From the sky Lake Wakatipu is shaped like a giant lightning bolt, and imbued with the same power. Mountains lie shattered in its wake, broken ridges radiating in all directions, running into each other and rising again, forming peaks so precarious they make you gasp. Cloud is pouring out of the Caples Valley like a still-life landslide, spilling across the lake. I’d happily hover here all day, but this it’s just the beginning.

I’m watching the scenery unfurl from the plush leather seat of a Eurocopter AS350 “Squirrel” helicopter, having just lifted off from the New Zealand South Island town of Queenstown, on a five-hour Heliworks Milford Sound Fly-Cruise-Fly & Earnslaw Burn tour. This is how you experience the full gamut of New Zealand’s scenic majesty by air and by sea in the quickest possible time. But right now I’m wishing time would slow down.

Our route follows the Caples Valley, crossing the Hollyford River and heading for the Darran Mountains. The landscape changes in an instant, as it does all day; native bush and straw-coloured tussock valleys gives way to precipitous mountains carved by ice-age glaciers. We follow the contours of the land rather than soaring over it, so the mountains are at once above, below and all around us. For landscape lovers, it doesn’t get any better…

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