It all began on the flight into Queenstown. Kit, my travelling companion, and I ensured that we both secured window seats so we can have a good look at the magical snow peaked mountains of the Southern Alps from 35000 feet. (Doing this will probably save you a ticket on a private scenic plane ride around Queenstown.) Minutes later, as we stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac, we were greeted with such clarity of air that every breath we took was just pure freshness. We went on to collect our JUCY campervan, got some groceries, and set off on a 2-hour drive up to Henry Creek, Lake Te Anau.

During the drive, everything looked so foreign yet there was a sense of familiarity. As the mountains beckoned, the feeling of being back on the road again brought back wonderful memories from my first visit to New Zealand and experience in America.

We arrived at the Henry Creek Campsite by nightfall. We organised our belongings in the campervan for a fair bit before turning in, only to be awaken hours later for a not-so-spectacular sunrise. We kind of expected it, as we knew that the weather was going to be bad in the coming days due to a later winter. Nevertheless, we trudged on, taking it day by day, and living in a campervan was the ideal way to do it.

We left Henry Creek at around 9, and what happened next was truly a moment to be remembered for a lifetime! We drove into Mackay Creek Campsite, and as we drove deeper, out of a sudden, we found ourselves stuck in mud that was covered with fresh snow! We managed to stay calm, and we went around finding tree branches to have them placed below the tires. After an hour of fighting for traction with the campervan and no progress, we soon grew agitated and frustrated. With our hands starting to freeze and turn numb, we turned to our last resort, snow chains! We spent the next half an hour just figuring out on how to put them on. After going back and forth on numerous occasions, finally! We were out of the big mess!

I guess it’s not an adventure when it's smooth sailing! Having experienced many serendipitous moments and blessings in disguise on my travels, what happened earlier at Mackay Creek did actually come at a good time! 

We knew that the road leading up to Milford Sound was close at Hollyford track. As we were parking at the side of the road thinking of what to do next, out of the blue, the road marshal appeared and by a stroke of good fortune, the road was open! We were the first to drive in, and having it all to ourselves was simply magical! 

We practically rolled into Milford Sound at the perfect time. We first check into the campsite at Milford Sound Lodge and with an hour to spare, we headed down to the foreshore of Milford Sound to enjoy a spectacular sunset. I couldn’t be any happier with how the day turned out, a day filled with new experiences and adventures! Later that night, we cooked ourselves a simple meal — instant noodles with eggs and a can of beef stew — before turning in. 

Next morning, we had a day filled with activities lined up for us. First up was a cruise with JUCY Cruise into Milford Sound. As this was my second time doing the cruise, I was very much hoping for an encounter with the dolphins! Lo and behold, the cruise captain caught sight of a pod of dolphins swimming towards our cruise. Everyone was ecstatic! Luckily, being the down period in winter, there were only a handful of people on board, and the experience couldn’t be any better, a definite 10/10!

After the cruise tour, we each grabbed a cup of coffee at Milford Sound Lodge and headed to our next adventure, the hike to Lake Marian. Our initial plan was to camp out at Lake Marian for a night. But unfortunately, as we were under-equipped and unprepared for it, we didn’t go ahead as planned. Nevertheless, it was a hike worth doing! We started the hike at about 2pm, and that gave us about 4 hours of daylight to complete it. We started at a steady pace but what put us off was the terrain. As we gained elevation, the trail started to get slippery with snow that was anywhere between the height of our ankles to our knees. Hesitations and doubts started to creep in due to my knee condition. Even with a knee brace, at times it was definitely sketchy. Locating the track at different points was challenging, and we had to rely on trail markers and faintly footprints left by fellow hikers to move on. On hindsight, I guess it wasn’t that bad.

After almost two hours of hiking, we finally reached the edge of Lake Marian and we were immediately wowed by the serenity and peacefulness it has to offer. Being the only two hikers at Lake Marian was such a blissful moment. Frequently, we would hear small cracks and avalanches in the near distance, a reminder of why we did not decide to camp overnight. As we offloaded our backpacks, we quickly ran around snapping photos before we started to feel cold all over again. Bearing in mind the daylight hours we have left, we bid Lake Marian goodbye and started our hike back to the trailhead. Soon enough, we reached the carpark and off we went to our next destination, the Te Anau Top 10 Holiday Park for a night.