A window to an ancient world: Breathtaking pictures show the magnificence of New Zealand's 'place of jade'

These incredible pictures show the astonishing natural beauty of Te Wahipounamu in the south-west of New Zealand's South Island.
It is known for its reserves of the decorative stone jade. Indeed, Te Wahipounamu means 'Place of Jade' in the Maori language.
The forests and mountains are a time capsule of Gondwana, the supercontinent that fragmented into the landmasses of today’s Southern Hemisphere.
When New Zealand split off from what is now Australia to begin its own journey into the Pacific, it created an ecological separation that endured 80million years.
That long solitude has made New Zealand a showcase of Gondwanan flora and fauna. South West New Zealand is its best window on that ancient world.
Maori maintain a presence here, though their numbers are thin.
A symbolic moment came in 2005, when Mahuika’s people opened a carved meetinghouse, their first ceremonial house in 140 years. It was a statement of survival and of hope but also an acknowledgment of human impermanence, a truth expressed in a Maori proverb: 'People come and go, but the land endures'.

Emerald isle: Beech boughs and a broadleaf sapling overhang Lake Ada on Milford Track, a popular hiking trail in Te Wahipounamu in New Zealand

Overrun: Glacier-scoured lowlands north of Jackson Bay are a legacy of the Pleistocene epoch and its ice sheets. Here the Waiatoto River breaks through a gravel bulwark to meet the Tasman Sea

Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand¿s tallest mountain at 12,218 feet, gives its name to a national park bristling with peaks higher than 10,000 feet¿the pinnacle of Te Wahipounamu's sublime offerings

New Zealand's alpine parrot, a feisty, inquisitive bird known by its Maori name, kea, has joined New Zealand's long list of species threatened by introduced predators

Hump Ridge Track, a three-day hiking trail created in 2001, includes steep climbs, long walks along the coast, and views of thick stands of lichen-festooned silver beech

A Maori Hei matau (fish hook) pendant made of jade from New Zealand. File picture. The photos are taken from this month's National Geographic

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