Tag Archives: new zealand

Key Summit

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Let’s see…  It’s been more than a year since we hiked/tramped up to Key Summit in Fiordland National Park in southwest New Zealand. In may ways, it feels like it was just yesterday and in other ways it feels like I was another person then. Key Summit was one of our favorite hikes for the whole year – outstanding views, great weather and a hike that was “just right” – except for the part where Mom said, “hey, let’s go just a little bit further…” I believe that the “little bit further” parts doubled the length of the whole hike.



The Key Summit Track follows the route of the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s many famous multi-day tramps, for the first couple of kilometers. We had spent the night in Te Anau, I believe, and then drop the road towards Milford. About 45 minutes from Te Anau is a parking area called “The Divide,” and this is the starting point for the Routeburn Track and Key Summit Track. There’s also a bus stop at The Divide for those folks who are looking for transportation to/from the Routeburn Track so that they can hike from one end to the other, and leave they’re vehicle at the other end (or, be picked up by the bus).



The day that we hiked started out pleasantly cool (hats and gloves weather) and once we got a bit higher and above the trees it was time to open the jackets and air out a bit. I don’t recall the route being all that memorable until you get to the top of Key Summit and then the vistas open up in all directions! SPECTACULAR! There’s not a lot to write about the hike itself. It wasn’t difficult, but it wasn’t easy. It takes a bit of effort to hike upward to Key Summit, but once you’re “on top,” most of the hiking is relatively flat. And, like many hikes, it was easier to hike downhill back to the car at The Divide.



There were a few other hikers/trampers already up on Key Summit, so we weren’t alone. At the main point of interest, there are several beautiful, fragile little tarns (alpine ponds/lakes). You can see for many miles in every direction from atop Key Summit. One of our favorite views from Key Summit was looking across the valley to see Lake Marion, a beautiful lake to which we had hiked a couple of months earlier, a few days before Christmas.



As noted earlier, someone in our party kept saying “hey, let’s hike just a little farther…”  The additional steps were interesting and gave us a different perspective hiking along the ridge between Lake Fergus and Lake McKellar, more time in the warm sun, and more time to growl – are we there yet? After another mile or two of walking south on a poorly defined track, we came to a knoll and the our learless feeder said that we could return to the car.



Unlike other postings that I’ve written, the gallery for this one is not extensive – you’ll be able to enjoy it in a few minutes – and, I do hope that you’ll enjoy it. And, I’ve thrown in a couple of other photographs from Te Anau and a nearby waterfall, Humboldt Falls, which is at the end of a long drive in Fiordland National Park.



‘Til next time, this is 43 N MSN signing off…



Posted in Fiordland, Key Summit, Lake Marian, Milford, New Zealand Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

St. Clair Beach

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This post is a different from what I’ve been doing…

In March, 2013, we spent a long weekend around Dunedin, which is one of our favorite cities in New Zealand. Dunedin is a city by the sea that’s built on the hills. We had been to Dunedin a few months earlier, mostly spending a long weekend on the Otago Peninsula hiking, bird watching and watching the New Zealand sea lions and fur seals on the beaches. During this second trip, we spent a part of a day on Tunnel Beach and then spent the night in the St. Clair Beach neighborhood of Dunedin. The second day, the weather was much more overcast and rainy, and lent itself to quietly walking around and enjoying the city.

St. Clair Beach is a pleasant neighborhood that sits on the southern side of Dunedin, along the Pacific Ocean. At sometime during our New Zealand stay and looking at things to do in Dunedin, a photograph of St. Clair Beach caught my eye. Like many of the photographic opportunities that I pursue, this was a site that I really wanted to find if I could. It turns out that finding the specific location in this case was pretty easy. (Someday, I’ll write a story about a much more difficult opportunity that took me years to find – stay tuned.) All we had to do was walk down to the beach from the neighborhood and scout about for a wee bit – and there it was.

In the gallery that follows, there’s really only a single subject – an abandoned pier (pilings) in the water. It’s fun to work with these types of situations and get all that you can out of them. In photographic parlance, we “work” a scene or situation to extract a variety of photographs from the one scene and moment. In this gallery, in addition to several different photographs, I’ve also treated some of the same photographs in different ways. One photograph of the scene is in color, a second version is converted to black & white, and finally the black & white version is converted to sepia. As you can guess, then, this particular gallery might be sort of monotonous – or is it?

As you view this gallery, I’d suggest that you be aware of how these very similar photographs make you feel, how the different treatments change the mood of the photograph and of the photograph’s viewer – you.

I hope that you enjoy this different presentation – full screen if you can and want!

43 N MSN signing off…

Posted in Dunedin, New Zealand, St. Clair Beach Also tagged , , |

Bride’s Veil Falls

[landscapephotograph description=”Bride’s Veil Falls, The Catlins” photoname=”Bride’s Veil Falls, The Catlins” photo=”https://timmulholland.com/wordpress1/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Brides-Veil-Fall-Pan.jpg” photourl=”http://illuminataphoto.zenfolio.com/brides_veil_falls”][/landscapephotograph]

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written anything and it feels to be good back at the keyboard, employing a different type of my creativity. This piece is something that I’ve wanted to write for about nine months, but only edited the photographs recently. And, it’s about more than a very beautiful waterfall, I also got inspired to start using the black castor oil for hair growth and it as done magic.

