Let me start by sharing some interesting observations about the South Island and the travelling there.
Even though the South Island of New Zealand is home to one of the largest Iwi (Ngai Tahu) – who incidentally runs most of the major tourism ventures there very successfully – it is hard to spot any Maori. Not that they are not there – but up here in the North and of course other North Island regions they seem to be very prominent in all walks of life. As you may or may not know I have a foot in both doors – with my work and family closely related to Maori but also being a Pakeha (or white person) myself. I find it easy to walk into any shop or place here in the North and greet them with “Kia Ora” or “Tena Koe” – I won’t do that as easily in the South Island – in fact it would kinda feel out-of-place and I have earned some strange looks over the years. Also up here it is not uncommon to find two or three different marae (traditional meeting houses/places) in one tiny village – there are hardly any in the South Island – or they just not easy to spot I am not 100% sure.
The other thing I’ve noticed (don’t get me wrong on this one please) – that the number of German tourists must have increased again since my last two or three visits down South. Perhaps having my parents with me and not being able to “escape” makes me more aware of that fact but there was not one hiking track or sightseeing place or even restaurant where we did not meet any Germans. Of course I am a little biased (German myself). However – this also shows that whilst the government spent millions in securing tourists from Asia (in particular China) – they do not nearly spend as much money in the country and with kiwi businesses as the Minister for Tourism (incidentally also the PM) would like us to believe.
I have not met any Chinese person on any hiking trail or in any small town restaurant – spending money there and helping our economy with their tourist dollars. Of course they are at the major tourism places – such as Milford Sound and Mt Cook – bus loads in fact – but does this has an effect on small communities? I doubt it.
So as much as I might rumble about so many Germans – I know for a fact that they are valued customers in any small and large place and will spend quite a bit of money while they are here – I’ve seen it with my own parents – a coffee here a lunch there and a souvenir in that place – I thought that is what we want in this country (after all the government told us that tourism is one of our major earners here) and I think and that is what we should concentrate our tourism advertising budget on nations that will eventually come here and spend here. So yes please – many more of my country men women need to come here!
My personal opinion of course and not a racist statement and I have no intention to hurt anybody or cause distress with my views!
Back to travels now – sorry for the “interlude” and rambling!
The Catlins – is a region in the very south-east of the South Island that a lot of people don’t know much about and even fewer people travel to. It is not as much of the beaten track as some other regions are – most of the coastal road is now sealed (apart from 13 or so kilometres). Needless to say that is exactly the reason we went there. After all my parents and I enjoy a good hike and places outside of big cities.
Plenty of nature down there. Waterfalls in particular but also rare animals such as Hooker’s Sea Lion and Yellow Eyed Penguin (which we did see both). One sandy beach after another with some stunning cliffs in between and to top it off throw in some lighthouses. However – be ready to pay top dollar for accommodation and fuel – as in all remote areas here in NZ.
Two days are really not enough but the bare minimum to spend in the area – but we had to continue our travels towards Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula who is one of the main draw cards when travelling to the area.
The reason here is again some great wildlife – the Royal Albatross who breeds on a small headland at the end of the Peninsula is a major tourist attraction. It is the only mainland breeding colony in the world and only accessible with guided tours to protect the birds. The day we visited was very windy and our guide told us that this is exactly the type of weather the birds love – unlike other birds they don’t have strong breast muscles but instead rely on their ability to glide in the strong winds to fly. Given their size (3m wingspan) that is astounding but even more so when one get’s told that after they first take off as juveniles they do not return to land for about 5 years…
There are plenty of other things to see and do in and around Dunedin of course – Larnach Castle, Yellow Eyed Penguins, the Dunedin Railway Station – yes the Railway Station – one of the best looking ones in the world – complete with mosaics and from there one can go on a very special train trip – the Taieri Gorge Train – fantastic! Food plays a big part in Dunedin too – it must be the only place in the country (perhaps except Waihi not far from here) where one can eat a Haggis. Of course this is because Dunedin is also called the most Scottish town outside of Scotland…who would argue.
So really – take your pick down in the South, they’ve got something for everybody, every budget and every taste – only the weather could be a bit better:-)
To finish this post off – something different again: I will write a separate post about this as well but here is the heads up already. In a nutshell I am intending to continue my research into taonga maori in Europe this year again. I have had a great meeting with one of the curators at Te Papa earlier last week and she is supporting my idea’s – tough unfortunately not in money terms.
I can only leave my work here behind in winter so time is running out to travel to Europe and the funds are rather scarce – of course..
So – I’ve created a fund raising page with Give a little – Taonga Maori and am trying to raise some funds through there. Basically I am trying to find and catalogue most woven (but also carved) taonga maori in German museums – and have already started (see last May/June posts here) but barely scratched the top of the iceberg.
So if you like the look of this – perhaps you can help me to do more good work like that that will one day benefit all who have an interest in taonga maori and how to preserve them. THANK YOU