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The Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

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This title is only semi-descriptive of the jaw-dropping amazement this naturally thermal landscape in Rotorua brings to the eyes and imaginations of both young and old alike. Pools of vivid colors I have never before seen naturally appearing through these lands, sprinkle this trek with abundance. This fascinating destination quite impressive if you find yourself anywhere on the North Island of New Zealand.

The trek itself is just under 2 km and very easy, however due to the changing terrain you may want to still opt to wear your tennis shoes. The popular attraction, Lady Geyser, is just before the trek starts and she erupts every morning at a prescheduled specific time, so I highly recommend getting there early and not missing out on that experience. It is a man induced eruption which was a bit of a disappointment, but in all fairness, there would be no other way to guarantee the, what starts as bubbling over then quickly changes to a rocketing eruption shooting several meters into the air, show for the anticipating audience.

Filled with names like ‘Artists Palette’, ‘Devil’s Ink Pots’, ‘Champagne Pool’, and ‘Devils Bath’, there is literally another stunning sight to see around every corner. There is a small spur off the main path to take that leads to Lake Ngakoro; a vibrant seafoam green lake to rest your eyes on after taking a few stairs to get there. I was completely enthralled with its aesthetic. Along this trek take a moment to notice that even the foliage has bright greens, coppers, and rust colors dripping from every branch. Once done with the trek there is an option to walk or drive over to the mud pools, another unique thermal experience to view with spouting pools sometimes in unison as if they were choreographed.

This path through Waiotapu is truly a wonderland, but is also touristy and usually quite populated. The experience, however, of seeing the myriad of native sceneries holds its value, as there is none other like it.

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Things To Do in Mount Maunganui

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Although the South Island, with all of its grand beauty, is any outdoor enthusiasts dream, it is whipping with southerly winds blowing in from Antarctica that bring a startling chill, and I was ready for some warmer weather. My North Island discovery began with the explorations of Mount Maunganui.

This little beach town has become quite a popular surf spot and its soft sand beaches with warmer summer waters bring in tourists from all over the world. As I strolled through the main stretch of shops I heard European accents from the student workers behind the counters of several privately-owned shops and cafes. This place does draw a younger, energetic crowd that fills the atmosphere with a youthful upbeat vibe.

A must do while on The Mount is to hike up to the top. The hike itself is beautifully line with shrubbery and green foliage which also helpfully provides a bit of shade from the intense sun this mountain can get. The panoramic views of the multiple shorelines, various inlets, and the city of Tauranga are a more than worth it reward. Many people do this hike for either daily exercise or simply for the views as a visitor, so I highly recommend going early. While at the top venture out a bit and explore the various paths along the peak that will take you to different viewpoints.

The Mount has multiple hikes going around the base and to the peak; there are days filled with exploring at various fitness levels so a leisurely scenic walk with an ice cream from one of the various ice cream shops is a fun way to end the day and watch a sunset. Coming down from the hike puts you right on the main beach and the beginning of side streets filled with shops. The main beach is beautiful and full of activity from volleyball to kayaking to surfing and of course, lots of people watching.

The multitude of restaurants and cafes make where to eat a perplexing decision. The mount has food choices for every desire, from vegan cuisine, to Mediterranean to Thai this place leaves a hungry person bursting with decisions. The Mount is a great getaway for beachgoers looking for a small but lively surf town to explore and enjoy.

Leaving Room for Miracles

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Fear of failure, the gaping black hole that steals so many promising dreams. What my life will look like in six months I truly have no idea, and the amount of conversations I’ve had about this very concept are plentiful; most look at me in either complete awestruck amazement due to the amount of courage this takes, or I get a look of bewilderment and incomprehension of why anyone would risk everything. I have no exact end date to my world travels, and as I step forward into what often times feels like deep waters, a single stepping stone appears sometimes the split moment before I feel like I’m going to lose balance, tumble in, probably hit my head on the way down, and drown. I was like most for a good long while, in that I had an idea of what my life would be and I had created a pretty cozy safe life for myself. The problem was no matter how much I attempted to convince myself that I could feel content with my life the way it was I couldn’t shake an unquenched desire to search for more, to find the gold in life with the unique life I was given.

For those who are venturing out and pursuing a new goal or direction in life because internally you know it fills your soul and has the ability to touch others you come in contact with, take the risk, step out in faith and courage. When you step out in faith you are creating a space for miracles to happen.

