Locums for a Small World Blog

Only one word can describe New Zealand and that word is...

Posted by Everett Fitch

Coast to coast, north to south, island to island, New Zealand has it made. Somehow, perfect boundaries have been set; the most ideal lines have been drawn. Everyone who lives here has an ocean of fascinating country and culture that’s unparalleled. So many people call this brilliant land home yet so many don’t get to explore its vast expanse unflinchingly. Shocking, I know. Still, many more than that have never visited at all. They’ve never stepped foot on this volcanic, beachy, glacial, rainforesty country. It’s time that changes. It’s time for those who haven’t been to make their way. In fact, to do whatever they must to make their way. Unspoiled scenery is waiting. Right along with those “this is the way life should be” epiphanies.

Few words exist to describe New Zealand with due respect. I can only think of one off the top of my head that describes it perfectly. It’s a word that won’t leave your mind while you’re here. Literally—not a peep will leave your lips. Because you’ll be so stricken with awe, so overcome by rolling waves of soft earth, so exhausted mentally from the idyllic explosion happening before your eyes that you won’t be able to garner enough mental capacity to make those choice syllables move from mind to mouth. New Zealand is simply and utterly…surreal. And here’s the most surreal out of all the surreal in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Milford Sound (South Island)

Lauded short-story writer and novelist Rudyard Kipling stepped foot here once or twice. Every time he left, he swore Milford Sound worthy of being “the eighth wonder of the world.” Not much more can be said. Take his word for it.


Rotorua (North Island)

Don’t miss Rotorua. Here, the earth churns and the air’s thick with mist. And all around are green pools, hot springs and mud pools with vast mountains vaulting in the distance. One of our doctors—Catherine Dalton, MD, went and was paralyzed with awe: "The land was strangely beautiful and the people were beautifully strange. Geysers erupted all over, and the Maori danced their traditional dances."

Franz Josef Glacier (South Island)

After a hike, heli-hike, or ice-climb on the famed Franz Josef, take a relaxing dip in the Glacier Hot Pools. They’re located in a lush rainforest not far off. Legend has it these hot waters are fed by the frozen tears of a goddess pining for her lost love. (We didn't say it wasn't gushy, we just said it was a legend.)


Tongariro National Park (North Island)

Three volcanoes call this land home: Tongariro, Ngauruhoe (you might recognize this fiery mountain as Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings) and Ruapehu (AKA Mordor). Emerald lakes and alpine meadows make this place pretty. Steaming craters and old lava flows make it revered. Tramp the Tongariro Alpine Crossing—they say it’s the best one-day hike you’ll ever take.

Catlins (South Island)

The Catlins—an area on the southeastern coast of the South Island—is home to some rare animals. From the shy Hector's dolphin to the very un-shy Hooker's sea lion; you're sure to see some local fauna. This sweep of land is also home to endless beaches, coastal cliffs, rainforests, coves, waterfalls and sprawling farmland. It’s often sold as “off the beaten track” and it’s true. Lucky for you, many people overlook the beauty of this place.


Hot Water Beach (North Island)

William LeMaire, MD—who’s worked for us in New Zealand—sums it up perfectly: “The best part of Coromandel Peninsula was Hot Water Beach. With a borrowed shovel, we dug a hole in the sand at low tide...the hole then fills up with hot water (from underground geothermal activity) and coupled with the cold ocean water, it becomes a great natural spa to soak in and enjoy a glass of wine as you watch the tide roll in again.” Well, that sounds nothing short of lovely.

Stewart Island/Rakiura

Just south of the South Island, Stewart is the third largest island of New Zealand. Its far-south position makes it an ideal spot for seeing the Aurora Australis (the Southern Lights). In fact, the island's Maori name—Rakiura—means "the Land of Glowing Skies." People flock here for many reasons. Not just for the above-mentioned breathtaking view. This island, over 85% of which is a national park, gives prime glimpses of rare birds like the kiwi.


