New Zealand, Aotearoa or the Land of the Long White Cloud has another, not so common nickname – the Shaky Isles. Last month (August 2013) Seddon, a town on the tip of the South Island, across the Cook Straight from Wellington, was shaken by a 6.6 magnitude earthquake with aftershocks that went on into the evening. New Zealand lies on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’, which is an area where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur and is home to over 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes. According to Wikipedia, about 20,000 earthquakes are recorded in New Zealand each year (most of them minor), with only about 200 being large enough to be felt. Volcanoes are also abundant, with Auckland being built on a volcanic field that contains approximately 53 (mostly dormant) volcanoes!
Driving around exploring the country, it’s common to see areas where landslides have occurred and when you start looking at the surroundings it’s very easy to see how quickly they could happen. After visiting Goat Island Marine Reserve recently, it literally took us 10 minutes to drive from sea level to the top of the high surrounding ridge. The steep, winding roads have sharp bends with deep gulleys on one side and precarious-looking grassy banks and boulders looming above on the other. If the soil is a bit unstable, simply too much rain or an earthquake nearby could cause it all to come gushing down!
With all the rain that New Zealand gets, the natural bush is beautifully lush and green, reminding us of a combination between Hillcrest, Nottingham Road and Jurassic Park. There’s no real separation here between residential, farmland and commercial property. You’ll be driving along and there’ll be a little town, suddenly there’s farmland and a little further on maybe a shopping centre or another residential area, before another sudden patch of farmland! Let me explain a little further for those who don’t quite get the reference to the three areas mentioned above. Hillcrest because of all the natural bush, dense trees and cool damp air; Nottingham Road (in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands) because of the open fields, farmlands, winding roads and ‘country feel’.
You may understand the references to Hillcrest and Nottingham Road, but Jurassic Park? That’s about dinosaurs right? … Well, NZ’s natural bush has a different kind of look to it. With many tall tree ferns in amongst the forest, there are certain areas that feel very ‘Jurassic Park’. You almost expect a dinosaur to pop its head out the foliage as you drive or walk slowly by. Maybe this picture will give you some idea of what I’m talking about.