India

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As some might know I quit my job, gave up my flat, put my stuff in storage and left the comfort of all this consciously. They say life starts outside your comfort zone, so in other words, my life has just started. It always sounds amazing when you read about somebody else doing this, you get all inspired, but to put yourself into this position of is a different story. For weeks I could not sleep as I had to hand in my notice but I just felt I had to as I was not moving forward in my job and I was leaning back to much, my weekly pay check, a nice flat and all other comforts. I did not have anything else planned, I had no other job to go to, the only thing which I wanted to do and am doing is doing some amazing walks on the South Island of New Zealand and for the rest, I am letting things reshape themselves.

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Once you make a step like this, I think it’s like changing diets, change will happen on so many levels and the hard part is to keep faith. I don’t think I have ever felt like this before, like being spun around by a big wave. You become quiet, you will have to, as you will need to listen to the new sounds, the new experiences and you will react differently to them as what you have done before.

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So today it is time to book the tickets to India, my place of birth, and all I know is that I am going to a wedding there and getting my teeth fixed, but nothing else is planned and that is part of it. If you want change, you will have to be open to new experiences and some can be a bit scary, but is that not the way you learned to ride a bike? Funny in a way how we become rigid when we get older.

I can admit, reading Shantaram was an inspiration for me. If you have not read the book

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I’m looking forward to India and I’m excited what will come on my path. But before I go, I will explore a few more corners of New Zealand and I will share the beautiful landscapes with you.

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Bear Grylls Style

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If you haven’t used equipment for a while, make sure you check it before you use it! Or do like me, and grab your tent and arrive at the location after a 6 hour walk and start unpacking your tent and wonder where the ground sheet is. My mind was saying, not ideal, but I guess it should be fine without groundsheet, only to realise that the pegs are with the ground sheet. Well, this is pretty dumb isn’t it? That is how I felt, especially after a hard walk in and all geared up to take some amazing shots of this amazing lake!

That is when you sit down and have a cup of tea first and look at your options, with all these massive rocks around I figured there is a chance to find a rock shelter. So only by chance I found this rock shelter which had been used before, the little stone wall was what pointed it out to me, or else I could have walked straight passed it fro the angle I was looking at it. I spend the next two hours collecting dry grass and building up the wall a bit more, in the end I had the most amazing time sleeping there on a bed of hay and a sleeping matt.

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Early dinner on the first night as I wanted to check out the place to shoot a possible nice sunset. It was very cloudy but I could see a little blue sky to the south, so that gave me hope that the clouds would only hang over the mountains but there is clear sky to the west, and that means that when the sun sets, it hits the clouds from underneath and lights them up like fire. I guess that is the advantage of living here and having this knowledge. To my luck, this happened and I was treated to an everlasting sunset! You sometimes feel guilty for spending time to capture it on camera and not sit back and enjoy the moment. Well, you do as a photographer, but you are also thinking about angles, settings, processing, posting and all the work that comes after the images is done, on top of that you need to control your excitement and because it was just me there I could not even share the moment.

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My rock shelter was so cosy, there is something magical sleeping out in the open under a rock, feeling the wind and listening to the sound of splashing water from the nearby stream. Waking up in the morning with birds chirping and hoofs galloping away as soon as they smelled my presence, there are some big animals living in this valley or come up for a morning graze.

It was time climb the mountain and get myself into a bit more trouble, hahaha. I walked up mount Erebus but left it a bit late and the snow conditions as I later noticed got a bit slushy, which is not good if you climb up at a 45 degree angle or more. Half way up I had a sit down and faced my fears, I am not a big fan of heights and don’t like steep drops. As I sat down this hare came towards me and then went under a rock. But when he came from under that rock he walked straight towards me, about a meter away from me, passed me and then ran away. I was amazed how close he got, but I sat perfectly still, had the wind blowing up the mountain and the sun behind me, so the hare had not even seen me. In other words, he had not seen what his fear, but when he saw me he realised the danger.

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It was quit a mind blowing moment, fear and danger.. something we only too often see as one. So instead of heading down, I carried up, only to stop 30 meters away from the top, I face my fear, but respected the danger. The last bit was just too dangerous to go up and the sun was burning on the snow and made it go all soft, soft enough that I actually went down the other side of the mountain and scrambled down the rocks, which were snow free from the burning sun. I felt safe, even as it was a bit tricky at times and I could feel my body tensing up from fear.

Back in my rock shelter I slept for most the afternoon, shattered from climbing up and the emotions had taken it out of me. Snooze time and ready for another sunset.

I walked out the next day, and being at the top of the lake, I could see an easier route down and I was back at the car park in no time, the luxury of the well paved Routeburn Track helps. Coffee time in Glenorchy and then push myself up the next mountain to McIntosh hut and Mount McIntosh……………Lake Wilson and Routeburn -9412

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Lucky

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To truly come alive sometimes means to immerse yourself in natature and find yourself sitting on a rock after scrambling up and down a steep bank trying to find a trail and realize how fragile life can be, one slip and it could be all over. It’s mixed emotions of fear and a brain that seems to only think in ‘what if’s and how will I ever…’ The purity of all this is, that all else becomes irrelevant, your Iphone, your new car, the house you are living in and all other life comforts. And once you sit down on this rock with your head in your hands and breathe, a deep breath you will move forward again, the only thing that counts is staying alive.

