Saturday, December 31, 2011

3XL South

Aotearoa, which means "Land of the long white cloud" in Maori, brings a strong imagery in people's minds, and most of it is coming from the South Island of New Zealand. Contrary to the North, the South Island is much bigger, larger and deeper. It is almost as if the South was three sizes bigger, an XXXL vs. a L t-shirt.

Queenstown from the Gondola

In this part of the country, Kiwis (named after the flightless bird during WWI) and tourists alike are outnumbered by cows (6 million) and sheep (40 million). Traveling in South Island is like driving across a giant farm with one asphalt road crossing the estate. You don’t actually need a GPS, because [a] it’s usually out of focus and [b] it gives useless info (“Turn Left in 180 km”). No matter how you want to explore the South Island (clockwise or counter clockwise), the only decent road that goes around the country could not be missed.

Lake Wakatipu on the road to Glenorchy

Everywhere where eyes can lay has cattle or sheep in the picture. The good thing about it is, there is nothing bad to say about the lamb rack and other meat meals except that daily intake is a gargantuan delight, and also that portions were sized up for a hungry giant sheep shearer who requests his first meal after a three-week tramping across the mountains. You can gain kilos by just looking at menu. Everything is XXXL, including meals.

Fox Glacier

Volcanoes, valleys, plains, rivers, lakes, glaciers, national parks, and one road. Everything has been designed to enjoy nature at its best. From Queenstown, the adrenaline-pumping city to Wanaka, the-quiet family village, the south part of South Island is covered with world-class trekking and jaw-dropping landscape. Take your time to explore the Southland region even more than the other parts of the islands.

Lake Wanaka

Nothing can beat the things you can see in this part of the world, and it is very difficult to extract one or two places out the many there. But under pressure, one can mention that Queenstown, Wanaka, and Fox Glacier regions are must-do. It will depend on what you prefer, how much time you have and what you can afford to trace your travel plans, but these three destinations must be attacked head first. It seems that even if you spend a life time exploring the region you wouldn’t see everything that nature has to propose.

Queenstown from the Gondola

For me, South Island is reasoning with long drives across fantastic landscapes, cutting though changing weathers, listening to 80’s music, dipping marshmallows in hot chocolate and trying to fit the 360-degree, larger-than-life panoramas inside my tiny camera. It was also a compilation of first-timer experience for me: first time walking on a Glacier, flying in a helicopter, receiving a speeding ticket, and experiencing an earth quake.

Queenstown Sunset

XXXL South Island is a must-do in a traveler's life, and certainly the best way to do it would be to drive around in a camper home to be able to stop on a heart beat to appreciate the landscape.