It is Christmas eve, and we are in Christchurch, almost at the end of our brief tour of New Zealand. Tomorrow we fly to Sydney, for an even briefer tour of a small section of Australia.
The past four weeks have passed in a blur of hills and fields, rivers and mountains. There can be no doubt that New Zealand is a scenically stunning country. Each day has taken us through or past inspiring natural sights.
The kauri forests of the north will remain as one of the strongest memories for me. Those colossal old trees, standing for three millennia, and silent witness to so much human folly. The sculptured sandstone cliffs at so many headlands and along many shorelines, please my eye as much as any brushed of chiselled work.
The jagged snow-capped mountain ranges stand in stark contrast to the soft, rolling green pasture of the foothills that seem to be endless. That lush pasture which cloaks the rolling hills in green velvet was with us almost every day. The sheep, cows and elk all looked very relaxed. I wondered if the sheep know how good they have it here. No wonder the produce is so good. We have been taking full advantage of it, living on a diet of tender lamb, kumara, and asparagus so fresh and tasty.
These vistas and landscapes seduce the eye and tempt the restless feet. However, so much of it is fenced off and inaccessible. This was one of our few disappointments. It was particularly galling to be fenced off from natural attractions such as penguins and albatross, by a fifty-dollar ‘entry fee’. As these operators neither own, nor supply the penguins, it seemed a bit rough. I guess it is an inevitable result of what is now, such concentrated mass tourism. We were shocked by the huge number of tourists here. For instance, there are eighty to one hundred buses a day on the road between Queenstown and Milford Sound. They stop at an attraction along the way, disgorge their cargo of camera-wielding tourists for a quick point-and-shoot, before reloading and moving on to the next one. I was also dismayed at the Disneyesque nature of many of the ‘experiences’. I find it hard to understand why anyone would come to New Zealand and want to pay $795 to run over a car in a Sherman tank! L
New Zealand’s need of tourism as a source of income, and the desire of so many to see the country is understandable. However, the continuing expansion and direction of the tourist industry will eventually kill one of the country’s most unique appeals; so much nature, so few people.
The above notwithstanding, it has in the main been a very enjoyable month with many good memories, and hundreds of pictures that we are yet to sort through.