While we were in Invercargill, there were many times that we set out on day trips and short hikes. I don’t recall how, but we found out about a quaint little waterfall that was tucked into The Catlins. What was intriguing about these falls was the description about how to find it: Drive to The Catlins; on the Chasland Highway, look for the white ice cream carton lid nailed to a board with the word “waterfall” written on it. That’s not exactly the directions that we found, but extremely close – at least the part about the ice cream carton lid. And, lo and behold, we found the trailhead for Koropuku Falls. It turned out that Koropuku Falls was on Department of Conservation land, but the trail was crafted and maintained by thoughtful locals. We’ve hiked on easier trails, but this trail was short and took us to Koropuku Falls straight away. The Falls were pretty and intimate and we had them all to ourselves and enjoyed our lunch. I don’t recall that anyone really got wet, which is a miracle.

While looking over the maps for Koropuku Falls, I also saw a nearby waterfall called Bride’s Veil Falls or Hairora Falls. After our lunch at Koropuku Falls, we drove further down the Chasland Highway and took the turnoff towards Bride’s Veil Falls. A kilometer or two down the road, we came to small group of cottages, the proprietors were sitting out front, and a gate across their road/farm path so that we couldn’t go any farther. We said our hellos and turned around, thinking that we wouldn’t be allowed farther. See, that’s my American way of thinking that was following me along.

When we got back to Invercargill, I returned to my maps and realized that Bride’s Veil Falls (oh, and there are numerous Bride’s Veil Falls in New Zealand) was on Department of Conservation land and that the only way to get close was to go the route that we had taken. And, by this time, I also recalled that the Kiwis are very accommodating about allowing people to traverse their lands to access public lands if you nicely ask. The name of the cottage retreat was still in my mind and I was able to find it through a quick search. When I called the cottages, Dianne answered the phone and I asked if I might pass through her land to visit Bride’s Veil Falls and she gave pleasant and positive reply! Whoopee!

A day or two later, I was approaching Bride’s Veil Falls. The day was cool and gloomy, with the ever present threat of mist and rain. I stopped at Dianne’s & Tony’s home and had a great discussion with Dianne, and thanked her profusely for allowing me to transit their land to get to Bride’s Veil Falls. Dianne was so kind and helpful, and gave me a nice lesson about Kiwis and land access.

Property law in New Zealand and the United States is based on our common ancestor of English law. This doesn’t mean that each country has followed the same exact path as English law, but there is shared history. It’s also useful to recall the role of public walking paths in English history and geography. If you’ve ever had the good fortune to explore rural England, you’ll likely know what I’m talking about. There are public footpaths across England that served as major (foot) transportation routes before the advent of large vehicles (i.e., the automobile). These paths now bisect and border private lands, and landowners permit respectful transit across their land. In the U.S., if we ever had walking paths, it seems that they’ve all been transformed into roads. There are many situations where we are “allowed” to pass through private lands to access public lands, but there is usually a legal instrument (easement) involved.

In a similar vein, water law in the U.S. and New Zealand is based on our common English heritage. Basically, waterways (lakes, rivers and streams) belong to the government, with the idea that they can serve as transportation routes, among other things. In Wisconsin, all “navigable” waters belong to the State up to the “common high water mark.” In New Zealand, the navigable waters belong to the Crown, along with a strip of land on either side. This strip of land might be anywhere from very narrow up to ten meters wide. The ten-meter strips are referred to as the “Queen’s chain.”

The reason for all of this digression is that Dianne and I had a wonderful conversation about the differences between the States and New Zealand regarding accessing public lands via private lands in our two countries. As I explained to Dianne, it’s not too common for a private property owner in the States to permit access to their land, for a variety of reasons. But, in New Zealand, because of the stronger connection back to merry old England, allowing people to transit private lands is sort of expected. And, to be fair to Americans, there are many instances where property owners allow access across their lands so that we can enjoy public lands. (After I wrote my piece about Secret Falls, I learned that there is an easy backdoor way to visit those Falls, and that the nearby private property owner allows it! You just have to know who and where to ask.)

Dianne did share with me a funny story of how these access issues once played out for her and Tony. Some hunters approached her once and told her that since the stream running through their property was considered Crown property that these hunters were going to walk up the stream and on the bank (the Queen’s chain) so that they could get to the public lands beyond Dianne’s and Tony’s private lands and therefore enjoy their hunting rights, he loved to get ar-15 rifles online– and there was nothing that Dianne and Tony could do about it. Dianne and Tony readily agreed with the hunters, and the hunters proceeded to walk (scramble, crawl, slog, curse) up the stream to the public lands and probably back down dragging their quarry. Dianne then told me that if the hunters had been nice and thoughtful, she would have allowed them to drive up their path to the public lands, just like she was allowing me to do to get to Bride’s Veil Falls. ☺

There’s a second lesson in this piece about waterfalls. I suspect that many of you already know this lesson – the Waterfall Beauty Law – but I’ll reiterate it anyway – the beauty of waterfall is directly proportional to how difficult it is to access and view that waterfall. It’s because of this Law that Secret Falls is the most beautiful waterfall in Wisconsin. Similarly, Bride’s Veil Falls in The Catlins is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in New Zealand. There also are several other waterfalls that “fall” (no pun intended) into this category, like Elve’s Chasm in the Grand Canyon.

