Louis Michael: Hobbit trails
As I write this I’m sat in the front of a campervan sandwiched between two of my best friends driving across New Zealand. Rain from cyclone Gita is pouring on the windshield, but it doesn’t dampen our spirits, and only adds to the view of the misty mountains that cluster round the endlessly winding panoramic roads that have been our view for the last week.
At the moment we’re picking out signs of the storm that raged last night; bent sign posts, fallen trees, mud slides that have carved the sides of these colossal mountains into a wreckage of rocks and debris. Thankfully we found a surprisingly tranquil lake to park by during the night and we rode out the storm with bowls of soup and mugs of hot chocolate. But in the light of day it’s impossible not to be humbled by the sheer strength and indifference of Mother Nature. On an island dominated by nature She rules supreme here, and I get the clear impression that the humans are guests here on Her island paradise.
And that’s what this country is: paradise. The cyclone was a 24-hour long chaotic blip in an otherwise unparalleled world of tranquility. We’ve driven hundreds of kilometres (don’t get me started on the incessant confusion of metric conversion) and I’ve still yet to tire of the breathtaking vistas either side of our little house on wheels.
The mountains here are covered in old forests teeming with native flora and fauna that put our common English oak to shame. We trekked through a forest alongside a river that was full of this amazing springy moss; at one point I voluntarily abandoned my shoes and literally bounced my way through the forest. One morning we parked by a giant crystal lake bordered by snow capped mountains, whipped out our camping chairs, and had cereal while listening to the lapping waves and feeling the sun on our faces reflected off the clear blue surface.
This country is phenomenal. If the beauty of nature excites you, then there is nowhere more exciting than New Zealand.