In the last 60 days, I’ve traveled a lot, passing through nearly every state from the Midwest to the Southeast to the mid-Atlantic U.S. and back. I flew nearly 5000 miles, drove over 2000, and walked hundreds. It is not the kind of voyage you would be interested in reading about, however. I will simply tell you that it involved a sudden resignation from my job, a frantic apartment search, a sick mother and hospitals and surgery and doctors galore, a snowstorm and canceled flights, 1 ½ days to pack up my life as I know it, and a chronically bleeding dog. Oh, and the crappiest birthday I’ve ever had was in there somewhere (the day the dog decided to pile on, in fact). But let’s not dwell on my two months from hell – let’s go back in the past, to New Zealand, instead!
On the South Island of New Zealand, the Dart River twists and turns, snaking out of Lake Wakatipu and through Mount Aspiring National Park, a collection of massive snow-covered peaks tumbling down into milky blue glacial waters. We leave the small town of Glenorchy aboard a powerful jet boat and fly across the water, mouths agape at the peaks, valleys, and pounding waterfalls surrounding us.
The boat skims the shallow water, bouncing high and eliciting screams of both fear and delight; our stomachs leap and then thud as our driver spins and cuts into his own wake to give us one of the thrills New Zealand is known for. We’ve skipped the bungee jumping and parasailing, so today’s outing is but a taste of Kiwi adventure mania.
An hour or two later, we disembark on the shores of a primeval beech forest and walk single file along a narrow trail into the woods. Our guide recounts the Maori history of the ancient and unspoiled surroundings; the adults listen eagerly while the kids jostle for space on the thin path, raising my heart rate more than the one-man suspended bridge over a 250-foot deep ravine does.
The return trip is no less thrilling. For the four adults and six kids on that ride some fifteen years ago, this was the highlight of our time in the Queenstown area. Mount Aspiring National Park and the Dart River have a brooding, mystical quality (one of the reasons parts of The Lord of the Rings and some Mount Everest movies were filmed here), and the jet boats are a pure high, an adrenaline rush of speed through cloud-muted sunshine and aquamarine waters – the memory a great antidote to my recent low times.
* Good news! Things are looking up. I’ve moved into a new place in Washington, DC, just in time for the advent of spring weather. I’m happily adjusting to urban living, my mom is doing better, and the dog has stopped seeping (don’t ask)!