippo’s near Fort Street.), and the rambunctious Quirky Queenstown.
And let’s not forget the tour manager who handled every unplanned contingency with aplomb –Thanks, Mark. It’s a long, long journey to get there, but well worth the effort and the memories.