Rangitoto (North Island)

You’ll remember the sight of Rangitoto Island—a volcanic cone just off Auckland shores—for years to come. At sunset everything’s falling. Like Rangitoto is pulling down the sun itself. The surrounding sky looks like a wispy porcelain map beautifully stained with dark orange flames. That’s just the view from Auckland. Wait ‘til you get on the island. The view from there is just as magnificent. Plus, there are black lava caves to explore and much hiking to be done. And it’s all in the midst of the world’s largest pohutukawa forest.

Summer is drawing to a close in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are getting shorter...

That heralds more light for New Zealanders at the other end of the world. Say yes to an invincible, unending summer in the Land of the Long White Cloud with a locum tenens assignment. Learn more about our current opportunities for physicians. Meanwhile, watch this short video that wraps New Zealand up in a shiny, impeccable package.

Topics: Everett Fitch, North Island, South Island, Franz Josef, Tongariro, Catlins, Hot Water Beach, Stewart Island, Rangitoto, New Zealand, Milford Sound, Rotorua

Ta moko: A rite of passage for any New Zealand locum tenens

Posted by Saralynn White

Tattoos have been gaining in popularity nearly worldwide for a number of years now. In fact, the word “tattoo” - in all its iterations and translations - has been among the #1 searched beauty terms on the Internet since 2003.

Little did Captain James Cook know when he coined the word “tattow” in 1769 (the same year he discovered New Zealand), that the tattoo would become all the rage. We say the Māori tribes have always known that “skin is in.”

According to Māori mythology, tattooing (“tā moko”) commenced in the underworld, and their tattoos (“Moko”) are as unique to the wearer as their own fingerprints.

new zealand maori carving head thinkstockFor the Māori people, the moko was much more than decoration; it was a symbol of rank, status, genealogy,
tribal history, and eligibility to marry - not to mention strength, virility, and courage. You think those guys with full sleeves these days are macho? The needle method is child’s play compared to this. 

Tā Moko is carved into the skin, making incisions
(deep grooves) with a range of chisels ("uhi") made from bone (usually albatross), which are attached to a handle, then struck with a mallet (check out the video of Ta Mako below).

The “ink” is actually pigment made from the soot of vegetation like Kauri Gum, ngarehu (burnt timbers) or awheto - a caterpillar that mutates into a vegetable found on the floor of most native forests.

Tā moko generally started at puberty. The first moko marked a boy’s transition from childhood to adulthood, and was accompanied by a series of rites and rituals. Moko marked other milestone events in a Māori’s life, but it was also a way to immediately identify a Māori’s position of power and authority. All high-ranking Māori were tattooed, and those who went without tattoos were considered to be without status or worth.

new zealand maori statues 123rfDespite the painful application, moko art is beautiful and incredibly unique. Based on curved shapes and spirals, the designs are curvilinear, with intricate and distinct patterns. The warrior’s face was the most prevalent place for tā moko (the Māori considered the head to be the most sacred part of the body), though they generally also covered the legs and buttocks. Moko craftsmen carefully studied a person's bone structure before commencing his or her art, and full-face tattoos were very time consuming. In fact, a single piece could take months or even years to complete. Fasting was also part of the process - mostly because the face was so swollen they couldn’t eat!

Although moko was also intended to make a warrior more attractive to women, females were also tattooed - though usually only on the lips and chin. And while it’s no surprise that others have come to admire the beauty of tā moko, copying a pattern is very insulting to the Māori culture. Even if it’s done with respect, the Māoris believe copying is nothing short of identity theft

Tā moko (including the chisel) and many other Māori traditions are now experiencing a revival in New Zealand. While you locum Down Under, don’t miss Rotorua. This heartland of Māori culture is a must-see experience where you can be an eyewitness to the deeply moving expressions of all-things Māori; see legends brought to life through music, art, and dance (like the famous haka); and even witness a little Moko in the making. We don’t expect you’ll come away with a Māori tattoo of your own, but who knows, some people don’t leave their home-away-from home without one…

Watch tā moko in progress in this video:



Topics: Ta Moko, Rotorua, Maori, Tattoo, Haka

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Twice a month, our inquisitive locum tenens community asks us to tackle topics ranging from cuisine and culture to recreation and entertainment. We also include great storytelling from our doctors. Have a topic you’d like to read about? Let us know.

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