The Place Where it All Began

I Have Arrived

An unexpected journey of rediscovery in the Delta Burn region of Fiordland. 

Often, doing the ‘same old, same old’ can reveal something previously overlooked or provide a pathway to a new discovery. Hoisting a large backpack and stepping into New Zealand’s forest is one of these common-place activities for me now. I have largely built my life around the pursuit of this endeavor, with a variety of outcomes attached, and it is what encouraged me to Fiordland in the first place. I have been decidedly fortunate and incredibly intentional to find myself here.

Slipping on boulders in the river and stepping through thickly moss-covered forest in the Delta Burn valley, I had no idea that each movement was bringing me closer to anywhere other than the upper river flats. Reaching these, I felt instantly drawn to the landscape surrounding me. The edge of the trees is often such a comfortable place where the light reaches, views are had both above and below, and gentle land reaches to towering heights above.

Delta Burn Sunrise

Wet clothes which frosted over in the night and too light a sleeping bag notwithstanding, our camp was a perfect one over which rose a golden sunrise. With enough time to allow the sun to warm our tents and clothes, getting dressed and setting off wasn’t the chore it otherwise might have been.

Steadily undulating terrain led us to a valley of gorgeous boulders, tussock, tarns, and cascades. To me, it was a place reminiscent of my favorite landscapes in Fiordland, Aspiring, and Kahurangi National Parks all rolled into one. We traveled through to reach a narrow blue-green tarn surrounded by rocks which provided a jumbled talus pathway to the basin above.

Oh, how I love talus and scree! I ascended with quiet satisfaction, angling more and more left to avoid the steep bluffs and ledges straight ahead. It seemed almost improbable that an alpine lake lay somewhere tucked above us.

Untitled photo

Sure enough, after 10 - 15 minutes, I topped out on the slope of a peak above the lake and saw it glimmering below me beside the mellow ledge we were aiming for. Quickly, I sidled around and down to the ledge.

Even though I’d seen it on the map, what stretched before me was far more impressive than I expected. An uplifted crater of vividly blue water extending to marbled granite that fell away to the valley far below caught the eye. Instantly captivating and demanding of a longer look.

A cool breeze kept us huddled behind rocks for lunch but soon the balance was in the sun’s favor and we emerged to stretch our legs and try for the summit of a nearby peak. Short amber-colored tussock and spongy moss at steep angles led us up to the rocky ridgeline and from here we traversed delicately to the low summit.

My favorite part of what I saw around me was the haze of afternoon light hovering in the west. Though difficult to capture, it gave an ethereal feel to the layers of Fiordland unfolding around us. Just what I love best.

Untitled photo

We studied our maps, made mental notes of the land, connected dots, and firmly placed ourselves within the labyrinth of Fiordland. At least, I thought I did. It wasn’t until we started down another spur to the outlet of the lake that I had a sneaking suspicion I’d been here before. Sure enough, as we continued down and I began to see a new perspective of the lake to my right, I knew I’d been in this very place.

A half-smile crept onto my face as I remembered my first encounter. It was December 2013 and I was a full-blown and first-time tourist in Aotearoa New Zealand visiting with my parents half-way through my last year of university. It was the trip that changed everything for me as an introduction to the country I would soon call home.

Touching down on the marbled granite and looking out across the Freeman Burn valley, I had been taken by the expansiveness of the landscape before me. My mind tried in vain to make sense of the scale, valley after valley unfolding to the horizon. What I knew in that moment, on that first visit, was that I wanted to spend my life exploring and photographing FIORDLAND, this new place name that captivated me and represented so much possibility.

What I didn’t know was when I could get started.

Untitled photo
Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In