THE beauty began almost immediately outside Christchurch as the wide open pastures revealed the snow-capped of the Southern Alps. In the blinding light of clear noon sky, they seemed to sparkle.

There is a bird in New Zealand that sounds exactly like R2D2. Among the competing chirps and trills of the rain-forest, the bleeps and bloops of the tui, a small dark bird with the white collar of a priest, interrupted with perfect comedic timing.

I found it impossible not to smile every time I heard it - and over the course of a week in New Zealand's West Coast region, I heard it often. Soon, it started feeling like a familiar friend.

On long solo hikes, soaked through with rain, calves burning, I heard the tui, beckoning around the next bend where some new sight would undoubtedly leave me breathless.

When I arrived on the West Coast, a 370-mile strip of land on New Zealand's South Island, there was an omnipresent buzz about a new opening.

Nearing the end of my trip around the world, I'm familiar with this brand of excitement by now : I felt it in Doha days before the opening of the Qatar National Museum, and in Dassau for the Bauhaus Museum. This time, it wasn't a museum that people were excited about but a new hiking trail.

The Paparoa Track is the 10th of the New Zealand Great Walks, multiday treks overseen by the Department of Conservation that cut through protected mountains., forests and valleys. In all, it is 34 miles long and can be completed in three days by foot or two on a mountain bike.

Three huts are placed at intervals along the trail, which cuts through Paparoa National Park, passing over gorges, up onto mountain ridges that overlook the sea and through dense primeval rainforests. So intense is the excitement around its opening that the hits are mostly booked solid through March.

While the Paparoa track is the first new Great Walk in 25 years, it's not as if the South Island is lacking in natural grandeur. On my drive to the West Coast, I could barely get through a single song on the ''Lord of the Rings'' soundtrack. [I mean, what else would be listening to?] without hitting another viewpoint so beautiful I had to stop.

Google Maps say that the drive from Christchurch across the island to Greymouth should take about three hours. It took seven.

The road began to curve as I reached the mountain range's foothills, where towering rock formations hinted at what was to come.

I hit Arthur Pass, a former gold rush outpost surrounded by beech forests and thundering waterfalls. I kept driving. Water that looked like spilled cyan paint rushed along the river beds made from smooth, multicolored stones; mist clung to dew-sprinkled forests that grew down steep inclines.

With the exception of two-lane road and the power lines that ran along it, the terrain seemed untouched by civilization.

The honor and serving of this very beautiful publishing continues to Part-2. The World Students Society thanks author Sebastian Modak.


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