New Zealand may have the most mystical and magical woodlands, but its mountains are also simply spectacular. As a land mass, it is relatively young . As I mentioned in my first post after visiting NZ
About 85 million years ago, a land mass called Zealandia split away from a large section of the supercontinent Gondwanaland and moved off into the Pacific Ocean becoming a drifting continent about half the size of Australia. As Zealandia moved away from Australia, much of it sank beneath the sea. About 25 million years ago Zealandia began to split apart. The earth’s plates pushed the sunken pieces up, creating New Zealand.
These plates are still colliding, rocks are being pushed up, creating hills and mountains and while viewing these ranges, once can almost feel and “see” the growth, as the above picture illustrates. The rolling ribbons of land remind me of a scene from “Fantasia.” The rolling starts around 2:11 if you don’t want to watch the entire clip:
Watching while the Philadelphia Orchestra plays “Toccata And Fugue In D Minor, BWV 565″ by Leopold Stokowski, is still as thrilling to me as when I first watch Fantasia as a child.
But I digress. Let’s get back to the rolling hills and smaller mountains of New Zealand:
In the last 1.8 million years, huge changes have created New Zealand’’s current landscape. The Southern Alps have risen thousands of metres and are still growing. Extending the length of the South Island, 16 peaks of the Southern Alps now tower above 10,000 feet. The highest of these soaring mountains is Mount Cook at 12,316 feet .
Let’s get a little more up close and personal. We got a first expansive and stunning view of the Southern Alps when we stopped at Lake Tekapo:
During our hikes we were met with many mountainous views that incited my loquacious expression – “wow:”
Using my zoom lens we can even get acquainted with the glaciers that sit atop the Southern Alps, although sometimes that long white cloud obscured the view:
Then, of course is the top of the top, the one and only Mt Cook also known as “Aoraki” which which means ‘cloud piercer’. A perfect moniker for a peak which tantalizingly played hide and seek with me as I tried to get a cloud free photo:
The Souther Alps are currently growing at an estimated rate of 10 millimeters a year but as I noted in my post on Christchurch, earthquakes often upset the smooth rise – in strong earthquakes whole land blocks can rise suddenly several meters or can even shift horizontally.
Through all the “Sturm and Drang,” New Zealand emerges ever more majestic.
Here it is in all its glory as a fitting finale to this post is Mt Cook: