He explores

"Traveling at the Speed of Life"

Category: Photo Essays

Oamaru: A Parallel Universe

Are you fascinated by the mysterious, quirky and out-of-the-ordinary?! Then you won’t be disappointed by a visit to Oamaru on the eastern coast of the South Island in New Zealand. Arriving with no expectations whatsoever, it turned out to be one of the greatest surprises, I’ve stumbled upon on my journey through the beautiful country. Usually cities in New Zealand aren’t that interesting. With thousands of years of well preserved history, Europe has a lot more to offer in regards to culture, architecture and museums. However, Oamaru has X-factor! A walk through the charismatic town’s Victorian Precinct, a busy hub filled with strange shops, galleries, cafes, bars and restaurants, museums, a brewery and a steam train, is like stepping into a parallel universe.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” 

Albert Einstein

Let me take you on a journey back in time.
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Alternative seaside restaurant.
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The coolest playground in the world!
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Street art adds an edgy characteristic to the town.
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Walking down this street is like stepping into a parallel universe.
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Talented, quirky street musicians in the zone!
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Shit is about to get really weird in the Grainstore Gallery.
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Strange, but awesome!
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Faces watching you everywhere.
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Monkey business!
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Mexican inspired masks and x-mas tree.
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Follow the white rabbit…
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The wings of time.
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What caught your eye first? The skull in the foreground or the cleavage in the background? (:
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All eyes on you!
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And when you thought it couldn’t get more bizarre, you step into this room. 
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Next stop: Steampunk Museum.
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Creatures of Darkness.
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A statement?
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Creeeeepy!
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This is what steampunk is all about! 
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Nature and science blending together.
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Anyone getting associations to Dr. Who?
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Steampunk is so awesome!
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The most trippy experience in Oamaru was stepping into this room.
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“We’re actually living in a million parallel realities every single minute.”

Marina Abramovic

 

 

 

The Lost Gypsy Gallery

All children have an insatiable, inquisitive appetite and are naturally curious. But growing up, it’s one of those things that most of us, sadly, start to suppress. The ability gets lost in translation, drowning in school systems and formal education revolving around giving you the right answers, instead of making you ask the right questions. However, it’s one of the most important, pure qualities to cultivate throughout your life, even when you’re sitting in a rocking chair, grey and old – it’ll keep you rocking for a long time still! Why? Because it’s the powerful drive inside of you that keeps you in motion. It keeps you motivated to learn and discover new paths. It ignites your creativity, seeking out answers and solutions to all the questions life and the universe brings forth and is basically the foundation of all innovation.

Luckily artist Blair Sommerville never lost his curiosity growing up.  Hidden in the heart of the Catlins in the far south of New Zealand he has created a major magnet for the curious, a hidden gem, an anomaly like no other: the Lost Gypsy Gallery. I’ve always been fascinated by out-of-the-ordinary, odd and quirky attractions around the world and stepping inside Blair’s gypsy bus is like tumbling down the rabbit hole. With imagination, humor and creativity he has made the world’s largest collection of rustic automata. In his own words:

“My aim here is to reward the curious, to offer a creative place of wonder, beauty, gadgets and gizmos, made mostly from natural or recycled materials that will warm the heart of even the most cynical. An antidote to consumerism.”

The 1st object that catches your attention, coming in from the main road.
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The 2nd one brings a smile upon your face. 3

