I love meeting new places. A new national park, a sea, a lake, a mountain, a landscape. To me, it's a friendship waiting to be born--an obsession and craving that I'll blissfully suffer from for the rest of my life. These places become part of my mind's vocabulary, glimpses and snapshots and panoramas that will stir in my dreams until I can, once more, stand at their feet or shore.
While on my 10-day roadtrip through New Zealand in December, I met many places that now play through my mind like an old movie--blurry around the edges, but crystal clear in the power of the visceral feeling pounding through my chest. I am haunted, driven to re-live each moment as it swirls through both my conscious and sub-conscious.
Sometimes, my mind walks down the path toward Aoraki/Mt. Cook, reaching out to touch a flower I've never seen before. I watch clouds blowing off the mountain as I sit at the foot of Hooker Lake at sunrise, my toes in the bone-chilling, chalky, glacier-fed water. It's again the moment I finally allow myself to look up after running down the path to the lookout at The Milford Sound, blinking unbelivingly at Mitre Peak and the fiord in its full, heartracing beauty. I feel the warmth on the soles of my bare feet as I wander through the huge boulders of Castle Hill. I sit down on the cold, sunny shore of Lake Pukaki, riveted by the blinding turquoise of the water and the white of the snowy, distant mountain. I can feel the wind scouring my skin, cheerfully trying to blow me over on the Mt. John Observatory. Once in awhile, it's the simplest moment of cradling a long black coffee with both hands as I look out the windows of The Old Mountaineer's Cafe at the distant peaks. Then I'm flying over New Zealand on my way to Christchurch, staring down as a landscape previously only a map becomes real, one river, one mountain, one vista at a time.
I thought, perhaps, New Zealand would remind me a lot of Oregon and Canada. After all, I live in and near a wonderland of forests, beaches, waterfalls, turquoise lakes, mountains, rainforests, and seemingly-endless beautiful landscapes. I also live in a country home to Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Grand Staircase, Big Sur, The Olympic Peninsula, and on and on. Would New Zealand be different enough to weave a wild spell on my soul?
The short, perhaps unsurprising, answer is "yes". It's difficult to describe the exotic beauty of the country, but exotic it is. The trees are so different, the plants, the flowers. The sudden, compact landscapes--piled and layered all together in what might take hours or days to traverse elsewhere. The fast change from a warm, sunny, summer day to a cloudy, windy, mountainous sunset. Oceans and blankets of lupines, pouring along the sides of highways, rivers and trails. The smells, foreign and blissful. The light, golden and wild and weird. And, perhaps more than anything else, the SOUND. Birds. Birds are everywhere. They sing songs I've never heard, musical and so lyrical they sound almost fake. Along the trails, in the trees, fluttering through bushes, outside the window of my hotel or bed & breakfast room.
Other seemingly-small things make for that feeling of Different. Driving on the other side of the road, hoardes of one-lane bridges, ordering decidedly un-American coffee, the refreshing national obsession with practical environmentalism, long days after coming from long nights, the accents. I found myself entranced with every day, the passing time submerging me deeper into a culture unique to this place.
I know no other way to experience a place than by becoming as much a part of it as I can. Touching the plants, walking barefoot on the moss and sand and rocks, stopping to wade through the grass, finding the local pub, trying vegimite, dipping toes in every lake and ocean I could. I longed to burn the feeling of being there, simply being there, into my muscle memory.
Here are the postcards of my journey. I have never been more proud of a group of images, and I have never been as proud of a travel photography series. Each place I visited, I feel I have an image that breathes the feeling of being there right back into me. I hope you enjoy this series as much as I enjoyed making it.
My South Island New Zealand Roadtrip
Day 1: The Inland Scenic Route / Lake Tekapo
Day 2: Mt. John / Lake Pukaki / Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park
Day 3: Hooker Valley Track / Lindis Pass / Glenorchy
Day 4: The Glenorchy-Paradise Road / The Milford Sound
Day 5: The Milford Sound
Day 6: The Milford Road / Wanaka / Haast Pass / Mt. Aspiring National Park
Day 7: Glacier Walks / West Coast
Day 8: Pancake Rocks / Truman Track / Rainforest / Motukiekie Beach
Day 9: Arthur's Pass / Castle Hill / Christchurch
Day 10: Christchurch
The lovely Anne Simone joined me for 8 out of the 10 days I spent on the South Island before we flew on to Melbourne, Australia to photograph a wedding. She made for a fantastic adventure partner as we laughed and gasped and talked and schemed in the car for hours. Thanks, Anne.