Queenstown, New Zealand, world capital of adventure sports.
Yesterday we spent the night in a coastal village of the southern island of New Zealand. There’s nothing special there in spite of being the only place in the world where you can always spot whales, or so they say. As for the sea being full of whales… Well, we didn’t see a single one, though the sky’s certainly full of stars. We’re in the southern hemisphere and here’s a big chunk of space that us northerners never get to see at home, and never will. Just as we look for the North Star to pinpoint the north, here they look for the Crux. It is so famous it even appears on their flag. Four stars arranged like cross, easy to locate thanks to the twin Pointer Stars. If you trace an imaginary line between them, this straight line takes you to the Crux, and because it creates a right angle with the longest crosspiece, reveals where south is in the sky.
Nelson, New Zealand, near Park Abel Tasman.
Imagine for a second that you’re a 19th century Englishman that the Industrial Revolution has left with nothing. Your only possibility for advance is to become a settler. But first you need to choose where to go. America is not an option, since they’re in the middle of Civil War. In India and South Africa there’s no land left to buy, and if you want a large plot for yourself, Oceania is the place to go. You just have to face a couple of months in a boat, and if scurvy, the pirates and the storms don’t kill you, you still have one more choice: Australia or New Zealand. You prefer the second in advance because you’ve been told that the climate is kinder and similar to home. But, just in case, you ask around to know what your new neighbors will be like and things like that.
Kaikoura, in the South Island of New Zealand.
May 29th, 1953. Eleven thirty in the morning. Sir Edmund Hillary and the Sherpa Norgay are the first people in the world to climb to the top of the Everest Mountain. The Nepali came with the title; the New Zealander got it right there. They became friends forever and always refused to admit who arrived first. As Hillary said, in view of the possibility that an Englishman got there a few years before, dying on his way down, “going up is only half of the job”. We will never know who got there first, what we know is that they came back to Camp VII holding hands, so that Hillary, as the gentleman he always was could say his famous quote: “we knocked that bastard off!”.