One cloud could be forgiven for thinking that Mother Nature decided to take her best features and exhibit them all in this South Pacific island nation. All the classics are there; the awe-inspiring Alps, plunging fjords, expanses of pristine beaches, dense rain forests shaded by majestic glaciers and fuming volcanoes accompanied by powerful geysers, sulphur springs and mud pools. But what makes this such a stellar performance is the sheer concentration of it all in such a small area. Top it up with the indigenous culture, cosmopolitan cities and some of the world`s friendliest people, with a distinctly Kiwi lust for life, and you know that you are in one special country – New Zealand.
New Zealand is a land of superlatives. Surely, many travellers would say that it is ‘the most beautiful country in the world’ without any hesitation. There have been too many epithets and nicknames created to describe the country, and still, it is so hard to fit the unique character of New Zealand into one sentence. Nevertheless, for the Maori, the native people of New Zealand, their homeland will always be Aotearoa – “the Land of the Long White Cloud”.
The splendour of Aotearoa was not easy to find though. Not only the position of the islands, literally at the end of the world, but also the shield-like guards protecting their precious Terra. When the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sailed into the Golden Bay in 1642 he quickly got to know the uncompromising Maori culture and after the bloody encounter, he left without stepping onshore. It took long until the indigenous New Zealanders let the outsiders enter their kingdom and it was a great success when the English Captain James Cook first set foot on New Zealand soil in 1769 in Poverty Bay. Since then, the course of New Zealand history changed forever though..
Despite the British colonisation, the Maori heritage remained a significant part of the New Zealand culture. Unlike the neighbouring Australian Aboriginal people, who sadly got suppressed centuries ago, the Maori tradition proudly continues to grow and its priceless motherland is still very much appreciated, preserved and well-looked after. It is one of the very few places on Earth which has not become much different from what it once was.
“The cries echo across sheltered bay, reverberating steep cliff sides. It is not hard to imagine Captain Cook on his sailing vessel, moored silently in this same cove, with the same sounds haunting the ship`s crew or for that matter the Maori on their quest for pounamu, greenstone which they value so much. Little has changed since forests re-colonised the carved-out glacial valleys after the ice age ten thousand years ago..” Andrew Stevenson, Kiwi Tracks 1999