Two new books celebrate our coast and mountains in words and pictures

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Coast: A New Zealand Journey

As I read Coast it made me realize that there are parts of New Zealand’s coastline we haven’t yet travelled to that would be well worth exploring. It made me appreciate just how varied and magnificent our coastal areas are.
Bruce Ansley, well-known New Zealand author, who wrote the eloquent text has always lived within sight and sound of the sea. He has fished it, farmed beside it, surfed and sailed around it. And  thought he had seen it all until he and Jane Ussher went on this journey and found places he had never heard of or been to before.
Jane Ussher, one of New Zealand’s best portrait photographers, has contributed the accompanying photographs. Her portraits, often of craggy faced old timers who have lived along a coast for many years to make a living by fishing, oyster catching or farming or to lead a quieter simpler life away from the city, are superb.
Each coast has its own personality, Bruce Ansly has invented names for them all such as:

  • The Hauraki Gulf is the Festive Coast where the number of perfect beaches exceeds any Pacific Island idyll.
  • The Coromandel is the Coast of Dreams full of rainforest, beaches and history.
  • The North Island West Coast is the Storybook Coast, bracing rather than benign. But, he asks us, “Could anything be lovelier than the capital on a fine day?”
  • The West Coast is the Wild Coast, an isolated community where people eke out precarious lives.
  • The South Coast is the Mysterious Coast, its winters are harsh and its summers long, a coast which is not for dreamers or the fainthearted.

At over 450 pages, Coast is a substantial book. Not to be read at one sitting but a book to dip into again and again.

Title: Coast
By: Bruce Ansly and Jane Ussher
RRP $75.00
Imprint: Godwit (RHNZ)

Our Mountains: Journeys to New Zealand’s High Places

I have never aspired to extreme sports like mountain climbing. My mountain experience is limited to an uphill ramble to the top of Mount Eden and an occasional downward ski on Mount Ruapehu. But I was soon entranced by the stunning photographs and entertaining and informative stories in Our Mountains: Journeys to New Zealand’s Highest Places.

Paul Hersey, writer and surfer and Mark Watson, photographer are both experienced climbers. They packed their bags and went on a year-long mountain journey to gather the information for this book. In it they share their passion for 15 of our most significant summits, spread throughout New Zealand from Manaia in Northland to Mt Anglem on Stewart Island.
The journey they shared was not without its difficulties. As well as having to brave all kinds of weather and terrain, Paul had to carry his camera equipment. To catch the best light he often had to be up at dawn. The mountain climate could create problems:
“Subzero temperatures coupled with strong winds and spindrift on Mount Taranaki meant that the camera froze to his face every time.”

The book describes the physical features of each mountain and what each is like to climb. People who live close to, and have a relationship with, each mountain have been encouraged to share stories about their tramping and climbing experiences, as well as the local history, Māoritanga and conservation.
The authors emphasize that our mountains must be treated with respect; a significant number of climbers have lost their lives mountaineering.
Both Mark and Paul are keenly aware of the environmental challenges if our mountain environment is to be preserved for future generations. Mark writes:
“It’s our responsibility to protect what is left of these places so other people can experience that bond with the earth, hear the wind in the beech trees, the rush of a mountain stream and the call of the kea.”

This book could well find a place in the home of every family that loves the outdoors, whether driving through it and viewing our mountains from below or considering a mountain adventure of their own.
Title: Our Mountains.

By: Paul Hersey and Mark Watson
Publisher: New Holland
RRP $45.00