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Travel: A Dream Holiday in Queenstown New Zealand

Our last station was Queenstown. Located in the southwestern part of the South Island, Queenstown can be reached by air or by road. Our preferred
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After a prolonged hiatus, I unearthed my cherished Atlas from the confines of my bookshelf. Despite the prevalence of Google Maps, my affection for the Atlas endures, reminiscent of my childhood fantasies intertwined with Sinbad, the sailor[1]. I tenderly brushed off the years of dust, revealing its pages, now tinged with the patina of time, and spread it across my table. Illuminated by the warm glow of a table lamp, distant lands materialized beneath my fingertips, marking the commencement of a new journey. This time, the compass pointed towards New Zealand.

We followed the needle and set on. This island country has two big islands, the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui) and the South Island (Te Waipounamu). With limited time and resources, as an economist, optimization is always our primary goal and as nature lovers, we decided to focus our tour on the enchanting landscapes of the South Island. Also the country’s penchant for peculiar yet straightforward place names sounded amusing, and helped us further to make the call in favor of Te Waipounamu. We wanted to experience the euphoria after reaching the– “Disappointment Creek,” where gold eluded prospectors, and be glad to know “The Great Unknown,” a mountain and its smaller counterpart, “the Little Unknown.”

A dream holiday in Queenstown

It was November 2015, spring in the Southern Hemisphere, and the imminent arrival of summer infused the air with anticipation as we embarked on our exploration.

After visiting a few touristy places, our odyssey culminated in Queenstown, nestled in the southwestern part of the South Island, accessible by air or road. Opting for the scenic bus route from Christchurch to Queenstown, we marveled at the beauty unfurling outside our windows. To our surprise and delight, the bus navigated the left side of the road, a familiar sight from our Indian roads. The snow-capped Southern Alps emerged on the horizon, and glacial lakes accompanied us on our journey.

It was springtime in the Southern Hemisphere; lupin flowers were everywhere

Queenstown, situated beside Lake Wakatipu, breathtakingly beautiful, left an indelible mark on my memory. This handsome southwesterner in the South Island, Lake Wakatipu, is renowned for its scenic grandeur and intriguing legends. Shaped like a lightning bolt, it stretches over 50 miles, flanked by towering mountains. Its unique topography causes rhythmic rising and falling of the water known as the “Tide of Rees,” a phenomenon attributed to a mythical creature, the taniwha. The lake offers a picturesque backdrop for activities like boating, fishing, and leisurely lakeside strolls, captivating visitors with its stunning beauty.

Our residence at Lake Vista Bed and Breakfast, slightly removed from the downtown hubbub, provided a tranquil base for exploration. Excusing myself from all the exciting water activities I enjoyed my leisurely walks along the town’s beautiful lakeside park and relished a serene retreat.

Queenstown gardens

From Queenstown, our sojourn extended to Fjordland National Park and deep within lies majestic Milford Sound, revered as one of New Zealand’s most awe-inspiring natural marvels, with breathtaking scenery drawn by its sheer cliffs and cascading waterfalls.
It’s a bit interesting to say that Milford Sound (Piopiotahi), might sound like a sound, but it’s actually a fjord. Sounds typically happen when a river valley gets flooded by the sea, whereas fjords, such as Milford Sound, are created when glaciers carve out a passage to the sea.

The first view of Milford Sound

Milford Sound, holds a captivating history and mythical allure. Ancient tales of Maoris [indigenous people of New Zealand] speak of Tu-te-raki-whanoa, an Atua (godly being), believed to have crafted Milford Sound’s imposing landscape. With a toki (resembling an axe) in hand and empowered by a potent karakia (sacred prayer), he shaped the unyielding cliffs and intricate valleys that define the breathtaking scenery of today’s view. and stands as a testament to nature’s grandeur, attracting visitors worldwide to witness its towering peaks, abundant wildlife, and ethereal mist that shrouds its cliffs, perpetuating the legacy of its awe-inspiring history and mystical legends.

A playful dolphin cruised along

In 1770, the legendary explorer Captain James Cook sailed past Milford Sound, missed the concealed entrance and was deterred by harsh weather. Captain John Grono, a sealer, explored the area in 1812. Yet, credit for its official discovery is commonly linked to John Lort Stokes, aboard the HMS Acheron in 1851. Stokes named it Milford Haven, drawing inspiration from his Welsh roots. These expeditions revealed one of New Zealand’s most awe-inspiring natural marvels.

From Queenstown, our sojourn extended to Fjordland National Park and deep within lies majestic Milford Sound, revered as one of New Zealand's most awe-inspiring natural marvels, with breathtaking scenery drawn by its sheer cliffs and cascading waterfalls.

 Our tour guide, doubling as a storyteller, introduced us to the rich history and mythology of New Zealand. En route, we traversed the vast landscapes immortalized in the movies ‘Lord of The Rings’ Trilogy. A pit stop near a mountain stream enveloped us in the crisp mountain air, with lupin flowers adorning the banks and a curious kea bird making a brief appearance.

Seals basking in the sun

The tour operator cum narrator beautifully weaved the narrative thread during the journey connecting the past and present of New Zealand. The Fjordland’s valleys, shaped by ancient glaciers, unfolded before us, leading to Milford Sound. The boat ride revealed hidden wonders – seals basking in the sun, playful dolphins escorting our vessel, and the captain deftly steering close to a waterfall, inviting passengers to revel in the refreshing spray.

Queenstown harbour at sunset

As our journey progressed, we gained insight into New Zealand’s commitment to preserving its unique ecology. The country’s indigenous people, Tangata Whenua, view nature as integral to their existence, attributing identities to the Sky Father (Ranginui), Forest (Tāne Mahuta), Earth Mother (Papatūānuku), and Ocean (Tangaroa). The Māori’s profound connection to the land and its stories forms the foundation of their identity, and a responsibility to protect it echoes through the Tiaki Promise.

The Lord of the Rings movies shooting locale

This promise, a commitment to care for New Zealand, resonated deeply with me. It encapsulates a pledge to cherish the people, plants, animals, land, and sea, leaving no trace behind while traveling with care and consideration. New Zealand’s allure lies not just in its breathtaking landscapes but in the shared responsibility to safeguard its beauty for present and future generations. In making the Tiaki promise, I joined the collective effort to preserve the precious tapestry of Aotearoa New Zealand.

All images used in this article are by the author.

Notes:

  1. Sinbad the sailor- a fictional mariner from ‘One Hundred and One Nights’
Bishakha Ghosh is a professor of Economics at the Kalyani University in West Bengal. She loves to travel and to sometimes write about her travel experiences.

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