Photos: Explore New Zealand

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  1. Kepler Track

    The 60 kilometer Kepler Track rewards serious hikers with full-strength high country scenery. The track leads to views of lakes Te Anau and Manapouri, the alpine grasslands of Jackson Peaks and spectacular U-shaped glacial valleys. Department of Conservation huts provide accommodation during the 4 day walk. (www.newzealand.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Water sport paradise

    With more than 15,000 kilometers of coastline, New Zealand is a water sport paradise. Sailing, swimming, diving and fishing are just some of the options for marine recreation. Or you could test yourself with one of the more extreme sports, like kite surfing and wave jumping. (www.newzealand.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Poor Knights

    The fish of the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve are famous for their friendly nature, and some of the subtropical species are found nowhere else in New Zealand. Spotted Black Groper, Mosaic Moray and Lord Howe Island Coralfish are a few of the local stars. Squadrons of stingrays can also be seen during the warmer months. (www.newzealand.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Milford Sound

    A couple paddles their kayaks while flanked by a dolphin in New Zealand's Milford Sound in the country's stunning fiordland. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. That's our bird!

    Unique to New Zealand, there are five kinds of kiwi - three closely related Brown kiwis, the Little Spotted Kiwi and the Great Spotted Kiwi. Nocturnal and flightless, the kiwi’s long slender bill has nostrils at the lower end, so that it can detect worms, insects and grubs. Despite its awkward appearance, a kiwi can outrun a human. (www.newzealand.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Mount Cook National Park

    Glaciers cover 40 percent of Mount Cook - or Aoraki National Park, as it is also known - and is New Zealand's top spot for spectacular alpine scenery, and is the country's highest mountain. All but one of its 29 peaks is over 3,000 meters, so the park has become New Zealand's mountain climbing mecca. Non-climbers can enjoy a selection of challenging alpine walks - from the one hour Red Tarns stair-climb to the relatively flat hike to Kea Point. (www.newzealand.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Preserving culture

    The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, in Wellington, preserves and presents the taonga (treasures) of New Zealand's people. Spectacular long-term exhibitions are enhanced by diverse short-term exhibitions and a captivating events program - performances, talks, lectures, entertainment and more. (www.newzealand.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Maori men

    Ethnic Maori men from Gisborne, New Zealand, take positions on the beach after the arrival by boat of elders from Cook Island, Wednesday, December 29, 1999, to join in Gisborne's millennium celebrations. History has been harsh to the indigenous Maori and Moriori of New Zealand, but their resurgent cultures were at center stage when the country became the first major nation to enter the new millennium. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Pure Middle-earth

    The fast running rivers of the Mount Aspiring National Park can be negotiated by jet boat and kayak, allowing visitors to discover the locations for the 'Lord of the Rings' Isengard, Lothlorien and Amon Hen. With not a manmade structure in sight in this remote wilderness, it’s easy to imagine yourself in 'Middle-earth'. (www.newzealand.com) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 1/16/2008 1:23:10 PM ET 2008-01-16T18:23:10

German tourist Gerry Mayr Wednesday became the first person to fly a powered paraglider over New Zealand's tallest mountain, Mount Cook — surviving severe turbulence on the downward leg.

Mayr's paraglider feat went well on the upward leg, peaking at about 13,000 feet, well above the 12,316-foot mountain.

But wind turbulence on the way down caused the flimsy craft to fall several hundred yards before he managed to stabilize it, the experienced paraglider told local media after the flight.

"It was dangerous because I was going down with no air in the (glider) wing. It was like a bungee jump ... falling 30 meters (100 feet) a second," he said.

Mayr said the midair plummet was frightening.

"It was like a hand throwing you down to earth," he said, "and this was a very big hand with a long movement, so I went whoosh!"

After the wing stabilized, he was able to land easily at Mt. Cook airfield about 1:20 p.m. local time after the 2-hour-20-minute flight from the other side of the mountain. The flight was delayed for several hours by strong early morning wind.

"I shut the engine off over the airfield and there was no gasoline left when I finished," he said.

Mayr, 42, who runs a motorcycle shop in his home town of Konstanz, said he felt a range of emotions during the flight, from fear while in the uncontrolled descent to the delight of observing Mt. Cook close up.

"It was really, really unbelievable. You feel you are a really small person when you are up there, like you are almost nothing," he said.

Mayr, who described himself as an adventure enthusiast, said he got the idea for the flight while at home looking at photos of mountain scenery in New Zealand.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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