A Photo Diary: Hiking Through Glaciers

It wasn’t until I was 30 meters down into a newly formed crevasse, my nose cold from being pressed up against one wall of ice and my backside firmly pressed up against the other wall, that I realized I was starting to feel clausterphobic.

I felt like a rectangle being pressed through an oval hole–the only ability to slide through was feeling as if I was completely buttered up, allowing me to pop through the seemingly impossible hole of ice that was not meant for my size or shape.

With drops of melted glacier water dripping on my head and only being able to see the blue sky through the thin crack above and ice that was miles deep all around me, I was quite truly in the heart of the Franz Josef Glacier.

And I’ve never loved life more.

I’ve visited Franz Josef Glacier multiple times during my growing stint here in New Zealand, but I’ve only ever seen it from the view point you get from the ground up after an hour hike to the base. While the monstrosity of this glacier can still be appreciated from this safe viewing point, it’s a whole new form of appreciation that is garnered when you are quite literally in the cracks of ice that has been around for centuries longer than you’ve been alive!

I’ve had plenty of bucket-list experiences here in New Zealand–from skydiving over Paradise, bungee jumping in Queenstown, kayaking in Milford Sound and swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura–but hiking through the Franz Josef Glaciers most definitely takes the icing on the cake for “ultimate” experiences you can do in the land of the long white cloud.

There are some experiences that words simply can not do justice to and neither can pictures. But nevertheless, here is my photo diary of hiking the Franz Josef Glacier. I hope it inspires you to add this to your New Zealand bucket list. And if you aren’t wanting to do this epic experience on you own, hit me up and I’ll gladly be your plus one!

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The most beautiful train ride in the world

Cloud piercing mountains, glistening glaciers, lush rainforest, rugged coastline and secluded beaches….just when you think the South Island couldn’t possibly offer anything more, add “most scenic train ride in the world” to the list.

Since moving to New Zealand the TranzAlpine has always been on the bucket list! This train takes you from the Canterbury Plains, where sheep and cows wander joyfully with the Southern Alps in the backdrop, all the way to the West Coast, where stunning beaches, pristine alpine views and glow-worms that dominate the underworld are yours to explore!

A 4 hour journey from coast to coast will leave you speechless and is an experience of a lifetime–because the best the South Island has to offer is jam-packed into this scenic train ride that truly no words can justifiably describe.

Nothing will do this experience justice except for living in the moment yourself, but until that happens, hopefully the below photo diary will give you an understanding of the magic that is the TranzAlpine.

How to experience a Great Walk in a day

There are 9 Great Walks in New Zealand. These are a set of popular tramping (kiwi word for “hiking”) tracks that are developed and maintained by the Department of Conservation and allow those on route to experience some of the most diverse and incredible natural landscape in the world.

Ranging from alpine terrain to beaches and rain forests, there is no shortage in the types of adventures these Great Walks can lead you to. To complete most of these Great Walks in total, you will need multiple days and to register in advance to stay at the numerous DOC huts along the way.

There is quite a bit of competition in booking these huts, and if you’re anything like me, carrying 3-6 days worth of food, clothing and other supplies is not the most appealing thing in the world.

So there is a bit of dilemma to face when you want to experience a Great Walk but also have your princess crown on and don’t want to deal with the competitiveness of winning the lotto to share a cabin with random strangers plus lugging around 20kg+ of items for multiple days (yes, now that I have typed this out it does sound quite ridiculous and snobbish for the wanderlust mindset I like to tell myself I have).

Luckily, I have managed to still experience a handful of New Zealand’s Great Walks with my princess crown still in tact, and I’m here to share how:

The Routeburn Track

Normally a 3 to 4 day one-way hike between Glenorchy and Fiordland, this walk is famous for boasting incredible alpine views, out-of-this-world waterfalls and pristine glacier lakes, I had been dreaming of experiencing this for years! No wonder this track was named in the top 10 trails in the world by National Geographic!

So I decided to give my friends and I the challenge of experiencing part of this Great Walk in just one day.