The 3rd one sets the tone.  
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Walking into the front yard, things start to get really weird. 
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The entrance to the Gypsy Bus.
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Can you guess what happens when pressing the button?
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Blair’s sense of humor, with a twist of truth, clearly shines through on this sign.
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Inside the bus you can’t help feeling nostalgic seeing an old, classic game like this.
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And this one is even more old school.
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Penguins on Parade.
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Humor is a big part of the gallery.
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And Blair obviously has a thing for clocks. 
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There’s so much to look at in the bus, that you easily lose track of time.
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If you don’t find the right speed to turn the LP around, people will think you’re communicating with extraterrestrial life!
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Music is what makes the world go round.
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Even looking up at the ceiling, you’ll find things that you thought were extinct.
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And morbid discoveries like this baby, that can turn its head 360 degrees!
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Interactive and fun. Press a button and they will perform!
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The front of the bus.
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If you’re still curious after exploring the bus, you can head on to the backyard.
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In case you were wondering…
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Nothing is sacred here. But what can you expect from Darth Vader?
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However, compared to this man, Darth Vader is a Good Samaritan.
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Most of the pieces of art in the backyard are interactive.
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At the end of another flight of stairs, you encounter a small gallery,
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Where Blair’s sense of humor shines through again.
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A prime example: Pinocchio’s awkward adolescence.
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The 3rd best way to end your visit to the Lost Gypsy Gallery is a jam session on the piano here.
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The 2nd best is to enjoy a coffee made with love.
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However, the absolute best way to finish your visit at the Lost Gypsy Gallery is a game of Table Soccer.
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How to get there?
Get on what is called the “Southern Scenic Route” on New Zealand’s South Island, which you can start either from Dunedin or Invercargill. This beautiful drive takes you through the wild Catlin Coast with amazing waterfalls, lush forests, lonely beaches with windswept trees and loads of marine mammals. At some point you’ll reach a small rural town called Papatowai and BOOM!! There you got it, the Lost Gypsy Gallery. Now, what are you waiting for?

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
Albert Einstein


Dunedin After Dark

Have you ever been wandering up and down the streets of a city in the dead of night, alone, with no specific purpose or destination, getting wonderfully lost and feeling utterly at peace? If you haven’t, you should! There’s something about the dark, something mysterious and enchanting, that lulls you into a dreamy state of mind. With nothing but streetlights guiding you, you seem to float deeper and deeper into the darkness of the night and the corners of your mind until, at last, you become one with it. And that’s when it happens: You’re in a blissful flow where time seizes to exist.

That’s how I felt walking the streets of Dunedin after dark for hours and hours to the sound of silence and fleeting thoughts, realizing the obvious, that when night falls the city changes its temper with empty streets, squares and buildings, vibrating during the daytime, suddenly radiating peace and tranquility. Everything around you looks and feels different. It’s amazing what you’ll discover through new eyes. Who knows? You might just fall in love with the object of your vision all over again.

It can boost your mental wellbeing to do mundane things, like walking through a city, in a different way, than you’re accustomed to.  I’m a strong believer in the importance of adding new twists to your everyday life, as a means to relight the fire in your heart, which I have elaborated on in this previous post: What happens when traveling becomes mundane? Follow me into darkness in the photo essay below, depicting Dunedin by night – one of New Zealand’s most charismatic cities.

The day is slowly starting to fade away, as the bird on this beautiful peace of graffiti.
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Stumbling upon this 2nd piece of impressive street art, I made it my mission to find as many as possible.
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Sunset at the Railway Station. The last train has left. The crowds are gone.
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Lo and behold! There’s one left. But it has joined me in a dreamy, sleepy state of existence. 
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And another one goes, another one gives into the darkness. 
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The sight and sound of cars and people ebbing out, as the darkness takes over.
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As a chocolate enthusiast, this is the one place I wish I had visited during the day.
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Even the town square starts to resemble a desert.
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If it wasn’t for the Town Hall clock, I would have lost all sense of time, being in flow.
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The towers of St. Paul’s Cathedral reaching out for the stars.
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I wonder how many people need redemption after a night out in Dunedin Casino?
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And I wonder how this shop would look through the eyes of a  child?
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I wonder how great the food in this kitsch restaurant would taste?
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And I wonder if God is just one of us?
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I wonder if banks and capitalism have created a problem in today’s society?
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And I wonder how many auction hunters got a good deal here?
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I wonder if the hands who created this building were proud of their work?
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And I wonder if the penguin got to choose his own tie?
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I wonder what inspired the artists to do these amazing works of street art…
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And I wonder if the artist behind this piece is as enchanted by the night and stolen kisses as I am.
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Last, but not least, I wonder if this post inspired anyone to go wandering through the streets of their own city tonight, embracing the darkness…

