The universe is full of magical things....patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper ~ Eden Phillpotts~
We witnessed two of these mysterious things in New Zealand - Pancake Rocks and Moeraki Boulders. You can see for yourself why we feel these are mysterious :o)
We did it!!!! Finished one of the nine Great Walks in NZ on Nov 7th, 2014 :) It was four days of intense hiking, covering 53.4km (33.3 miles) in Fiordland National Park in South Island. It is hard to say what we liked the most in this multi-day hike....was it the views, or the perfect weather (yes it did not rain even one day while we were hiking in the midst of rainforest....unbelievable!) or was it being away from every single distraction for four days. Whatever it was, we will be telling stories about it for our whole life now :D
The NZ Department of Conservation (DOC) only allows a set number of people everyday on these Great Walks....they are pretty serious and dedicated when it comes to ensuring safety of hikers. One more thing that impressed me about their department.
So, the group of forty independent hikers (including the two of us), from different countries and age groups started this hike on November 4th. DOC has really planned the tracks - each day we were to walk a certain distance, reach our destination hut for that day, recharge and start all over again. For almost four days that is what we did....walked, walked and walked. But the walking part was also not the same....first day was really easy. Second day was easy and fairly long. Third day was hardest as we hiked uphill about 400m in 2hrs or so and then climbed down almost 1000m on an uneven and rocky terrain. While going up was really exhausting, coming down on that track was surprisingly harder. And the last day....we walked endlessly, covering 18km in 5 hrs.
Our legs had given up by the fourth day. But our hearts were richer with unforgettable experiences. And why not? For three nights, we slept on bunk beds in a room with no heater and below freezing temperature. We did not shower those three days (thanks to baby wipes we all survived :P). The hut was serviced to the right extent....we had gas stove in the kitchen and freezing cold water. We carried our own food and utensils. There were no trash cans (on purpose) so we carried whatever trash we produced....something we should have to do everywhere because that is when we will realize how much waste we generate. And everyday we walked with atleast 12kgs on our back....let me tell you, it is not a joke. Just to clarify, all these things are not complaints....they added a lot of spice to our already spiced up hiking experience. It was amazing to meet fellow hikers after a long day over a cup of tea and share the stories. It was inspiring to sit and chat with a group of 65+ young at heart individuals who were going at a faster pace than us. It was heartwarming to see people from all over the world under one roof with so much passion and love for nature. We were proud, happy and excited on the last day....the four days exceeded our expectations about the track and our own selves :)
Hope you all enjoy the pics below....it was hard not to upload all of them :) If you are interested in reading more the track, here is the link - http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/fiordland/northern-fiordland/milford-track/track-description/
DAY 1 - 5 km, Te Anau Downs to Clinton Hut via Glade Warf
DAY 2 - 16.5 km, Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut
DAY 3 - 14km, Clinton Hut to Dumpling Hut via Mackinnon Pass
DAY 4 - 18km, Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point
One of the gems of South Island West Coast is the Franz Josef Glacier. It was an incredible experience hiking to the base of the glacier on one day and seeing it from a distance and then the next day fly over it and do the real glacier hike. The massive nature of glaciers, their history, with the backdrop of mountains made it all memorable. The extent these glaciers have receded in past years due to global warming and climate change is shocking and sad....I can only imagine what would it be like to hike it when they were in their original grandeur. And chances are our next generation might not be able to see much of these glaciers.
Walking on ice is not easy at all! The tour guide was checking each and every thing. The glaciers move every day and the same spot is totally different next day. It is very easy to slip and fall into little gaps ice make if you are not careful. Fortunately, we both did succeed in hiking with no slips or fall....phew! :) Overall one of the most unique hikes we have done so far....glad weather cleared up and made it all possible!
While in Takaka, we did go for some site seeing and visited few other treasures of Golden Bay - Te Waikoropupū Springs (also called Pupu Springs), the Grove and Wainui falls. Pupu Springs is considered very sacred and is the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand. On a clear day the visibility of these springs is as far as 60+ meters. Because it is so clean and sacred, no contact is allowed with the water. The Grove had beautiful rocks and trees....it was hard to tell when the rock ends and when the tree begins. They are beautifully intertwined - supporting and nourishing each other. Not much more to say - will let Surendar's photographs do the talking :)
Our tour of North Island ended with an amazing cruise from North to South Island on October 25th. For two hours or so we just relaxed in the ship, sipped coffee and soaked in more views of hills, mountains, the sea and little islands. It didn't matter anymore that our morning cruise got cancelled and we had to wait for almost half a day to get to the newly scheduled cruise. I think that is one thing that we both have learned to implement since we started our journey....to enjoy in the midst of hiccups like these :)
We planned to spend our next four days with two beautiful souls of Takaka - Marius and Jeltje. Universe works in strange ways, doesn't it? A year ago, I did not know Marius and Jeltje and definitely had not idea there exists a little town called Takaka in this world! And here we were - all the way from Houston - in Takaka and staying with the two most lovely people....the treasures of Takaka!! I am in awe of the mysterious ways our universe works.
Have you ever walked into a place and felt nothing but complete harmony, joy and peace? Where only things that exist are laughter, love and good vibrations? Well, that is how I felt in the home of our lovely hosts. I feel blessed to have spend time with both Marius and Jeltje - their love and friendship for each other is an inspiration. And they know how to enjoy each and every moment of their life....or should I say, they know how to make each and every moment enjoyable! Never ever have I seen such harmony and love in a relationship.
