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Because of its remoteness, New Zealand was one of the last places to be settled by humans who arrived only 7-800 years ago from Polynesia and founded what today is a strong and highly influential Maori culture.
We went there to study recovery after the 2012 Christchurch earthquake and stayed with Scharlie’s cousin John and his wife Mollie in Christchurch. We interviewed key people involved in planning the reconstruction and also surveyed the damage in the centre and the badly affected suburbs,
We also visited the marvellous Raymond Herber Ironridge Sculpture Park.
Afterwards we went off trekking, first on the Bealey Spur near Arthur’s Pass north west of Christchurch and then along the Abel Tasman trail on the north coast of South Island. It was stunningly beautiful and we had it almost to ourselves.
Finally, we crossed the Cook Strait to Wellington to meet people in GNS Science and visit a small piece of original bush preserved in the heart of the city.
“The two of us waded ashore like the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman in December 1642, bashed the sand from our sandals and set off up the narrow track from the beach. The walk wound its way along the coast through tall tree ferns, forest and shorter scrub, sometimes following the headline and sometimes dropping to a sandy cove or white sand beach. It was delightful and being so far from Marahau, we practically had the track to ourselves and were in a kind of paradise. The weather was perfect, a light breeze, balmy temperature and divine views; we couldn’t believe our luck. We found a beach for lunch and spread ourselves along the sun bleached logs. We ate cheese and biscuits, stripped off to our underwear – we had lost our swimming costumes in Perth – and stretched out lengthways along the log and sunbathed. We had to be back in time to catch the water taxi.”
Main photo: Kayaking a section of the Abel Tasman trail