After the excitement of a white Christmas in Winnipeg has passed and with the prospect of many more months of snow, it’s time to head south, way south, with our bicycles in tow, to find summer in New Zealand.
Auckland, home base for the next three months, will be our launching point for exploring New Zealand.
History Lesson, Light
Don’t quote any of this in a history thesis, but this is the once-over-lightly of the history of New Zealand.
New Zealand is an island nation in the South Pacific, 1500 kilometers east of Australia across the Tasman Sea. Because of its physical remoteness, New Zealand was one of the last land masses to be settled by humans. First settlers, around 1250 to 1300, where Eastern Polynesians, which through subsequent centuries of isolation developed an unique language and culture and are now known as Māori.
First European contact was in 1642 by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman (namesake of Tasmania and the Tasman Sea), on a mission for the Dutch East India Company, setting sail out of Java, Indonesia. He first alighted ground at what is now known as Golden Bay, only to be greeted by hostile Māori who rammed his sloop and clubbed four of his men to death. Re-thinking the wisdom of setting up camp in New Zealand, his ships left New Zealand within a month, never to return. He named the islands Staten Landt, believing them to be part of a landmass of the same name off the southern tip of South America. He, apparently, was a little confused. Dutch cartographers renamed it Nova Zeelandia after the Dutch province of Zeeland.
The hostile reputation of the Māori discouraged further European exploration for the next 100 years, until 1769 when Captain James Cook and his ship, the Endeavour, mapped the coastline of New Zealand and claimed the land for England. As was the case in all European exploration, native populations suffered significantly in the aftermath of European contact with exposure to European diseases and availability of European firepower, the musket. Cook anglicized the Dutch name to New Zealand.
The Treaty of Waitangi, signed by 50 Māori chiefs in 1840, granted sovereignty to Britain. The status as a colony of Britain remained until 1907 when New Zealand gained its independence and became the Dominion of New Zealand.
Geography Lesson, Light
New Zealand was part of the super-continent Gondwanaland, which consisted of present-day Australia, Antarctica, India, Africa and South America. Splitting apart some 135 million years ago, the physical isolation of New Zealand has resulted in a unique diversity of animals and plants evolving here, offering tourists (and locals) a fascinating environment to explore. In size, New Zealand is near to the size of Britain, Japan or Italy.
New Zealand consists of two main islands, the North Island and the South Island, as well as number of smaller islands. The majority of its 5 million inhabitants live on the North Island, with Auckland at around 1 million people, being its largest city. Surprisingly to me, Wellington, also on the North Island, not Auckland, is its capital city. (This is similar to Canada, where our largest city, Toronto, likely is thought by many non-Canadians to be our capital city.)
With a framework of New Zealand in mind, we contemplate cycling and exploring New Zealand. Stay tuned.
Source: Eyewitness Travel Guides New Zealand and Wikipedia