New Zealand is no doubt one of my favourite places in the world. My sentiment with New Zealand however, lies not only from pure admiration. New Zealand was place where I discovered myself. At 26, I just got out of a relationship, and did what any girl who felt a little lost would do – book myself a holiday to somewhere far away! Since it was going to be my first ever solo trip, I wanted to go to a place where people spoke English and where it was safe for a girl to travel alone. I landed my choice on to New Zealand, South Island.
The flight was a memorable one. I was mid-air when the year turned anew! I celebrated 2017 on the flight to Dunedin. Everyone on the flight was cheering, I smiled to myself. However, I have to admit I had second thoughts on the flight. Who was I to think I could survive 9 days alone in this foreign country? I landed a little after midnight on the 1st of January, it was dark and I couldn’t really see anything. I was just glad I made it to the hostel I had booked near the airport. That morning, I woke up, walked outside and all fears and doubts immediately vanished. The view from where I was standing was outstanding! The air was fresh, and it was colder than I had anticipated, but I couldn’t stop staring at the endless beauty that surrounded me! Everywhere I turned it was nature at its finest. I think God decided to make heaven on earth and He created New Zealand!
I spent 2.5 days in the charming city of Dunedin. Since it was the first day of the year, I hardly saw anybody out and about. Most shops were closed, and only a few restaurants and museums were open. I spent half a day admiring the buildings and nature that surrounded Dunedin. That evening, a family friend who was studying in Dunedin invited me to go to a gathering with his fellow students. This led me to follow them to the most amazing place I have ever seen. We went to his friend’s house located near Taeri Mouth, this house was like a house out of my dreams. They had a farm overlooking acres of open fields and trees, but what I was most amazed with was that I could see the ocean from the backyard. It was day 1 and I had fallen hard and in love with this country.
The next day in Dunedin, I planned for a tour to see blue penguins – the smallest penguin in the world! This tour started at night, since this was the time when these beautiful creatures came back to shore after a day of fishing in the ocean. This was an absolutely incredible experience! Those who know me, know I love animals (except for reptiles – I have a phobia of snakes!). The tour took place at Pilots beach on the Otago Peninsula. When I got there, albatrosses were flying above me in the sky, and seals hanging around the beach. I was filled with excitement. To view the penguins, the tour operators had built a platform that would give us a clear view of the penguins swimming to shore without disturbing them. We had to be extremely quiet and no photography flash was allowed to take photos. We all waited for the penguins to come to shore. It was getting dark, cold and windy. Then, that magical moment happened. Groups of penguins swam to shore to meet and feed their families. That night, I went to sleep beyond grateful and with a big smile on my face.
The next day I travelled to Queenstown, which would be my pit stop for the next 5 days. I decided to travel by bus. In fact, all my travels in New Zealand was by bus. It was no doubt the best decision I made. It was around 5-6 hours ride from Dunedin to Queenstown, and what a scenic ride it was! Queenstown took my breath away the second I laid my eyes on it from the window of the bus. It was like no other place I had visited before. The small hilly town surrounded by the mountains and lake Wakatipu was nothing less than magical. It was love at first sight. From Queenstown, I took a day trip to Milford Sound and Mount Cook on two different days following my arrival in Queenstown. The bus journey to both Milford Sound and Mount Cook took several hours, and again, with such incredible views. Views that now have become my inspiration for painting scenic landscapes! Milford Sound was gracious and alluring. Mount Cook was grand and magnificent. These two destinations are a must when visiting the South Island of New Zealand. The journey to the destination, however, was the icing on the cake. I was truly amazed by the amount of beauty this country had to offer.
The last two days of my stay in Queenstown was reserved to explore Queenstown itself and its surrounding town. I booked a trip to Mount Nicholas Farm. The farm was on the other side of Lake Wakatipu, so from Queenstown I had to take a boat across the lake. The view from this farm was like no other. A short ride from the main station was a spot overlooking the ocean. I couldn’t comprehend how a farm could be so beautiful.
The last day in Queenstown, I decided to go to Arrowtown. Arrowtown is a historic gold mining town. From Queenstown, you can easily get to Arrowtown by its local bus, Orbus, that runs every hour from the centre of Queenstown. I wondered through Buckingham street, which was the heart of this town, a street with shops on each side. After gushing over beautiful wool and jade merchandises, I found a trail by the Arrow river. I got myself a cup of coffee and I walked. I think I spent a good 4 hours just walking and sitting down by the river, reflecting on how my first solo trip had gone. The entire trip was an achievement for me. I was brave, I was happy, and as cliché as it sounds, I felt empowered.
You see for me, travelling is so much more than taking Instagram worthy photos. It’s about immersing in nature and being completely in the present. It’s about collecting inspiration that comes with each new place I visit. All the places that I’ve been fortunate enough to visit, has its own unique flair. Every time I travel, an influx of creative ideas rush through my mind. This is the very reason why I love to travel.