NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELER NEW ZEALAND 2nd ed. By Peter Turner, with photos by Colin Monteath, is a 318-page guidebook on glossy paper The height and width of the book are slightly greater than that of guidebooks from Fodor's and Lonely Planet. The result is not more writing or more photos, but instead larger white margins, and more "breathing space." The book has eleven chapters, including those with titles:
*Central North Island;
*Marlborough and Nelson;
*Christchurch and Canterbury;
*Fiordland and Southland.
PHOTOGRAPHS. Every other page has a color photograph, usually featuring a natural wonder, a cityscape, arts and crafts, recreational activity, or something of historic interest. One of the standouts of this book, and of New Zealand, is Maori culture, and page 22 has an unusually excellent photo of a Maori war canoe, covered with engraved designs. Page 29 shows a team of Maori soccer players doing a scary Maori dance, no doubt frightening the opposing team from England. Page 87 shows a Maori artist busily making a large wooden carving. Pages 49 and 264 had photos of GIANT GATE FALLS in Fiordland. Page 66 has a little photo of red and pink flowers in a greenhouse in Auckland. Pages 102 and 142 have photos of snow-capped MOUNT TARANAKI, which is unusually symmetrical and which resembles an Egyptian pyramid. BRIDAL VEILS falls, which looks a bit like Rainbow Falls in Hilo, Hawaii, is shown on page 106. POHUTU GEYSER in Rotorua is shown on page 127. Page 147 shows a vineyard in a valley (WAIRAU VALLEY in Marlborough) looking like a typical scene in Napa Valley, California. Page 226 provides a photograph of LAKE MATHESON with a backdrop of 10,000 foot high glacier-covered mountains in the background. This scene is like that at Swiftcurrent Lake in Glacier National Park in Montana. Kiwi birds are shown on pages 164 and 271. The choice of landscape photographs leaves a tad bit of room for improvement. Although the quality of the reproductions was excellent, few of the photographs showed scenery dramatic enough to entice me to purchase an airplane ticket. A visit to Google images reveals that FIORDLAND NATIONAL PARK in New Zealand has scenery that rivals that found near the Li River at Quilin in China. However, the photograph on page 263 of this guidebook does not do justice to this dramatic region of New Zealand. A visit to Google images also reveals that parts of FIORDLAND NATIONAL PARK have side-by-side waterfalls (a dozen waterfalls, side-by-side) that will likely change your life forever, once you see them. However, this book does not include pictures of scenery that will "change your life forever." Although the book mentions PUNAKAIKI ROCKS, also called PANCAKE ROCKS, on page 220, one of the strangest spots on the planet Earth, and beautiful too, there is no photograph.
INTRODUCTION. Pages 23-37 provide a sketch of the history of New Zealand and of Maori culture. We learn that the Maori settlers hunted some types of birds to extinction. We learn that sweet potatoes (kumara) were a major crop. We learn that carvings were made in PAUNAMU, which is a green colored rock made of nephrite jade, bowenite, or serpentine. A visit to Amazon.com reveals that several books are available on PAUNAMU jewelry made in New Zealand. We learn that in 1769, James Cook landed in New Zealand, accompanied by a Tahitian translator, who was able to facilitate communication. We learn that James Cook's expedition was purely scientific, and even though the Maori killed ten of his men and ate them in 1773 during a second voyage, James Cook did not retaliate. We learn that with settlement by the British, Scots, and Irish, the first industries were hunting seals and whales. We learn of white versus Maori wars. One gathers that the white invasion was nowhere near as devastating towards the native peoples as it was in North America and South America. Pages 110-111 provides a more detailed account of some of the wars.
AUKLAND. Jumping into the first chapter, it is immediately apparent that this NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC guidebook is not at all like guidebooks from FODOR'S and LONELY PLANET. There are no blow-by-blow disclosures of hotels, restaurants, and bars, and there are no detailed lists of nightclubs where one can hear the latest in hip-hop and rap "music." (The hotels and restaurants are all listed and detailed in a generous section at the back of the book.) For the AUKLAND chapter, we learn of the MARITIME MUSEUM, which has many sailing ships on display. A view of the web site of the MARITIME MUSEUM reveals that every week, a bunch of men give a performance of sea shanty singing. We read that "chic restaurants" can be found on Parnell Road, and that KINDER HOUSE is a stone museum that displays photographs. A view of the web site for KINDER HOUSE reveals that it has little displays of pottery.