This is where God works mightily, in the appearingly void spaces of the unknown, in the risk. I’ve had several conversations with those of you, my readers, my friends, who feel void in one way or another, but you have this one amazing idea that would bless so many around you. I wonder if that is where God is waiting to show you just how mightily He will work in your life, on your behalf. He is waiting for you to move, to step out in complete blind faith, not knowing the outcome. He wants you to choose the possibility that could lead great failure and no provision, a crushing fear for many, because this is where His great sovereignty lies, over outcomes only He can control. This is where this piece of His Greatness is revealed and He desperately wants you to see Him, to trust Him. My pastor once said it is easier to turn the steering wheel of a truck when the truck is moving, but have you ever tried to turn the steering wheel of a truck that is in park, it’s not so easy. God wants you to be courageous and move, even in the struggle, He may be calling you to keep moving. If you have a heaviness in your heart that you want more, that you want to see the gold in life, this maybe you.

For those of you who have a friend in the midst of taking huge risks in life, show up. Be there. Love them when they are celebrating even the smallest of milestones and achievements, and love them even more in their failures, reminding them of who they are and celebrating that. Love them more when they are completely discouraged and their heart is hanging on by a thread; when they are down to one mustard seed of faith. When they want to give up remind them of how God sees them and be a listening ear for their pain and then their new ideas. This has been my saving grace in this journey, my friends and family overflowing with so much loves it spills onto me. Those who get excited with me over the smallest of things, and celebrate with me through words, calls, or messages, the astonishing adventures I’m embarking on and relationships that have been built. The (mostly women) in my life who have sent me constant encouraging words and reminders of truth, and have been a listening ear, your strength and perseverance is humbling. Thank you is an insufficient phrase. I love you does not express enough.

For those of you who have opened up to me, I will always write back. I am thinking about you, I am praying for you, and I am rooting for your success through Jesus. In the unknown, in the risk, the miracles lie. Step out, and leave room for miracles.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching. ” Hebrews 10:24-25

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus did.” Romans 15:5

“If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

“but if I were you, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before Him. He preforms wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” Job 5:8-9

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Stopping to Smell the Roses in Christchurch

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Botanical gardens that will make any flower lover swoon with delight and bustling outdoor cafes filled with life is what I discovered and where I spent most of my time in Christchurch. This larger city, the largest in New Zealand’s South Island, is still recovering and rebuilding from the major earthquakes that rattled its core and caused some buildings to crack and crumble in its wake. The steadfast determination of this city and the persistent drive of its construction workers is an invigorating sight to see and be in the midst of while this city is being revitalized.

I was able to stay right in the heart of the city center, and what I loved about this city is it wasn’t so big and spread out that I couldn’t walk anywhere I wanted to go. I was blessed to enjoy beautiful sunny weather with a crisp breeze cool enough to not feel overheated on the longer walks. Cafes, pubs, food trucks, art stands, and musicians singing tunes while playing their instruments, lined the streets and created a welcoming and vibrant surrounding while enjoying all the sights of the central business district. High Street, Cathedral Square, and New Regent Street with a train running through, are the must-sees of this area. For more upscale shopping The Tannery is the place to visit. My favorite indoor/outdoor place to sip coffee or wine and eat delicious fresh food while working away on my laptop was the Arbo Café. With its unlimited Wi-Fi, perfect location on High Street for people watching, beautiful but simple décor, and outdoor seating options, I spent hours here in between walks around the city. Also for a quick bite, the food trucks in Cathedral Square are a worth it stop when the weather is nice.

Walking a bit further, past all the hustle and bustle of the inner city and into a peaceful, floral, fragrant ambiance is Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens. These gardens are an endless sensory wonderland abounding with all kinds of flowers in full bloom during its spring season. With the Avon river calmly flowing thru and gondola rides to tour part of the gardens via water, there are numerous ways and paths to take. These gardens are so large it is easy to find a quiet spot to enjoy a bit of silence, apart from the sounds of nature. I am a woman who loves flowers, and being in the midst of the bountiful lavishness of this expansive enchanted paradise I was in complete elation. Needless to say, I came to the gardens almost on a daily basis just to sit amidst the gardens and enjoy a good read or a quiet walk.

Adjacent to the gardens is the Canterbury Museum, another deserving visit. A museum dedicated to Maori culture and history, its excellent displays are truly educational of this region of the world. While walking in to some of the rooms you hear authentic Maori music and language and view the authentic clothing, artifacts, and replicas of the housing.

Christchurch did not disappoint, and being in the midst of the rebuilding of this city added a sense of rejuvenation and determination to this much-needed experience.

The Southern Coastlines of New Zealand

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Where civilization is at your back, the endless array of possibilities lies in front of you, and the healing of the salty air is all around you, are the coastlines. I will admit, most of my venturing entails quite a bit of ocean therapy. I was born in a coastal state, and my entire life has been lived within close driving distance to the sea. Being without feels foreign, and when I’m away from it for a period of time, it is something I crave. Traveling down some of the coastal areas of the South Island brought a vast array of changing landscapes and ocean creatures coming up from the waters for a rest from the tumultuous cold waters.

