Since I don’t currently have access to computer services that will allow me to download from my camera, or burn my memory card to a CD, I can’t share the incredible landscapes I’ve been exploring over the past few days. So sorry! I am staying on Golden Bay and (despite some bad weather) it really is golden. Instead, I’ll give you a few URL links to some sites that will give you a taste:
On the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island, Farewell Spit stretches 30 kilometers eastward into the Tasman Sea from the Cape Farewell mainland. A sandy beach faces the open waters of the Tasman Sea, while an intricate wetland ecosystem faces south toward Golden Bay. On the southern side, the spit is protected by several kilometers of mudflats, which are alternately exposed and inundated with the tidal rhythms of the ocean. The wetlands of Farewell Spit are on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Significance.
Yesterday Jivana and I hiked for about 3 hours in the Puponga Park, across fields and down hillsides, and along the rugged shoreline of a low-tide beach among great rocks, scoured by storms, carved through with great arching tunnels and blowholes. Cape Farewell and the Archway Islands – beyond gorgeous. The Archway Islands seem to shift position as you walk down the immense beach (feeling like you are standing still). Great stones split off from the headlands rise from the perfectly flat sands like rocks in a giant’s Zen Garden, as if the sand had been raked and swept around them hours before.
I understand where the scenery for the Hobbit came from — this glimpse into the NZ landscape looks like something dreamed up in a digital production studio, and created with 3D modeling software. Fantastic, a landscape from a fairy tale! Our hike in Puponga included a “hilltop walk” over some of the weirdest, most wind-and-sea-carved hills I’ve ever seen – manuka and kanuka trees stunted as bonzai, and sheared by the blade of prevailing winds into twisted forms, with clumps of trees leaning permanently away from the wind. The hillside trail was either all up, or all down, at bizarre angles, with sheer sheep trails to follow through impossible slopes — it would have been frightening, given the gale-force winds (!), except the sun was shining, and the lush green hillsides were studded with grazing sheep (Puponga is managed as a farm). Far below, in the shoreline ravines, seals with tiny pups were sunning themselves and their cries were blown up the cliffs to our ears, mixed with cave-booming and wave-burbling and high-pitched gull cries to form a merged, unearthly song.
Among other stops, Jivana and I visited a terrific fresh-water spring, sacred to the Maori,where the cold sweet water boils up from underground reservoirs in the marble understory of the soil, creating dancing sands in the clear lake of the spring. The “Pupu Springs” are regarded as the domain of a goddess who helps gives life and transports the soul after death, and because the water goes through a “journey” as it rises to the surface and flows out to the sea, the springs were frequented by travelers seeking a blessing for their trip. After gold was discovered in the region, the spring waters were diverted into channels for washing gravels — massive boulder-walls created by the miners are still visible in the scrub, but the springs are once again regarded as a sacred and protected site, and they flow naturally again.