We have travelled through volcanic owned landscapes. We have marveled at mountains rising from seemingly bottomless glacial rivers and lakes into a never-ending sky. The New Zealanders, original and immigrants, clearly took the time to consider the beauty before them before naming mountain ranges, lakes, glaciers and towns with names like “The Remarkables,” “Aspiring”. The rivers named “Roaring Meg” and “Gentle Annie” speak to the collective sense of humour and acknowledgment of characteristics of people and geography by early New Zealand settlers.
New Zealand is a land of story. There is a creation story attached to everywhere you go. Stories tell of how the country was formed, about how places were named, about early settlers, and even more recently about a sheep local school children named Shrek. Shrek came down from the mountains one day. He was wooly beyond belief, shearers estimating that he had evaded them and hadn’t been shorn for seven years.
Maori mythology tells us how the world was created, but traveling in New Zealand we are frequently reminded by guides and travel articles about how the north and south islands were created. According to Māori mythology, the North and South Islands of New Zealand came about due to some mischief by the demigod Māui. While fishing at sea with his brothers one day, Māui caught a very big fish. While he wasn’t looking Māori’s brothers fought over the fish and chopped it up. The larger remaining portion of the fish became the North Island, thus the Maori name for the North – Ika-a-Maui (the fish of Māui) and the next largest portion became the South Island. All the smaller chopped up pieces became the mountains, lakes, rivers etc. This is one demigod’s story. As you travel through New Zealand you will hear more stories claiming rights of creation and ownership of the land. What would we do without our myths and legends? We are like school children getting off the bus. Memories of early school days are sparked by our Driver, Pete, and his references to our collective selves. We pull into a car park off the highway and Driver Pete calls out “Scenic people, listen up, and I hear my first form teach, Miss Grant calling us to order – Miss Grant’s class line up in twos please. Pete stands up in the bus as though at the front of the class. His stomach is hanging over his trouser belt now. It has been a long hot drive and it is no wonder his shirt is sticking to him and as he runs his fingers over his thinning scalp beads of sweat help hold his thinning hair in place. “We only have fifteen minutes here. Get off the bus quickly and follow the signs into the rain forest walk. Anyone can do it. It is not difficult.” Tired and stiff passengers stand up, stretch and reach for cameras. A few of us spot Kea birds hopping from car to parked car. We are excited pointing the birds out to each other. “Scenic people.” Pete’s voice is first form teacher threatening. “Do not be tempted to take time to take photos of the Keas when you get off the bus. They will still be here after your walk.” I ignore Pete. I take photos until he catches me and shoos me along with the rest of the herd. I whisper a deal with my husband. Ken is to do the walk and take photos and show me later. He is to take the “big girl camera”, my friend, Kim’s nickname for our new Canon 5D mark ii. I am to double back and hot foot it to the car park in search of those beautiful birds. I try to catch the Keas in flight, but my photo is a blurr of colour. I catch one playful kea attempting to rip an antenna off a car, while his buddy tries to eat his way through the seal around the window. Who knows what mischief they would create if they pecked their way into a car? I love these demon gorgeous birds. Pete herds us into our seats. We are on our way to Milford Sound. From his driver’s seat, microphone close to his lips, Pete talks to us about the difference between a Sound and a Lake. I know there has been some dispute, and i have to admit I wish we were on our way to Doubtful Sound – another descriptive name given to this body of water but curious discoverers.
To be continued …..