I was fortunate enough to visit New Zealand a couple of years ago. I loved it – it is one of only two countries I’ve visited where I could see myself living, if I ever decide to pull the expat trigger – and the South Island is one of the most stunning places I’ve ever laid eyes on in my (not-so-short) life.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it south of Dunedin (I had seen penguins in the wild, so that pretty much seemed like the pinnacle!). The early spring weather was gray and rainy, and, out in the open pastures, windy and sharply cold.  I learned from a tour guide that the closest thing to the south of New Zealand is Antarctica. The closest thing to both the east and the west is South America.

Which is to say, Slope Point – on the very southernmost tip of the South Island – is as far south as one can go without hitting Antarctica. It’s cold even in shelter, and the wind is freezing and unbelievably strong. It is also, by all accounts, utterly beautiful.

It is home to bizarre outcropping of trees, permanently bent and twisted from enduring the beating winds year after year. Farmers planted them in order to provide some kind of shelter for their sheep as they grass atop sheer cliffs that drop straight into the sea.

They’re creepy and beautiful, and make quite a statement about what it takes to stand against the most relentless forces in the world without breaking.

If you get the chance, check them out (I’m truly sorry I didn’t!) – you’ll know you’re there when you see a bright yellow sign that gives the distance between where you are, the South Pole, and the Equator.

Happy travels!

h/t: Atlas Obscura

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