Travelling up the west coast of the south island has defintely been a highland of our New Zealand trip. The landscape is simply amazing. We both love forests and with a large area of protected land there are still some really impressive primary forests here! They are almost as dense as a rainforest with multiple layers of growth. – And in fact they are classified as Temperate Rainforest. From moss, small fern, bushes, tree fern, palm trees (in the north) and large trees (e.g. Beech trees) with other plants growing on and around them there is something to admire from the floor to the sky. The current weather is warm (20 – 25 degrees Celsius), but the shade in the forest is much more pleasant than the direct sun from the clear skies.
While the number of different animal species you can discover is not particularly large, the sounds of the birds and insects fill the forest. The cicades are so numerous and noisy at some locations that our ears are ringing. Listening to the beatiful calls of the Bell Birds and Tuis is mesmorizing on the other hand. They are the main reason we never get to our planned destination for the day in time, as we spend our time standing in the forest, listening and trying to locate the birds to get a look (and picture). They might be quite common for New Zealand, but they seem very different to us and we would love to get a good photo or video clip.
There is lot of running or standing water within the forests, often crossing the path where lovely bridges have been build for the hikers, or coming down as small waterfalls adding to the relaxing sounds. The west side of the Southern Alps gets lots of rainfall from clouds coming from the ocean, being forced upwards by the mountains. As the air passes into colder temperature zones it loose the ability to store the humidity and it rains down. We seem to have been pretty lucky so far as we had blue skies almost every day in the West. The water is a key factor for these lush forests however.
Of course at many places the land is heavily used for agriculture and the same way as back in Europe and pretty much everywhere on earth these original primary forests are being cut down. It almost hurts when you emerge from one of the protected areas here and the magical forest abruptly ends in a plain grass land with sheep. Just as I had written these words we passed by farm land where another part of wild land had been cut down and the remainders were burning on the barren field. Let’s just hope we can keep enough of these zones of wonder and beauty for the protection of this amazing nature and for more people to enjoy in the future.