Kia Ora, New Zealand!
Before you read on, close your eyes and take a few seconds to recall the many landscapes you may have taken in during your travels, from soaring mountains to vast seas, steaming rainforests to barren deserts, roaring rivers to island oases, and on and on.
Now open your eyes.
New Zealand, we discovered, during our three-week jaunt around this small South Pacific country (which also kicked-off our year of travel), features all of these environmental scenes (and more!), often within a short drive of one another. We chose to spend most of this visit on New Zealand’s South Island, driving in a caravan from Christchurch across the Southern Alps via famed Arthur’s Pass (the highest in country) to the West Coast and down to the massive (although sadly, shrinking) glaciers and Fiordland’s majestic Milford Sound, looping around through Lake Tekapo and Hanmer Springs to end up in the island’s far north-west corner, striking Golden Bay, which is formed by the Farewell Spit.
Our journey took us through breathtaking scenery and up close to natural wonders, featuring vibrant, fantastical colors and real feats of nature. And as we moved around, the sights we took in were both familiar (“Oh, this reminds me of the windswept beaches of Portugal!” Or, “This is just like driving through the desert foothills of Arizona!”) and alien at the same time, often pumped up and larger than life, wilder and rawer than our previous experiences. Bucolic vistas awaited us at many turns along our drive, featuring dramatic (and often stunningly situated), vast paddocks (fields) of grazing sheep and cows. It’s no wonder the livestock outnumber people by a wide margin! We were especially appreciative of New Zealand’s deep respect for the native Maori culture and the widespread conservation of land was both impressive and inspiring.
New Zealand is certainly far flung from the States (about 24-hours in the air from New York), and we did truly feel like we’d been transported to another place and another time, which seems to have been the perfect way to re-set our minds and prepare for the rest of our journey ahead.