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I’m going to start, right off the bat, with my favorite found location in these regions. The Katiki Lighthouse is hardly talked about, and there were no people there when I went. The lighthouse was built in 1878, I was told, because there were ships crashing into the dangerous reef that surrounds, while on their way to Port Chalmers. This is one of those hidden, not so talked about gems I discovered during my explorations. There are yellow-eyed penguins you may be able to spot, dozens upon dozens of seals, birds of all kinds, rabbits hopping right across your path, and red sand beaches that are probably untouched because they would be difficult to get to. The lighthouse itself is a stunning sight as well.

From Katiki, the Moeraki Boulders aren’t far; just make sure to plan this around low tide for some great photos and beachcombing. These boulders are giant spherical shaped formations that have been there for hundreds of years, and I’m not sure there is an agreement on how they got here, but there are definitely some local legends attached. The beach goes on for a good stretch, and though there are plenty of people there is also plenty space at low tide. I will say that the sand isn’t like a soft gritty sand that would feel good between yours toes, it’s more like a clay, muddy sand that you will want to wash from your feet right after walking on it. I wore shoes.

From here traveling up north to the smaller towns of Omaru and Timaru are great stops for the cozy cafes to warm up in and fill your stomach. Sitting along the harbors will be docks filled with birds, and Omaru will have the tiny blue penguins coming onto the land during sunset. There is a viewing fee to enter the area where one can actually see them. There is also a fence that is down in an area behind the viewing building that leads to a decent view as well, not that that’s what I did or would ever recommend.

Just outside Dunedin rest some of the most stunning cold water beaches. St. Claire to St. Kilda is filled with surfers ready to brave the waves in there thick full-body wetsuits. And then there is the staggering sight of Tunnels Beach with giant drop off cliffs, a waterfall when the rains have come, and of course a whole in the rock in the form of a tunnel where the sea crashes and swirls around.

The variety of landscapes alone, just along the coastlines of South Island, are magnificent and plentiful. The best method to get to all these places and to be sure you have the time to enjoy them is to have your own transportation, possibly even a camper van.

The Battlefield between Forces of Nature, Where Glaciers have Seceded, FIORDLAND

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These mighty mountains, with scale so large any man or animal would be left aghast and know its place, have been forced to bow into the sprawling valleys, who have demanded their space to be, left buy glaciers compelled to secede. Where the sun, God to many, has had difficulty conquering the indomitable ice and snow with skin so thick no force has been completely able to penetrate, and its thick build up is left to plummet in an avalanche destroying everything in its path. Where water, in any form, is plentiful, and its liquid form is showering over every mass with a drop it can find. Where these masses submit to the tumultuous emotions of the sea, is Fiordland.

Daring to travel Fiordland in the middle of winter, though the days were chosen wisely, the sun was shining and there wasn’t a snow flurry in sight for at least the next couple nights, the carpool departed from Queenstown in the wee hours of the morning before the sun had awaken. With layer upon layer, we were ready to venture out into what I was told was a majestic wilderness. Rounding Lake Wakatipu were kayakers determined to paddle despite the cold. With this lake so still, kayaks glided with ease through these scenic, cold waters. Rounding every icy turn Highway 6 had, down through Devil’s Staircase provides endless sights of this lake, though with breath sometimes held through some of the slick turns.

From there to Lake Manapouri lies endless native bush to explore, and some ranchlands. Lake Manapouri is also a great place for an overnight stay. With sandy shores against this massive lake and islands sprinkled throughout, it has endless trekking options. It really is an outdoor enthusiast dream that most have yet to discover. The next town is Te Anau which is a bit more populated and has its own lake filled with its own sights and allure. From here be sure to fill up on petrol, food, warmth, and anything else you might need because what lies ahead is pure wilderness.

Boulders that appear larger than the largest buildings have resigned to the flat lands of Eglinton Valley, left by an enormous glacier that once called this its home. This glacier that is now just a distant memory, was once hugged by the sloping mountains that surround; you can see its former size by looking around to see the width of this now extended valley. Down the road, a bit lie lakes so pristine and still, the neighboring Earl Mountains see their reflections with crisp clarity and vivid colors. These mirrored lakes are so clean and untouched when leaning over to see your reflection, not only do you see an exact mirror image but you will be able to make out the color of your features and the clothing you are wearing.

From here on, at every turn, when looking into the mountains, is an opportunity to see the remains of an avalanche. Some set off purposely by man to save men who are traveling through, and others, the mountains just could not bear the weight of the relentless snow and ice. These beginnings start at Knobs Flat, yet another picturesque sight. Be sure to walk across to Monkey Creek with its water so clean it’s safe to filled up on water straight from the creek. I did. In the middle of all this, Lake Gunn has made its claim to a natural rain forest with red beech trees and a variety of birds. Another perfect stop for a walk along the way, and keep an eye open for the Kea bird, a colorful mountain parrot both in sight and personality.

