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We Found Heaven On Earth

Written by: Zanita Whittington

There aren’t many places that compare to New Zealand. I have to thank my newlywed friends, Nicole Warne and Luke Shadbolt, for creating a great excuse to go there – and the iconic outdoor clothing brand Woolrich for giving me the inspiration to explore.

My boyfriend, Gabriel, and I spend a couple weeks adventuring through the mountainous region surrounding Wanaka and Queenstown in a “Kiwi Kombi”, a mustard yellow 1974 VW Westfalia camper van. I felt quite the part in head-to-toe Woolrich, living simply and practically – cooking on the camp stove in our van or an open fire by our own construction (perhaps my favourite pastime). The entire trip was a meditation in scenic vistas, driving through valleys peppered with waterfalls, through snow capped mountain passes and into valleys with aqua blue rivers, past mirrored lakes and then through rolling golden hills, protect by a mountain’s rain shadow that caused the landscape to drastically change. Driving around each corner would lead us to another scene – unique from the last – gasping for all it’s vast and epic beauty.

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It was my first chance to share ‘Down Under’ with Gabriel – though growing up in Esperance, the landscape has a totally polar look to that of New Zealand’s South Island, there are many cultural similarities between our two nations. Can’t say he found it so simple driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road – but driving our retro camper took a bit of adapting to, namely driving manual (stick) up a mountain – our ‘little engine that could’! By the end of the trip I really didn’t want to give her back, old vehicles have such quirks and require a little more finesse to handle which means you’re more engaged in the process of driving. Not to mention she was our home for the entire time! It really added to the whole experience and I’m newly convinced to buy my own retro vehicle when I finally get around to getting my drivers license here in the US.
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I would hope that these images speak for the poetic vision that is the landscape of the South Island – but I don’t think capturing it’s real beauty is possible, you just need to venture to this far flung corner of the earth and experience it for yourself. “Freedom Camping” along the route with no real destination, I’ve never felt more at peace or at home with myself and recognising that life done simply is a true liberation. I’m now so inspired to get out and experience more of this world’s natural beauty, it’s easy to forget what we lose in being surrounded by city life.
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Thank you so much to Woolrich for helping us dress the part and giving us the best excuse to create, share and experience one of the most beautiful places on earth.

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Photographer, Director, Editor and Colourist – Gabriel Tick

Some Photography, Styling and  Talent – Zanita Whittington