I just returned from my trip to New Zealand, and boy was it amazing. It came at a perfect time - after the stress of all the papers I had to write, to be lost in the utter beauty of that faraway land felt absolutely amazing. In the north island, I went to Auckland, NZ's biggest city (1 in 3 Kiwis call Auckland home), but I spent the bulk of my trip in the South Island. I didn't get to see everything I wanted to (incentive to go back?) but what I did see blew my mind and left an impression nonetheless.
I will say that I have dreamed of going to New Zealand since the first time I saw Lord of the Rings. Dorky, I know, but I just remember watching them and going, "Where is that place? I want to go!" Anyway, no words of mine can ever properly explain it, but New Zealand is the most untouched, unspoiled place ever. Somebody said to me, "Yeah, it is basically scenery on steroids." Snow covered mountains, kilometers and kilometers of open road, hillsides dotted with sheep, and mountains that rise sharply out of nothingness are all the norm in New Zealand. I was enchanted.
Truth be told, I don't even know how to explain what I felt when I was there. For one, I felt refreshed. It was nice to get out of Melbourne, out of the haze of the city, and be outside. And then there is this ... I have been a lot of new places in the past year, I've seen and done a lot and it's all been very far away from home but I never really felt that distance. For some reason though, in New Zealand, I felt like I had left the world as I knew it and landed in some other planet. I felt the farthest away from home that I have ever felt in my life. I can't fully explain why either, since New Zealand is a lot like both Australia and the United States in many regards. It wasn't a cultural difference that made me feel far away. Perhaps it was just the sheer size of everything - the wide open spaces, the crisp air, and the fact that I knew that this was a place that is not at all difficult to lose yourself in. Drive for ten minutes outside of any city and you are in the heart of what New Zealand is.
I won't bore you all with the nitty gritty details of every little thing I did. I went by myself and ended up meeting a girl from Canada who I traveled with for most of the trip, which was cool. I drove all over, and kind of just let things unfold as they wanted to. It all felt very wide open. Going to Milford Sound was definitely the highlight of my trip. Because my feeble words really don't do it any justice, I'll put a couple pictures here and just say that it was one of the most impressive things I have ever seen in my life. I did a boat cruise on the sound, which is basically the only thing you can do there, and saw dolphins and stared up at the humongous mountains and felt oh so insignificant. Milford Sound was so beautiful it nearly moved me to tears, and that day I just felt so glad to be alive and in the midst of something so impressive.
Also, the whole "winter in the southern hemisphere" thing tripped me up in New Zealand in a way that it hadn't quite hit me in Australia. Sure, it was slightly strange that it was 90 degrees when I got here in February, but SB weather is always nice in Feb., so it didn't freak me out that much. However, to be in freezing weather (literally, it was 0 celsius) and seeing everyone so bundled up in June was just WEIRD. I associate cold weather, if it occurs at all, with Christmas time. I felt out of my element, haha, and I definitely made good use out of the seven euro gloves that I bought in Spain. Speaking of Spain, I met some Spaniards in Dunedin. One night, they made tortilla and other delicious foods from Spain that I miss immensely, and were nice enough to share with me, which was amazing. Spain aside, one more thing worth mentioning is that Kiwis are about the nicest people I've ever met in my life. They are just so damn friendly, and their accents are golden. Love it.
Anyway, I'm here in Melbourne again for a few more days and then I'm flying up to Queensland for a last hurrah with all my favorite EAP buddies. This trip will include copious beach time (a welcome change from the freezing weather I've been experiencing lately), the Great Barrier Reef, four wheel driving, and maybe a kangaroo or two. So until then, family and friends, I LOVE YOU GUYS WITH ALL MY HEART AND CAN'T FREAKING WAIT TO SEE YOU. Seriously. I'm feeling ready to come back to life as I knew it ...