Thankful for my life’s story so far and having had 30 days worth of travel memories to share in this space.
Thank you to those for joining me on my virtual wanderings down my travel memory lane. I am so grateful for your company.
Thank you to all those brave souls around the world who leave the comfort of their bubbles every day to carry out essential services and provide care for the sick and vulnerable. Your daily courage is such an inspiration.
Thankful for the courage that wells up within to face not knowing what tomorrow may bring.
So day 25 of this virtual wander down my travel memory lane.
From tomorrow, for the last 5 days of these wanderings I will be tackling the “big shaping” journeys of my life so far.
In light of that, I thought today would be a good opportunity to pause. Returning back to NZ for a retreat “travels with mom” reminisce. We stayed in the Valley Hut at Kōmanawa. A pure space if ever there was one.
Today these pics have helped me soak up that retreat “atmosphere” once again. In these last days of lockdown here in New Zealand and with it being Anzac Day too, there is much time for reflection.
Time for this quiet revolutionary to take stock, re-evaluate and keep dreaming. I still believe in magic…. the magic that makes hope float up.
That’s what momma always says. She says that beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up.
“Hope Floats” (1998) – Sandra Bullock as Birdee Pruitt
Today we are staying in the Tongariro National Park. This time to walk the Tongariro Alpine Crossing – a 19km ish hike through an old glacial valley and up the side of a volcano, along the craters at the top and down the other side.
I have completed the Crossing a number of times since I’ve been in New Zealand. Each time the mood of the mountain is different but each time magical in its own way.
These are pics from a particularly spectacular trip on a clear May day after some early snows.
More magic and another pure space to be so grateful for!
Go outside, often, sometimes in wild places. Bring friends or not. Breathe.
“I want to see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains, and then find somewhere where I can rest… I might find somewhere where I can finish my book. I have thought of a nice ending for it: and he lived happily ever after to the end of his days.”
J R R Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring
Today’s wandering takes us to some very special mountains. The volcanoes of the central plateau in New Zealand’s North Island. I have visited this area many times over the years and experience a different mood each time.
Again, quite a bit of filming around here for Lord of the Rings movies…. it definitely has a Middle Earth magic.
For today’s wandering we are back in beautiful Aotearoa/New Zealand remembering another “travels with mom” adventure in search of Middle Earth.
New Zealand’s North Island. State Highway 3 takes you through the King Country west of the Waikato River. The landscape here is mystical and intriguing – limestone and sandstone bluffs surrounded by ancient Podocarp forest.
Take State Highway 3 and wind your way through the Awakino gorge till you hit the west coast and its black sand beaches.
Stay at Struan Farm if you like a green country garden setting with the sheep wandering by.
And then definitely adventure into the hills near Piopio to find the Hairy Feet tour – a perfect Middle Earth location. On this farm they filmed part of the first Hobbit movie – An Unexpected Journey.
The day mom and I were there it was pouring rain. It was just us and the guide…. and it was magical. Not just because I am such a Middle Earth fan but also the karst landscape. I am a bit of a geology geek too!
So we are back on the Panorama Route headed towards one of my most favourite places on earth.
Many happy childhood memories spent driving this route. Our end destination today, Hoedspruit, holds a particularly special place in my heart.
Wind your way along the R532 which hugs the edge of the escarpment. Definitely a stop at the Three Rondavels lookout for photos of these iconic mountains and into the Blyde River Canyon below. Mariepskop in the distance.
The R532 meets up with the R36 at the Abel Erasmus Pass. This pass takes you through the last of the mountains past interesting vegetation and rock formations. As you are nearing the J G Strydom tunnel there’s a pretty waterfall if you know where to look amongst the cliffs. Peregrine Falcon breeding spot apparently?
The other side of the tunnel you will start a sharp descent into the lowveld of the Limpopo Province, the Olifants River to your left. You gain a different perspective of those same mountains and cliffs of the escarpment from below.
Drive past the game farms and citrus orchards until you get to Hoedspruit. So much to see and do in this area. I highly recommend staying for a while.
Today’s wandering takes us to the other side of South Africa. To Mpumalanga.
Near Ohrigstad there’s a pass that winds up towards the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment – Robbers Pass. At the top of this pass there is a forestry track off to the left, hard to spot unless you’ve been there before. Bump along this track through the pine plantation for a short way until you turn a bend and the whole valley stretches before you. You have arrived at Themeda Hills Mountain Camp.
Now I don’t know if it still operates anymore, but this spot has to be one of Mpumalanga’s best kept secrets. My family have been visiting for years. I can’t remember who found it first, but I definitely associate trips to Themeda with my Grandad Jim.
Eight little stone rondavels perch on the edge of the world here with simply spectacular views. At a fairly decent altitude there is a distinct alpine tinge to the air and vegetation and the sometimes moody cloud. Rondavel 8 is the best. I saw my first African Crowned Eagle here.
Words and photos do not do the magic of this pure space justice.
After losing yourself on top of the world for a little while, time to join reality again. Down the other side of Robbers Pass you will come to Pilgrims Rest. Two options from here.
First, the road less travelled. A dirt road the follows the Blyde River from its source near Pilgrims Rest as it ambles and meanders its way toward Bourke’s Luck Potholes.
The second option is the more popular R533 to Graskop. A stop at Harrie’s Pancakes before finding the R532 which will start you on the Panorama Route through the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve with lots of scenic stops like God’s Window, Lisbon and Berlin Falls along the way.