CENTRAL NORTH ISLAND. Jumping ahead a bit to a chapter that covers the northern third of New Zealand, and which also is the location of AUKLAND, we read that "the TAUPO VOLCANIC ZONE holds all of New Zealand's active volcanoes, form the offshore WHITE ISLAND to the snowy peaks of the TONGARIRO NATIONAL PARK. Along this belt, geysers, mud pools, boiling ponds, and steam vent the landscape, especially around ROTORUA, the biggest tourist magnet in the country." We also read about "the WAITOMO CAVES, a magical area riddled with caverns and glowworms." We read about TURANGAWAEWAE MARAE, which is the residence of a Maori king. A visit to Google images reveals this to be a modest structure, with interesting carved exterior walls. The book states that this building is open to the public only one day a year. Page 122 has a photograph of a similar house, which has exterior Maori carvings. The book seems not to identify this particular carved house, but the next page informs the reader that ST. FAITH'S ANGLICAN CHURCH has Maori carvings, and has a stained glass picture of Jesus Christ dressed in a Maori costume and walking on the water of LAKE ROTURA. (Hmm, now this sort of strange mélange of cultures -- Jesus in Maori garb -- could entice me to buy a plane ticket to New Zealand.)
We read that CAMBRIDGE THOROUGHBREAD LODGE is a good place for tourists to see horse shows, and that nearby MATAMATA is renowned as a horsebreeding center. We learn that OTOROHANGA KIWI HOUSEis a zoo to see kiwi birds, and that tourists also love nearby WAITOMO CAVES, which has hundreds of miles of underground passageways. Also interesting is DRIVING CREEK RAILWAY AND POTTERIES, which is "an eccentric but impressive blend of a pottery factory and a miniature railway that runs through the forest." Continuing on with this chapter, we learn of places to go hiking, or surfing, and then we encounter a paragraph about TE PUKE, which is the "kiwifruit capital of the world," which turned many small farmers into millionaires during the 1980s. This was actually due, in part to marketing, where the Chinese gooseberry was renamed, "kiwi fruit." We also read about a 6-hour boat tour (6 hours in all) to WHITE ISLAND, which contains a spectacular active volcano, and which includes a 2-hour tour on land.
HOTELS. Towards the end of the book (pages 284-309) is a section devoted to hotels and restaurants. Each page has a half-dozen little paragraphs, each devoted to a hotel or restaurant, and each with a row of icons (dollar signs) indicating the price range. SHAKESPEARE TAVERN ($) is a budget hotel with a restaurant and bar. SKYCITYGRAND HOTEL ($$$$$) is located in Sky Tower, which incldues a dining complex. KILLER PRAWN is a restaurant that serves prawns, mussels, and pizza. FOX GLACIER is an alpine lodge with a cozy feel, located near main street shops. The blurbs about restaurants and hotels also reveal which are located on lakes, or on the ocean near the beach, or in glitzy downtown areas. Pages 284-309 cover the entire country of New Zealand. Unlike all of the guidebooks from LONELY PLANET and FODOR'S, this NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC guidebook refrains from disclosing anything about where to fine rap and hip-hop music, bars, and taverns. This silence could be characterized as a virtue.
CONCLUSION. Many of the attractions in New Zealand are dictated by Mother Nature, for example, the volcanoes, waterfalls, majestic mountains and fiords, and geysers. The Maori influence was imported from warmer Polynesian climates, that is, the Maori's were imigrants from Polynesia. The British influence, resulted in the many nice buildings in New Zealand, and architecture dating from the 1800s, and also resulted in the dominant language of the country. The book elegantly discloses the many attractive features of New Zealand, though I feel that the next edition should include better pictures of FIORDLAND NATIONAL PARK, and should also include a photo of PUNAKAIKI ROCKS.