The Kepler Track: Adventure Above the Clouds

The Kepler Track, situated in Fiordland National Park, is a 67 km. multi-day hike. It’s one of the most scenic and diverse treks in New Zealand, traversing lake edges, beech forest, alpine mountain tops and a U-shaped glacial valley. My travel partner and I spend 3 days in these spectacular surroundings. In order to be able to free camp we carried all the necessary equipment ourselves, which made up a lot of weight on our shoulders, making it a challenging and strenuous walk in certain parts. However, coming out of the forest into the mountains, walking on clouds and accompanied by the rising sun on our 2nd day, there was no doubt: This hike is worth all the blood, sweat and tears – and every single step you take along the way.

Up there, on the mountains, there’s no outside world. No noise-pollution. No light-pollution. No past and future. No ego. All that’s left is the purest, most basic form of existence. And if you listen carefully to the sound of nature, speaking silently, you might just be lucky enough to hear that inner voice of yours, the only true guide in life. Seek comfort in solitude. Because the answers we’re pursuing are all to be found within ourselves. That’s why it feels like a homecoming wandering into high places, it being just as much an inner as well as outer journey.

“When the wind calls, you know, that somewhere in the mountains, it has found the answers that you were looking for. The pull of the horizon overcomes the inertia of reason…And you just have to go.”

Vikram Oberoi

The Route Map
Kepler Track Map


Day 1: Rainbow Reach – Brod Bay

First challenge on the trek; traversing this old school hanging bridge.
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Then the trail follows a lush, green forest.
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Passing crystal clear rivers on the way. 
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And beautiful, little beaches. 
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Soon we’ll be walking above the clouds in the distance. 
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But before then, the deeper parts of the forest awaits.
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Greener than Green.
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Brod Bay Campsite.
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We decided to walk on from the official campsite, to make our 2nd day easier.
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Walking the day away.
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At the end of the day, we passed these amazing limestone cliffs.
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Finding our own private camp spot in the forest.
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Happy Days!
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Day 2: Brod Bay – Iris Burn

Waking up on this beautiful spot, to the sound of our little neighbor singing outside. Can you spot him?
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The adventure above the clouds has truly begun. 
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Coming from the dense forest to these wide, open spaces is such an amazing feeling.
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Feeling at home.
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The easy way doing the Kepler Track, would be to camp in a hut, but the prize is outrageous!
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Breakfast above the clouds at Luxmore Hut.
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Not far from Luxmore Hut there’s a small cave to explore.
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The track starts climbing up towards Mt. Luxmore.
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Panorama from Mt. Luxmore.DSC01022

Mt. Luxmore is the highest point along the Kepler Track.
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Kea, New Zealand’s cheeky, curious Mountain Parrot.
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The infamous Kea flying on a mountain high.
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After contemplating life on the top of Mt. Luxmore, the adventure above the clouds continues.
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Green and lush describes the next part of the track.
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Walking towards the glaciers.
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Walking on a dream.
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The trail resembling a ladder to the clouds.
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Sunlight kisses the valley beneath.
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Back into the forest.
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A forest full of mystery and enchantment.
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The life force of the valley.
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Day 3: Iris Burn – Rainbow Reach

Waking up on Iris Burn Campsite to another amazing day. DSC01141

Having breakie here by this stunning waterfall.
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Walking through the Big Slip, a large slip caused by heavy rain.
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Back in the gorgeous beech forest.
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There’s something really enchanting about the forests on the Kepler Track.
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One of the most enjoyable parts of the whole track, is walking through the lush forests.
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I wonder if this will make me younger?
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Traversing the last part of the forest to the sound of a rushing river.
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The shore of beautiful Lake Manapouri.
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A lonely beach.
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The end is near…
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We did it! Back to where we started.
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Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion.”

