Across miles of emerald meadows spread in lush waves as far as the eye can see, white fluffy lambs straight out of a fairy tale picture book graze through the day under their mother’s watchful shelter. When she moves, they quickly leave the grass they are eating and scurry behind her, and when she finds a good spot to stop, they contentedly bask in her shadow once again, nibbling at the grass from where they left off, and all is right with their world.
This single visual encapsulates all that the very picturesque New Zealand is.
Harmonious, homely, healthy and happy.
Puffing up their cheeks, tufts of cotton candy clouds move cheerfully across powder blue skies. Spring is over the horizon, but the winter chill hasn’t left the wind and almost without warning, the skies gather grey clouds behind the mountains and rain hailstones, and just as suddenly, the air turns clear and crisp as the sun beams through the valley.
There’s a feeling of space, for there will be miles where no one seems to inhabit the expanse save neat rows of trees, perfectly trimmed grasslands, a house here and there, horses, sheep and lambs grazing as the sun warms the icy wind that ruffles through the open fields, punctuated by bird song, and contented bleats; and a serene silence that runs through it all.
Scattered throughout the scenic drive that invariably accompanies us when we shift towns, are niche restaurants (like salmon farms) and bakeries that turn out farm fresh goodies, – fruit filled scones served with fresh cream and delicious jam, and fruit stores that are laden with the choicest handpicked home grown fruits; the apples we ate seem to have fallen straight from heaven’s orchards, the delicious strawberries, full-bodied and blood-red.
The people are very warm, smiling and helpful: open-hearted like the lovely land they inhabit. Though volcanic-prone, the shifts have given birth to some of the most magnificent landscapes – from geysers, sulphur springs, mud pools, fjords and glaciers, gigantic waterfalls and layered mountains that flank sparkling turquoise blue waters, and at some points, they all come together in a single breath-taking frame.
Such a sweeping expanse calls for activities that make the most of the terrain, and the honest-to-goodness skies.
So, we rode the Segway all through stunning Queenstown, zipped down on the Luge and the more adventurous of us did the Bungee jump and skydived from 12000 feet. And of course, the invigorating treks and ambling walks fuelled by the snow-scented mountain air.
New Zealand. Really little else can lift the senses, move the spirit and speak to the soul more easily, more happily, and more exquisitely.