The last six weeks have been a whirlwind! I just returned to New Zealand after traveling in Australia and the Cook Islands. I am back in Wanaka for a few days preparing for my South Island road trip! It’s been six months since I left the U.S. for my year-long adventure, and I never anticipated how enriched my life would become through this experience. I am grateful for the friendships I’ve made and for all of the adventures. However, I’ve been feeling homesick for my family and friends back at home. My parents are still without power on St. John and it has been incredibly challenging to reach them. We do manage to connect (usually very early my time) and they are coping, but I wish I could be there for them. There are times where I feel lonely and so far away from it all. I know the cycle of highs and lows are natural, and I am trying to embrace these moments for what they are and not push them away because they are uncomfortable. The incredible beauty of New Zealand reminds me to be present and enjoy each moment for what it is.
Doubtful Sound, Fiordland National Park
Before I left for Australia, I traveled to Fiordland National Park on my own to experience firsthand the dramatic fiords of Doubtful Sound. I chose an overnight cruise aboard a Schooner through Real Journeys, and it’s been one of the best experiences I’ve had in New Zealand thus far. It was a rainy day, but our guide wasn’t just trying to make us feel better when he said that the rainy days are the best. As we cruised through the arms of Doubtful Sound (the passages), the waterfalls were on at full force while the clouds and mist hung over the mountains. Dolphins joined us on our journey as we headed out towards the Tasman Sea. Once we reached the Tasman Sea, we were greeted by sea lions sunbathing on the rocks and playing in the waves. As we made our way back up one of the arms, we were fortunate to see a rare Fiordland Crested Penguin!
Once we moored at our home for the night in Precipice Cove, we jumped into the kayaks to explore the cove and enjoy a new perspective. I was surrounded by mossy cliffs and flowing waterfalls. To say I was in awe would be an understatement. I felt a deep connection to this untouched and wild place; the rhythm of my paddling and my breath tethering me to this moment. After our paddle, a few brave souls jumped off the boat into the ice cold water. I had no intention of jumping in (I’m forever spoiled by the warm water of the Caribbean), but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity so I jumped into the water – yes it was FREEZING (but worth it!)
Early morning we were again overwhelmed by the scenery around us: cue the Jurassic Park theme song. We’d had rain all night and cruised by what felt like hundreds of waterfalls. We even got close enough to a huge waterfall to fill up our water glasses with pure drinking water. The mosses on the mountain filter the water so that it is drinkable and pure.
The best part of the day was when we traveled to the end of one of the arms and turned off the engine. We were instructed to put away our cameras and phones, stand or sit in one spot and close our eyes. We did this for a few minutes and listened to the waterfalls and native birds. It was a relief to simply enjoy this untouched area of the world without feeling the need to document every minute of it with photos and videos. My heart is full when I am immersed in nature, and it was an emotional moment for me.
Brewster Hut, Mount Aspiring National Park
Brewster Hut is another excellent walk within Mount Aspiring National Park for those looking for epic views and don’t mind a steep uphill climb. The hike starts at Fantail Falls and you are rewarded with amazing views of both Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea.
The walk starts with a river crossing and the Haast River is frigid. I felt paralyzed as I walked across the river, and yes I was on the verge of tears it hurt so badly. After the river crossing, things got better. We climbed up through native beech forest until we reached a snow covered grassy mountain face. We made our way through the snow/grass (we went in September so it was still pretty snowy) and walked across a narrow ridge until we finally reached Brewster Hut. The views of the Alps are incredible! You can either stay overnight in the hut or just do this as a day trip and come back down the same track. We had lunch at the hut and then started our steep descent. I definitely recommend a walking stick for the way down. I fell a few times and my friend graciously lent me one of her’s, which made all the difference. Oh yeah, and you have to cross the river again to get back to the car, which is just as painful as the first time! We were back in Wanaka by late afternoon to enjoy the sunshine and some gelato. This was definitely once of my favorite walks in Mt. Aspiring National Park.