Popular images of Australia
are as varied as they are strange: the shimmering sails of Sydney Opera House;
the brooding red hulk of Uluru; the paint-daubed Aboriginal; the cute koala and
peculiar platypus; and the vast emptiness of the outback. They’re all here, but
the Australian experience is far more subtle and profound than that. The ‘Great
Southern Land’ offers beauty and diversity in spades, the world’s oldest living
culture and the very last word in weird wildlife.
Australia is a land of
extremes, of scarcity and excess. Some of the best things about the country,
its space, sunshine and wildlife, can also be its worst, but it is exactly this
element of the untameable that makes Australia an exciting destination.
Then, of course, there’s the size of the place. The word ‘big’ doesn’t even
begin to cover it. Australia
is about the same size as the USA
or Europe, yet is one of least densely
populated countries in the world.
New Zealand or, as the Maori call it, ‘The Land of the Long White
Cloud’, is living proof that small can not only beautiful but also incredibly
diverse and complex. The two main islands, NorthIsland and South
Island, are both quite different. North, which is far less
mountainous, is home to more than two-thirds of New Zealanders, or ‘Kiwis’, who
live life to the beat of a faster rhythm than their countrified neighbours to
the south. For the tourist, NorthIsland generally holds less aesthetic appeal than
South Island, but few miss, or indeed forget, the expansive views across Auckland from its hypodermic SkyTower;
the dramatic displays of Maori culture in Northland; or the brooding and
colourful thermal features in and around Rotorua.
Island, however, is said to offer the ‘true essence’ of New Zealand. To
travel through it is like a fun-filled lesson in geography and guarantees to
have the digital camera running on overload. Vast empty beaches where you feel
guilty leaving a single set of footprints; endless mountain ranges blanketed in
snow and rainforest; pristine lakes, waterfalls and fiords; giant glaciers;
vast limestone caves and arches; natural springs and fizzing hot pools.
Whatever your intention, if you choose New Zealand, although it may seem
at the end of the Earth it is certainly heaven upon it.
This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF