It's like a natural Wonderland, New Zealand. The landscape is overwhelming in a spectacular way, literally taking your breath away. I almost had to pinch my arm on a few occasions, just to remind myself that I was still on planet Earth. A land so surreal, with vibrant blue skies, low-hanging clouds and lush, green hills that give way to towering, dark mountains.
Though known for its dramatic scenery, New Zealand's beauty extends beyond just physicality. Its purity, serenity and isolation easily explain its nickname, "Godzone."
With only 4 million people residing on its two islands, New Zealand is hardly populated compared to other nations; thus, offering immense landscapes and splendor. When surrounded by natural beauty, without so many trivial distractions, one is able to enjoy the scenery, find peace within themselves, become open to new ideas and experiences...and discover what truly is "real" in this complicated world.
At points during our visit, we drove 100 kilometers without another vehicle on the windy roads. Whether through the Southern Alps or along the rocky west coast, I sometimes forgot how neon signs assault your vision with their dancing lights and car fumes infiltrate your lungs and sting your eyes. For the second time in my life, I felt more alive than ever before...in the way that only nature can invigorate you, nudge you with its open skies and heavenly landscape. It was like falling in love all over again with nature, myself... the world.
As the saying goes, the journey is more important than the destination. And my journey led me to Doubtful Sound. While on the overnight cruise, 70 other passengers and myself had the entire fjord to ourselves. To arrive at this celestial fjord, we surrendered ourselves to a boat that sped across the lovely Lake Manapauri, then we stepped on land and boarded a bus to cross the Wilmett Pass, the most expensive road in NZ...and from there, we became the only visitors of Doubtful Sound. There was no other humans for hundreds of kilometers. That, in and of itself, was amazing.
While on that cruise, we witnessed the glory of Doubtful Sound on a sunny day, which was only dotted with clouds, as well as the forested mountains engulfed in fog and rain. We also were placed to encounter some of the fjord's residents- seals, dolphins, sea lions, penguins and other nearly extinct birds. Yet, something else from that experience resonates with me on a different level to this day.
Our nature guide, who was very passionate and knowledgeable about the fjords (and quite dashing and witty, on a side note), gave a slide show presentation after nightfall. Holding the audience of 70 people captive with his superb storytelling skills and snarkiness, he spoke of the fjord's discovery and history, as well as of the native animals and those introduced. Yet, even though the overview was interesting, it was a more philosophical diatrite that grazed my soul --
Everyone who comes to Doubtful Sound loves the immense beauty of Fiordland but sadly has to return to the "real world." Yet, the "real world" isn't as bona fide as you may think. It's filled with "things" like TV, video games, iPods, designer clothes, flashy cars...all of which are man-made and hardly "real." What's pure and authentic is this fjord, which was carved out by a glacier thousand of years ago, and remains unchanged (for the most part).
And, it's oh so true. Our "things" don't really make us happy...they just offer us comfort, property, distraction. What can make us happy and does in a literal way (unbeknownst to many) is the immense beauty of this world and what it offers us, whether quenching our thirst, providing us shelter or giving us grand, panoramic views. And it does bring me great happiness and will continue to do so. I am forever changed by my Kiwi experience and am thankful for the opportunity to travel there and experience the land, people, culture and inner journey.... And I cannot wait to be surprised, once again, by the world.
Until next time...