Field Notes – Exploring the South Island of New Zealand with Melissa Findley.
Melissa Findley visits one of her favourite places in the world, for an adventurous road trip in the uniquely beautiful land of the long white cloud.
It began with an idea that sparked a conversation, which saw two like-hearted photographers with tickets to the South Island of New Zealand. One Australian, the other very far from home (The Netherlands), both were united over a shared belief that New Zealand is perhaps their favourite place in the world. Thus began a two week long road trip and non-stop adventure - camping, hiking and seeking new heights (physically and emotionally) to immerse themselves in the vast, diverse and uniquely beautiful land of the long white cloud for an unforgettable and life-changing trip.
A pre-historic land, dating back to a time when dinosaurs ruled the earth, the beauty of the south remains untouched, rugged and wild leaving me flawed. To say New Zealand is incredibly special is an understatement; it’s a place like no other. A place I feel deeply connected too and will continue to visit and explore my entire life.
My friend Anne and I planned our road trip in New Zealand’s South Island around the hikes we wanted to complete. In the two weeks we did Mueller’s Hut, Hooker Track, Tasman Glacier Track - Mt Cook, Roy’s Peak - Wanaka, Ben Lomond Summit, Queenstown and we also completed majority of Getrude Saddle before being engulfed in a cloud.
We spent a night spent at Roy’s Peak in Wanaka, where we set out in the afternoon and made it in time for a beautiful and clear sunset with some new friends we met at the top. While we waited for the stars to shine we ate the pasta Anne had prepared for us earlier that day, pitched the tent and spent the night alone on the mountain, rising to the most beautiful pink sky and arguably one of the best vistas I’ve ever seen of Mt Aspiring National Park.
Returning for this trip reminded me exactly why I love travelling so much – it’s always the people you meet along the way and the small moments of perspective that change you.
On the Ben Lomond summit, I met a 79 year old man named Ian. Upon arriving at the saddle Ian was sitting on the only chair there and admiring the incredible view before us. Be began to talk and in a short but fulfilling interaction I found inspiration in a kind stranger.
Ian told us about his life as a ranger in New Zealand and when I asked him what he was doing all the way up there on this day, he simply and boldly replied “because I woke up today and decided I wanted to walk up the mountain – so I did.”
I remember thinking to myself what a beautiful statement. My personal journey through New Zealand is not without heartache - life can be hard, walking up a mountain (at 79 or 29) can be hard, however it’s moments like these that fill you up and remind you the simplicity of seeking beauty every single day. Beauty in the hearts of friends, strangers and nature.
Life can be a beautiful adventure of peaks and valleys. Without the lows, the heights we seek wouldn’t soar so fluidly through our hearts with such a profound impact.
And those friends – the ones who will jump on a plane last minute with you, who walked into your life and chose to never leave. Those reminders to take each day as it comes and quite literally put one foot in front of the other daily, walk up those mountains, figuratively and literally.
Driving the open roads, those songs, those lyrics, those moments shared with hearts-alike. The places you go - ultimately, all of those things become the very pieces of the puzzle you never knew you were missing.
They shape you. They shake you. They SAVE you.
This is what it is all about.
Find Melissa Findley’s work at www.melissa-findley.com.
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