In the early morning light of New Zealand's brisk dawn we emerged from our tents, languid limbs, ghostly shadows of the grandeur into which we stepped, cloudy and weary.
It was in this moment we realized how small we were, five young travelers entrenched in the fjordlands.
We had arrived. South of Sound.
In true New Yorker fashion we took advantage of the silence and solitude, rushing to meet the day. Rushing to beat the trails of tourists, the picture takers, the skyscraper admirers, the 'in the way'ers.
But the people never came.
We were free, uninterrupted, without reason and alone to explore, which is exactly what we did. It didn't take more than one crazy suggestion before the others follow suit, never from the same mouth, never the same intent.
The stillness had provoked us. The day was upon us and it was our time to make waves, break puddles and form paths.
Curiosity, pulsing through our minds, lead us through dark cavernous locations home to exotic micro lightbulbs called 'glowworms'. And it was here we looked silly, not unlike the tourists back home. As our eyes adjusted to the dark depths, so did our attitudes. Close quarters, long roads and temperamental weather can lightly bruise even the strongest of bonds.
So with our re-found brotherhood, our heads perked upward at nothing. Nothing but the faint green specs which slowly blinked back at us as they grew with intensity; like how the Milky Way emerges out of the black on a West Texas summer night. Totally unprepared walking barefoot, unaware of where we stepped, but in our exploration nothing else mattered.
With a little local help we found our way to a paradise of sorts. Glacier runoffs sculpting hidden pools for the lucky to find.
It was here we had a run in with adventure once more.
Our own lagoon, teal waters lapping a tropical island in the South Pacific, enticing yet tragically cold. The stillness beckoned. Tempting us to shatter the surface, to fly, fear flailing on scarecrow arms. The crash into the cold, the breath that was never there, silence in the moment before gravity reconsiders, then regurgitates. Each in turn, we re-surface, sputtering in the jeers and cheers of the watchers ashore.
Later, and the world is blue and gold.
Unimaginable cascades crashing down from surreal skies, nothing then but to watch. Each intricate little runoff more spectacular than the next.
It was here that we were close. Closer to the Sound.
And the closer we were, the more animalistic we became. Nose to the heavens, heads pitched back howling at rainstorms, just because we could. Splashes in the great puddle, muted in a tumult beyond our control urging on only the most primal of sense. Running wild through ravines, we were kids again.
We were free, filled with freedom and yearning for adventure. Patriots without a country, a spark in the dark. The excitement of the day building like the release of a firework billowing from the ground. Climbing. Higher and higher.
A flying trail of sparks about to collide with an imaginary wall in the sky. Darkness a seeming inevitability. Only to burst into a ball of dazzling energy radiating through the atmosphere.
Yet so it does, water and fire, eventually drizzle to the ground.
Fireworks faded and calmed, as we descend into the Sound at last.
Steep fjords casting luminous shadows below telling us the day was fading.
Quiet clouds rolled in again, tucking the mountains in and that late, late light of the setting sun on the warm skins of mountaintops we began to wind down too.
Tired and weary. It was in this moment we were reminded how small we were, five young travelers entrenched in the fjordlands.
We had arrived. South of Sound.