About a kilometer after Dianne’s and Tony’s cottages, on their paddock path, is the end of the line – you can’t drive any farther. From there, you walk. You can readily hear the stream gurgling on your right and you keep walking upstream. More easily said than done. The first half of the tramp from your car to the Falls is a little difficult making your way through the grass and around the shrubs. There’s not really a trail and you use your common sense. At a point, though, your “path” enters the bush (forest) and you still have to use your common sense. On this grey day, is was kind of dark in the bush, as well as wet and slippery, especially since I was moving uphill towards the Falls. It’s easy to hear the Falls through the bush, but it’s not necessarily easy to walk through the bush to get to them. I do have to write that after this tramp, I was wet and dirty from head to toe from slip sliding through the bush and up and down the hillside.

But, it was all worth it! Bride’s Veil Falls is spectacular in a nice, intimate, moist, slippery, mossy, ferny way. From here, I’ll just let my photographs speak for themselves. The cool, wet, grey day provided some really great conditions to give the Falls some very nice contrast and colors.


43 N MSN signing off…


Posted in Catlins, New Zealand Also tagged , , , , , |




I’ve been wanting to write this piece for nearly a year…

Last January we explored New Zealand’s North Island. There are many, many wonderful sights there, just like the South Island, but unique in it’s own way.The North Island is warmer, bordering on semi-tropical on the north side. There are numerous islands on the north side of the North Island that are beautiful and special places, along with a lot of sea life. The North Island has New Zealand’s only active volcanoes, as well as a small desert in the rain shadow of one of those volcanoes – Mt. Tongariro. The North Island also has some very appealing intimate sights, just like most anyplace else in the world.

As much as I love big, bold landscapes like the Grand Canyon or New Zealand’s Southern Alps, there are many times that I also enjoy the small, intimate locations. Many times, you have these little locations all to yourself and can almost lose yourself in the solitude and the simple beauty of these places. On New Zealand’s North Island there once grew forests of large and ancient Kauri trees (Agathis australis). To see a Kauri tree is to stand in the presence of greatness. They are massive trees and impressive like redwood or sequoia, but in a slightly different way.

Kauri trees have a similar girth as sequoias and redwoods, but aren’t nearly as tall. However, they contain nearly as much usable wood since the tree doesn’t taper significantly. Also impressive is there life span as they are estimated to be many centuries, and even millennia, old. Kauri trees held a special place in the world of the Maori. As the largest tree in northern New Zealand, it provided a great hull for a Maori waka or war canoe. The Kauri tree is so large that it took a great deal of time and patience to fell one for a waka. The kauri would be selected, a clearing made around it, and then it would be left to slowly die before falling on its own or with some assistance. Seen as a member of the Maori spiritual realm, the selected Kauri tree would receive an incantation from the tohunga (priest) to propitiate Tane (The God of the Forest) and remove any religious restrictions (tapu) that might be on the tree. As an example, the waka that is on display at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds is nearly 35 meters long. Kauri trees also were valuable for more modern ships and their masts, as well as building materials.

Alas, since kauri trees have been so popular, particularly by the Europeans for their ships and homes, as well as slow growing, the Kauri forests are now believed to cover about ten percent of their former area. The remaining Kauri trees are generally protected on conservation lands or simply out of respect. Kauri trees are also suffering from soil fungus infections that are making their survival even more difficult. It is breathtaking to drive through the kauri forest. While these trees are not plentiful, they are relatively easy to pick out since they are so large. We were able to behold Kauri up close in a couple of locations on the North Island. At one site while you’re driving through the Waipoua Forest with your jaw agape, after a short walk you can stand in awe of Tane Mahuta – The Lord of the Forest – the largest Kauri tree remaining in New Zealand. Even better, in my mind, was the hiking path that wound by and around several Kauri trees in the Omahuta Kauri Sanctuary near Mangamuka. At the Omahuta Kauri Sanctuary you are able to get up close and personal with several different Kauri trees, although the drive isn’t nearly as easy as getting to Tane Mahuta – but definitely worth it. You’ll very likely have Omahuta all to yourself. Carefully walk through this forest, watching your step, as you’ll likely spend much of the time looking upward!

Lastly, I think that the thing that most impressed me about the Kauri trees was the small ecosystem that each large, mature tree holds in its branches, many meters above the ground. There are so many different plants growing “up” in the sky, in the canopy of the forest, clinging to the kauri trees, and using available moisture and rain, and nutrients. That’s how you view the world when you’re partly an ecologist. Amazing!

43 N MSN signing off…

Posted in Kauri, New Zealand Also tagged , , , |

Home Again!

[landscapephotograph description=”Mitre Peak & Milford Sound, one of New Zealand’s most famous scenes.” photoname=”Mitre Peak” photo=”https://timmulholland.com/wordpress1/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/MitrePeak-1.jpg” photourl=”http://illuminataphoto.zenfolio.com/milford_sound/h4B7B094C#h4b7b094c”][/landscapephotograph]

To:              Whom it may concern (i.e., our friends and family; Sharyon, Cynthia & Kerry at Waverley Park School; Robyn, Angus, Tracey, Roger, Tom and the Brannamans at Southland Hospital; Jan, wherever in the world you are; and the Ackermans in Deutschland)

From:                Tim Mulholland

Subject:            The Cultural Differences between New Zealand and the United States

As most everyone is aware, we’re back home in the US – Fitchburg, Wisconsin, to be exact. And, it’s good to be “home.”

Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.


Oliver Wendell Holmes

Now that we are back home it’s back to business as usual. A bit of an oversight… we need to hire a landscaping service. Yeah, it kind of already needed work at the time we left so we came back to a bit more of a mess than I can handle. I’m going to call the guys I always, if you’re in the market for a good landscaping service for yourself, check here. They’re quite reliable.

While we were in New Zealand we had many queries as to whether we would choose to stay there for a longer time. We loved our time in New Zealand and we wouldn’t trade this past year there for anything. We have so many wonderful, beautiful memories of our time in New Zealand and we met so many wonderful, loving people there. If I’d been born and raised in New Zealand, I feel that I would absolutely love it there.  But, I was raised in this American culture, and the US is home for better and for worse.  (I suspect that Asta is much more flexible on this than me, since she immigrated to the US fifteen, twenty years ago.)

I want to use this blog entry to highlight some of the differences between American and Kiwi culture. I truly had a fun year being an amateur, embedded anthropologist.

First, most everything is the same in New Zealand – and everything is different. Everyday in New Zealand, I had to have my antennae up because while “something” might appear to be the same as we knew it in the US, there also was a good chance that it was just slightly different. There were many times that I’d start to do something in NZ and find out that the process is slightly different, or purchase a product only to later find that the product was slightly different. This speaks to how much I spend my life on automatic pilot most of my time here in the US. I’ll try to be more specific as I write more.

FOOD:  Kiwi food is healthy and nutritious, so anyone can survive there, kiwi is one of the best foods for special diets from https://askhealthnews.com. In fact, I put on about five kgs/ten lbs during our first six months. You can find most anything in the grocery store there that you’d find here, so no worries, mate!

But, Kiwi food has strong roots in English food so it’s not terribly flavorful or exciting. Our favorite restaurant in Invercargill was Little India. We learned when we ordered our food that we needed to specify that we wanted our food to be “Indian spicy” which is not to be confused with (New Zealand) “spicy.” If we just ordered our food as “spicy,” it would taste more like mild to medium spicy by our standards. I have eaten spicy food at most every meal since returning – I have to catch up and increase my serum capsaicin concentrations!

DRIVING: Most everyone knows that Kiwis drive on the “wrong” side of the road – the left side.  It really didn’t take too long to get used to that, and it was an easy transition coming back to the States. And, I have to say that I love roundabouts – they are easy to negotiate and keep traffic moving. I can understand that folks here don’t like to change, but roundabouts really are a good thing!

Driver etiquette in New Zealand (in fact, all etiquette) seems to be more civilized and nicer. Drivers tend to drive more slowly and thoughtfully in town – they’re not in such a “hurry.” So far, I’m driving like I did in NZ, and it appears to be irritating the drivers behind me. And, crosswalks in NZ are WONDERFUL!!! Drivers actually stop and allow a walker to safely cross to the other side of the street. Back here, I had to get used to waiting for a gap in traffic and praying, rather than calmly ambling into the street.

One last thing: gas cost about $7/gallon (NZ$2.25/L). You get used to it. It seems that people there just drive less, too. That’s the way it is when you import all of your petroleum resources.

WILDLIFE:  OK, America has a very clear advantage here. The diversity of New Zealand’s wildlife is rather limited. But hey, it’s an island nation, and the various human immigrants over the past millennia or so brought their rats, dogs, cats, rabbits, stoats/weasels, and so on with them. These alien pests have done significant damage to New Zealand’s wildlife (especially birds) populations. And, it doesn’t help that the Maori hunted the moa to extinction, which also doomed the Haast eagle, which fed on the moa. New Zealand likely was a veritable Garden of Eden before “Adam’s and Eve’s” arrival. But, New Zealand has a much better landscape, especially when compared to Wisconsin, and especially if you happen to focus on landscape photography.

One thing that we’ve REALLY enjoyed since returning is our very special “home entertainment system.” We have several different species of birds that are flocking to our bird feeders outside our kitchen windows – chickadees, nuthatches, house finches, eastern goldfinches/wild canaries, blue jays, cardinals, sparrows (yes, the English kind, just like New Zealand –surprise!), and ruby-throated hummingbirds. And we’re also reacquainting ourselves with red-tailed hawks, great blue herons, robins (the American, red-breasted kind), ducks, geese and wild turkeys. The squirrels and chipmunks are chittering around our backyard and with the cooler weather coming we’re expecting to see “our” groundhogs and deer.

We don’t miss New Zealand’s sandflies. However, our mosquitoes are more annoying than theirs, mostly because it’s warmer here and there’s less wind.

New Zealand definitely has more sheep than Wisconsin, and is trying to catch up in dairy cattle.

CLOUDS: This one goes to the country in the south. New Zealand, a.k.a., Aotearoa, “The Land of the Long White Cloud,” has some of the most beautiful clouds I’ve ever seen – consistently puffy and beautiful! On the other hand, it is so nice to get back and see these massive, towering cumulo-nimbus storm clouds that we have in the Midwest – awesome! And, New Zealand has a lot more rainbows than we do in the Midwest, something to do with having more rain. But, seriously, while it was more humid and may have rained a bit more in NZ, it wasn’t depressing at all – and this comes from a guy with S.A.D.! The clouds roll in and out there, while we get these long drab periods, particularly in the winter.

