New Zealand (or Newzillun, as our Prime Minister likes to call it) is an odd place. For the uninitiated, there are two main islands, imaginatively named “North Island” and “South Island”. We really are at the end of the earth as far as most of the world is concerned – “the Middle of Nowhere” is probably a much more apt title than “Middle Earth”. Early on, it was dubbed the Antipodes Islands, which literally translates as “opposite to foot” – which it was, to those standing in the British Motherland. New Zealand is a land of volcanoes, earthquakes and unusual plants and animals, with equally unusual explanations as to how they came to be. It became apparent to me on my recent travels to the Northern Hemisphere that this country is a total mystery to a lot of people. I was routinely asked questions such as “How long does it take to drive over the bridge from Australia?” or “Isn’t New Zealand just off the coast of Scotland?” When I pointed out NZ to some witty, witty friends on a map of the world, they joked that they thought it was a splodge left behind from someone’s particularly volatile sneeze. Even to those who know a bit more about the place (such as those of us who actually come from here) there are still plenty of mysteries to be demystified: How did NZ come to be so isolated? Why is our national icon an obscure round bird that can’t fly? What’s all this talk about cats being the root of all evil? And of course there are plenty of things the average Kiwi doesn’t know about: A river that flows backwards; a lake that ‘breathes’; icebergs and penguins in my temperate hometown.
I’m going to look for scientific explanations to the above, and any other interesting oddities that I can find. I welcome suggestions – the weirder the better!
…and the last time I checked, there was no bridge to Australia.