News From Rockhampton
We have recently returned from a holiday in New Zealand, “The Land of the Long, White Cloud”. It is a lush land with lots of large rivers and lakes, so evidently gets plenty of rain. February is the best time to visit, as it tends to be the warmest, driest month and we were lucky to get glorious, hot, sunny weather for most of the three weeks.
New Zealand is much the same size as the UK and is populated by about 3.5 million people (compared to 58 million in the UK), 60 million sheep and 70 million possums! The possums were introduced from Australia and are a ‘pest in every sense of the word. They are responsible for the death of large tracts of forest and the consequent land degradation. Huge sums of money are being spent on trying to control possum numbers, as well as many other pests. We were told that the European wasp is also helping to destroy the native beech forests. The trees produce a honeydew on which the wasps feed (and exclude the native insects) and are responsible for spreading a fungus that is killing the trees.
It is obvious that New Zealand abounds with introduced species of all sorts, many of which are detrimental to the native flora and fauna. Many have come from Europe; there are thrushes, starlings, sparrows, blackbirds, chaffinches and goldfinches everywhere. Large areas of land are being choked by gorse, broom, blackberries and dog-roses. Many of New Zealands native birds are flightless as a result of having no predators (the only native land animals are two species of bat) and such animals as rats, weasels and stoats have decimated their populations. Small islands are now being cleared of these predators and the native birds introduced to them in the hope that they will breed and their numbers will increase
We began our holiday with a few, very relaxing days cruising the Marlborough Sounds to the north of the South Island. We were able to appreciate some beautiful scenery and to catch our own dinner – there is nothing like really fresh fish! We then had a week driving around some of the South Island trying to take in as much of the stunning scenery as we could. There are snow-capped mountains (even in summer), turquoise lakes, rugged hills, steep forested valleys and fast flowing rivers and streams. Inevitably we were too ambitious and a lot of time was spent at the wheel. New Zealand is only a small country but we soon discovered that the driving is nothing like it is in Australia where you can cover 100 kilometres in an hour relatively easily, and legally. Many of the roads in New Zealand are steep, narrow and winding and with such amazing scenery, frequent photo-stops are essential. We quickly came to the conclusion that the driving times given on maps were for locals and that “tourist time” was about double that given!
Our last week was spent in the North Island, driving from Wellington, in the south, to Auckland, in the north-east. The countryside we saw in the North island was mainly agricultural land and rolling hills, with the occasional mountain range and bright blue lake; very beautiful but less stunning than the South island. We also visited some geo-thermally active areas, which you dont find in the South Island – geysers, hot springs and lakes and pools of boiling mud.
It was soon time to return to Australia and get back to work. Our holiday certainly whetted our appetite for New Zealand and we plan to return there in the not too distant future. Next time we shall spend less time driving and more time exploring a few, select areas of
this truly beautiful country. Carol Petherick