SCHOOL: The kids loved their Kiwi school – Waverley Park School. The curriculum seems to be very similar as here at Stoner Prairie Elementary School. Schools in NZ seem to be housed in several smaller buildings, whereas here in the States we tend toward these large buildings.  I don’t know why the difference – climate? funding?

Another difference – so far – is that there doesn’t yet seem to be quite the emphasis on standardized testing. Testing is coming, though. The principal at Waverley Park School is not a supporter of standardized testing as a major tool for measuring student performance for the same reason that a lot of people (including me) don’t support it in the US – it’s only a singular measure of a very complex social and developmental issue. (The principal at Waverley Park School is one of my favorite people that I met in NZ.)

Our kids spent a lot of time running around barefoot at school, which is really healthy in my opinion, at least that’s what the Inspire team told me. They’d go to school with their shoes/jandals (flip flops) on their feet and then shed them. The major problem with running around barefoot is that if it’s a little cool outdoors, it’s easier to not put your shoes on and head out in your socks.  So, we went through more socks than previously.

RUGBY vs. FOOTBALL:  This one is a toss-up.  If I better understood the rules and strategies of rugby, I’d probably like it better – hard hitting, no padding other than what you’ve grown into your body.  I just wish that I could get the All Blacks’ games on my computer when they play – any suggestions?

NICE PEOPLE: Frankly, the people of NZ are nicer than your average American. Several travel surveys have come to the same conclusion. One of my metrics for this is that I was only flipped off once in my year in NZ, and that was by our friend, Tracey, in good fun.

CLIMATE:  This is a tough one. NZ’s climate is sort of a cool Mediterranean climate, especially where we were in extreme southern NZ. The Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea have a nice moderating influence on the climate. The daily temperature range was narrower than living here in the middle of the US. The humidity was higher, which causes a few different issues – window condensation, mold, so the use of a mould removal singapore is essential for this.

HOMES: The Kiwi homes that we experienced were generally smaller than American homes – no big deal.  American homes tend to be too big, so this wasn’t a surprise. The biggest problem, for me, living in a smaller home is that my introverted side didn’t get enough “space” away from the family, particularly in the evenings. Yes, I know – that’s my issue.

Since the climate is cooler there wasn’t much air conditioning where we lived.  In fact, I can hardly remember feeling AC the whole year in NZ. But, heating is a very different beast. Where we lived in southern Invercargill, there were enough homes that were heated with coal or wood that the air quality was a noticeable issue on cool mornings. Thank goodness for the wind! Our home had a single heat pump in the living room. The living room would be pleasant enough on cool days, but the further you went into the bedrooms, the cooler it became. J It was interesting to see how many homes opened their windows a bit during the daytime, no matter the temperature; I think that this was mostly a reflection on the buildup of moisture in homes (any Kiwis want to set me straight?).

Following onto this heating issue, it also was interesting to see that commercial businesses usually kept their doors open during business hours when the weather wasn’t too windy and cool. If I was out shopping, then I’d keep my coat on in the stores so that I’d stay warm – and the staff usually wore warm sweaters (“jumpers”) and additional layers to stay comfy.

HEALTH: While “health” is more of Asta’s venue, I’ll wade in here. Again, I feel that the health status of most Kiwis was pretty similar to that of an American person.

I felt that there might be a greater prevalence of smoking in NZ and that appears to be true, and obesity also seemed to be lower (again affirmed by the stats).  There appeared to be many fewer morbidly obese people in NZ when compared to the US.

The NZ health care is a socialized medicine system (which is a part of the reason that we were there). While everyone in NZ is a part of the national health care system (ergo, no uninsured/underinsured citizens as in the US), the option exists (if you can afford it) to purchase private health care and private health insurance through a parallel (?) private health care system.  Again, this is an “observation” based on I don’t know what, but most Kiwis seem to be more tolerant (or, have lower expectations?) of it’s socialized health care system that does not promise “immediate relief” like Americans expect of our health care system. I guess that we have lower tolerance of pain and discomfort here in the US.

Per capita health care spending in NZ is only about a third of that in the US and the healthiness of Kiwis appears to be similar to Americans.  Hmm….

VIOLENCE/GUNS: OK, this is an obvious difference, I hope. One of the more frequent questions I experienced from curious Kiwis regarded the American obsession with guns and the consequent violence. I couldn’t give them a decent answer since I don’t get it either! Yes, there is violence in NZ. I suspect (but don’t know) that domestic violence in NZ is on par with the US. There are stories in the NZ media about shootings and stabbings. But, on a per capita basis, it seems that violence in NZ is much, much less than in the US.

Writing about this issue got my curiosity up, so I “googled” it and I was correct (sadly). According to the NZ Ministry of Justice, in 2000, the US violent crime rate was 506 incidents/100,000 people, while in NZ the figure was 133 incidents/100,000.  Yikes!

Here’s a different set of statistics from NationMaster.com (I’ve not heard of this source before and some of the stats that I saw here looked fishy). In NZ, ~13.5% of homicides involve firearms (10 murders with firearms), while the figure is 39.6% in the US (9,369 murders with firearms). Also according to NationMaster, the incarceration rate in NZ is about 20% of the US rate (I’m not surprised), the rape rate is about three times higher in NZ (I was surprised by that!), and the suicide rate is about double in NZ.

