The buzz of my alarm clock shattered the morning calm that lay like a protective glass windowpane between me and the busyness of the waking world. Although I wanted nothing more than to roll over in my sleeping bag and pretend that the frigid air permeating my bedroom did not exist, this morning I could not delay the inevitable. Confronting the cold, I slid out of bed and padded to the kitchen in search of breakfast.
Once my body acclimated to the chill, the pace of my morning routine began to accelerate. Soon, I was out the door, my feet propelling me in the direction of Taylor and Hira’s flat. After a week of being in Dunedin, we had decided it was time to see some of the countryside.
We made the twenty-minute trek to the Dunedin Train Station, where we caught the Taeri Gorge Railway train which was taking us to Middlemarch, a town at the base of the snowcapped mountains where Lord of the Rings was filmed.
We rolled through miles and miles of sheep-speckled plains and hills canvassed in yellow wildflowers. We passed over gorgeous flowing rivers and under long stone tunnels. We let the wind whip our hair, and we froze our hands taking pictures off the back deck. But it wasn’t until the snowcapped mountains came into full view that reality hit: I was in New Zealand.
Without any language barrier to overcome or extreme cultural differences to tackle, it sometimes feels like I could be anywhere in the U.S. Yet, out there, seeing what I had only seen before in pictures of this place, I felt the full, invigorating force of being halfway around the world. It was magnificent.
After another three hours of train travel back to Dunedin, our desire for glorious views was fully satisfied. The walk back to our flats flew by as Taylor, Hira and I talked about all of the wonderful travel possibilities that we would soon have the opportunity to experience. We began to wonder if there was even enough time to do everything that we wanted to do.
What I do know, however, is that this small taste of what New Zealand has to offer left me thoroughly ready for more. And I am certain that whatever we pack into our days and weeks will lead to wonderful months filled with jaw-dropping views and exceptional memories.