Their beautiful house sits on a hill that is surrounded by trees and yet again - more beautiful views of other hills. The house is simple and architecturally perfect as the design completely takes into account the weather, the sun, the topogarphy, the views and their respect for everything around it. It reflects the love that they have poured into building it and nurturing it. And the backyard....it is just amazing! The landscape design is organic and it seamlessly uses boulders, symbols, crystals and knick knacks into creating an outdoor space that is a treasure to enjoy rain or shine. The chirping of birds makes sitting outside in the morning even more special.
Last but not the least is their Gong Room. Before I get any further into explaining about this special room....just a little background of how Marius and Jeltje enjoy their life :o) They both are Spiritual Healers - specializing in various areas of alternative healing methods. No they were not always healers....they were like most of us - working in the corporate world until one day they decided to do what makes their heart sing (as Jeltje says :o)).
Marius performs Personal and Space Energy Clearings and Jeltje is the Soul Realignment Practitioner along with the website designer for their own practice as well as other healing businesses. In addition, they both are Gong Masters. They use gongs, Tibetan bowls, didgeridoo, buffalo drums, Native American flutes and more instruments to create pure and beautiful sounds that bring all our organs, chakras and tissues in tune and in harmony. Marius and Jeltje were kind enough to give us a little demonstration by playing these instruments and it left us both speechless. Their Gong Room is a hexagon building constructed out of wood and is acoustically perfect for Gong concerts. Simple and perfect. The vibration that we felt while they played these instruments cannot be explained in words. We both are looking forward to attending their upcoming concert in Christchurch!
I have been lucky to have done Energy Clearing, Sound Healing and Space Clearing sessions with Marius and every time I have been amazed at the results. If you are curious to know what these healing methods are, their website gives a very detailed explanation of how it works and how it can help. And if you are subconsciously ready to live in harmony with your authentic self - well, you will know what to do :o) Here is a link to their website - www.soulharmonicz.co.nz
In the end, I just want to say thanks to both Marius and Jeltje for making our stay in Takaka a memorable one. Those four days will stay with us forever....thanks for sharing your knowledge and wisdom with us and a bigger thanks for making us feel home!
In past twenty days in New Zealand, we have hiked almost 85km (52miles). Short walks, long walks, easy ones, medium to difficult ones, by the beach, in the rainforest, on the mountain, by the river, in the volcanic valley....we have covered quiet a few different landscapes. I never thought why I liked it so much....I enjoy it so I do it. Recently though, during one such hike, like a flash of light, it just hit me - so simple yet it felt so profound. And I thought to myself....of course, what else could it be!
I love hiking because I am completely, fully IN the NOW when I hike. In those precious moments nothing else exists - it is only me and nature. I feel I am a part of it - so small yet so deeply connected to it. There is silence all around, only sounds of nature, whispering secrets into my ears that are only for me to understand, to comprehend, to follow. I do not ask trees for anything, I do not seek anything from the earth or the sky....I just give myself completely so they can guide me. No worldly thought crosses my mind, and even if it does, the gentle breeze just blows it away. When I am finished hiking, my physical body cries for attention but deep within, I feel the sense of joy and peace....of being one with nature, of being one with the Divine.
No longer I need to sit in an enclosed room trying to focus and meditate....I just need to be in nature and to be a part of it....because hiking is my meditation!
White Island in Bay of Plenty (North Island) is the only active marine volcano in New Zealand. It is located close to Whakatane and 30 miles from the coast and the only way to get there is either boat or helicopter. Our day trip to the volcano was a guided boat tour. Well, I think if you are visiting an active volcano site, having a guided tour is a good idea isn't :P
The guides took us around the volcano and told us stories of how so many mining operations tried their luck to mine sulphur there but sooner or later, their attemps failed. We saw ruins of an old mining factory on the island just rusting away. It was hard to believe miners would stay there for months, on a lonely island. The fumes of sulphur, the mud pools, the volcanic rocks, the huge crater with boiling water....all of it seemed unreal. The surface of mountain showed signs of aging, been there was generations, seen it all and probably wondering when mankind would cease to be greedy and start living in harmony with each other and with nature. More often than not, I wonder that too....and just pray, someday we will.
Tongariro National Park, North Island is New Zealand's oldest national park. It is the home of volcanic peaks of Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu. It is beautiful, spectacular, majestic and unique. I could say that for every national park in New Zealand but this one is special. It has a unique mixture of different landscapes and landforms. And this is where you can experience all these different forms while hiking 19.4 km (12 miles) on Tongariro Alpine Crossing - New Zealand's best day hike. We both are so proud that we did it a week ago!! Yes, it was a long day, yes it took us seven hours to finish it and yes our feet were sore for next two days....but it was ALL worth it! It is the hardest hike we have done so far....we climbed up 800m (2,600 ft) in elevation. We were out of breath after probably twenty steps we climbed, but again, ALL worth it :)
Our mother earth is mysterious....after all, as humans, can you imagine creating so many microclimates in a stretch of 20 km (and no, I do not mean in a laboratory)! You start with barren land covered with volcanic ash and rocks....bare minimum landscape....you walk a few kilometers and there it is - a snow covered mountain standing right behind, staring at you. Slowly as you climb up and come across a narrow stream of water with lush green plants next to it. You walk further and you see a really high hill with rocks and sandy soil that you have to cross next. You think in your head....are you serious! You somehow manage to cross it and the view that you witness is mindblowing! You walk more and more and you end up in a rainforest! Every step you take, every view you see is different than the previous one. Craters, lakes, snow, huge trees, little plants, uphill, downhill, it is a constant roller coaster! We both were amazed and just out of words to experience it all.
Cathedral Cove - a must visit if you are in Coromandel. It is a short but steep hike to get there....and the views are amazing along the track and once you get there. Check out the pictures and you will know what I mean :)