National Geographic : 1962 Apr
old homestead, he told us his feelings about the land. "Life up here in the mountains has a very special quality," he said. "You get all sorts retreating from civilization to work up here. Sometimes criminals, men on the run. It's a lonely life, a hard life, but the rewards are of a particular kind. The peace of mind one can find in the mountains is like no other." He paused; the silver on the table gleamed in the candlelight. "If I had my life over again, I don't think I'd choose differently." Outside again, the mountains rose darkly in the frosty air as we continued on our way to Christchurch, the city of the plains. The founding fathers of Christchurch, 110 years ago, set out to build a copy of the cities they had left behind. Today, with 215,000, Christchurch still retains something of this English character. The streets are grouped in orderly fashion around a Gothic cathedral (opposite). The river Avon winds beneath stone bridges and past smooth lawns and weeping willows. The city is now the base for the United States Deep Freeze expeditions (page 501). Every summer planes fly from Christchurch south to the frozen continent of Antarctica. Into a High and Lonely Land Seen from the air, as Brake and I saw it, Christchurch hugs the coast at the foot of the Canterbury Plains; and the plains, in har vest time, spread out like a many-colored map to the Southern Alps. But it was the high tussockland Brake and I sought as we traveled on across the plains (page 497), and up into the sprawling river valleys of the Southern Alps. Our destination was Mount Pos session, one of the largest sheep sta tions in New Zealand-it rambles over 108,000 acres of river flat and mountain. And about it rise the great peaks of Erewhon. It was here, on the neighboring sheep station of Mesopotamia, that the English writer Samuel Butler a century ago began his famous novel. He used as setting for his lost, imag inary world of Erewhon the soaring Southern Alps. "Never," he wrote, "shall I forget the utter loneliness of the prospect.., the vastness of moun tain and plain, of river and sky." It was late afternoon when we reached the homestead; there were 499 HS EKTACHROMES( NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY Striped necktie and matching boater iden tify a student of Christ's College, New Zea land's oldest secondary school. In customs, curriculum, and campus, the boys' academy at Christchurch resembles an English pub lic school. This senior wears coat unbuttoned -a privilege only monitors enjoy. Saturday sportsmen warm up for a cricket match on one of 39 fields of Hagley Park in Christchurch. Batsman with leg guards de fends his wicket from a hurtling ball.