There’s one place in New Zealand that brings me back to simpler times, and of which I often revisit.
Fiordland National Park – it is well known for its alpine parrots, vast fjords, unpredictable weather and endless mountainscapes.
I still remember vividly my first visit with my parents and relatives back in the autumn of 2016. We were all sitting inside a glass-roof tour bus, excitedly peeking around every corner we rounded, all the while entering an enchanted forest that only movies could mimic. The whole bus, except me, paid attention to the captivating tone of our tour guide, as he detailed about the history of the area. At that point I had my earphones plugged in – as I played a cinematic scene for myself by listening to the type of music that reflected the beauty of our surroundings. I had entered my own world of joy and wonder.
Almost 12 months from that day, I was eager to head back to where it all began. I reached out to my friends and proposed a winter adventure in Fiordland National Park.
Our road trip to Fiordland was as picture-perfect as a music video:
We sang along to classics, danced to the beat, and got lost in the beauty of the environment. The atmosphere inside the car was so lively that my intuition kept telling me it was going to be a memorable trip ahead.
After clocking in 405km and six hours of driving, we finally entered Fiordland, or what I call “the giant gates to freedom and joy”. The child within me was free as I stared out the window in awe, watching endless waterfalls gush down the mountains.
We arrived at our first location, and immediately began setting up our cameras for the sunset. The late afternoon of winter meant we were alone, apart from the chirping sounds of the Kea’s (alpine parrot) that kept us entertained.
Soon, we were welcomed with the grand colours of the sky. Clouds danced across the expanse, emerging high above Mitre peak. I was truly amazed and mesmerised, as it was unlike anything I have ever encountered.
Despite the exhausting trip, we celebrated the beauty of the sunset as we attempted to capture its essence and effect on the mountains. We then headed back for a short rest, knowing our trip had only just begun. While half of the world was still fast asleep, enjoying the comfort of their warm beds, our crew was up at 5am, all prepared for the long hike that awaited us.
Our head torches briefly lit up the beech forest floor, as we made our way to the Lake Marian track. It was a relatively short hike, but hiking in complete darkness made it so hard for us to see the path that we even lost track of Jed for a while.
We finally arrived at Lake Marian during the early hours and with plenty of time to spare, my talented friend Jackson brewed coffee for us. Who knew that it was possible to have a quality cup of coffee next to a beautiful alpine lake? With warm cups in our hands, we isolated ourselves onto rocks, preparing to greet the sunrise that would undoubtedly take our breaths away.
Meanwhile, the lake was still and absent of noise. I remember closing my eyes, pondering over all the unique events leading up to that moment on the rock. In doing so, everything was calm and I became one with my surroundings. I make it a point to practice mindfulness wherever I go, and bonding it with photography and adventuring has made me appreciate the life that I have been blessed with.
With our hearts full of gratitude, we prepared ourselves for the final descent. To say this trip was one of the best is fair in my book. We encountered a myriad of conditions during our short trip, from pastel skies and beech forests, to still lakes and misty weather – they were everything a photographer would have dreamed of experiencing on that trip.
Apart from the extraordinary weather conditions that the gods had given us, what I truly cherished the most was the company I was with. The endless conversations, the laughter we shared, the memories we created – this trip would not be this perfect without the support of these amazing souls. Until the next time we return, trust that we will continue exploring new places that provide us with as much freedom and joy as Fiordland National Park did and always will.
All images belong to Benny, subject to copyright.