Magical Mystery of New Zealand
The magical mystery of New Zealand
By Joel Leonard
New Zealand is among the magical, mysterious islands of the South Pacific, 900 miles east of Australia. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans.
Today, a vibrant country of 4.5 million people resides there. Their primary export products are made from wool due to a population of an estimated 30 million sheep. However, after receiving world-wide acclaim from being featured in the recent movies like Tolkien Trilogy: “Lord of the Rings”; “The Hobbit”; “Wolverine” and other features, people from all over are flocking to view the Remarkable (correctly named) Mountain ranges, the spacious views, the clear braided rivers and lakes that pepper the landscape.
As a result, some enterprising towns have developed tourism as a prime focus and have created activities and events that are luring more to visit and stay in this wondrous location. Having grown up in North Carolina, never imagining having the opportunity to visit, much less stay a week, in New Zealand, I had never heard of Queenstown, New Zealand.
But after visiting there, I crave to go back. I encourage everyone I know to add Queenstown to their bucket list as a must-go place to visit to enjoy nature and adventure. There is nowhere on earth, or at least none that I have found yet, where you can do so much – like fish, skydive, bungee jump, jet boat tour, helicopter ride or ski – all on a remote island.
Ever heard of a jetboat?
Neither had I before this trip.
But someone figured out if you put a water pump on a boat, you can venture into waterways with water only 4 inches deep. An exhilarating wilderness jetboat journey, complete with exciting jet spins, will take you up the ever-changing channels of the glacier-fed Dart River’s braided river system, with your expert jetboat driver stopping along the way to highlight and discuss points of significance within this spectacular environment.
The next part of your adventure then begins and you paddle/drift your own “Funyak” on a downstream journey, with your specialist guide pointing out sights and sharing stories of this awe-inspiring area as you explore the shimmering channels of the Dart River and the hidden side streams, rock pools and dramatic chasms.
During my tour, we had a mixture of people from England, Ireland, New Zealand and China on the tour. The Chinese tourists did not understand English very well. They often steered their Funyak to the left when they should have gone right, getting stuck on embankments. Several of the Chinese ladies on the trip (who were barely 5 feet tall) called me the American Giant. They asked to take pictures of me and asked me not to eat them. It was quite funny.
During the trip, I was able to meet several people who worked on the sets of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” movies. They said during filming, no one could get service at restaurants or cabs as most of the cabbies and waitresses became extras during filming. They are now setting up movie tours where you can see actual scenes and structures built for the movies.
I also learned an interesting story during this adventure. Because of its remoteness, New Zealand did not have any natural mammals until humans brought them over. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, a major conservationist, donated several red and whitetail deer to New Zealand.
Those and other introductions of deer have caused major challenges, damaging the environment and creating erosion issues due to feeding on vegetation and root systems. During the 1990s, major animal kills were established, until someone came up with a brilliant idea.
New Zealanders now farm deer and harvest meat for export back to the U.S. and other countries. They also combine possum fur, which is strong, lightweight and water resistant, with wool and make blended gloves, sweaters and jackets. After much convincing by locals, I tried a pair of gloves during my jetboat tour. Despite being soaked, I discovered they were quite warm.
According to local, Stewart Doherty who helps manage the Funyak, Americans should come to New Zealand for a holiday. Visitors from north of the equator can cheat the seasons because it is in the opposite hemisphere. It is safe. There are no language difficulties and the climate around Queenstown is considered to be some of the best in New Zealand. Unlike at many tourist locales, everyone was warm and helpful to this lost or confused traveler. Many volunteered to help locate a restaurant, an activity, or point out banks, pharmacies – whatever I needed during my journey.
I hope more Asheboro-ians overcome inertia and get to see firsthand the majestic marvels of “Down Under.”