SOUTH ISLAND (Tiritiri o te Moana)
The Ocean Mirage, Tititiri or Te Moana, was the original name of the South Island of New Zealand. The Southern Alps range crosses it from North to South. Near these mountains, which are the antipode of Compostela, is the Arthur's Pass National Park. So it is that two names with medieval and mythic resonance - Santiago and Arthur - meet at the extremes of this last diagonal of the Soul of the World.
The mountain pass traces its origin to the search for that most mythic of metals, gold. When gold was discovered in the west, the settlers of Canterbury left their lands and families, urged on by hopes of making their fortune. Harper Pass was the only possible route across the Alps. The long trains of prospectors, with their wagons and pack animals, soon destroyed this fragile pass. Another route had to be found. Arthur Dobson, after long months of exploration, followed the channels of the Waimakariri and Mingha rivers until he reached the Bealey Valley. It was not an easy route, but it was the only one possible. In 1865, Edward Dobson, father of the pioneer and district engineer of Canterbury, mapped out a difficult road over the Alps based on the discoveries of his son Arthur, whose name was given to the new pass.
The modern day Arthur's Pass highway has kept the same design and is still the highest and most spectacular pass in New Zealand. Its winding length connects Christchurch with Hokitika, in the Westland. The route shows off the splendors of Nature all along its path. The thick woods, mirror-like lakes, snowy peaks, rivers and glaciers are home to the weka and the tuturiwhatu, two unique bird species. Its 160 km length passes through ever-changing landscapes. From the sandy crags of Castle Hill, covered with rock paintings, to the beech forests that cover the hills of Craigieburn State. From the plains of Waimakariri to the escarpment of Avalanche Peak. Mount Rolleston rises in the midst of the park. Its central location, its rivers and glaciers, the variety along its slopes and, above all, the geometrical purity of its peak have made it the most famous point in Arthur's Pass. Its pyramidal shape, emerging at 42º 56' S 171º 31' E, is the exact antipode of Santiago de Compostela. Based on this, it seems very likely that it is the Oceania Vertex of the Soul of the World.
New Zealand is a relatively new but solidly established country. Its first inhabitants, the Maori, arrived over a thousand years ago. Coming from Hawaiki, a mythical island which might be the island now known as Tahiti, they set out in seven large canoes, the names of which are still conserved in the names of the native families or clans. In the 19th century, English settlers arrived. The meeting of the two ethnic groups was a brutal one. In the wars known as the Maori Land's Wars, both peoples displayed their courage and savagery, as usual ending in the final victory of the people with the superior technology.
Now, little more than one hundred years later, the situation is completely and happily resolved. The Maori are fully integrated into the population of English origin, who make up about 83% of the total population. As to be expected, European culture predominates. But Maori customs and traditions are still admired and protected as the possession of all New Zealanders. Interracial marriages are common now, and it is not rare to find people of predominantly European background who are proud of their Maori blood.
Maori traditions are very similar to Greek mythology. There are families of gods and giants. Every mountain has its own spirit, as do trees, fish, birds and everything in nature. The god of day and of light is called Ra, and the god of death and night is named Po. In the earliest times, the Sky and the Earth were united. When they separated, their sorrow was so great that, despite the eons gone by, their sighs still rise in the form of clouds. All Maori myths are like this one, filled with poetry. They tell that Mani, fisher of worlds, pulled the North Island out of the Ocean. The South Island of New Zealand itself was his canoe, "Te Waka a Mani."
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