Sunday, October 11, 2009

new zealand

Bobby Winters


One of New Zealand’s famous landmarks is Cape Reinga.  Cape Reinga is found on the northwestern most tip of the Aupouri Peninsula, which is located on North Island.  The nearest town is Kaitaia, about 100 km away.  Vehicles can reach Cape Reinga via the 90 Mile Beach or by a gravel road that runs to a nearby parking lot.  This New Zealand landmark is a popular tourist attraction, with 120,000 visitors each year, a number that continues to grow.  At the top of the cape is a lighthouse which was built in 1941.  The lighthouse uses a 50 watt flashing beacon which signals to ships every 12 seconds. 

Reinga is a Maori word, meaning “underworld.”  Cape Reinga is an important place in Maori culture.  This is the place where the spirits of the dead Maori people pass through on their journey to the underworld.  At the top of the cape there is a Pohutukawa tree which is believed to be 800 years old.  The Maori spirits jump off this tree as they go to the underworld, also known as Hawaiiki, their homeland.

One of the interesting aspects of Cape Reinga is its relationship to the sea.  The cape marks the separation between the Pacific ocean to the east and the Tasman Sea to the west.  Here, the two seas collide, creating very rough conditions visible from Cape Reinga.  The meeting of the seas is called a tidal race, and it can be viewed from the top of the cape, 945 feet above the sea. 

Cape Reinga is home to some very rare plants, as well as some unique animals.  One such animal is the pupuharakeke, or the flax snail.  This snail lives in flax clumps on the cape.  However, snails are endangered by predation from rats and pigs.  Local authorities are trying to protect the snails through planting more flax  as well as poisoning the rats.  Cape Reinga is also the starting point for a journey that godwits, a coastal bird, make to their breeding grounds in the Arctic Circle to the north.  Every March, the godwits gather at the cape before they make the 12,000 km trip.

Located 48 km west of Hamilton and 2 hours south of Auckland is Raglan, a small beachside town known for its amazing surf.  Raglan is found on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand, with a population of about 3,500 people.  The Maori call the town Whaingaroa which means “the long pursuit,” although today the town is named after Fitzroy Somerset, the 1st Lord Raglan.  The economy of Raglan was based on flax and timber exports.  Flax is a perennial plant which is made useful by its long leaf fibers.  Today the economy relies on farming, dairy, tourism, and arts.  Arts and music are both very important to Raglan.  Raglan holds the annual Raglan Festival of Arts as well as the International Soundsplash Eco Reggae Festival to celebrate its interest in arts and music.

To the southwest is Mt. Karioi.  Mt. Karioi is an ancient volcano which now lies extinct.  It offers spectacular views from the top that many people share as they hike to the top.  Mt. Karioi is 2,372 feet tall, featuring plant life from the base to the summit as well as a broad, serrated peak.  Mt. Karioi affects the weather of Raglan, as it shelters the town from the prevailing winds.  Raglan is also noted for its black sand beaches.

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