New Zealand is blessed with some of the most beautiful scenery on planet Earth – God’s own country, GODZone, right? However, it is the striking variety that makes it such an unrivalled place for an adventure race. Other countries may offer unique environments but what you get here is almost the whole spectrum of climate zones and related impact that has on the geology, flora and fauna. Draw a line across the 45th parallel of not much more than 100km and you can experience:
Majestic fiords, rainforest, alpine forest, glacial high mountains, tussock & temperate grassland, semi-desert landscapes.
The spine of the Southern Alps is the catalyst for this eclectic mix and we want teams participating in GODZone to experience as much of this variety as possible. Maybe not all of them in every Chapter of the event but, rest assured, you’ll enjoy an ever-changing backdrop and that will in itself bring challenges to every team. What works in the rainforest of the west won’t necessarily work in the arid zones of the east. We want teams to have to think for themselves and use their skills to conquer the terrain challenges ahead of them
Teams should expect and prepare to navigate across tracked and untracked terrain, often in very remote areas. A key ingredient of reaching the finish of GODZone will be the ability to interpret the terrain and prepare for the unique challenges encountered. Teams who have experienced previous Chapters of GODZone will be well aware of the need to be competent in the wilderness and to be able to choose optimal and safe routes in both daylight and darkness.
The Terrain Around Kaikoura
Perhaps the most significant thing about Kaikoura compared to previous editions of GODZone is the proximity of the ocean. The coastline around the town is rugged and beautiful, offering a huge amount of opportunities for adventure and exploration. As with much of New Zealand, as you head inland you quickly get off the beaten track and the sense of glorious isolation will take over. The terrain can be dry and exposed which can mean limited vegetation in some places. This, combined with limestone, can often lead to steep sided gullies and gorges which make for spectacular rivers and scenery but will definitely catch the unwary navigator out. Teams will have to get their route selection and navigation spot on in certain areas.
The Kaikoura Ranges are the dominant mountains inland which were formed along New Zealand’s Marlborough Fault System and can be seen as the northernmost extension of the Southern Alps. Named the Looker-on mountains, by Captain James Cook, they take their name from the town of Kaikoura at the southern extreme of the more eastern range, the Seaward Kaikouras. This range rises straight from (and dominates) the coast to the north of the town.
The Kaikoura Peninsula is made of limestone and siltstone laid down beneath the sea about 60 million years ago; it has been exposed to the elements for a mere 180,000 years. Once an island, it is now linked to the mainland by debris eroded from the Kaikoura mountains, These mountains are rising faster than any other mountains in New Zealand (10 mm per year) but erosion keeps their height fairly constant.
Periods of rapid uplift have formed the steep-sided promontories, ideal for pa sites, and have twisted the neatly layered limestone into unusual shapes. The relatively young rocks have been worn into many interesting forms by the pounding sea. In less active periods, the sea has cut large tidal platforms in the softer sandstone.
Offshore is a very deep underwater canyon system called the Hikurangi Trench. It comes unusually close to shore at Kaikoura, where it is known as the Kaikoura Canyon. The canyon floor collects sediments that will form tomorrow’s rocks and may appear in millions of years’ time as new mountains.