The next stop on our journey was Mount Cook. This area in particular was quite rugged, not too much vegetation, but what it lacked in trees it made up for in impressive peaks. One of our students, Ty, gave a lecture on the geology of the rock formations and glaciers during our hike and we all had a much bigger appreciation of what we surrounded by and how it had been created. We all agreed it was the best view from a hostel we’d ever seen.
Professor Stewart talked a lot about “peak-experiences” which is that moment you are stopped in your tracks, like your brain has frozen the world for that half second longer so that you can take an extra breath and soak it all with every sense in your body in an attempt to remember every detail, every smell, every feeling and thought. On the Routeburn track, in Mount Aspiring National Park – I had mine.
There really wasn’t a single inch of this hike that wasn’t incredibly awe-inspiring. The crystal clear icy blue waters, mossy soft green ferns and snow capped alps looked like something from a postcard in Austria and I was surprised and incredibly happy that this was all only a 3 hour flight from my home in Australia! The open plains were quiet and we did not see another human on the entire hike up to the summit. The birds were so friendly that one even hopped up to one of our students, Justin, to say ‘hello’ as he was tying his shoe laces. One of the best moments was walking up to the summit and putting our toes to the edge of the cliff and looking out over the valley we had just climbed. Before us, we could see the three mountain peaks and the plains and river below us, then the waterfall and more jagged peaks behind us. The air was crisp, the sun was just about to set and to speak would have disturbed the absolute sense of peace within everything. It was that moment of supreme bliss - just feeling alive and glad that we had the opportunity to be here and experience this magic part of the world.
On return to Queenstown, a few adventure addicts decided to bungie jump/giant swing and explore by jet boat. There are good reasons why it’s the adventure capital of the world, there just weren’t enough hours in the day to fit in all we wanted to see and do! Everyone agreed New Zealand had delivered big time. How would Australia stack up? We definitely have a lot to learn from New Zealand about recycling, conservation and how our first people are treated amongst society. The students learnt so much about the culture, the people and environment of New Zealand, and many students were already planning ways in which to study/migrate/work here. I couldn’t agree more.