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New Zealand




It's like jumping into life. I've been waiting for this trip all my life. My stomach is in knots. The racing heart.

I do not realize.

4h30 by train. 40 minutes by taxi. 6 hours by plane to Doha. Then 13 to Sydney. And 3 that are still waiting for us. 

We no longer have any notion of time or space. Tossed from one time zone to another. We fly over night oceans dotted with lamppost stars. Then kilometers of desert are revealed. Airports are all the same. We are drunk with the time that passes and scrolls faster.



It took me 20 minutes to fall in love with a city and an entire country. 

The place seems peaceful, in the shade of weeping willows whose branches are rocked by the wind, and family friendly. The city is just recovering from the earthquake. She exposes her wounds without shame. 

Our host lives in the neighborhood of Richmond. She just lost her cat, Bella, and this morning she was crying while making us coffee.




The road swallows us and I revel in it. Lots of fields, lots of sheep, lots of wind. A “chicken-chips” by the side of the road. We are the kings of the world. 

And then the terrain changes. Valons, fir trees, mountains take shape. At each bend, a surprise. 

We go up. We go up again, until we see the ocean. And suddenly, like a slap, there it is. Right in front of us. A bend. A suprise. Here we are at the foot of the mountains that the ocean nibbles on.  On the left, the earth dotted with green and black. On the right, the ocean of a striking turquoise. 

I went out, barefoot, to climb the rocks. Touch, feel, get closer to the end of the world.




We must first speak of Hélène. She lives alone in the middle of nowhere, in her whitewashed house. She is kind, hospitable and simple…. a small piece of woman with an accent as big as a mountain. 

The Lakeside Track. 21km. 7 hours. A path that runs along the forest with tropical accents, which goes up, which goes down, crossed by a torrent. On the pebble beach, a pontoon. It flows into the lake. From here, you can't see it all. The mountains intertwine, sometimes capped with mist.



The mist brings a whole new touch to the decor.

It clings to the mountains, dissipates. Let new spaces appear, erase them. 

For several kilometres, we see nothing. But when the fog becomes cloud, the ocean turns blue again. The mountains are sharper and less dark. Absolutely everything amazes me, but the mountains… they fascinate me. They gently fall back to the ground, wrapping it tenderly in their drapery. 

At Collingwood, the ocean has receded. We walk for a while on the gray sand, in the middle of shells and driftwood. We laughed all day.

Our dinner at Roots Bar reminds me of my 20s. When we sat at makeshift tables, the music played too loud, we laughed really hard and the pints piled up in front of us until we sweated them. The table is barely big enough to hold plates, cutlery, pints, candles and our entwined fingers. The Roots Bar for lovers.



We left Golden Bay early to cover the 400 km that separate us from the West Coast.

I'm stamping.

The road turns, climbs, descends, all at the same time. A river has made a wide passage there and we follow it to the coast. Where the waves echo against the rocks. We walked for a long time in the sand… to where the river and the ocean meet. Facing the ocean, facing the waves, I feel very small… I who have always felt big almost everywhere. 




Fall asleep and wake up with the sound of the waves. 

The vegetation keeps changing.

For a little while now we have been surrounded by palm trees. They frame the road like a “walk of fame”. 

We are getting closer to the glaciers…

they are sometimes seen between the black mountains capped with clouds.

The region is teeming with old gold mines. Our trip takes on the appearance of the American Wild West. 

Meeting with Laura. Owner of a backpacker. Full of life, pregnant to the eye and Scottish. 

Also meeting with Rachel and Sam, an Australian couple. She is a librarian and reads stories to children. He is a barista. I listen to them and I have the impression of watching the trailer of a romantic comedy. 



A small detour by the beach before leaving for the glaciers. It's early. We are alone at the foot of the mountains and waterfalls that line the path to Franz Josef. The rock is black and ferrous. The majestic glacier. 

On the road, the trees are as if frozen by the wind: all branches backward. 




We leave Haast and its belt of mountains whose peaks seem within reach. We cross a few valleys and then, as always, a new bend, a surprise. 

Lake Wanaka, at the foot of Mount Aspiring. Its deep blue contrasts with the snowy peaks and the green of the fir trees. Here, land and water are never far from each other.

There is a tree in the lake. It has been growing in its waters for 70 years. Poetry, gentleness, link between water and earth, bottom and top, roots and elevation. 

The ascent of Mont Roy is something I was waiting for. 7.5km to reach the summit of Roy's Peak. 3h15 of hiking. 1250 meters of fucking elevation. 

The slope is sometimes so steep that I feel like I'm treading water. One step per second. The panorama is superb but we do not linger. We are told it is nothing compared to the summit. We are going forward. The higher you go, the fewer people there are. Finally, a sign: the summit is 1.5km away… 30 minutes away. We are like crazy. It's climbing, more and more. The last side cracks me up. He is waiting for me. "You won't regret it." I don't stop. I advance. And it's there. The lake, the mountains, the mountains… it surrounds us. I drop into the dust, literally breathless. 

Home stretch. Up there, we let ourselves fall on a small concrete platform that supports a lightning rod. The view is incredible, 360°. It's magic. We think we are the kings of the world. The big curly man was right. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. 




On the road, still further south, the landscape changes completely. We are higher in altitude. The vegetation is dry, tinged with yellow and brown. The black stone has something of slate; it crumbles. It's completely desert. The mountains seem tangled on top of each other. 

At the bend of a few bends, hundreds of bras hanging from a wooden fence, the oldest pub in the country… we will have dinner there tonight. And then the view emerges. The mountains part. Far below, in the green valley, Arrowtown and its Wild West airs. 



We pass Queenstown and walk along its lake for a long time. Despite the clouds, the landscape is pleasant. Then everything becomes flat. The road is without turns, without relief. The rain intensifies. You can't see anything and, for the first time, the journey seems horribly long to me. 


Te Anau seems very small in front of its huge lake. We are, once again, surrounded by mountains. The sun breaks through. We jump in the car to reach Milford Sound as quickly as possible. 

“Fjiodlands National Park” Here we are! I jump on the spot. 

And there, fireworks! First, great plains, very flat, entwined here and there by the waters of the rivers. In the distance, the snow-capped mountains. The Mirrors Lakes which reflect the landscape. Then we are under the canopy. The forest is so dense that the trees are struggling to grow. It is a green vault that accompanies us to Lake Gunn and its emerald waters. A long last straight line. The mountains in sight. The turquoise river slips between the rocks and accompanies us. BAM! Mountains so high they touch the clouds. Waterfalls… everywhere! They are black with stones. The road winds between them. In places, the snow persists. Further down, the fjord. At each stop, I throw myself out of the car. 

If I had to describe New Zealand in one picture, I think it would be this one. Its black mountains, steep and lost in the clouds, its majestic waterfalls, its deep and calm waters, its wild birds. 




We wake up to pouring rain. The wind blows very hard. The mountains have disappeared. Arrived at the pier for the Doubtful Sound, it hails. It looks really bad. Still, they look pretty confident in the office. 

We take a first boat to cross Lake Manapouri (Manapouri: its beach, its 2 and a half restaurants, its port). Then a bus. It is still raining but the clouds are gradually dissipating. The snow on the peaks seems closer and closer when we finally realize that it is snowing. This is completely crazy. Magical. Unbelievable. Wonderful. Unexpected. 

We finally board our cruise ship. We sleep in the holds, the portholes awash. We cross the fjord where the mountains seem to rise, to the ocean. It is now sunny. The islands are revealed in Chinese shadows. 


Huge waves break on some submerged rocks. An albatross. Fur seals. Penguins. We leave the fjord. We have to face the swell of the ocean… I cling with all my strength to the railings, I concentrate above all on not getting sick. And then… the whale.

She is there, a few meters away. She plays with the waves. Jump endlessly into the sunset. Full of grace. 

We finally found the flat and calm waters of the fjord. The sun slowly set. The mountains turned orange and then pink.

As night fell, we went up to the upper deck. Lying on a bench, one against the other, we watched the stars dance around us. A few clouds, always, passed by. And in the distance, the song of kiwis. Magical. Not another sound.




After crossing the Lindiss Pass under 15 good centimeters of snow, Omarama and Twizel, we arrive at the edge of a literally turquoise lake. The color is so vivid that it looks unnatural. In the distance, Mount Cook, in the middle of a mountain range. They are white from the snow that fell yesterday. The darker and lower ones are sprinkled with icing sugar. 

In Aoraki, we take the Hooker Valley Track. A round trip to follow the Tasman River to the foot of the glacier. The snow is suspended. We hear it falling in avalanches. I revel in their gentle crash. Between two clouds, Mount Cook appears. A few blocks of ice float on its lake. Dream location for a picnic. 

The road to Lake Tekapo takes us to the other side of the turquoise lake. The panorama is even more impressive. Further down the road, as we follow a straight line, we find that we are surrounded by mountains. Of all shapes, sizes, colors… The mountains. Always. 


Cappuccino and delicacies at the top of Mount John overlooking Lake Tekapo. We just want to get closer to the lake. We plunge at random into the countryside. Sheep. Lupins. We are all alone. Heaven. The water is clear and crystal clear. Pebbles clutter the shore. Dead trees rise from the waters. 

We heckle the pebbles, make a few ricochets. The real life.

It is noon. We have to take the road back to Christchurch. A real comeback. We leave tomorrow. We don't realize. 




The sun sets. He doesn't care about the incessant ballet of travelers in transit. 

It's 7:30 p.m. In Christchurch, it is 9:30 p.m. We're going back.

I had trouble falling asleep last night and this morning my head is in a fog. We finally leave our bed and breakfast quite early. Quick detour through the center of Christchurch. It's barely 10 am, we have the car for us until noon… so we go to see the ocean one last time. Finally, Lyttelton is more of a peninsula… without a beach. An industrial port. We do not care. We go to the marina and we put our buttocks on a bench. The water is turquoise, the seagulls break our ears and it smells like the tide. That's all that matters. 

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