Last week we had a family road trip down the deep South of the South Island of New Zealand. The quickest way to unwind and de-stress, is to totally disengage from busy life, and we found that to be very true on this trip! On our last day, we spent the morning walking into the Hooker Valley, in the Aoraki (Mount Cook) National Park. The Hooker Valley leads to the Hooker Glacier and eventually to Mount Cook. The valley on the eastern (right hand side of Mount Cook) side is the Tasman Valley (leading to the Tasman Glacier). Those mountains there are not to be played with, they mean business, and so does the weather – which can turn very quickly! The photographs do not do them justice. It was a stunner of a day, we even got a little sunburnt which was not expected!
Aoraki (Mount Cook) is the highest mountain in New Zealand, 3,724m (12,218 ft). I remember in the 1990’s there was a massive rockslide where the top ‘fell off’. It’s height was 3,764m (12,349 ft), but it lost a bit in the rock fall. It is ranked the 39th highest mountain, and was climbed for the first time on Christmas Day 1894 by Tom Fyfe, Jack Clarke and George Graham. Edmund Hillary climbed Aoraki in 1949, 4 years before he climbed Mt Everest. (oh fact.com)
We walked about 1.5 hours into the Hooker Valley track, crossing a couple of swing bridges and moraines until we got to a picnic table in the perfect spot. The kids had had enough, so we spent some time soaking in the mountain air, and the magnificent view. This is my happy place. At one stage my lovely hubby was explaining to the kids to stop annoying each other and allow mum to enjoy her happy place. I had been wanting to be here for a long time, sharing this place with my kids who hadn’t been here before, and it was good.
Occasionally you would hear the squark of a Paradise duck, or even an avalanche dropping off the range called the ‘Footstool’. There were people from all nations and all walks of life we met on the track. Some were loving it like us, some looked like they were just doing the walk so they could tick it off, some had pick-axes hanging off their pack – I knew they meant business!! There was one couple, where the man was hiking ahead with his camera in hand, and loving it. His friend / partner however was dressed in what looked like a merino coat, a lovely linen skirt, pristine white shoes and a possibly silk scarf. She was walking slowly on the track, looking at things on her phone what seemed like the whole time. It takes all kinds I suppose. I didn’t understand, but still greeted her with a cheery hello.
I don’t know why it is my happy place, maybe it is the grandeur, maybe it is where I feel close to God. Maybe it is because Aoraki is such a symbol of New Zealand, and that is a huge part of my identity. This is where I come from, this is my maunga, my mountain.
This photo above shows the valley you drive to get to Mount Cook Village. The beautiful blue is Lake Pukaki which has it’s own unique cloudy blue colour. The previous evening, we spent time at the head of Lake Pukaki admiring Mount Cook bowing her head in the sunset. It was truly magical.
This song resonates with me. “Cool Change” by Little River Band.
YouTube clip of ‘Cool Change’
In 1979, “Little River Band” put out this song called “Cool Change” – here are some of the lyrics.If there’s one thing in my life that’s missing
It’s the time that I spend alone
Sailing on the cool and bright clear water
It’s kind of a special feelingWhen you’re out on the sea alone
Staring at the full moon, like a loverTime for a cool change
I know that it’s time for a cool changeNow that my life is so prearrangedI know that it’s time for a cool change
Well I was born in the sign of water
And it’s there that I feel my bestThe albatross and the whales they are my brothersThere’s lots of those friendly people
And they’re showing me ways to go
And I never want to lose their inspiration
In this busy life, we do miss time alone. By alone I don’t just mean by yourself, for me alone is also time where it is just me and my family. No demands, no other people, no emails, no phone calls. For me, it was not necessarily time for a change, but time to continue to establish relationships and make memories.
We all need a place. A place where we feel at home, at peace. A place that fills and restores the soul. A place that allows you to reflect and think. For some people that place is the beach, for others it is a quiet spot down the back of the garden. For others that place is the workshop, the dance floor, music or canvas. For me, that place is nature, but I noticed when I got to the picnic table, sat down and looked at Aoraki, my soul was saying ‘Oh yes. This is right. This is what I need.’ We stayed there for a good half hour before making the 1.5hr walk back to the car. My soul felt recharged and at rest. I felt I had met God in the stillness and magnificence of that place. I felt privileged to share what is almost a sacred place to me, with my family.
What is your place?