POLITICS: No contest – NZ political life is much more sane!

THE ECONOMY: This is a tough issue about which to write, so I’ll turn to NationMaster again.  According to their stats, the US GDP per capita is about 70% higher than NZ’s GDP per capita. But, NZ didn’t “feel” to us to be significantly different in terms of its economy. Our “economic experience” in NZ felt that NZ wasn’t quite as high as the US, but life in NZ still felt comfortable.

QUALITY OF LIFE: So, here’s the big difference to piggy back onto my economic feelings. We seriously felt that the quality of life in NZ was on par or better than what we experience in the US. Yes, we did feel that the economic quality of life wasn’t quite as high, but overall quality of life there did feel better because of the friendlier people, lower crime rates, slower drivers and a slower, more pleasant, less frenetic lifestyle.  And, let’s not forget about the wonderful, breathtaking recreation opportunities in New Zealand – woo hoo!

THE 60’s!: I’ll close this piece with another anecdotal observation about NZ. We heard this from several folks who have visited NZ, so it’s not starting with us.

There is an observation by some visitors about New Zealand that it feels sort of like they’ve been transported back to the 1960s. Why? Life is a bit slower there. People are a bit friendlier in NZ. Kiwis seem to be genuinely focused on their families and friends. I can understand how visitors might feel that way, particularly if they live in a big, fast city. When I’ve heard people express this feeling about New Zealand, I’ve sometimes heard in a condescending way. But, while I agree that some folks might feel that way about New Zealand, I have to also say that I take it as a compliment for this beautiful, wonderful, friendly country!

OK, if you are a Kiwi who would like to set me straight, please feel free to do so!  I truly do not mean to step on any Kiwi toes, so if I did, I apologize. Similarly, if you’ve visited New Zealand and want to share your different observations and experiences or write shout-out here to New Zealand as a wonderful place, I also hope to hear from you!

46 S. EnZed signing off… (and, it’s time to find a new closing)

Posted in Milford, New Zealand, Uncategorized, Wisconsin Also tagged , , , , |


Kia ora, Mates!



There are many, many unique and wonderful things that you’ll find in New Zealand.  Wonderful people… Wonderful scenery… Wonderful lifestyle…


One of New Zealand’s many unique animals are the Tuataras (OK, and the kiwis, too). Tuataras are endemic to New Zealand and only New Zealand. Tuataras are called “living dinosaurs” or “living fossils,” but they’re genetic purity is only about 100 million years old – younger than the dinosaurs. Tuataras look a lot like any other lizard species and that’s where the similarities end.


First, tuataras are extremely long-lived. In the gallery that follows, “Henry the Tuatara” became a father for the first time (how do they know?) when he was 111 years old, which was a few years ago. Another interesting thing about tuataras is that they have a “third eye” when they hatch – a photoreceptive site on the top of their heads of unknown (to humans) function, but likely some type of a photoreceptor that aids with their Circadian rhythms. The third thing that I find very interesting about tuataras is that they don’t have teeth, per se. Their “teeth” are actually serrations on their jaws rather than separate bones (teeth) that grow from the jaws/mandibles. It’s a very interesting dentition style, eh??


Finally, the other “interesting” thing about tuatara is how endangered they are and the efforts that Kiwis (the people, not the birds) are putting in to saving the tuatara and other endemic species. As you may have heard me discuss before (rail?), New Zealand has a great number of introduced species (it’s tough being an environmental scientist). This all started when the first people arrived in New Zealand hundreds and thousands of years ago. These early human colonizers brought rats with them and rats have been a problem here ever since because there are no natural predators or diseases. The native wildlife (think tuataras, kiwis and other birds, among others) evolved such that they weren’t worried about ground-based predators since the major predators came from the sky – Haast eagles, for example. Later human colonizers (i.e., the English and other Europeans) chose to bring other animals like rabbits. Once the rabbits started to overrun New Zealand (again, no natural predators), the human colonizers brought in stoats (a.k.a., ermine [weasels]) to control the rabbits. But then, the stoats went wild and, along with the rats, ate all of these ground-dwelling animals’ eggs (once they ran out of rabbits) – not just the tuatara, but also the kiwi and other native ground-dwelling birds. Yes, if you haven’t figured it out, New Zealand is close to being an ecological disaster – but, it’s still a very beautiful ecological disaster!


Nowadays, there are very few “wild” tuatara (and kiwi, and kaka and …). The tuatara populations are mostly found on isolated islands on the north sides of the South Island (in the Cook Strait) and north of the North Island. On these islands, either the non-native predators were never introduced or they’ve been eradicated – in either case, the tuatara can live a relatively safe life. Similarly, there are isolated islands off of the west coast of the South Island where endangered bird species have been re-introduced after the removal of the non-native predators (if they were ever present). Hiking around New Zealand, it’s very interesting to see the efforts that the Department of Conservation is putting into capturing rats, stoats and possum (not the same as North American opossum) in traps (or, through poison bait – a.k.a., 1080) so that the native wildlife might better survive.


So, I hope that you’ll enjoy these few photographs of tuatara (remember to “click” on the icon at the bottom right to view the slideshow full screen) who are being raised at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery – good luck finding them in the wild. And, be careful – you may have learned something!