Starting the track from the Fiordland side at The Divide, we did the final part of the track in reverse from most trampers.

It was only an hour in before we cleared the densely covered bush and were exposed to some of the most magnificent alpine terrain we had ever seen!

About two and a half hours in we reached Earland Falls–by far the most magnificent waterfall I have ever seen and undoubtedly a major highlight of the track.

Our goal for the day was to make it to Lake Mackenzie before turning back. By the four hour mark we had found ourselves at an absolutely stunning alpine lake. With water so clear and the surrounding alps reflecting on the surface this provided us with the most perfect lunch/rest stop before regaining our strength and making our way back to the start.

The return trip provided us with a whole new perspective of the route and a goal of getting back in less time and we were crushing our goal for the first two and a half hours–that is until fatigue kicked in and the last 10km seemed like an impossible feat.

In total, we did the final day of The Routeburn (twice) in 7 hours, hiked a total of 20 miles and climbed nearly 200 flights of stairs.

The day ended with us in delirium (see pic below), but was so extremely worth it.

Abel Tasman Coastal Track

For a girl who is forever a mermaid at heart, this Great Walk is an absolute dream. With endless amounts of private beaches, lagoons, waterfalls and dense beech forest to explore there isn’t enough time to experience it all–even if you choose to do the complete 5 day track.

But you don’t need 5 days to experience the magic of this walk–in fact there are multiple options for experiencing it in just one day…or even half a day!

With two days set aside for exploring Abel Tasman, we were able to bypass the heavy packs, tenting and other pains I try to avoid that comes with any multi-day hikes, and rather had two day trip missions that exposed us to the very best Abel Tasman had to offer!

The first day we started at the very beginning of the Abel Tasman coastal track. Weaving our way through this coastal path covered with thick New Zealand native Rata and Fern trees, every corner was another birds eye view that looked down onto yet another stunning private beach! Two hours into the track we made it to Akersten Bay, which provide us with the perfect setting to swim around in the teal blue waters and just relax before making the track back. After spending nearly 5 hours in the car before arriving at the start of the Abel Tasman track (note: if you’re traveling to here from the West Coast, the roads are deceivingly windy), this was exactly what we were needing!

The next day, we headed back to the national park, but this time with the goal of finding Cleopatra’s Pool–a natural rock slide we had heard about that is tucked away in the middle of the national park. But rather than having to complete a multi-day track, we were able to catch a 30 minute water taxi that took us to Torrent Bay.

The perspective from the boat was completely different from the one we had on the track yesterday and gave us an even greater appreciation for how majestic Abel Tasman really is.

Once we departed the water taxi it was an hour trek through the lush rain forest before reaching the incredible Cleopatra’s Pool.

It didn’t take long before we were sliding down this smooth rock slide into crystal clear waters for the next hour and a half!

After we had finished our fun on the slide for the day, it was back to the beach to catch our water taxi back. Coincidently planned, we still had enough time to enough to enjoy a secluded part of the beach, search for tiny little seashells and bask in the glory of what is Abel Tasm

So in conclusion–don’t let shortage of time or fear of multi-day hikes prevent you from experiencing the Great Walks of New Zealand. There are so many different ways you can experience them in a way that tailors you!

I ❤️ Lupin Season

Ah, lupin season. The best time of the year.

The symbol that summer is coming to the South Island of New Zealand and the thing that makes an already epic road trip even more spectacular.

Surprisingly, this weed is not a native to New Zealand but rather was spread around by early settlers.

None the less, these colourful beauties make for the perfect photo shoot location.

Who would have ever thought weeds could be so pretty and so much fun!

Checking out Cathedral Cove

That Wanaka Tree, Mitre Peak, Cathedral Cove….there are a handful of must-see spots in NZ that are just too perfect to be real.

In a country where around every corner is another jaw dropping natural phenomenon, the list of ultimate NZ landmarks is a tough one to conquer. By after two and a half years of exploring these magical islands, I have finally gotten to check off the #1 location on this list: Cathedral Cove!

