Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sharing a New Zealand Adventure

From ViVi Hlavsa:
For most of February, I was in New Zealand and Australia with Elderhostel. As usual, they had fine resource people who led us into the mysteries of the geology of the area, the Maori culture, the Aborigines, and the founding of the two countries.

They're very different:
New Zealand
is not only divided north and south into two islands, it's also divided east and west, resting on two tectonic plates, with the Pacific Plate jamming into the Australian and moving laterally as well. That's why the country is one of the most volcanic areas in the world. The first picture is of some beautiful hot springs.

The Australian continent, on the other hand, is quite stable. The oldest land-mass in the world, it once belonging to the collection of continents called Gondwanaland, which included the Antarctic, Africa, South America and India (before it went racing north and created the Himalayas).

Maoris are also quite different from Aborigines.
They emigrated originally from Taiwan and, since the New Zealand "bush" is virtually impenetrable, they would burn out coastal settlements, keeping their territories by war (image 2, a Maori "greeting"), so when the Europeans arrived in the early 1800's, they were not easily conquered.

The Aborigines were a nomadic people. When the Europeans arrived there in the late 1700's, they did not feel the need to defend their territories. Moreover, the New Zealanders love to note that they were not settled by convicts! Today, New Zealand is a bi-cultural country--two official languages.

In Australia, the struggle to integrate the two cultures has been more painful. I happened to be in Melbourne when they had their "Sorry Day," apologizing for tearing mixed breed children from their parents to "save" them with Western-style education. It was very moving.

All-in-all, it was a great trip, highly recommended. I especially enjoyed my 14 days on the sea,entering the coastal cities. I've included a picture from New Zealand's Napier--a town destroyed by earthquake in the early 30's, rebuilt in the style of the day--Art Deco (image 3), and a picture of one of the fjords we entered on New Zealand's South Island (image 4). The famous Sydney Opera House, where I heard a splendid La Boheme! (image 5). Finally, here's a picture of me wearing a boa (image 6) -- ViVi

We invite branch members to share the highlights of their trips with the rest of us. Then we'll know who to call when we want recommendations on what to see and do!

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