This almost sounds like a repeat story of 7 years ago when I got lost in the Hollyford Valley, looking back at it, I was lucky to get lost 7 years ago. If I had made it to the Pyke valley under the extreme weather conditions 7 years ago I would not want to think of the trouble I would have gotten myself into, so lucky in being unlucky.

The Hollyford is a challenging walk. The first bit to lake Alabaster hut is the easy bit, but once you get onto the trail it becomes pretty slippery, the trail has been blasted out the mountain and it mainly rocks and big boulders. It’s a south facing trail with little to no sunshine and all the rain means the rocks are very slippery, which makes every step a guess if your boot will cling to the rock, or slip right or left.
If you’re a fit walker your first stop would be Lake McKerrow hut, which sits on a nice little island and the bottom of lake Mckerrow, there is a fire place in the hut and with all the drift wood on the beach it is not hard to find fuel for a cosy evening. The next day depending on your fitness level you can either go to the Demon Hut, or the next one, Hokiro Hut, which took me 6 hours to get to, but I’m a fast walker.
There was so much rain that night that I was not even sure if I could make it to Martins bay the next day, lucky the rain stopped in the morning so the water in some of the creeks had dropped a fair bit and on the big streams there are some long wire bridges. There is something very exhilarating about walking waste deep through rivers and knowing there will be a hut with a fire place at the end to warm you up and dry your socks. It warms up your heart.
The walk to Martins bay did not take very long, once you are out of the bush line you will follow the beach and the grass fields, you can smell the ocean. Martins bay is where you will get to see seals and if you are lucky penguins. It’s a great hut and its very easy to spend a few days here, but if you plan to walk back but don’t want to walk the trail again, you can go to the Martins bay lodge and book a jet boat back, which will get you to back to the nice part of the trail past McKerrow hut.
Now from here the wilderness really starts, it takes a day to walk to Big Bay and if you plan to go to big bay, I would say, don’t follow the markers that say big bay, but make your way to the northern beach at the seal colony and walk on the beach the whole way. There will be lots of seals for about 1km of your walk, so take it slow if you don’t want to die of sudden heart attack when one of those big bulls roars at you from behind a rock, or die by bad breath, their breath smells like a can of sardines fermented for a month. A tip if you like mussels, once you get to the actual main beach, big bay, the 3rd last big rock in the water is covered with massive green mussels if the tide is out and there are some pots in the hut big enough to cook them in. Yummy!!
Don’t count on getting any sleep in big bay, unless it’s winter. I successfully hunted 200 mosquito’s and gave up the count after that. I felt like a flight deck carrier being dive bomb by high pitched fighter mozzies. So get yourself a $20 mozzie net and bobs your uncle.

I had to wait a day for the weather to clear before heading into the Pyke valley. This was going to be a long day, the Olivine hut is a about 10 hours away if your fast, I have read reports of 15 hours. And I will stay, if it rains, stay in the hut!! The Pyke is wild and if you don’t have a locator beacon and enough experience you will get yourself into big trouble. Once you reach the Pyke from Big Bay, you will follow the river and I mean you will walk through the river bed for a bit till you reach the Pyke River. When I got close to the Pyke I could see some hunting gear, gps units, solar showers and smelly boots drying in the sun. This is a good hunting area, so if your lucky, you get treated to bush taka, paua fritters, coffee and chocolate and a bit of banter. This is what I love so much about going into these areas. On so many occasion I have been treated to a stiff drink and venison fillet. If your vegetarian you still get a stiff drink as that is just barely or fermented potatoes.
The route from here to Olive is challenging! Most parts are ok in good weather conditions, just the entrance to the trail at the northern end of lake Wilmot can be a bit tricky to find, with a gps it should not be an issue at all.
If your lucky, and the last party who did the walk did it anti clock wise, then you will find the cable cart just before Olivine hut to be on your side, if not, role up your sleeves and pull this rusty wire 100 meters across and then back to the other side with you in it. It’s an experience! Once you get to the others side there is a welcomes committee of sandflies, drooling from the heat you are radiating. You will be radiating so much heat, that if Stevie Wonder was a sandfly he could find you in the dark. Lucky, your only 200 meters away from the hut, dinner time!

Another long day ahead, pretty much a lot of the same of the previous day, thick bush and small trails, overgrown markers on some spots and the occasional loss of trail due to being in deep thought, hey after 7 days in the bush you will start to develop a ‘Wilson’ syndrome. If you want to leave Olive after torrential rain, please don’t. If lake Alabaster is high you will find you might have to swim parts, as the trail literally goes along the water front, so save yourself two hours by trying to find the trail. There are No markers and the old trail is from 20 years ago and you can just imagine how overgrown that one is. By all means, if you have a machete and feel like doing a good deed, open up the old trail, you can sporadically see the old marker and random flip flop, wondering if its only a lost flip flop or if there is somebody down that cliff.

If you are looking for a bit of wilderness and have 7 to 8 days up your sleeve, the Big Bay – Pyke route is a great experience, though at times but the scenery is stunning.

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