Tucked away in the Coromandel, Cathedral Cove is every photographers dream to visit (slash, should be everyone’s dream photographer or not!).

A 45 minute trek through lush green cliffs full of flowers that match every colour of the rainbow will bring you to a secluded cove that just doesn’t make sense.

A perfectly arched cove that frames the random large rocks lining the beach leaves me lost for words while going snap crazy with my camera.

Photos don’t do this place justice, but should help prove my point that Cathedral Cove should be at the top of your NZ bucket list!

The last 3 months of adventure

Well, Panama Pancakes is coming back to life after a 3 months hiatus!

It’s been a pretty crazy 3 months, full of change, growth and most importantly, travel.

While I still dream and plan of more international journeys (ie: South Africa, Tonga, Japan and Antarctica are at the top of the list!) I’ve spent the last 3 months getting to explore the country I currently call home: New Zealand.

Who would believe that in just two tiny islands at the bottom of the world, you can experience a winter wonderland full of glaciers and back country mountains and ALSO tropical island beauty full of colourful sunrises, waterfalls and surfing!

Tekapo

This classic gem never ceases to amaze.

At sunrise the frosty lake has steam rolling off the water with snow capped mountains in the distance. And then there’s that cute little church that is too picture perfect.

But Tekapo is so much more than a church by a lake. The back country of Tekapo is full of untouched snow, fluffy sheep and too many picture perfect moments.

And then as soon as the sun goes down, the Mackenzie sky twinkles with more stars than you could ever imagine.

Mt Cook

Rain or shine, Mt Cook never ceases to disappoint!

As exciting as it was to see the peak of Mt Cook come out in all its glory for a few minutes before the storm, there was something so magical about walking the Hooker Valley Track with snowflakes all around a frozen glacier lake to enjoy (and of course taste an ice cube or two!)

Tauranga

And then there’s the tropical side of New Zealand. Tauranga may very well be one of my favourite places in all of New Zealand. With a Mount that’s perfect for sunrise viewing, endless surf spots and that warm breezy air it’s no surprise I keep coming back!

And, to top it all off, I discovered on my most recent trip they have Smore donuts! I may have died and gone to heaven…..

Rotorua

Just under a two hour drive from Tauranga is the natural thermal wonderland of Rotorua.

This is a place where neon green, orange and pink lakes exist and the only place I could spend a whole day despite the rotten egg smell.

My own backyard!

The older I get the quicker I’m learning that you don’t have to go further than your own backyard to have an adventure. Sometimes even just moving to the other side of town is an adventure on its own!

Recent life events have brought this wanna be mermaid to living right on the beach and I couldn’t happier. Pretty sunrises, breathtaking views and ocean breeze are all at my door step.

But it’s not just these luxuries that have made moving to a new neighbourhood so fun. It’s the little things that have really excited me—like being able to walk to the grocery store, smelling the amazing bakery around the corner from me, a dairy with peanut butter ice cream (hard to come by in NZ!) now only a stones throw away. And yes, 100% of those items revolve around food!!!

With the days getting longer and the sun shining brighter, summer is just around the corner! And while the combo of Santa Clause ok a surfboard is not quite the Christmas I am used to (nor ever will be!) that in itself will be another adventure 🙂

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Dear Christchurch, I love you (but I hate you)

It has been two years since I have made you my new home. Two years of adventure, excitement, beauty, disappointment,  frustration and challenge.

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We’ve developed a  tug-of-war relationship with each other, but neither of us seem to be budging. I’ve got to the point where I seem to say “gosh I just love you so much” and “oh my god I hate you!” within the same hour, on a daily basis.

Christchurch, I love you because you’re naturally beautiful. Your combination of coastlines and mountains is a defining quality of yours. I love starting my day at sunrise along the waterfront and watching the sun glisten on the waves and the clouds transform to radiant pink and orange hues.  I love walking through the Port Hills and seeing your unique blue waters contrast against the rolling green hills with a layer of snow-capped mountains in the distance.

