I awoke on the plane from heavy turbulence. I shot up terrified and half asleep. I lifted my window shade and looked out on a dark sky being lit up by little bolts of lightning from the clouds below. I watched with fascination, then looked up into the path of the plane to see something even more intriguing than the storm. There were six bright stars glaring at me from the south. 6 stars I had never seen before. I knew then I was flying in a different celestial map: the southern hemisphere.
At the end of my 18 hours of travel, there was Jamie waiting with a huge grin, a straw hat, and open arms. She yelled, “Sister!” and my laugh and skip made everyone in the airport turn and laugh, too, at our big embrace.
On my first day in the land down under our spirits were soaring high.
We had a flat white (a cross between a latte and a cappuccino) and a hobbit worthy breakfast at Shaky Isles, found me some new ochre sunnies at shop on high street, took in the panoramic view of Auckland from the edge of the Mt Eden volcano, then hit the road.
We made a quick stop at the botanical gardens where I quickly absorbed the possibilities of the fertile, barely touched landscape of the New Zealand isles. Pretty much anything can grow in the sub tropics, and some of my favorite flora could be found there. I ogled at the tree ferns; little did I realize that not only are they New Zealand’s treasured symbol, but forests of them fill every ravine and damp hillside. What looks like palms frothing over the highway are giant ferns!
The aqua water, white sea cliffs, and jungly paths of the Coromandel Penninsula charmed us next. We hiked down to Cathedral Cove in Gemstone Bay and were informed later of its filming location for Cair Paravel in The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe. That would not be the first thing from Narnia to take us by surprise!
Nothing could have prepared me for the landscape and rugged beauty stretching for miles and miles –and kilometers– in New Zealand. I knew there would be bits and pieces of brilliance, but I was immediately struck by how instantly the gorgeous vistas hit outside of the city, and how persistent they continued to be. My breath was taken away at every turn, and I’m still trying to catch it.
The evening was topped off with the moon rising in a violet sky. We looked out over the eastern islands from the lookout and I had to wait several minutes to truly believe I was there.
We found a camping spot as the southern hemisphere stars twinkled out. I scrambled onto Jamie’s internet to know the 6 brightest stars to the south I had seen on the plane. On every clear night afterward I smiled at centaurus and crux. The centaur and the southern cross. (Or Mr Tumnus and the Stone Table, to keep in the fantasy theme :) Get used to that!)