Anatoli Boukreev 

 

 

 

 

Roys Peak Track

After a dark parade of gloomy, cloudy days, sunbeams, full of hope, reaching out like long, welcoming fingers, finally broke through the dark curtain in the sky, carrying a luring, addictive scent of wanderlust. Being in Wanaka in the south of New Zealand, a small, humble town ornamented with a crystal clear lake and crowned with magnificent mountains, I seized the chance and decided to blend in and merge with my surroundings, doing a one-day hike to Roys Peak, something the locals highly recommend. After all, locals are the best guides you’ll ever find, anywhere in the world.

Walking, to me, is meditation. It’s about time to breathe, to reflect, take it all in, feel carefree, full of life and connecting with yourself as well as everything around you. Here follows a short photo essay of my day out exploring the fairy tale town of Wanaka from above.

The first part of the track and nature begins to unfold in all its beauty.
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Pretty much the only even part of the track.
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The town of Wanaka to our left becomes smaller and smaller as we get closer to the summit.
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Up and up, the winding road goes.
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What would New Zealand be without sheep? (:
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The town of Wanaka might seem smaller from above, but the lake seems bigger.
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Even up here, flowers bloom.
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The view of the lake becomes more and more enticing, the higher you climb.
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And on the other side, new sides of the Lake appear.
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Standing in awe, on the top of giants!
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Met a wee hobbit on the last part of the climb to the summit.11

Sunbeams lighting up a peaceful valley.
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All-encompassing panorama from the 1,578-metre summit including most of Lake Wanaka, the surrounding peaks and Mount Aspiring.
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Stones of mystery.
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One last look at the valley before heading down, back to civilization.
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And so the long road down commences.
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With the lake starting to shrink in size again.
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And the town seeming to grow larger.
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If only I had known that there was an easier way getting down.
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This one-day hike is one of the best I’ve ever done. I would highly recommend it to anyone traveling to New Zealand – it’s bloody amazing!

Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk

Glaciers are fascinating creations of Mother Nature. Standing in front of them you can’t help but feel some sort of insignificance. In a good way. It makes you feel humble, grateful and awakes responsibility and a want in you to care for and do whatever is in your power to preserve the beauty you find in your natural surroundings. You want to give back. Because that’s the least you can do to show your gratitude after being rejuvenated, revitalized and filled with awe and joy walking beneath the gentle giants. Here follows a photo essay of a day hike to Franz Josef Glacier on the South Island of New Zealand.

Future generations are not going to ask us what political party were you in. They are going to ask what did you do about it, when you knew the glaciers were melting.
Martin Sheen

Rule number 1 when hiking: Find yourself a magic walking stick!
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First part of the track leads you through a lush forest.
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And a lake with otherworldly reflections.
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The Kea, New Zealand’s inquisitive mountain parrot, is a common sight along the track.
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The look into this valley is… wow… just wow!
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Next, the trail carries you towards an opening in the misty mountains ahead.
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A wild river of silver and white complement the surrounding mountains.
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Breaking into a duet with the sound of rushing waterfalls.
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The findings of mysterious rock formations kindle our curiosity.
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While excitement rises as we get closer to the gap in the mountains.
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The glacier welcomes us with open arms in the distance.
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Finally at the foot of the glacier – high-five!
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Being rewarded with a divine view like this one, it was worth every step.
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On the way back…
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The waterfall in the distance lured us into temptation.
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A bit of bromance after a naked bath in the freezing, but refreshing water.
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Smaller and humbler waterfalls were also present on the way back.
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Doing a walk like this awakes the inner child in you.
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Stealing one last glimpse at the magnificent glacier before it’s time to get back to reality.
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“Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Albert Einstein

The Road to Mount Doom

In the spirit of last week’s post, here follows another photo essay of a crucial Lord of the Rings location. With 2 of my most entrusted Hobbits I embarked on a 10-hour trek to Mount Doom, following in the footsteps of Frodo amidst dramatic volcanoes and a mesmerizing ever-changing landscape through what is called the Alpine Crossing. Rated as “the best 1-day trek in New Zealand” and listed by many as one of the “top 10 day treks in the world”, it’s probably the most challenging, yet most rewarding and diverse track I’ve ever done. Take a look at the photos and judge for yourself.

