This is an entry in the We Said Go Travel Writing Contest written by Jane Stanfield from America. Thanks for your entry Jane!
I hadn’t planned to fall in love. I was looking for a place to travel internationally by myself when my friend Bette suggested New Zealand. She said it was small, safe, fun, and would offer a perfect combination of quiet and exciting things to do in a short amount of time.
Picture it! New Zealand has two islands that together are the size of Colorado, lies in the Southern Hemisphere with reversed seasons, enjoys a slower pace of life, and offers a diversity of experiences to fit any palette. I was smitten by the people, climate, atmosphere, and my first decaf flat white trim (Kiwi for a decaf café latte!)
New Zealand has art, culture, wineries, sheep farms, wildlife watching, Maori cultural tours, museums, concerts, bungee jumping, botanic gardens, lots of bird watching, hiking, camping, skiing, wind surfing, diving, Shotover Jet Boats, whale watching, trains, Zorbing (look it up!), helicopter rides, and candy factories. Where else can you tour the actual sites from the Lord of the Rings movies? I have done my share of most of these, but I prefer to go slowly in New Zealand and use my eyes and ears to experience the beauty of nature.
Every time I visit, I go to Fiordlands on the Southwestern coast of the Southern Island. Fiordlands has roads you can drive, trails to hike, places to camp, and areas of interest to visit. I, however, prefer to see it by ship!
My first trip knocked my socks off and I was only on Milford Sound for a brief tease. During my cruise, I spent two hours gently steaming up the Sound towards the Tasman Sea past a stunning array of waterfalls with mist. To my delight, the mountains rose straight out of the water in front of me. Penguins and sea birds were all over and showing off. I stood outside glued to the rail to take it all in along with every drop of mist I could collect. As it was a bit cool, I had the railing to myself. My fellow cruisers laughed when I finally came inside because my hair was windblown and soaked. But they could tell by the smile on my face that I had an amazing time. With only two hours on the water, feeling cheated and wanting more, I vowed that when I returned, I would find a way to spend more time on the Fiords of New Zealand.
On my second trip, I went up Doubtful Sound on an overnight excursion. For the day outing, I had the choice of an individual sea kayak, or a small boat with a scientist to answer questions. I knew I wanted to spend my time looking and listening instead of fumbling with a paddle, so I chose the boat. The next morning, I was up before dawn sitting in silence with my shipmates on the deck in order to experience what Captain Cook heard when he harbored off the coast in the 1700’s. I sat in the dark and watched the sky lighten with no mechanical sound to interrupt the peace. Suddenly, I could hear a single birdcall, then a dozen, then more and more and more. I was awed and humbled by the magic of the experience. I can’t wait to go back and spend even more time exploring the Fiords.
Now are you up for an adventure in the dark?
The directions were to climb up on a ledge over water, turn my back to the drop, hold the large inflated car tire to my rear end, and jump out and backwards to drop six feet and land sitting in the tire in the river. Did I mention that there was almost no light except for headlamps? I did it! And I am sure you are asking WHY?
How else could I float down the underground river. Why? To see the lights on the ceiling of the cave, which are actually the phosphorescent poo of the larva of a gnat that live in the glowworm caves at Waitomo New Zealand of course! I was outfitted in a wet suit, huge boots, and a construction type helmet with a headlamp. As my group formed a flotilla, we glided gently down the river and viewed what looked like stars above our heads. I was fascinated and thrilled and thought, where else but in New Zealand?
I am sure you will be charmed, you will be amazed, and you will have the time of your life. GO FOR IT – New Zealand!
About the Author: Jane Stanfield has a huge passion for animals, volunteering and international travel such that she quit her job to travel around the world completing 12 volunteer projects, seven with wildlife, within one year.
Jane is a professional speaker, the award-winning author of Mapping Your Volunteer Vacation, and volunteer travel consultant. Through Where Is She Heading, she helps others explore the most addicting way travel by connecting with people and seeing the world as a volunteer.