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But I hate how you make me fight through the elements to enjoy you. Your howling southerly winds make me freeze from the inside out, even on the sunniest of days. And when you do allow the sun to come out without the southerly, you provide minimal protection from the intense rays that cause me heat stroke in under ten minutes. You often make those romantic walks on the beach near impossible!

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Christchurch, I love you because you are a foodie’s dream. There aren’t enough weekends in the year to test out all of your one-of-a-kind cafes. You have perfected the art of eggs benny and your coffee scene is pretty darn perfect.  And the fusion restaurant selection is one that could give NYC a run for it’s money.  Plus, speaking on behalf of the smaller group of vegetarians, your countless farmer’s markets with weekly fresh and organic produce absolutely warms my heart.

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But I hate you because you are so damn expensive. You tempt me with extra large and plump avocado’s but want me to pay a fortune to enjoy one. You get me addicted to your delicious barista services and have made me a coffee snob for life. Before I met you I had never craved a cuppa in my life and now I fear leaving you because I know that no one else does it like you!

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Christchurch, I love you because you are so resilient. You have been through enough hardships to last a lifetime but you don’t give up. You are on a mission to be the most modern city in the world (despite Mother Nature continually trying to stop you), and I admire you for that. You have a vision and you’re sticking to it!

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But I hate you because you are testing my patience! I know good things take time, but it is agonizing driving through your CBD and still dodging orange cones left and right, driving past earthquake damaged buildings that are still in ruins and having to park in  what feels like ground zero.

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Christchurch, I love you because you offer big city opportunities and small town living. You make countless career dreams come true and offer the support we all need to succeed.  And you also make it possible to own your own slice of this paradise and not have to be wealthy to be in your property game.

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But I hate you because you are so unpredictable! I am not a fan of your earthquakes. They always happen out of no where and take my breath away. And then just when I get used to them, they go away. So I’m forced to live on edge and try to anticipate your next big shake. And it’s a never ending cycle that I don’t think you’re going to break anytime soon.

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Sometimes I just want to give up on you. Those blasted southerlies, overpriced avocados, inconveniently placed orange road cones and unnecessary quakes can send me into a state of rage. I want you to change and to make my life easier.

But then again, nothing that is great is ever easy. Those seconds of rage are quickly replaced with an overwhelming and lasting feeling of loyalty and love.

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I will be the first to come to your protection when outsiders bad mouth you. Only I am allowed to say I hate you! Because those outsiders don’t really understands just how great you are.

You are one of a kind, and even though I don’t admit it nearly enough, I do appreciate everything about you–the good, the bad, the inconvenient and the scary.

Christchurch, I love you.  Cheers to two years with you. And cheers to many more to come.

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3 REASONS NOT TO OVERLOOK THE CATLINS

Rugged coastline, majestic waterfalls and empty roads. Need I say more?

With places like Milford Sound, Queenstown and Tekapo on tourist’s radar during their visit to New Zealand, the Catlins seems to have gotten pushed down to the bottom of most people’s travel itineraries, if even making an appearance on there at all.

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The Catlins is one of those off the beaten track places that is so “off-track” the majority of the area doesn’t even have paved roads! But the beauty of this region is that whether you choose to explore inland our coastal–it will feel as if you are one of the first people to ever discover it and 9 times out of 10, you won’t have to share the views with anyone but your own travel companions!

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Still not sold that the Catlins would be worth swapping in for a visit to the famous Queenstown or Tekapo? Think again…..

1. Nugget Point:

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These cute little nuggets that are perfectly in line with the Nugget Point Lighthouse are just so stinkin’ perfect! And even on a cloudy day, they seem to glisten among the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.

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The walk to reach the ultimate viewpoint of these nuggets is about 15 minutes and I would bet a million bucks on the fact that this will definitely make the top of your list of scenic places you will see in New Zealand.

