World Travel with a Twist of Zen - Fields of Indulgence  
 
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Jeff had the guts to take a dip!
As we drove to Milford Sound, we knew we were entering the most popular part of New Zealand, and for good reason. The soaring alpine heights and majestic glacial views make this region an eye popping delight. The only downside is that the increased popularity leads to overcrowded campsites and reduced opportunities for freedom camping but it is an acceptable sacrifice for the region’s beauty. We were moving quickly through the east side of the island trying to catch the good weather on the west, where it is known to rain 110% of the time. The drive to Milford was somewhat cloudy, but the weather started to break as we approached the heart of Fiordland. To cap off the day, we climbed the rugged Marian Lake Track, which led us to the edge of a glacial lake nestled in a hanging valley. Jeff washed off the heat of the climb with a dip in the chilling pure blue waters!

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Beautiful glacial Marian Lake
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Full rainbows at the Milford waterfalls!
Next day was PACKED as we boulder hopped and waded up the riverbed to see the 270 meter high Humboldt Falls. The base was a cascading stream of splintering waterfalls that almost made us forget about the tiresome journey to get there! Then off to the Gertrude Valley Track where we found ourselves in a valley surrounded on all sides by majestic alpine peaks. A slightly misjudged clamber up the base of a waterfall to refill our chilly bin had us fearing getting caught in a landslide, so we scrambled down and headed off through the engineering feat of the Homer tunnel and into the famous Milford Sound. The sound is actually a “fjord” or inlet created by the retreat of a giant glacier millennia ago. We hopped on a Southern Discovery cruise of the sound and were awed by the sheer granite rising up out of the sea and the force of the waterfalls that pounded down from the high cliffs. The ship took us right into the falls making for a wet and fun experience as we tried to snap photos while being buffeted with glacial mist! 

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This is what 170 meter high waterfall looks like up close! It is a wet one!
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Milford Sound - the rocks here are hard granite so it is harder for the rains to erode them, which is why they just come out high from the waters.
The foreshore walk the next morning was a perfect time to snap a few great photos of Mitre Peak rising out of the 400 meter deep waters as the sun glistened off the water. 
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Earland Waterfalls
We saved the best for last with the Key Summit track and its stupendous alpine views of Lakes Marian, Gunn, and McKellar and the three valleys they rest in. We decided to continue after the Key Summit along the Routeburn Great Walk for another few hours to the Earland Waterfall that splash right down on the walking path. The time of the day to do this one is in the late afternoon when the waning sun projects a double rainbow through the water wafting up from the waterfalls base. As we emerged from the sound, the night’s stay at Henry Creek had a surprise in store for us, when we went to brush our teeth – Jeff had left his trusty companion for the past year and a half, his toiletry bag, all the way back at the Milford Sound Lodge. Out of all the places to forget it, this one happened to be 200 km away down a windy, hilly, dead-end road. Lucky for us, a one way road means everyone going there, must come back, and we were lucky enough to find a sweet couple, who agreed to retrieve the bag and drop it off for us in Te Anau, while we embarked on our greatest day hike yet.

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Double Rainbow!!!!
As if the 8 hour Routeburn jaunt wasn’t enough, we decided to tackle the Kepler Great Walk with a 12 hour return trip starting down at Te Anau Lake all the way to the highest point of the track, the peak of Mount Luxmore. A leisurely stroll through the beech forest led to a grueling 2 hour switch back packed ascend, which found us practicing walking meditation as we stepped and breathed in rhythm while pushing the limits of our physical endurance. Much like a Zen sesshin, pushing yourself to your limit, whether it be physical or mental can be an effective way to force the ego-mind to wear itself out, leaving only the fertile field of the present moment for the senses to graze upon. After finishing the walk and cooking up a king’s breakfast of eggs, shoulder bacon, and toast the next morning, we got a call from the local i-Site, that the couple dropped off our toiletry bag. Excitedly, we picked it up and left Fiordland complete again!
For all the photos from our Fiordland adventure, click here: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjE9X98T.

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So happy to make it through the ascent!!
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Basket of dreams on Queenstown Hill
Next stop was the crazy duo of Queenstown and Wanaka. Known as the “adventure capital” of the world, we found Queenstown’s manufactured adrenaline highs (bungee jumping, jet boating, hang gliding, etc.) to be overcommercialized and overpriced. The city has a beautiful location surrounded by the Remarkables Mountain Range on the edge of a clear blue lake. In the end we opted for some “natural highs” by climbing Queenstown Hill to get 360 degree views of the area. Wanaka is like a laid back version of Queenstown with a similar setting of mountains and lake. The environment was chill enough, however, to enjoy hangout time reading by the lake and some truly spectacular hikes, including the Rocky Mountain Loop Track overlooking Lake Wanaka and the surrounding environs. The most memorable was the Rob Roy Glacial Valley Track in Mount Aspiring National Park. The three hour roundtrip hike takes you to a magical valley, where the Rob Roy glacier perches atop the mountains. Meanwhile, the alpine parrots – keas – keep you company while they swoop down to feed on the brilliantly yellow wild flowers spanning the valley or on any tidbits that tourists inappropriately give them. Oh, and did we mention that there are maybe five waterfalls pouring down the crevices of the mountains – truly a magical place. For all the pictures from this leg, click here: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjEaeMMf.

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Rob Roy Glacial Valley
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Crazy keas at Rob Roy Hanging Glacier
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Fox Glacier Snout
After Rob Roy, we were primed and ready for more glacier fun as we headed north through the Haast Pass to the sandfly-ridden west coast, where the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers awaited. These remnants of the ice age past, continue to retreat up the amazing valleys they created and into their origins in the high mountain peaks. Walking to the snouts of each glacier, we found them impressive reminders of what the world once was but less atmospheric than the wondrous setting of Rob Roy.  

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Nowhere else in the world, can you see a glacier surrounded by jungle! Fox Glacier view from the Chalet Track.
As we finish off this post at Lake Kaniere outside of Hokitika, we are huddled inside of our van taking shelter from the hoard of blood thirsty sand flies that ravage tourists’ skin each dawn and dusk (and during the day in the really bad spots!). Still, they couldn’t take away from Hokitika’s charming driftwood beaches, abundance of pounami jade stones, and damn good mac ‘n cheese! 
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The winner of the driftwood art competition - Hokitika



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