The peaks that surround the lake and shelter Queenstown followed us as we drove out on the Stray tour bus at 8am. You know I’m kind of amazed sometimes with New Zealand. How can so much grandeur and beauty live in one country? I mean, I rationally know that beauty is relative and New Zealand is blessed not only with geographic diversity but a low population and that those two things have conspired to create the landscape I see. But I still can’t get over the wonder and might of the nature I encounter.
Our driver said the trip to Te Anau and then to Milford Sound is considered one of the most beautiful in the country and is his favorite part of the trip. I think I’ll always remember those sharp mountains piercing the sky, tipped with clouds and lingering snow, covered with hardy trees and flamboyant flowering bushes (which are actually a weed) that stretch across the land like a painter’s brush stroke. Sheep graze the cleared fields below, basking in the sunlight with their lambs.
On wards we went through the beauty and the sunlight. Plans were made about the group dinner and future accommodation. My mind wandered through the peaks and the colors. Thoughts of Trump plagued my mind and made my shoulders tense. The tension only increased in Te Anau as the others split up and I was left alone, unsure what to do and who to talk to. Awkwardness and anxiety (on my part) ensued. I was out of my element and the adjustment period can be rough.
Grocery shopping and lunch and we were back on the road to Fiordland National Park. Tension and Trump still lingered in my body and mind as we were introduced to the evergreens, flat plains, and towering mounts. The old beasts carved by long-lost glaciers wowed and pulled my thoughts towards their jagged ridges and tree coated sides. We paused for several photo ops.
More driving and picture perfect beauty, and then the tunnel. Before Homer Tunnel was built in the 1940s, the only way to Milford Sound was by boat. It was pitch black in that twentieth century passage, save the occasional sweep of a passing light. It felt like we were being transported through the darkness to another world, another time, another place. Everyone was at the edge of their seats and collectively gasped when we saw the view on the other side. Glacier sculpted vistas peppered with green and white and drizzled with a long, winding road.
It seems almost impossible that I could continue to be enamored and flabbergasted by the views and nature of this country. Several people commented on the fact that they’ve taken so many photos during their time in New Zealand that they’ve filled up their phones with the country’s beauty.
The sun and the Asian tourists were out in full force at the Milford Sound ferry terminals, but our boat was relatively empty. We all gathered on the open top deck to take in the “eighth wonder of the world.” The wind was as fierce as the sun. Hair defied gravity, clothes desperately clung to bodies, and items threatened to escape into the winking waters. But no one seemed to care. The mighty grandeur of the fiords couldn’t be missed. Trees fearlessly clinged to moss, waterfalls tumbled down through the cracks in the cliffs, penguins climbed over the rocky shores, seals hung out in the afternoon light, other cruise ships pushed along, and the ship’s captain occasionally popped in on the PA system to narrate. The time passed and all the remaining tension in my body flew away in the wind.
Afterwards, as we back drove through the park back to reach our accommodation, I looked up at the grey rocky faces of the peaks and felt their age and power. They’ve seen so much come and go, seen the Maori walk their tracks, seen the English come in curious and hungry, seen the slaughter and death and silence. And they continue to stand, sentinels to time and change. If they could speak to me about my worries of the future, they would look down with their old and calm eyes and say in a deep throaty rumble:
“This too shall pass.”