New Zealand 2/2007

36 locations were considered for the Jewish people, as a substitute for Israel. New Zealand was not among them.

(אליהו בנימיני, מדינות ליהודים, הקיבוץ המאוחד, 1990).

To find out why, we embarked on a trip in February 2007. Here is our report.



History (short)

North Island:

    The North

    South of Auckland

South Island

    Abel Tasman Park and the north

    West Coast  

    The South

    Central South Island and The East

Concluding Remarks



About 1200, Polynesian Maori from the Cook Islands and Tahiti made it by Canoe to New Zealand. The country had no predators, and some unique animals. The Maori spread all over New Zealand, forming dozens of tribes and hundreds of sub-tribes.

Around 1640 Abel Tasman, a Dutch captain, found New Zealand but left following a skirmish with the Maori. In 1769 James Cook and Jean de Surville managed to make more permanent links. Maori and Pakeha (whites) coexisted, with some trouble, and more trouble between Maori tribes. In 1840 the British and many Maori chiefs signed the Waitangi treaty, making Britain the sovereign.

North Island

The North

Our first encounter with the Kauri trees was at the Parry Kauri park. New Zealand Kauris are the largest - and our first example turned out to be rather average.

At the bay of Islands we did some hiking, and visited Waitangi (see History).

The war canoe was created in the traditional way in 1940 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi. It was constructed from two (large) Kauris.

A traditional Maori meeting house was build on the grounds at Waitangi.

We enjoyed a Maori performance, and were taught the basics of their war-dance (useful!)

Here are more pictures of the Bay of Island area.

From here we drove to the west coast of the North Island.

The Waipoua Kauri forest is a magnificent display of these trees. Tane Mahuta is one of the largest.

To get an idea of their size, watch Shuli next to "Yakas": its 44m tall.

Here are more pictures from this forest.

The Kauri museum in Matakohe shows how these trees were processed and used. The machines are not large enough for the trees, so some initial cutting had to be done in the field.

Gum from the trees was valued - partly for decoration.

Here are more pictures from the museum.


South of Auckland

After a short visit to Auckland (see pictures) (including a wonderful museum) we headed south. We could not resist a visit to Hobbiton.

More pictures from Hobbiton.

The volcano Mt. Ruapehu - in the Tongariro national park - also looks like a "lord of the rings" movie location.

We took a cable can partway up, and hiked for a while on this mountain.

Heading south, we parked out car under a tree


and then took the ferry to the South Island through Cook's straights.


South Island

Abel Tasman Park and the north

Following a beautiful ferry ride we headed to the Abel Tasman National Park. A "water taxi" took us from Motueka and the split egg

to Bark Bay.

From there we walked in the forest, and looked down at the beaches

and lagoons.

We spent most of the day along the Abel Tasman Coastal Track - covering just a small part of it.

Before heading south we hiked to Harwood's hole and to Pu Pu springs (really! see sign).

The west coast

Following a visit to Buller gorge, we arrive to the pancake rocks

which, in addition to the pancake formation, exhibit some other weird rocks.

They are part of the Punakaiki reserve.

And now to a main highlight-the glaciers of the west coast. The Franz-Josef glacier

is 5 km deep, collects 50 meters of snow per year(!) and is still growing. It is one of two locations in the world where a glacier meets a rain forest. You get an idea of size by taking a helicopter flight.

If you intend to hike in this area (bad idea) you can spend the night in one of the huts

provided by the department of conservation (this is not a joke). The helicopter landed us on the top of the glacier, to get a feel for it.

This was spectacular!

It is equally worthwhile to hike up (part of) the glacier. The guide works hard carving steps so that the rest of us can have a safe path. Even so, its quite tricky.

The views from the glacier are spectacular. The ice is mixed with ground rocks-the pressure of the ice grinds the rocks into pebbles and powder.

In addition to this guided hike on the Franz-Joseph Glacier, we hiked to the Fox Glacier.

For a short respite from nature we stopped at "puzzling world" in Wanaka.

Next comes Fiordland. Our first track here is part of the Kepler track, out of Te Anau.

We went as far as Shallow Bay hut.

This one sleeps 6, is maintained by the department of conservation, and requires reservation (6 months in advance) during summer months. Its kept clean and in perfect shape, in part since travelers (including those from Israel) keep it so.

Back to the "Lord of the Rings," if you saw the movie and thought some parts are computer-generated, here is something from real natural New Zealand - still on the same Kepler track.

The Kepler Track takes 4 days to complete-we only did a small part.

We spent a day on the road from Te Anau to Milford.

The mirror lakes track provides views that are either unreal or beautiful, depending on your vocabulary.

One of the highlights of fiordland is Milford. While we did not take the famous Milford track (which requires prior reservation) we took an overnight cruise in the "Wanderer".

This was more fun than we expected, including some Kayaking,

great company of people and animals such as seals

great views of the Milford sound

and some views which I lack the superlatives to describe.

Pictures do not convey everything, but here are some anyway.

The south

Heading south, we followed the scenic roads and found people are quite creative, at least in Tuatapere

but also elsewhere.

This was a fun place of a very creative guy.

We finally found a "black sand" beach.

In the relaxed south, people seem to have a sense of humor (read the sign).

The wind has a major effect here.

In Porpoise bay, a seal decided to go for a stand-up show.

Here is a clip of the stand-up.

Slope point is the south-most point in New Zealand.

In the south, specifically in the Catlins, people drive all sort of things

and also smaller things.

Mclean falls are just one place which is simply beautiful.

Nugget point has some unexplained rock formations.

In nearby Roaring Bay we finally saw some Yellow-Eyed Penguins.

 (although everyone keeps his distance so as not to disturb the Penguins).

Roaring Bay is beautiful even without Penguins.

The Catlins are somewhat underrated: we recommend highly.

Passing through Dunedin we had to climb Baldwin Street - the steepest street in the world.

From there we drove through Shag Point to Moeraki Boulders.

How the Moeraki Boulders were created is still a mistery.

There are quite of few of them here.

Central South Island and The East

The Clay Cliffs are a strange formation.

We passed lake Pukaki

on our way to Aoraki - Mount Cook. We took the Hooker Lake track

Hooker lake is fed from a glacier which you can see at the far end of the lake. There a pieces of ice floating on the lake, and water temperature is great if you would like to sell lemonade.

We passed through the beautiful Banks peninsula and Aoraki on our way to Christchurch.

The international Antarctic Centre (New Zealand Spelling) is a great place to visit - and you can see Blue Penguins (all were injured and brought in for treatment, and I guess they like it here).

Here they are during a committee meeting.

We spent the last two days in Christchurch. And here is a view from Mt. Cavendish, which you can reach by Gondola.


Concluding remarks

We found New Zealand to be a beautiful country, great for anyone who likes hiking. The people are happy, friendly, patient, and with a sense of humor.

 Even their efforts to reduce accidents are in good taste, and effective because they are attractive.

They claim this campaign was quite effective.

So here is a score card.


Great hiking

Great people

Clean country

Lots of rain, lots of milk, lots of honey, lots of steak, lots of fish.


Nothing happens (except Rugby and Sheep).


Conclusion: Herzl was way off the mark!