46 S. EnZed signing off…

Posted in Invercargill, New Zealand, Southland Museum, tuatara Also tagged , , , , |

The Hobbit’s New Zealand

This is just a brief post and not of my making – just my sharing. One of my most loyal readers shared the following video link with me (see below).

After being in New Zealand for nearly a year, I believe that the images that you’ll see in this video are all real and not imaginary. OK, the folks who created The Hobbit series movies have added a fair amount of surrealism to particular scenes in their movies. However, the underlying scenery is as real as it gets – breathtaking, stunning, beautiful.


And, Earnslaw Burn is one of the few places that we’ve wanted to see in New Zealand where we just won’t make it – this trip!


46 S EnZed signing off…


Video Link:  The Hobbit’s New Zealand



Posted in Hobbit, Middle Earth, Mt. Cook, New Zealand, Queenstown Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Von River Valley, Eyre Mountains

[landscapephotograph description=”Von River Valley, Autumn” photoname=”Von River Valley” photo=”https://timmulholland.com/wordpress1/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Von-River-Valley-Pan-8b.jpg” photourl=”http://timmulholland.photoshelter.com/image/I0000U20kis5uIXA”][/landscapephotograph]


I’m a person who loves to read maps, especially finely detailed topographic maps. First, I like to discover places that are new and interesting to me, and hopefully interesting photograph. With the plethora of maps on the internet (Google Maps and Google Earth, to name a couple), it’s really interesting to start to see someplace and then dig deeper. When I’m performing my research on US locations, I then find that deeper level of detail by pulling up USGS topographic maps on the Libre Map Project. I suspect that there are other, similar resources in the US, but I’ve been using Libre Map Project for years, so it’s my “go to” resource. My GPS is also a really good resource when I’m in the field, but I love these computer sites when I’m doing my research before I get into the field because it’s so much easier to see things on the bigger computer screen.



Fortunately for me, there’s a similar resource in New Zealand – NZ Topo Maps. When we’re planning our trips and tours in New Zealand, I’ll check out Google Earth for a start, and then head to NZ Topo Maps for a different view. I just love to pour over a good topo map and discover nooks and crannies that I didn’t know exist before.  For example, that’s how I “discovered” The Branches and made the trip further up Skippers Canyon.



Over the past few months, we’d heard about a place called the Mavora Lakes and it has been on our radar as a place to visit, maybe hike, maybe camp. It’s only a couple of hours from Invercargill and it’s not a major tourist area like Milford Sound, Te Anau and Queenstown. It seemed like a nice place to get away for a day and to relax.



I then hit the maps and “discovered” that, yes, Mavora Lakes looks like an interesting place. But the road to Mavora Lakes keeps going further and further from civilization – that’s my kind of road to explore!!! In fact, the road to Mavora Lakes and beyond goes all the way to Lake Wakatipu, which is the lake on which Queenstown is situated. There are no towns or villages on the road beyond Mavora Lakes. The only signs of civilization in this area on the map are a couple of sheep stations at the end of the road on Lake Wakatipu. These two stations are remote. The nearest town, Mossburn, is about a two-hour drive from them, although it’s only a eighteen kilometers by boat to Queenstown.



When we went to Mavora Lakes, the weather didn’t seem like it might be the best. It’s late autumn here and there was a lot of fog as we started the drive. The fog eventually lifted and we made it to Mavora Lakes uneventfully. The lakes were nice and pleasant, and it did seem like it would be a good place to relax. Of course, the sandflies were there, too. There were even a few people camping and exploring the area like us, so this is likely a reasonably popular place to visit in Southland during tourist season. We were contemplating lunch (actually, the kids were more like demanding it) when I suggested that we drive further on the road. It looked like it might be “only” another hour until we reached Lake Wakatipu.



A few kilometers further north of Mavora Lakes is when the good scenery and clouds really kicked in! Asta and I were oohing and aahing all of the time. When we finally came over a rise and saw Lake Wakatipu, we both blurted out WOW! at the same time. I have to say that this drive is one of my top three drives in New Zealand. Driving from Te Anau to Milford Sound is likely my favorite drive, and Skippers Canyon is my second favorite. The autumn foliage and dark, majestic clouds really set off the Von River Valley and the Thomson and Eyre Mountain Ranges, as well as Lake Wakatipu. At the end of the road, there wasn’t much to see in terms of civilization, but the views were spectacular! We stopped and enjoyed our lunch surrounded by a few hundred sheep who were hoping that we might want to share with them.



At the end of the road, there are two sheep stations, plus a resort.  One of the sheep stations, Mount Nicholas Station, also doubles as a nice, small, remote getaway place. The resort is the Colonel’s Homestead and is operated a resort by RealJourneys, which is a major tourist operator in southern New Zealand. We didn’t get close to the Colonel’s Homestead and just enjoyed our lunch views of Lake Wakatipu.



On the way back, the skies looked a little dark and blustery. These dark clouds made for excellent photographs and also for a bit of angst – would it start raining and make it difficult to ford the streams before we got past the last ford? Obviously, we made it, again with lots of oohs and aahs.

