A Week’s Journey to Middle Earth

Olana Osborn is a student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and an ISA Featured Photo Blogger. She is currently studying and interning abroad with ISA in Sydney, Australia.

New Zealand really is all it’s cracked up to be.

It is so magnificent I found myself with my mouth agape, eyes toward the mountain peaks, everywhere I went. We began our trip with a five-hour bus ride from Queenstown to Milford Sound, passing magnificent scenery the entire way.

Fiordland National Park is located in the southwest corner of the South Island in New Zealand and is the largest national park in the country. Its mountains were carved out by glaciers over five different glacial periods, creating peaks that soar over two kilometers into the sky and sides that go hundreds of meters straight down into the water.

Mitre Peak is said to be New Zealand’s most photographed mountain. The trademark of Milford Sound stands 1,690 meters tall and can be seen from many places in the sound. Visitors love the panoramic view, which can also be toured via helicopter and airplane, and if you’re tough enough, can also be summited after a strenuous one or two day hike.

Milford Sound is located in the wettest part of the country, receiving 6,412 mm (252 inches) of rain per year, allowing for lush rain forests to grow at the base of snow-capped mountains.

The Pembroke Glacier is Milford Sound’s last remaining year round glacier. Many crystal-clear rivers are fed from it, but due to climate change, it is said that the glacier will be completely gone within the next 30-50 years.
The Tutoku River Valley is a prime example of the types of rain forests that can be found at low elevations all throughout the park.

New Zealand is home to the world’s only alpine parrot, the kia. Characterized by their dark green feathers on top and orange feathers underneath the wings, the kia is a beautiful and friendly bird.

Hiking in New Zealand can take hikers through surreal trails, leading them to panoramic views, wildlife, many laughs, and hundreds of memories.

My friend, Catie, taking in the rewarding view at the summit of Ben Lomond, a strenuous 14 kilometer hike through the Southern Alps.
Wild billygoats on the Ben Lomond trail.
The fog at Lake Marian blocked the mountain view, but created a mirror effect on the glacial water.

The lush landscape’s many plants can be easily overlooked amidst a swift walk, but if you keep an eye out for the details of the forests, beauty can be seen in the smallest of green space.

New Zealand has been the most beautiful mountainous region I have visited (which is saying a lot, because I live 30 minutes from Great Smoky Mountains National Park). Many of my friends and I enjoyed meaningful moments together as we observed our surroundings. I was reminded how important it is that we protect our wildlife and national parks, so that generations to come will be able to enjoy the magnificence of our planet.

The night we arrived to Milford Sound, I was completely overwhelmed with awe and excitement.

Check out the vlog here.

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if it were for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” -Bill Bryson

The world awaits…discover it.

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