‘I feel that New Zealand is my second home.’ – Luke Evans.
When I miss New Zealand, I like to look back over my favourite photos from the eighteen months I lived there and reminisce over the good times I had. I miss New Zealand less than I used to (i.e. not every single day anymore), but waves of ‘homesickness’ for the Land of the Long White Cloud do still hit me from time to time and I feel anxious to return, sooner rather than later!
This week, for one reason or another, I’ve been talking a bit more than usual about New Zealand and as such, today, I’m really missing the place. I woke up thinking about when I’m next going to go back, and eager to start planning my trip, even though it’s not for a little while yet (more to come soon…).
In the spirit of missing NZ, and to indulge myself, I’ve decided to post some of my favourite photos from my time there. You’ll definitely have seen most, if not all, of these photos before, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded just how damn beautiful New Zealand is!
Let’s start with the photo that I have as my desktop image on my laptop and that literally makes me smile every time I look at it. This was one of my favourite days ever in New Zealand – I climbed a mountain, sat for an hour at the top enjoying the silence and eating cheese (because, what else are you gonna do on top of a mountain?!) and I enjoyed this view of Lake Wanaka and the mountains beyond. All the while, I was filled with a real sense of achievement – I’d just climbed a mountain! – and, after a difficult few days filled with anxiety, I also finally felt peaceful again. Literally, the best day.
Taken the same day as the image above, this photo just makes me feel calm whenever I look at it. This is Diamond Lake on the Rocky Mountain and I’m sure you’ll agree, it has beautiful reflections! With autumn on the way, I love the changing colours in this photo and how still everything is, with barely a ripple on the water. By this point, I was pretty tired after about five hours of climbing and walking, but I made a detour around the circumference of the lake and thank goodness – I would never have taken this photo otherwise!
I daresay you’ll notice a difference in the quality between these images – some were taken on my Canon 1200D and many were taken on the camera I had prior to this, a Samsung point-and-shoot with a lower quality image. I definitely got better at editing images too! Despite the poorer quality camera, I took a lot of photos on it and have a lot of wonderful memories because of it. This was taken on 13th November 2014, about a month into my time in New Zealand, when I was on the Stray bus heading down the West Coast towards Queenstown. We had perfect weather that day and I got this beautiful shot of Mt Cook from Lake Matheson. In my journal, I wrote ‘Today was the day I fell in love with New Zealand properly. What an absolutely beautiful, stunning day…’ It was hard not to fall in love when the mountains, lakes, ocean, rainforests and glaciers all came together to show me the best of what this stunning country has to offer!
One rainy Saturday, four of us headed north out of Wellington to go and find the Dimholt Road (those LOTR fans out there will know what I’m on about!). It was one of the most adventurous days I had in NZ – we saw dolphins, experienced a car accident (luckily not us!), got shaken up by a landslide, trekked up a river bed to see the hoodoos you can see in the photo and did six river crossings in all – which included taking our shoes and socks off at one point and wading almost knee deep through a torrent of water. It was probably a bit stupid, but it was also hilarious fun and I still smile when I think back on that day with three of the closest friends that I had whilst I lived in Wellington.
P and I headed to Rotorua for a long weekend in July 2015. It was partly a test to see if we would be able to cope spending two and a half months travelling together on The Long Journey Home, and partly to escape the Wellington winter (which could drag on a bit) and experience a new part of New Zealand. During the weekend, we took the opportunity to do a day trip to White Island, a volcanic island 50km offshore which we reached by boat and then spent a few hours exploring the island on foot. It was a fantastic day out – the weather was perfect and it just felt great to be away from Wellington for a while. This was our view as we approached the island…
You may or may not believe me, but this photo hasn’t been edited at all. The saturation levels haven’t been upped and the yellow really was that yellow! This was our view whilst on White Island, and it was pretty awesome! We were given hard hats and gas masks for our own protection, and had an awesome guided tour around the island. You can read much more about our day here.