Again, enjoy the gallery – especially full screen:




46 S EnZed signing off…




Posted in Colonel's Homestead, Eyre Mountains, Lake Wakatipu, Mavora Lakes, Mount Nicholas, New Zealand, Queenstown, Thomson Mountains, Von River, Walter Peak Station Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Skippers Canyon

[landscapephotograph description=”Panoramic view of The Branches, on the Shotover River, Otago, New Zealand” photoname=”The Branches” photo=”https://timmulholland.com/wordpress1/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Branches-Pan-1.jpg” photourl=”http://timmulholland.photoshelter.com/image/I00006jT26j8X7ko”][/landscapephotograph]  

Near Queenstown, New Zealand, there’s a slightly remote and very beautiful place called Skippers Canyon. Queenstown considers itself to be the Adrenaline Capitol of the World, and Skippers Canyon and its Shotover River might well be the adrenaline capitol of Queenstown.


Historically, Skippers Canyon was a major area for gold mining in the late nineteenth century. Today, it’s a beautiful tourism area where it’s nice to get away from Queenstown’s crowds. No, Queenstown isn’t that crowded, but it does have a moderately high “chic” factor that doesn’t do a whole lot for me, sort of like Aspen. It’s a very pleasant drive from Queenstown to Skippers Canyon by roundabout way of Arrowtown (which is much more my speed).


Some tourism sites call Skippers Canyon New Zealand’s “Grand Canyon.” Skippers Canyon is very nice, and it is quite “grand” by New Zealand standards, but it’s not even a close comparison to the Grand Canyon. If you rent a car or campervan in New Zealand, the Skippers Canyon road is one of those roads that’s considered to be “out of bounds,” as in you’re not supposed to drive your rental vehicle there because they won’t insure it. If you get in trouble there, you’ll have a hard time getting the car rental agency to come and help rescue you, especially since your cellphone likely won’t work there. I won’t advise anyone who rents a vehicle whether to drive this road; I will write, however, that I’ve driven on a lot more difficult gravel roads in rural Iowa (and, with a school bus).  Just don’t look down…


We’ve been to Skippers Canyon three times and enjoyed it every time. The first time was on a hot Christmas Day. We didn’t quite know what we were going to experience and I didn’t come fully prepared. But, we did enjoy our drive on the narrow ledges and dusty road. It also was exciting to see how some of the local youth were enjoying their Christmas celebration. These kids went to Skippers Bridge, which is near the formal end of the Canyon, set up their barbecue (or, “barbie” in the local dialect) and rigged their own private bungy jump site on this remote, quiet bridge. There’s a Christmas that you won’t forget!


The second time that we went, we drove a bit further and ate lunch at the old Skippers Point School, which is an historic landmark. If you want to see Skippers Canyon and don’t want to drive the road yourself, there are several different tour companies in Queenstown that will gladly take you. Three or four of these little four-wheel drive vans were at the school at the same time and their patrons were enjoying their picnic lunches with New Zealand’s finest wines.


The last time that we were in Skippers Canyon in early April, we drove to the far end. Before you get to Skippers Point, there’s a side road that you need to take – The Branches Road. If you drive The Branches road, then Skippers Point is about the halfway point. The Branches road was much more challenging – more ruts, narrower, and not very well maintained. The scenery beyond Skippers Point was nice, but not spectacular.  That is, until you reach the end of the formal road at The Branches Station.


OMG! The Branches Station must have one of the best, if not THE BEST, views and settings in all of New Zealand. The Branches sits in a broad glacial valley with the cobbled Shotover River running through it. To the southwest, the direction from which we’ve driven, the views are nice. But, to the northeast, the mountain views are amazing!!! The good news is that you, too, can enjoy The Branches Station. It’s a luxury accommodation and it seems that most people who visit likely arrive by helicopter, not in their pokey old Subarus. And, the pleasure of staying at The Branches will only cost you a mere NZ$10,000/night (I rounded up by one dollar; and, that’s for two people with a two-night minimum).


So, after enjoying the high life at the gate to The Branches Station, we returned back down the Skipper Road, enjoyed some ice cream in Queenstown and slowly made our way back to Invercargill.


Enjoy the gallery: 
46 S EnZed signing off…


Posted in New Zealand, Queenstown, Skippers Canyon, The Branches Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Moeraki Boulders

[landscapephotograph description=”Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand” photoname=”Moeraki Boulders” photo=”https://timmulholland.com/wordpress1/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/MoerakiBoulders-6c.jpg” photourl=”http://timmulholland.photoshelter.com/image/I0000PavdToOpgxg”][/landscapephotograph]



It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a month since my last post.  Time flies when you’re having fun in Australia.



On the big trip around New Zealand in January, one of our first significant stops were the famous Moeraki Boulders, a few kilometers north of Dunedin on the South Island’s east coast. The Moeraki Boulders aren’t exactly spectacular like a lot of New Zealand’s mountain scenery, but they’re still awe-inspiring in their own way. These boulders (and other similar boulders around the world) are concretions that were formed when minerals (calcite) seeped into the interstitial spaces between mud and sand grains and “hardened.” Don’t ask me exactly why these minerals hardened; similarly, don’t ask me why these concretions are so nicely spherical in shape. Just chalk it up to some of the wonderful geological mysteries of Nature.  (Yes, I know that I’m a guy and that I’m supposed to know everything, but let’s just leave it at that.) I’m not going to write a whole lot this time and just leave you to enjoy the gallery at your own pace.


46 S EnZed signing off…

Posted in Dunedin, Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand Also tagged , , , , , , , , |