“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 eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”

Entering the heart of Mordor with Mount Doom in the distance. 
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And so the walk begins, with all that lies ahead…
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And all that lies behind…
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Snow peaked mountains complementing a perfect blue sky.
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Even more distant & mystical, a floating mountain, wonderfully lost in the clouds.DSC09437

Into the darkness we go.
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One step closer to Mount Doom.
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And with every step we take, the more terrifying it gets.
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A ruthless, sorrowful landscape surrounds Mount Doom at this stage.
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Finally, the climb begins. 
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Higher and higher we climb, holding on to whatever strength we can muster.
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Falling rocks tell stories of suffering, hardship and trials.
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Last part of the climb, first sight of snow in 2 years.
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Beware of Mount Doom and its wrath!
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Mount Doom is conquered!
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Enjoying a well earned lunch, looking out into the volcanic wasteland.
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The colors that bleed and blend together at the top are otherworldly. DSC09574

No less impressive on the other side.
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Another sign of the wrath of Mount Doom after throwing the ring into the fire.
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And then the long way down commences.
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Khaled found the right technique.
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Back on the ground, the walk continues.
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Yet another long and winding road ahead.
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A little rest is needed to carry on the journey.
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Everything still seems dead and desolate in the land of Mordor.
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But lo and behold! First sign of water in a loooong time.
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At this point the walk seems to go on forever and ever.
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But suddenly, the other side of the mountains is within sight.
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And the last part of the journey, a hopeful, lush forest, with gentle, flowing water.
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“The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.”

Hobbiton Movie Set

Being a devoted fan of the Lord of the Rings, books and movies, it was a dream come true to see the movie set of Hobbiton. Quietly nestled among green, rolling hills with grazing sheep and cattle in the rural farmland of Waikato, New Zealand, director Peter Jackson found the perfect location to rekindle the serene, peaceful spirit of the Shire. Seeing the Hobbit holes, Green Dragon Inn and the Mill in their beautiful, natural setting, it doesn’t take much to imagine why the place was chosen for the filming of many of the key scenes in the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. Feeling like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole, entering a new, magical world in a different time and space, it’s one of those experiences that fills your heart with childish joy and excitement. Here’s a photo essay, taking you behind the curtains of one of the greatest stories of all time. Welcome to Middle Earth!

Shivering with anticipation before setting off to the movie set.
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Standing on the borders of the Shire, watching this sign already evokes that distinct Tolkien-feeling in you.
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Looking across the lake to Hobbiton with the iconic Party Tree in the background, a gathering site for all the Shire, where Hobbits celebrate festivals and important birthdays.
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More than 40 Hobbit holes were created for the movie.
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Peter Jackson’s attention to detail was close to neurotic. He demanded that the clothes on the line you see in the background were taken down every night and hung back up the following morning.
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Another prime example of Peter Jackson’s attention to detail. 
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Everyday Hobbit-life. 
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No 2 Hobbit holes are the same, every single one of them, unique. Here follows a selection of my personal favorites. Which one is yours?
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This specific Hobbit hole instantly felt like home to me.
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My travel companions found their respective, favorite Hobbit hole as well. Here’s Khaled the Kalif.12
Eero the Sage.
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Nicky the Benevolent. 14
And here’s the whole family.
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Who’s hiding behind the door? Wandering around the Shire, you start truly believing that Hobbits actually exist! 
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This is the Hobbit hole of none other than Samwise Gamgee.
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Last but not least, the iconic, legendary Hobbit hole at Bag End, the dwelling of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.
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On our way to the Green Dragon Inn. 
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No trip to the Shire is complete without savoring the local fine ale of South Farthing.
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Is that Aragorn?! Inside the Green Dragon Inn, contemplating what our next move will be.
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The mill and double arched bridge, where some of you might recall Gandalf riding across, entering the Shire.
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So, is it worth it going to see Hobbiton? I think the photos speak for themselves…

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