February 5, 2016
As the great Maori explorer, Kupe, traveled to new lands, a great long cloud loomed on the horizon. He and his travelers followed this cloud, long and white by day, long and bright by night, until it settled over an island in the distance. Aotearoa, land of the long white cloud, was discovered.
This is one of many legends of the country we now know as New Zealand. Something about it speaks to me as our trip to this distant country became one of exciting discovery. We had an idea, rumors really, of the land that would become the physical embodiment of middle earth, but we began with about as much knowledge of the real place as your average “Lord of the Rings” fan.
Hobbits live there in like little green hills right? And they eat Vegemite and drive on the left side of the road? There’s like more sheep than people isn’t there?
You can educate yourself. Research what any location has to offer. But often, nothing replaces putting your own two feet on the ground and actually experiencing a place.
So we set out two and a half long weeks of travel, more than twice the length of our normal adventures, to discover everything we could about this fascinating land. And we were not disappointed.
Lets settle the most important stuff first. Yes, Vegemite is popular and yes you’ll probably find it disgusting.
And yes, driving on the opposite side of the road is very unsettling the first time you do it.
Also, the sheep jokes are not hyperbole. Sheep. Everywhere. There are 30 million sheep to be exact. Seven for every one person in the country.
And it should be pointed out that a quarter of that population lives in the major city of Auckland — where there are no sheep. Baaaaa.
They do like to be smug and stand around in epic places as if they own the joint. Though this cow did one up them in terms of sheer epic-ness of pose.
It’s also interesting to note that most of the island is, in fact, private land. I mean with that much livestock on an island country, it kinda has to be, right?
So, as you see the different landscape photos in this series, I want you to step back and realize that while taking that shot, we’re not that far from someone’s fence line. Somebody “owns” that view. It’s upsetting really.
Now that the important stuff is out of the way, there also happened to be a few interesting landscapes we should talk about.
We started our journey through Middle Earth on the northern most tip of the South Island at Cape Farewell and Abel Tasman National Park. Immediately it was the type of landscape we pictured as quintessential New Zealand.
It’s a unique landscape, and sort of hard to describe. It’s something like if the Oregon Coast slammed into Hawaii, then California fields were rolled out over the ensuing hilly landscape, and the Sierra Nevada mountain range pushed up through the middle of it all — getting the alpine forest all tangled up with the jungle.
As you can imagine, it’s hard to capture that whole mess in a single photo, or multiple for that matter. I just know that I have never before been looking at what seemed to be a perfectly normal tropical forest, only find the occasional pine tree with no earthly to be there, yet seemingly comfortable all the same.
Sadly we only had one, rainy day, in this area of South Island and left wishing we had more time to truly represent this uniquely New Zealand part of the country. Though disappointment is often shortly offset by sheer amazement on these trips, and we were not prepared at all for the insanity that was to come.
Stay tuned for the second post about our New Zealand trip: