is the online portfolio and journal of Australian travel writer Nina Karnikowski.


New Zealand’s South Island is a Turangawaewae for me, a Maori word meaning ‘place to stand’, a corner of the globe where you feel especially empowered or connected.

I have a few Turangawaewae – India being right at the top of the list – but the South Island? Well, it was a place where I felt my body and soul come together in a way it very rarely does. I could just breathe there.

I dragged my husband Pete along with me on this assignment. Luckily NZ Tourism were keen for me to bring him, since they were keen for me to do a road trip him and I drive like an 89-year-old woman with cataracts and a wobbly right leg.

We hired a car in Christchurch and drove down to Queenstown over four nights. Playlist pumping, mixed nuts within reaching distance, we wound along the insanely picturesque roads, stopping every ninety seconds to take photos of the delicious scenery (photo diary pending).

Highlights were Lake Tekapo where we bathed in hot springs, stargazed from the Mt John observatory, missed a morning scenic flight because it was too cloudy (next time), and ogled the opaque, forest-fringed turquoise lake.

By the time we got to the towering snow-capped mountains of Mount Cook we were officially lost for words – well, all of them except “ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod”. There we went on a glacier expedition and hiked for hours along the pristine Hooker Valley Track, with avalanches crashing all around us.

Our final stop was Lake Wanaka, where I had the terrifying, exhilarating experience of climbing up a waterfall with Wildwire and exploring Mou Waho with Eco Wanaka, a ridiculously beautiful island in the middle of Lake Wanaka where the ecosystem is being rehabilitated to the way it was centuries ago.

Pete and I left the South Island knowing we’d return again and again. One day, we vowed, we’ll bring our (as yet non-existent) kids there when we want them to feel the immense power of our earth, and to get them inspired to make it a better place.

I hope this video gives you a taste of the South Island’s magic. Who knows, maybe it will become a Turangawaewae for you, too.


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