2. Pūrākaunui Falls:

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I personally am a sucker for waterfalls (because who isn’t?!) and this one is quite special. While it’s size is not of the grandeur of other waterfalls I have seen, this particular casading waterfall makes for some really pretty photos and really special memories.

Plus, it’s an easy waterfall to squeeze in to the road trip through the Catlins as it is under a 10 minute walk to reach. But if you’re anything like me–you’ll be running to it the entire time.

3. Tunnel Beach: 

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Okay, this isn’t technically in the Catlins, but is right on the outskirts and is a place that will be passed en-route.

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A quick walk through scenic farmland will bring you to the dramatic coastline of Tunnel Beach! There is a constant mist from the violent crashing of the never-ending waves and an atmosphere that really makes you feel small in comparison to these humongous rocks!

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And Tunnel Beach didn’t receive it’s name for nothing–there is an actual tunnel you have to walk down to get to the beach!

It’s a place that you could easily spend the whole day soaking in the surroundings. And nothing like watching crashing waves to make you contemplate the bigger things in life.

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10 PHOTOS THAT WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO DROP EVERYTHING AND CLIMB MT. COOK

Well, maybe these photos won’t have quite the impact that they did on me, but hopefully they at least inspire you to visit one of the most beautiful mountains in the world!

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Home to several glacier lakes and walks suitable for beginners to the expert mountaineer, Mt. Cook never ceases to amaze.

And on the rare day that you see Mt. Cook with out any clouds or wind, chances are you will absolutely freak out over it’s grandeur and pure epicness. (I may or may not have started screaming in the car when I turned the bed and saw what I am about to show you below.

So here they are. My amature photos that will hopefully make you want to drop everything and climb Mt. Cook (or at least hop in a car and go view it from 1st world comforts).

1. The road to Mt. Cook

DSCN21752. Fall colours mixed with snow capped mountains = (heart faced emoji)

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3. But seriously……

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4. Mt. Cook looking as if it belongs in Japan….

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5. Wanting to run/skip/hop all the way to the tippy top of Mt. Cook!

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6. And then, these reflections!!!!

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7. Truth: I didn’t leave this spot for over an hour

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8. Mt. Cook showing off in every nook and cranny….

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9. Reflections + dusk + Mt. Cook = RIDICULOUS

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10. JUST WOW. And think–the first man to ever climb to the top of Everest first trained by climbing to the top of Mt. Cook….

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I’ll be dreaming mountaineering dreams tonight, and hopefully you do too!

WHAT IT’S LIKE TO JUMP OUT OF A PLANE

I’m scared of heights.

 

But for some reason, when I moved to New Zealand I felt compelled to conquer this fear. Not once, but twice. The first time was 140ft up when I decided it would be a good idea to bungee jump off a bridge. Don’t ask how I managed to do this–let’s just leave it at an abnormality. But hey, I could say I conquered my fear of heights and left it at that.

That is, until my mom visited me earlier this year. Skydiving has long been on her bucket list and was the number one thing she wanted to do in New Zealand.

It was 90% peer pressure and 10%FOMO (fear of missing out), but I somehow re-conquered my fear of heights from 13,000ft and jumped out of a plane.

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Despite the photographic evidence you are about to see below, this feat did not come easily. There were sleepless nights before the big jump, a couple hundred tears shed and a lot of fidgeting and walking like a maniac in circles before getting suited up.

 

This was my face when I was told we were only at 5,000ft…..

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And when we finally reached 13,000ft I started screaming….

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and didn’t stop….

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but then the screams switched from pure fear to pure joy….

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because the views were absolutely insane…

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and when the free-fall finally finished, I could barely contain my emotions (I mean there were waterfall of tears….but tears of joy none the less!)

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and then the real fun started when I was given control of the parachute…. I didn’t expect it to go quite so fast though!

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The endorphin rush was like none that I have ever experienced and the feeling of flying over paradise will leave you speechless (*It took me 5 min to catch my breath and start talking again….but I think that was because I used all my oxygen screaming the whole way down)

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Thanks Mom! X