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Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 10/11/18 1:17 PM


Travel: Seven Things to Marvel at in New Zealand

Seven Things to Marvel at in New Zealand



From natural beauty to fabulous food and unique local culture, this island country is pure magic

The amazing waterbodies

The deep blue of Lake Wakatipu; the ice-blue Waikato River

With 4,25,000 km of rivers and streams, 4,000 lakes and over 200 underground aquifers at last count, this country is a veritable waterland of astonishing colours such as ice-blue, turquoise, teal, cobalt.

Whether still (the Mirror Lakes) or roaring with force and power (the Waikato River), New Zealand’s translucent, picture-perfect waterbodies are highly valued for their tourism potential, recreational qualities and economic prospects and, hence, treated with the utmost love, respect and care.

From preserving their inherent character and protecting the local flora and wildlife habitats to enabling the country’s indigenous Polynesian people, the Māori, to maintain traditional ties with their ancestral water, all important issues related to waterbodies are taken seriously by the administration.


Big sky country, controlled wilderness


Fields of gorse near Mt Ruapehu

The sky hangs large and startlingly low over beech forests hedged with giant fern, stand after stand of pine that serve as windbreakers, trees contorted into intricate shapes by the force of the gales that blow in from the Pacific Ocean as well as the Tasman Sea and shrub-like gorse and heather, which bloom bright yellow and deep purple.

New Zealand has approximately 6.4 million hectares of indigenous forest, almost entirely located in the South Island, yet it doesn’t have the wild, feral air of say, Scotland.

Prior to human arrival, Kiwi country was largely a forested land mass and now, wherever required, forests are being extensively re-planted; then again, eco-tourism, however conscientiously undertaken, is impacting and disciplining the wilderness.

Māori inclusion


The Māori tribes have been resettled, apologised to and included in everything from seats in Parliament to mainstream jobs in the public and private sector.

Every place in Kiwiland has its Māori name displayed proudly, the Māori handicrafts sell (very) well and everywhere you are greeted with the Māori greeting kia ora. At a time when the indigenous peoples of the world are being isolated, ghettoised, ignored and oppressed, this is indeed heart-warming.

The Polynesian settlers arrived in New Zealand between 1250 and 1300 CE and over time, developed their own culture, language, mythology, distinctive crafts and performing arts. The Europeans came in the 17th century.

Initially, relations between the Māori and the whites were amicable. Eventually land disputes arose and so did conflict; from 1999, though, earnest efforts have been ongoing for an inclusive society and to ensure that the Māori, who form 14.9 per cent of the population today, are active in all spheres of New Zealand culture and society, with independent representation in areas such as media, politics and sports.


Respect for Anzac soldiers across the land

The Bridge of Remembrance in Christchurch

In 2015, Sir Peter Jackson’s amazing Weta Workshop installed the long-running crowd-puller Gallipoli: The Scale of our War in the Te Papa museum in Wellington.

The show takes visitors through labyrinths of that ill-conceived World War I campaign, detailing the toll it took on the ANZAC (short for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) troops who fought there, in a most moving fashion.

This was a long time ago but New Zealand has not forgotten its war heroes. All through the country there are statues, bridges of remembrance, war museums—over 1,000 of them—a large number for a small country.

Descendants of the Gallipoli Lone Pine seedlings are planted as WWI memorials. Anzac Day, 25 April, is observed as a day of commemoration for those who died in the service of their country, and one finds as many young people as older ones paying their respects with warmth and passion.


The delish food and drink

Food to feast on!

Lamb and beef chunks that melt in the mouth. Mussels, whitebait, crayfish. Dark ambrosial chocolate. Herb-infused hard and soft cheeses, with some truly delicious blue cheeses in the vanguard.

The sharply sweet taste of the kumara, NZ’s amazing sweet potato. The hokey-pokey ice-cream, which is basically vanilla ice cream with pieces of honeycomb. The meringue-based pavlova, which New Zealand claims as its own creation.

The Pinots and Sauvignons from Marlborough country. The Māori  hangi with chicken, pork and mutton, as well as various vegetables, cooked in an underground pit. Fact is, one could go to Kiwiland just to eat and drink!


Their wry acceptance of ‘acts of God’

Kaikoura, scene of a big quake in 2016; a badly damaged church in Christchurch from the 2011 quake. 

The largest city in New Zealand’s South Island, Christchurch, is so full of wrecked buildings, a visitor’s first thought is that it has been bombed. But no, the whole country sits on a fault-line and a quake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale hit Christchurch, pretty much devastating it.

Ditto for Kaikoura (7.8 on the Richter scale) a popular beach town on the east coast of South Island.

But here’s the thing: Christchurch’s big quake took place in 2011, Seddon’s in 2013 and Kaikoura’s in 2016. Years on, signs of devastation are still evident, even though repair and reconstruction work is in progress.

New Zealand straddles the collision zone between two gigantic moving plates of the earth’s crust and is therefore hit by thousands of quakes every year. Thankfully, most are small tremblers but a few have caused widespread damage.

Now geoscientists are warning that the country should prepare for the big one, a massive quake that could touch 9.0 on the scale. But is anyone looking to shift? Nah, not really.

The traffic on Auckland roads

The lovely centre of Auckland city; the clogged roads just beyond. 

After travelling in the hinterlands, passing towns with a population of under 5,000, going kilometres without seeing humans, Auckland comes as a rude shock. It is like any other gridlocked city: daily traffic snarls are apparently commonplace, as is being stuck in a jam for as long as an hour.

All it takes is a half hour in a bottleneck for Auckland’s considerable charms—like its many parks and gardens, its lovely old chalet houses, the waterfront—to quickly fade.

Traffic congestion is a growing problem in Auckland; its arterial network in 2017 was 33 per cent more congested in morning rush hours than it was in 2014, the average road trip takes 10 per cent longer than it did a few years ago, and motorists now need to allot 40 to 55 per cent more time for journeys. Talk of bad stats!


NOTE: Due to space constraints, the Reader`s Digest piece carried Five Points; the following article is the original Seven Points one.

All photos by Sheila Kumar. All images subject to copyright.

Links to related pieces:

Travel: Milford and Marlborough, the Sounds of New Zealand


Travel: Just One Place….

Travel: The places and pottery connect




AnzacAuckland trafficearthquakesGallipoliGallipoli campaignkumaraMaoriMarlborough countryMirror LakesNew ZealandPacific OceanReader`s DigestTasman SeatravelWaikato River

Sheila Kumar • October 11, 2018

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  1. LK October 11, 2018 - 2:50 pm Reply

    Gorgeous photographs. And this’ll be useful if i ever get to NZ 🙂

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