New Zealand’s high country

Tahr were introduced into the high country for hunting; as were chamois, red deer, and wapiti. The Europeans were somewhat obligated to recreate a British countryside when they established in New Zealand – and later they brought in their recreational animals as well. Many of the introductions have established and seriously impacted the native environment. Animals like stoats, possums, cats, goats, and rats have devastated the native bird life. And, in the beginning here on these remote islands there was only bird life – essentially no mammals and very few predators.

Heading west from Christchurch the country is a gently rising agricultural plain. Once heavy with sheep and farm crops it is now turning to dairy cows and grazing paddocks. The wind-rows of evergreens are disappearing and the quaint British landscape is opening up. The foothills soon appear and eventually high lakes and mountains take over the vistas. The Southern Alps are a tectonic range of mountains along New Zealand’s South Island’s western edge. The outer side (the western facing side) is against the Tasman Sea and Australia, while the inner side slopes to the east and the greater Pacific Ocean. The elevations in the west as you approach the mountains are only at about 2,300 feet but are quite alpine in appearance. The grassy expanses are shadowed by mountains topped with snow and sometimes with glaciers.

These pictures, above and below, give you an idea of the beauty of the high country and the extent of the lake/hydro region/system. The view here is north up Lake Pukaki. The water is transferred by large canals to another lake and then to another and so on; each time delivering irrigation water to farming operations and turning turbines to produce electric power. It is a clean and neat system.
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Looming in the distance is Mount Aoraki, Mount Cook on most older maps. This is the mountain that Sir Edmund Hillary cut his teeth on and the highest peak in the great Southern Alps range. Under its shadows Mount Sefton and Mount Tasman feed the Tasman Glacier which eventually flows into the wide Hooker Valley.
Up close Aoraki is a jewel. The eroding sides of surrounding mountains point up the ephemeral nature of our geology while the icy rock face of Mount Cook displays a sense of ruggedness and permanence. But it isn’t so, not at all.¬†

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