This is one of my favourite photos from New Zealand, and mainly because it was taken completely by accident (I spent no time setting this up) and then I didn’t even realise that I had a good shot of Mt Cook until about six months later when I was casually scrolling through my images and stumbled across it. I was lucky enough to visit Mt Cook National Park three times altogether, and this was the first time I was there. This was also the only time that I actually saw Aoraki / Mt Cook – both other times it was shrouded in cloud. This was also the only time I walked up the Hooker Valley to get as close as I could to the base of Mt Cook – the other times I took other walks in the area, so I really was lucky with this photo!
By contrast to the image of Aoraki / Mt Cook above, the third time I visited the national park, I spent ages setting up some shots of the Tasman Glacier and the surrounding mountains. The clouds clung to the crags and added an eerie atmosphere to the proceedings, making for some great shots! The Tasman Glacier made me feel sad – it is New Zealand’s longest glacier but it’s retreating rapidly and when I was there, at the end of summer, I was a long way from the glacier itself and Lake Tasman that the glacier feeds into dominated the scene. As you can see, the glacier itself was very dirty too – and I couldn’t help but feel that climate change was really being seen in action here.
Wellington. My main home in New Zealand and a city that I will be fond of all of my life. Nestled around the harbour and flanked on all sides by steep wooded hills, this city is truly special. Away from the city centre, you can drive around the bays and feel in minutes as though you’re a million miles away from the capital city. And then, just as quickly, you’re back amongst high rises and wooden houses rising steeply up the hillsides and it’s back to city life. This photo was taken from a viewpoint just beyond the famous wind turbine that can be seen from much of Wellington. To the right of the image is Mt Victoria, another well-known viewpoint, and to the left is the CBD and the ferry terminal. In the far distance is the Hutt Valley and beyond that, the Rimutaka Mountain Range, heading north.
As well as all the mountains, New Zealand also has a wealth of beautiful waterfalls to photograph. I went to Tongariro National Park on numerous occasions, but only did the famous one-day walk over Mt Tongariro once. On my third time in the park, I walked with C around some of the lower ground below the volcano, and we spent quite a lot of time following this river. I also spent quite a lot of time getting this shot – I was practising with slow-shutter speed and still learning how to use the manual settings on my Canon (it was pretty new then) so this waterfall provided the perfect opportunity for me to fiddle around and see what results I could get. Needless to say, I was pretty happy with this image! C and I then walked about ten more kilometres before meeting up with the others later on, once they’d finished their Tongariro trek.
I only managed to get to Milford Sound once during my time in New Zealand, and I really wish I’d gone again!It’s high on my list of priorities to return there, and also to visit Doubtful Sound. We did have more beautiful weather for our trip to the Sound though, and I can still vividly remember how awestruck I was by the entire day. In my journal I wrote: ‘…words and photo don’t do it justice – it is one of those places you simply have to go to and experience for yourself… It is so majestic, a place to be described mostly in superlatives. Quite simply stunning. Beauty around every corner…‘ It took this photo of Mitre Peak just as our boat left the dock. I can’t wait to go back under my own steam (I was still with Stray on this trip) and I daresay I’ll stop countless times to take millions of photos! How can you resist amidst such splendour?!
All moody blues and greens, with the waves crashing and smashing against the jagged rocks. I ripped my feet to shreds walking across the rocks barefoot, trying to get a good shot of the spray whipping up into the air. When we arrived at Cape Palliser, the sun was shining and the sky brilliant, cornflower blue. By the time we left, the clouds had rolled in and rain was threatening. The colour of that water though…
I came here in May 2015 during my tour of the North Island with Stray. It was amazing to experience the Maori culture first hand and learn more about it. You can read the full story from my time at Lake Aniwhenua here. This was my favourite photo from the night though – as the sun sank below the horizon and made this beautiful flare on the chilly lake water, casting a golden glow over everything. The next morning there was a hoar frost and the world sparkled under a coat of ice.
Another great day in Wanaka – my favourite place in the entire country and home to my favourite national park too – Mt Aspiring. In May 2015, I drove deep into the park along a dirt road, driving through twelve fords, and then hiked to the bottom of the Rob Roy Glacier. I was alone the whole day and I came out of there feeling intrepid, on top of the world, as if I could do anything. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone really is an amazing thing to do from time to time, and it does need to be done. It’s surprising how quickly you can retreat back into your safe bubble and stop pushing yourself to try new things. I must remember this day more often and make it a priority to push myself more.