And now every piece of land is succumbed to the fourteen fiords where the sea holds its monopoly. The most popular and easiest to get too being Milford Sound. The term easy is used loosely due to it also being unreachable when any given avalanche decided to claim the inhabitants below, or the ice covers the road so thick nothing will provide enough traction to pass through. The only way to really experience the greatness of Milford Sound is by sea. Via boat you can see the deep cuts the ocean has gouged into the land to make its way through. Waterfalls are endless and cascading over every cliff side when rain has made has been present or the sun is forcing the snow to become water. The most well-known waterfall being Crystal Falls is consistently flowing, and if aboard a boat, you can get so close you can feel the spray.

Though these forces of nature may have contended with each other for hundreds of years, the combination of all has materialized into a great harmony allowing all to exist, composing Fiordland.

Women Empowering Women

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During my explorations in New Zealand’s South Island, where I spent over a month exploring, I decided to visit local churches and walked into Elim Church in Dunedin. I was immediately welcomed and befriend by some loving, extraordinary women. They invited me into their homes, fed me, and together we shared pieces of our lives and stories. I was asked to share my story to a women’s group within the church; I’m usually not much for any form of public speaking, but I felt prompted and said yes before the words “no way” could escape my mouth. This was one of those raw moments that, like a domino effect, led to other women opening up, sometimes despite the tears streaming down their cheeks. These are the pivotal points in time we as women can choose to really support, uplift, and empower each other in both emotional and practical ways.

I started out feeling nervous and realizing that no one in this room really knew me. In those first moments, I was unsure how I would be able to relate to all these different women when I had no idea who they were and what their experiences have been.

“My life hasn’t turned out the way I wanted or ever expected it to go, and I thought I’d share a piece of my story with you, and why I’m doing what I’m doing.” As I began with those first words to just lay it all on the line, I saw every woman’s eyes I looked into, looking back with complete connection, understanding, and waiting with expectancy for what I was going to say next. I went on and talked about my achievements, my heartaches, my disappointments, and why I walked away from a good paying career to explore the world and at least give myself a chance to pursue things that fill me with passion and a sense of purpose. (If you want to know more about this please read my “About” page, and feel free to contact me with any questions.)  I talked about faith and what that looks like when God hasn’t given you the life everyone else seems to have and you so badly wanted. I talked about how I hear God, how I’ve listened to Him asking me to step out of the boat, then feeling like I am sinking. How in this entire adventure I am stepping out not knowing where the next stepping stone will be or when it will show up. Similarly, how the Israelites were called into the wilderness and continually cried out to God wondering if He brought them there to die because they too felt like they were walking blindly with everything resting on their faith and trust. How Hagar was cast into the desert with a child and had to lay Ishmael down under a bush to die because they didn’t even have water. I shared about my confusion in this season and how here I sit, amongst a group of women speaking about faith, and I myself am unsure how I am going to keep a roof over my head.

Most importantly I shared how I saw God show up, sometimes at the very last minute, every time I made the first move to step out, and take these huge risks. I’ve always chosen to walk forward until I see God close the door; and then sometimes He opens a window and I crawl my way through that. He is always there, and He always answers in some form. God always provided for the Israelites and a spring of water for Hagar, in the last moments. Ishmael thrived and grew into a great nation. God ALWAYS provides when we follow His promptings in our journeys; sometimes it just looks a bit different than we expected. I shared that I really do believe our lives are made to be stories of God’s mighty work, and for there to be room for Him to truly reveal Himself there has to be great imperfection, lack, and despair. There has to be a need, a deficit, for Him to fulfill. Our stories aren’t just for us to have this outwardly appearance of a good life. Our stories aren’t just for us at all, but for God to reveal Himself through us to the world. Our ultimate goal shouldn’t be to have a cookie cutter “good” life, but to connect with others through the life we have and share our stories.

After I shared my stories we had great discussion. Multiple women opened up about the heart-wrenching struggles they are facing and have faced in their own lives, and how they too have lives that don’t look like they’d ever imagined. Stories of husbands leaving, having no means to support themselves let alone their children, struggles of depression, and just not being where they thought they would be in life. These are the moments we as women can speak life and hope into each other, reminding each other of who God is and His love and sovereignty over our lives, or we can completely miss this opportunity. We all have shortcomings, but these are the times we can really connect and push each other forward in our faith and in our lives. It is a beautiful thing, when women allow themselves be completely be striped of any pride and share their struggles. Take these opportunities, when we see the needs right in front of us. Be conscious that sometimes we are called to not just listen and embrace, but to act in any way we can provide help. Empowering isn’t just verbal but sometimes requires action and provision. So, there I was the next day, with no income myself, no knowledge of where the next roof over my head was going to be, arms filled with grocery bags, walking up to a doorstep I was seeing for the first time, and leaving all the groceries for someone who’s need was greater than mine.

Women empowering women.