One Adventure at a Time

Isabelle Galko
September 29, 2019

My second half of the mid-semester break began with landing on a small airstrip surrounded by snow-capped mountains and glittering blue lakes. For a week, I'd be traveling around the South Island of New Zealand with some of my friends from Auckland.

After landing in Queenstown, we headed up to Lake Tekapo. As we got deeper and deeper into the mountains, glittering blue lakes revealed themselves and snowcapped mountains towered above us. I’d never seen lakes this crystal blue; this color comes from the melting glaciers that supply the lakes. 

When we reached Tekapo, it was already dark, with some of the most amazing constellations above us. With only the lake and a few lit buildings, the sky presented its brilliant stars. The South Island is known for its amazing stargazing, which we appreciated throughout the entire trip.

We didn’t realize just how big and blue Lake Tekapo was until the next morning when the sun reflected off of the icy colored water. Hiking up Mount John to the summit above the lake, we saw the beautiful view around Tekapo and the small town just a scatter of buildings along the shore.

Weaving around the mountains and lakes, we spent the rest of the day in Aoraki, where the famous Mount Cook juts up deep into the clouds. We hiked out to Mueller Glacier, still reveling in the bright blue lakes around us. We crossed several wooden bridges (including the longest swing bridge in New Zealand), enjoying the sunny weather that warmed up the chilly air a little.

The South Island is made up of (mostly small) towns, with hundreds of kilometers in between each one. We were able to see the vast beauty when we hiked up Roy’s Peak, a challenging but rewarding hike above Wanaka. With an elevation change of 1200 meters, we were exhausted when we reached the top, but the snow, lakes, and mountain ranges around us were breathtaking.

Heading down south, we explored Milford Sound (the “Eighth Wonder of the World”), which is a narrow channel into the Fiordland on the southwest coast. We were able to take a boat out into the sound and see the towering fiords above us. Waterfalls fell hundreds of feet from the mountains as we navigated the jagged sound and even got to see what it looked like from out on the ocean. This was definitely one of the coolest parts of the South Island.

The mid-semester holiday was a much-needed break, but it was great to be back in my flat in Auckland after having been in and out of hostels and hotels for two weeks. I'm back in the big-city feel of Auckland, in comparison to tropical Rarotonga and the pure wilderness of the South Island. Going back to my busy schedule, I have mid-semester exams to study for, and I will settle back into my routine of classes, going to the gym, and catching up with my friends.

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