Prior to moving overseas for three months at the beginning of this year, I had only been overseas once in my life. In late June — early July 2015, my best friend and I went to New Zealand for three weeks. We had initially planned to go island hopping in Hawaii, but we began planning literally four months out — and as full-time uni students (and my best friend being a mother to a beautiful little girl) somewhere closer and cheaper just suited us better. I’ve called this space ‘Global Chapters’, so I suppose NZ would be considered to be ‘Chapter 2: Close to Home’.
This first part is probably my favourite place that we went, and that is why it’s first up. It was one of the first places that we went. Two days into our road trip of the South Island, we left Dunedin and went to Te Anau. We were only there one night, but it was a definitive highlight for me and I wish that we had stayed longer. We drove our rental pulsar from our accommodation in Te Anau to Milford Sound.
I have only one regret of the day: that we didn’t think ahead and go in the early morning to do a boat tour. By the time that we got there, it was late afternoon and we just got to watch seals speed around in the shallows trying to catch fish. It was still a surreal time. I love Milford Sound for a lot of reasons, but it reminded me of Jurassic Park, and I fell in love.
One thing to keep in mind is that yes, the landscape is flawless throughout the year, but you will see on tourism websites and the like that the skies are blue and it’s all jade greens and sapphire blues — it is like this even in Winter (when we went), but it is overcast most of the cold season, apparently. Snow will cover the mountain peaks and everything will be shaded in darker tones…it is still 150% worth going to.
The only thing that I remember clearly about that day was the feeling that I got when I first saw the snow falling in soft little flakes all around us. I had never been overseas before. We were driving along this winding road, with a full view of the ice caps on either side of us. The drive into Milford Sound is a scenic one, with extraordinary blue lakes and emerald trees, and mountains capped with snow white crests.
While everything was new and elating, it wasn’t until we drove out from the tunnel under the mountain that my excitement got the better of me. Driving through that tunnel and out into a world entirely white and stone mountain sides is still one of my favourite moments. It’s like entering an entirely new universe. With the entry into the sound being under a giant land mass, you drive through and as soon as you leave the underside of the mountain, the snow starts to fall rapidly around you.
I remember literally standing and looking straight up, and the mountains were so monumental that even looking straight above me, I could still see their peaks framing the infinite white sky. At that vantage point, it looked like the sky was falling down…the flakes of snow falling from the endless white and propelling themselves into my face. Everything was cold. But it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that the sky was falling down, because everything was so beautiful.
And even though I remember all of this, that feeling stands out more than anything else. The feeling of watching the snow fall to the ground and coat the car, the trees, our clothes. I honestly didn’t think that I would miss travelling so much so quickly, but I do understand now how once people come back home, they yearn for more of the places that they’ve never been before.