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Craig Potton's Classic Walks of New Zealand

Reviewed by Dorothy - 26/02/2010


Craig Potton's - Classic Walks of New Zealand

To read Craig Potton's Classic Walks of New Zealand is not just to read about nine walks on New Zealand's Department of Conservation (DOC) land. It is to share the experience of the author - the moods engendered by the landscape or seascape, the colours changing with the different lights at different hours of the day, his reaction to the sounds or the silence, the changes in the bush at different altitudes, the varied bird life and the geological history of the extraordinary land forms.

Each chapter has an evocative sub-heading indicating the scope or the dominant impression left by the walk.

Stewart Island's North West Circuit The mud and the sublime
Kepler Track On the edge of the great Fiordland wilderness
Milford Track In the presence of water
Routeburn Track In the aftermath of ice
Heaphy Track Silent downs and pounding surf
Abel Tasman Coast Track Meandering by the ocean
Around Mt Taranaki Circling the cone
Around the Volcanoes a circuit of Ruapehu and Tongariro
The Circuit of Lake Waikaremoana Secret forests and waters of Te Urewera

On the first page my attention was caught by the following passage in the opening chapter about Stewart Island's North West Circuit.

West Ruggedy Beach
West Ruggedy Beach
Craig Potton's Classic Walks of New Zealand: page 9
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"Caught between two ridges, an upward-sweeping canyon of sand and silent stones leads down to West Ruggedy Beach where westerly swells peel off the southern ocean in hypnotic repetition, smashing at the sand and rock of this sublime coast, and opening your mind to another dimension of nature's power."

In this passage Craig Potton shares with the reader the impact first of timeless silence and then of a powerful rhythmic sound and describes the effect on the walker. This word picture of the atmosphere is enriched by a photograph of the beach with its strange rock formations.

This chapter introduces the reader to more of Potton's descriptive powers and is suitably summed up as the mud and the sublime.

In introducing the Kepler Track Potton emphasises the importance of allowing time for the full appreciation of limestone caverns, alpine plants, forests of lowland beech and two huge lakes.

Sidling around Mt Luxmore
Sidling around Mt Luxmore
Craig Potton's Classic Walks of New Zealand: page 25
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In describing the well known Milford Track he says that walkers are spared the worst of the struggles which face the tramper in most Fiordland valleys yet they are able to enjoy all the rewards - provided they can tolerate the frequent torrential rain. Once again impressive photographs highlight the majesty of the scenery though they are all taken in sunny weather and do not illustrate the power of the torrential downpours.

For the Routeburn Track the recommendation is again to allow time to appreciate the contrasted areas encountered on the track the aftermath of past glaciers, remnant glaciers, lakes, mountain and silver beech forest, snowy peaks and in high summer wild flowers.

Bouders from the landslide that dammed Lake Mackenzie lie near the lake's subterranean outlet
Boulders from the landslide that dammed Lake Mackenzie lie near the lake's subterranean outlet
Craig Potton's Classic Walks of New Zealand: page 60
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The account of the Heaphy Track takes walkers through varied forest types and silent downs and limestone formations until they reach the pounding surf at the western end of the track. It includes information about the nature of the forest, the atmosphere created by the early morning mists, the impact of geological change and the varied bird life.

Weathered Granite Outcrop on Scotts Beach
Weathered Granite Outcrop on Scotts Beach
Craig Potton's Classic Walks of New Zealand: page 67
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The subtitle of the Abel Tasman Coast Track, Meandering by the ocean, creates images of beaches and enjoyable walking in sunshine supported by an outstanding photo of golden sand ripples at low tide in Awaroa inlet. Photos of beaches in different lights, tree ferns, manuka forest and strange granite rock formations support the text.

Sunlight over Awaroa Inlet
Sunrise over Awaroa Inlet
Craig Potton's Classic Walks of New Zealand: page 91
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Circling the cone is an intriguing title for the tramp around Mt Taranaki, and the photographs demonstrate the majesty of the cone, the profusion of growth on the lower slopes, the steep ladder to the Waiaua Gorge Hut, Bells Falls, and Mt Taranaki reflected in tarns on the Pouakai Range. Trampers can choose their own route among the tracks according to their preference for time spent in the lowland forest or higher in the alpine scrub and tussock lands. The excellent Bird's Eye Map will help you to make this decision.

Mt Taranaki above tarns on the Pouakai Range
Mt Taranaki above tarns on the Pouakai Range
Craig Potton's Classic Walks of New Zealand: page 104-105
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For Craig Potton the incentive for returning annually to the walk Around the Volcanoes a circuit of Ruapehu and Tongariro is visiting the Red Crater, 'an ancient forge still in full heat, blood red and dripping silver metal through the black background.' Although it is set among places where steam and explosions come from the rocks it is a centre of perfect peace. This does not mean that he overlooks other memorable aspects of the walk changing skies, the Blue and Emerald Lakes, the eccentric lava structures, and the constantly windy Rangipo Desert, with the word pictures highlighted by evocative photos.

Evening light over Mts Tongariro and Ngauruhoe
Evening light over Mts Tongariro and Ngauruhoe
Craig Potton's Classic Walks of New Zealand: page 110-111
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In reading the title 'The Circuit of Lake Waikaremoana Secret forests and waters of Te Urewera' the key word is 'secret', for as Katherine Mansfield described the Te Urewera forest, 'It is all so gigantic and tragic and even in the bright sunlight it is so passionately secret." The atmosphere of secrecy is borne out with photographs of misty skies, dense forest and a waterfall surrounded by deep bush.

Lake Waikaremoana from Panekiri Bluff Lake Waikaremoana from Panekiri Bluff
Lake Waikaremoana from Panekiri Bluff
Mist hangs in beech forest on the Panekiri Range
Craig Potton's Classic Walks of New Zealand: page 123 and 125 repectively
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The facts needed for planning one of these tramps are concisely listed in a panel at the end of each chapter. The excellent Bird's Eye Maps are easy to follow and give a good indication of the terrain.

The photographs which highlight the text so effectively are taken by Craig Potton and a number of other highly skilled photographers.

Classic Walks of New Zealand is published by Craig Potton Publishing
98 Vickerman Street
Nelson
New Zealand
www.craigpotton.co.nz
ISBN 978 1 877517 06 8
RRP $NZ 39.99



 
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