Aotearoa: The Land of the Long White Cloud
24th November - 1st December 2002
28th May - 6th June 2004
21st -28th November 2004

[2002] A fantastic pilgrimage -- Long since the Maori have first learnt the myths of their realm, the haunting beauty of New Zealand has been featured in several films and television series, including The Piano, Hercules, Xena: Warrior Princess, The Last Samurai and most notably The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

More than perhaps all else, I attribute the works of Tolkien for my lifelong wanderlust. Middle-Earth may only exist in the imagination, but its awe-inspiring powers are very much based in our world. 

As filmmaker Peter Jackson saw all too well, nowhere else on earth do verdant pastures, volcanic springs, ice-capped mountains, misty fjords, pristine lakes and mysterious forests converge in such a miniature continent all its own. 

With a car, a boat and a helicopter, I had the chance to see them all.

[May-June 2004] An austral winter -- The second trip began as the first, a survey of new vistas and roads not yet driven. From Auckland, I toured the volcanic pools between Rotorua and Taupo, then pressed further south to the great volcano of Ruapehu, where the stately Chateau Tongariro welcomed me for the night amid torrential downpour that changed into snow.

Past the capital port of Wellington, the ferry voyage across the Cook Strait and the Marlborough Sounds brought me deja vu. I was back in Norway, cruising along my beloved fjords, but here in En-Zed, fiords are spelt with an "i" and pronounced "fee-ORDS."

[November 2004] Kiwi adventuring -- This could be my last trip to New Zealand for a while; I intended to make the most of it. 

The most famous of all walks, the Milford Track, was fully booked for months before I made my first inquiry, but there were other Great Walks in the same surreally beautiful region of lakes, fjords, waterfalls and rainbows.

Along the 60km Kepler Track, I was truly humbled by the experience of braving the rain, sleet, snow and mud in the beech rain forest and over the alpine tops. My fellow trampers -- Kiwis aged at least a decade older than I, and young backpackers from all over the world -- cheered me along, and gave me a hero's welcome at the Iris Burn Hut towards the end of the second day when I, wet and hobbling, became the last to arrive.

Just after my walk, uncannily "good" spring weather -- intense sunshine that toasted mosses and ferns brown -- prevailed over the Milford Sound. Here, I slept soundly aboard the MV Friendship, a boat the size of Gilligan's and the Skipper's SS Minnow, in the calmest water I could ever remember. A light paddling session over the still, glassy inlet brought back happy memories of Blackstone Bay, Alaska, and reminded me why there are two kayaks docked in my garage.

As if that weren't enough, I had to hop aboard a helicopter once again, and jump onto a glacier.

North Island

bulletAuckland at night, seen from atop Skytower (2002)
bulletCountryside near Pokeno and Matamata (2002)
bulletWaiotapu Thermal Reserve (2004)
bulletTropical ferns at the Craters of the Moons Reserve (2004)
bulletWairakei Terraces (2004)
bulletWairakei Terraces - Deer and Maori Totem (2004)
bulletHuka Falls at Wairakei (2004)
bulletLake Taupo (2004)
bulletMoonrise at Dannevirke (2004)
bulletKaitoke Regional Park (2004)
bulletHarcourt Park at Upper Hutt (2004)
bulletStagland Wildlife Reserve, Part 1 (2004)
bulletStagland Wildlife Reserve, Part 2 (2004)
 

South Island

bulletCullen Point, Marlborough Sounds (2004)
bulletGovernor Bay, Marlborough Sounds (2004)
bulletPelorus River, Marlborough Sounds (2004)
bulletMomorangi Bay Marina, Marlborough Sounds (2004)
bulletHagley Park at Christchurch (2002)
bulletA track in Peel Forest Park (2002)
bulletThe ferns of Peel Forest (2002)
bulletFox Glacier, seen from the air (2002)
bulletMt Tasman and Mt Cook (2002)
bulletThe rain forest at Mt Aspiring National Park (2002)
bulletLake Wanaka (2002)
bulletArrowtown (2002)
bulletLake Wakatipu (2004)
bulletThe Kepler Track: Lake Te Anau (2004)
bulletThe Kepler Track: Luxmoore Hut (2004)
bulletThe Kepler Track: Luxmoore Cave (2004)
bulletThe Kepler Track: The tops of the Kepler Range (2004)
bulletThe Kepler Track: Iris Burn Hut and the Big Slip (2004)
bulletThe Kepler Track: Moturua Hut, Lake Manapouri and Waiau River (2004)
bulletKeas at Fjordland National Park, near Milford Sound (2002, 2004)
bulletMilford Sound and Harrison Valley, seen from the air (2004)
bulletTutoko Glacier over Milford Sound (2004)
bulletMilford Sound, rain or shine (2002, 2004)
bulletSandfly Point at Milford Sound (2004)
bulletKayaking in Milford Sound (2004)
bulletRiver Teviot (2002)
bulletPastures near Owaka (2002)
bulletTunnel Hill at Catlins Forest Park (2002)
bulletPurakaunui Falls at Catlins Forest Park (2002)
bulletNugget Point (2002)
bulletMoeraki Boulders (2002)
 

Commentaries

bulletReturn to Middle Earth (by Way of Hollywood)
bulletThe Great Race Row of New Zealand-Aotearoa

 

Gear - Nikon CoolPix 5200, Nikon D100 with 20mm f/2.8 D and 60mm f/2.8 D micro lenses, Leica M6 0.72x with Summicron 35mm f/2 and Elmarit 90mm f/2.8 lenses
  
November 2002
Bases - Auckland, Christchurch, Haast, Queenstown, Dunedin
Transports - '02 Honda Civic (South Island), Holden Vectra 2.2 (North Island), SS Mitre Peak (Milford Sound), Qantas (Auckland-Christchurch), a helicopter to Mt Cook, Mt Tasman and the glaciers
May-June 2004
Bases - Auckland, Chateau Tongariro at Mt Ruapehu, Picton, Dannevirke
Transports - '03 Holden Astra, Interislander ferry across Cook Strait and along Queen Charlotte Sound, Qantas
November 2004
Base - Te Anau, the DOC (Department of Conservation) huts of Kepler Track, MV Friendship in Milford Sound, Queenstown
Transports - '04 Toyota Corolla, Real Journey's MV Friendship, Milford Helicopters, Ltd, Air New Zealand
 
 
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