Tag Archives: Beautiful New Zealand

Wanderings Day 25

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.

I have already posted a few pics from this retreat into the NZ wilderness last year – https://purespaces.co.nz/a-middle-earth-retreat/

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

Wanderings Day 21

The start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing from the Mangatepopo Valley side
Mt Ngāuruhoe

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.

Mt Taranaki in the distant cloud
Nearly at the top of Mt Tongariro

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.

The edge of Red Crater looking towards the Kaimanawa Ranges in the distance
Ngāuruhoe hiding Ruapehu behind him

These are pics from a particularly spectacular trip on a clear May day after some early snows.

Fumes from Red Crater
Looking south from the end of North Crater – along Red Crater to Ngāuruhoe and Ruapehu in the distance

More magic and another pure space to be so grateful for!

Fumes from Te Maari Crater seen on the descent towards Ketetahi Carpark and the end of Crossing
Early morning light on Ruapehu from Piper’s Ski Lodge, National Park

Go outside, often, sometimes in wild places. Bring friends or not. Breathe.

Florence Williams

Wanderings Day 20

“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.

These pics are from a visit to the Chateau Tongariro for family Christmas.

Wanderings Day 19

Another wandering day in search of Middle Earth…. and another “travels with mom” adventure.

This time we visit Hobbiton in the Shire.

I highly recommend the evening banquet tour. You enjoy a wander through Hobbiton at sun down including a visit to Bag End, Bagshot Row and the Party Tree. Then arrive at the Green Dragon for a fabulous feast fit for Hobbits and finish with a lantern tour back through Hobbiton.

Professor Tolkien’s descriptions of Hobbiton and surrounds leap off the page and you are magically transported to the Shire for a little while.

Wanderings Day 18

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!

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you may be swept off to.” J R R Tolkien

Wanderings Day 12

Still on the same “travels with mom” adventure that brought us to Queenstown, New Zealand’s South Island.

We took a side trip – a bus ride from Queenstown to Fiordland National Park. Then onto a boat for an overnight stay on Milford Sound.

More of Middle Earth to discover. Here we glimpsed the River Anduin, the Dead Marshes and Fangorn Forest.

If I put my ecologist hat on for a moment. Here is a raw, pure Aotearoa/New Zealand environment. Magnificent in scale. Teeming with biodiversity. Truly showcasing the power and awesomeness of Mother Nature. A pure space.

A pure space – this paradox of serenity in harsh, isolated spaces keeps coming up for me as I wander these travel memories. Something that speaks to my soul, I suppose.

Still round the corner there may wait

A new road or a secret gate

And though I oft have passed them by

A day will come at last when I

Shall take the hidden paths that run

West of the Moon, East of the Sun

J R R Tolkien

Wanderings Day 11

I think my need to wander began as a girl. Growing up, my mom and dad organised wonderful family holidays that took us the length and breadth of South Africa. Often intrepid and roads less travelled, sparking a wanderlust that has remained with me.

These days I also have incredible memories of travels with my mom – just the two of us. So grateful to have had these opportunities with my very special mama bear.

Today’s wanderings takes on one of these “travels with mom” adventures in search of Middle Earth. She is very patient with me and my obsessions. This will make more sense as my story unfolds.

I have been obsessed with Professor JRR Tolkien’s writing for as long as I can remember. Then Peter Jackson chose New Zealand as his Middle Earth. I think Professor Tolkien would have approved. Anyway, it has been fabulous to have Middle Earth on my doorstep.

Today I am sharing some pics from a Queenstown and surrounds trip with Mom. We found evidence of Middle Earth all along the way from the Fords of Bruinen to Isengard, Ithilien to Parth Galen, the Mountains of Mordor to the West Fold of Rohan. Magic!

Even if you aren’t in search of Middle Earth like we were, New Zealand’s South Island is simply spectacular. A true pure space. I love mountain environments probably more than being on the coast. Just as in the Kalahari, I am similarly inspired by changing light and colour in these stunning surroundings. And just like in the Kalahari, there is something of the serene juxtaposed with harshness in this space that captures the soul.

We visited Queenstown, Glenorchy, Paradise, Arrowtown, Wanaka and Cadrona among other beautiful South Island spots. Besides wonderful sights and scenery there also seems to be great coffee, food and wine to taste everywhere you go in this area. Mom even got me to go on a little horse ride with her in Paradise! The motivation? A chance of wandering through Lord of the Rings filming sites only accessible on said horse ride.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

J R R Tolkien

A Middle Earth Retreat

So I haven’t posted in a month.  It has been a difficult month filled with disappointed hopes, winter illness, a family health scare and a somewhat overwhelming feeling of disillusionment.

For me, I often have these feelings of overwhelm at this time of the year.  I am beginning to believe it is the universe’s way of telling me to slow down, pause and take stock – what is urgent and essential and what can simply wait a little while until it is addressed.  This is seasonal, cyclical…. And perhaps something I should be able to plan for by now…

It also seems to me at times like these that the only solution is to reconnect with nature.  Not something I can always act on easily with living in the city but this year the opportunity to retreat presented and I took it…

Disclaimer: I am about to reveal just how much of a Professor JRR Tolkien geek I am!

I retreated all the way to the end of the second age of Middle Earth…. It is truly wonderful how much of Middle Earth is easily accessed right here in beautiful Aotearoa/New Zealand.  In a little corner of Northland not far from Whangarei I found another little piece of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.  To me it felt like the forests at the very end of the Second Age or the very beginning of the Third Age when the Dunedain first establish the Kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor and High Elves still linger in Greenwood the Great.  There is a peaceful watching of the Sacred Kingfisher and magic on every path up ahead and around every bend.  Magic also sparkles in the song of the waterfall and the trill of the Grey Warbler.

It was cold – the fog rolling in of an evening and a light frost in the morning. Just as it should be this time of year.  The perfect space to get back in the natural rhythm of things.  A better perspective on the first world problems that brought me to retreat in the first place.  A moment to refocus in gratitude at the grace afforded me and mine.