Sunday, February 24, 2008

At a Loss for Words

New Zealand defies description, to such an extent that it’s ground our blog-writing to a halt. We keep trying for a neat wrap-up of the trip - from its beginning, when we heard the three sweetest words in the English language (“upgraded to business”), to our last evening watching the sunset across the harbor in Auckland, the world’s City of Sails. But for the New Zealand we experienced in between, we’re at a loss.

It’s hard to explain the range of climates and wildlife, the sharp drama of the landscape, the warmth and generosity of the Maori in the north, the meandering pace of life in the practically unpeopled south. It’s even harder to convey the outsized proportions, the way things seem thrown together in unexpected ways. Huge peaks rise abruptly from deep, still waters in the fiords. Standing on an icy mountaintop glacier, you can see the shimmering blue of the ocean not far away. And of course there are thousands, and thousands, and thousands, of sheep.

We really felt we’d found the true New Zealand while kayaking one morning in the fiord of Milford Sound, now one of our favorite places on the planet. It was quite an experience to be out there first thing in the morning with our small group before anyone else was out on the water. Cormorants plunged out of the sky, fur seals lolled on the rocks, and penguins poked their heads above the surface of the water to eye us curiously. The silence and the sense of space were exhilarating. We loved the feeling of our paddles slicing cleanly through calm water up to 1,000 feet deep as we gazed up at 500-foot-high waterfalls and 5,000-foot-high peaks. Like New Zealand as a whole, it was stunning - and unforgettable.

4 comments:

Tobey said...

Penguin photos, please?

Anonymous said...

We're making reservations now!!!

Jenn said...

I wish we did have penguin photos! Unfortunately, they were swimming by as we were paddling, and we just weren't fast enough to balance paddle, open hatch, grab camera, and focus, before they moved on. So mostly we have photos of sleeping seals.

We just don't have much luck with penguin photos. We also tried to photograph fairy penguins in southern Australia, but clearly we'd lost all sense of proportion; we decided to watch from a cliff over the beach, and they are the world's smallest penguins. From that height, we'd have needed a telephoto lens!

BB said...

I'm tremendously jealous ... you definitely found your words, and described a portion of what sounds like an unbelievable trip. I can't believe all of the places you're getting to go and see over there, in addition to Singapore itself!