Apart from Milford Sound, the only other reason why I wanted to go to the South Island was The Wanaka Tree. I've read so much about this lonely tree even before we left for New Zealand, so I was adamant to find it whilst I was in the country.
We arrived in Wanaka just after sunset so we didn't get the opportunity to explore the beautiful town. When we arrived at the hotel, the first thing I asked for was the location of the most photographed tree in New Zealand (apparently) because I booked the hotel without knowing my geography (which is typical of me). I didn't expect that the tree was indeed only a five-minute walk away from our hotel. I was very excited to say the least.
And because we only planned to stay in Wanaka for a day, my best option was to see the lone tree in the morning before we left for Queenstown. I knew that the area is often flocked by tourists and so I made an extra effort to get up before sunrise and walked to the tree.
When I opened our hotel room door, I was greeted by birdsong and some windchill. Good thing that I disguised my pyjamas in a trench coat so I felt a bit warmer. I ran down the stairs and walked onto the wet grass. I passed by the little pond overlooking our hotel room. I looked back and thanked the man I left in the room for giving me the freedom to explore on my own and for trusting me. Without his gentle encouragement, I wouldn't have enjoyed my New Zealand adventure as much as I did.
As I carried on walking, the lake and the snow-capped mountains started appearing before me. I walked very slowly so I could enjoy that temporary moment of solitude. I listened to the calming sound of the waves. I watched the dancing leaves on the trees as the wind blew towards my direction. The fresh air when it touched my face was very comforting. Ah, I wished I was a poet so I could have written a beautiful poem about my early morning walk in that unfamiliar place. Engulfed by the serenity of the place, I got lost in my thoughts very quickly. I almost forgot about the tree until I heard a dog barking.
Then I realised that I was no longer alone. A man followed the dog and in a true Kiwi fashion, he stopped and said hi. I suppose he figured out that I wasn't from there because the first thing he asked was if I was enjoying my stay so far. Before he carried on running, he told me to look behind me and oh my God, I saw one of the most astonishing views ever! It looked like the snow-capped mountain was on fire. I can't even describe the intensity of the sun's reflection on the mountain. It was just wow! And before I could even thank the man, he disappeared. And once again, I was left alone to savour the moment with what I could only assume as Mt Aspiring.
I continued walking on a high until I could feel a gentle pinch on my skin. The sun was shining on me! I think I have not witnessed a proper sunrise in a very long time and I was delighted to experience this with myself in one of my favourite little towns.
With so many things to be thankful for already that day (and I was only up for 30 minutes), I began to finally get a glimpse of the famous tree.
According to an article I've read, "the tree started life as a fence post at least 77 years ago". And that's as far as I would go when it comes to the history of the tree. :)
Anyway, I was even more excited because I got there before anyone else did. I didn't take any photos straight away. Promise. I wanted to see for myself why the tree is so special. I figured out three things that morning: location, appearance and light. Location because the tree sits in a middle of a beautiful lake, surrounded by equally beautiful mountains. The tree's unique curvy branches, some almost touching the water, are perfectly imperfect. I guess the sunshine gives more character to the tree. It definitely made the tree more magical when I was there.
Worried that people would start arriving soon, I took my camera lens off and started shooting. To be honest, I've had my camera for almost two years now and I still haven't properly worked out how to use it. I settled for the basic settings because I am lazy and I don't have the patience to read instruction manuals. I am not good at editing photos either, so I can guarantee you that my photos are unedited. :)
So, when it came to shooting the most beautiful little tree that I have ever seen, I relied on natural light. It took me at least 90 shots before I got this:
I didn't even know that the photo turned out like that until I transferred the photos in my computer. The sunlight wasn't consistent at that time because of the rapid movement of the dark clouds, so I was lucky to even get that shot.
Then it was only a matter of minutes until I had company. I took a few more photos and then move out of the way to give chance to a couple who were there for their pre-nuptial photoshoot.
Then I walked back to the hotel with a very grateful and happy heart. I am always grateful for a partner who lets me be the person I want to be and happy that I was able to make another unforgettable memory with myself.