After watching the Lord of the Rings Trilogy I was spell-bounded by the awesome scenery of New Zealand’s South Island. Several years later and on my second attempt I finally found myself in South Island with a few friends on a self-drive journey through the South in search of those sceneries that are still vivid in my mind.
Driving through the South Island is a much easier and more pleasant journey compared to what Frodo have to endure in his journey to Mount Doom. The road is well paved and there is clear signage to point you to wherever you wanted to go without getting lost. Ok, we did get lost a couple of time but then it was only because we were too engrossed with the beautiful scenery to notice the signage that indicate that we should turn into the smaller road. Nevertheless we did enjoyed getting ‘lost’ as we find interesting surprises waiting for us that includes a vineyard with café that offers wine tasting.
What make driving through the South Island a pleasurable experience are the varieties of scenery and different landscapes you will encounter. You can be driving along the coastal road on the east and then turning west it will take you across mountain ranges and hilly pass. The weather too can changes dramatically from different parts of the South Island. In the west coast it is usually very wet and roads can be closed due to bad weather condition. Strong winds and thick clouds are common sights and while we were in Te Aneu and Milford Sound it rained for 3 days leaving us desperately stuck indoor. The road from Te Aneu to Milford South is reputed to be a most scenic drive but strong wind and thick clouds surrounded us. As we get near to Milford Sound the surrounding hills were scattered with huge waterfalls that came crashing down overflowing streams along the road and got us worried the road ahead will be closed. Luckily we managed to reach Milford Sound despite some anxious moments but we still couldn’t see much as thick mist covered most part of the surrounding hills making it even more mysterious.
Moving inland we trek into the rain forest and ended up walking on Fox Glaciers for a half-day tour. We have to walk through a mossy forest and narrow path that overlook the glacier below, inching our way up holding on to the rope we were unfortunately not allow to stop to take photo. After an evening of rest we were ready for another trek into Lake Matheson for an early morning shoot. Once inside you will be transported into another world. The early morning mist hang over the water surface of Lake Matheson, while crystal clear blue water reflected Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman onto the lake. Walking through the pathway lined with tall trees I was half expecting to come face to face with the Orcs but instead I was rudely interrupted by a bunch of noisy tourists who not only stand in front of my tripod but also walk so heavily on the wooden platform it cause some of my slow shutter speed photos to blur.
And on the way towards Mt. Cook we were faced with thick black cloud, which blanketed the surrounding mountains until we don’t even know Mt. Cook is just ahead of us while the nearby area are enjoying a beautiful sunset. It was like Sauron has cast a spell and hidden Mt. Cook from us. And it was not till the next morning after a beautiful sunrise that we come face to face with the mighty Mt. Cook at the same location we were the previous evening.
Driving through the Canterbury area it will take you across huge farmland, rolling hills to great vistas of snow capped mountain ranges in the background. The vast golden grassy field and rolling hills remains me of the battleground of Lord of the Ring. But what I see now are herds of cows and sheep’s gazing oblivious to us shooting at them at a safe distant. And for landscapes lover this is another paradise to explore.