As we drove south from Franz Josef Glacier it became apparent that what the South Island is good at is excess. Mountains, lakes, empty and perfect highways, foliage. Boy does it do foliage and is it green. Like a rainforest here on the west coast.
In fact it is too green. See the yellow? Broom. Beautiful. Lots of it. Lupins too (did you see them in the last post?). The thing is none of this colour is indigenous. It was all introduced by the white settlers who wanted to make NZ a little Britain or Austria or wherever. Odd, yes? If you see pics of rainforests they’re bursting with colour.
A bit if history. Before the Europeans NZ had no land mammals. Yep none. I think they might have had a bat or two but that was it. I heard the Maori, who it is thought came over from the 13th century on may have brought pigs but they were farmed and not allowed out. Basically the birds ran NZ. Big flightless buggers like the Moa and the kiwi and all sorts. So pollination was done mostly by birds who don’t need to be attracted by colour like insects. There’s a bit of white (Manuka for example, which provides loads of honey for instance). I don’t know if they had bees too; maybe but the lack of colour is fascinating hereabouts.
Now we, the Europeans but especially the British, are buggers for knowing everything and getting it wrong (please look out in comments for the Archaeologist correcting me here – if he does he will be right). In Australia we stopped the Aborigines from their managed burn of the under grasses causing massive and explosive forest fires of the eucalypts. Here we brought in domesticated animals but also rats off ships, deer and rabbits and chamois and will pigs and tar (a Himalayan goat) for hunting (the rabbits were such a success they were devastating everything so we had a great solution – to introduce the stoat (a type of weasel) because they caught and killed rabbits back home. Stoat are awesome survivors, eating damn near everything even their own young if the food is short so what did they do? Chase rabbits? No fear; they looked at all these naïve birds and thought ‘I’ll ‘ave some of that, chum’ and nearly wiped them out.)
We did they same thing with plants and grasses and trees (the Wilding Pine is a real nuisance apparently) so today a lot of time and effort is spent trying to curtail the immigrants and protect the locals (UK politicians would feel at home here just now but without the justification).
They farm Kiwi eggs; a new born have a 5% chance of survival; a one year old Kiwi an 85% chance. They work bloody hard to undo the wrongs of past generations.
Much the same as the Waitangi Commission seeks to restore fairness to the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi (see my earlier post). Basically we thought we’d taken sovereignty over the whole land, even while accepting we would pay a fair price for any land acquired; for the Maori it was like a management contract – they’d continue to own it for their descendants but we’d buy management rights. Never was anything more ripe for misunderstanding; never was it clearer that the Europeans knew exactly what they were doing.
Our drive south to Queenstown was long, wet at the start (well, they do have 200 days of rain a year on the west coast) and sunny later. We stopped at Haas Township, a bit of a two horse town but with a gem of a possum shop. Another aggressive introduced species the possum has a lovely warm soft pelt and either on its own or melded with Merino wool is divine. Of course we just browsed!
We stopped a few times. At Wanake we had a strange experience in the World of Puzzles.
Or just weird?
The stop overs were worth it.
Queenstown isn’t exactly aimed at the culture vulture. Decent coffee, nice riverside restaurants but basically it’s the home in the South of the outdoor sports. And here Le Pard Cockup Holidays came into play again. My carefully reworked itinerary, in my head, had us driving all day to get here (400 km after all) and then starting this morning with a bungy jump. Only according to the actual itinerary the bungy was yesterday. So we awoke to a knock on the door from our B&B hostess to say our van was here to take us to the start of our Routeburn walk. I frantically checked the paperwork and sure enough I’d got it wrong. We’d missed our jump. To say the Lawyer wasn’t best pleased is an understatement.
Still never daunted we set off on our tramp and boy was it worth it. I had to put up with a degree of grief. He said it was deliberated and I had ‘bottled it’. I mean it is only the highest in the world at 134 metres so why would I have even half a second thought?
The jungle like setting, the tumultuous torrents and the gorgeous mountains really speak volumes for themselves. So, Wordless Wednesday, two days late.
The boy done good.
And after? What do you do if you’ve tramped all day?
You experience the one cultural delight Queenstown has to offer. When Brian O’Driscoll, the most capped Irish rugby god and all round awesomeness arrived in Queenstown during the 2011 world cup he headed straight for Ferg Burger. It is an institution.
Let me leave you with something gentle and soothing