I’m ditching the “photo-a-day” thing this week because the standout of week 2 is the Kepler Track.

I chose to do a Great Walk because I wanted the experience of tramping solo in the day and having some company in the night. I chose to do the Kepler Track in particular because it is the most mountainous of the ten and as much as I try to be appreciative of each and every landscape, there is nothing that shakes my soul like the mountains.

Going into the tramp, I didn’t research track notes or search for any photos so that every instant could be lived, untainted, with wide, open eyes. I wanted to recreate that feeling of total discovery that is so often missing these days due to the (over) availability of information.

I also wanted to completely disconnect. So far, I have only turned on my global roaming twice in order to check bookings but when I am in my hostel, at one of my favourite cafés, Joe’s Garage, or simply wandering around town, I am often hooked up to WiFi. If I had stronger willpower, I could turn my phone off…but I don’t. It takes going out into the wilderness where there is no chance of a signal for me to leave it all behind.

As I write this, I am on my 3rd day back in town and I am already scheming on when I can get back out there, weather + sore-calf-permitting. I definitely feel the weight of my Sydney haze dissipating, as a whole…and I’m interested to find out how much more will clear up if I give myself a few more days away from it all.

I could keep on rambling but without further ado, here are my photographs from the Kepler Track + some tidbits:

 This is Hanging Valley Shelter, an emergency shelter found along the ridges of Day 2 (which was one of the best days of my life). That’s Peta + Billie from Queenstown. We had been trailing + leap frogging each other all morning until we finally met and had a chat.  Billie was taking a day off school to do her first ever tramp with her mum, with her cerulean blue backpack that she got last Christmas.  We spoke about what I was doing in New Zealand and how I was hiking Kepler alone.  When they headed off, Peta told me so kindly to take care and then I swear I heard her mumble to Billie, “she’s a brave one”. It was unexpectedly heartwarming and made me tear up. It made me miss being overtly loved. It had only been just over a week since I’d left Sydney but it just brings home the importance of connection.

This is Hanging Valley Shelter, an emergency shelter found along the ridges of Day 2 (which was one of the best days of my life). That’s Peta + Billie from Queenstown. We had been trailing + leap frogging each other all morning until we finally met and had a chat.

Billie was taking a day off school to do her first ever tramp with her mum, with her cerulean blue backpack that she got last Christmas.

We spoke about what I was doing in New Zealand and how I was hiking Kepler alone.

When they headed off, Peta told me so kindly to take care and then I swear I heard her mumble to Billie, “she’s a brave one”. It was unexpectedly heartwarming and made me tear up. It made me miss being overtly loved. It had only been just over a week since I’d left Sydney but it just brings home the importance of connection.

 I like to believe that I am at the top of the pyramid when it comes to gratitude. For a long time now, I have placed meaning and value on such things like my relationships, my health, the beauty of this world, the fact that I live in one of the most prosperous and safe countries in the world and the list goes on of intangibles. I can’t remember the last time I lusted over a house or a car or a piece of clothing.  And yet, so often, I get the feeling that someone thinks I am ungrateful; that I am too idealistic, too romantic, that I want too much.  What do I want? I want a passionate life. I want to live in a place that inspires me, be with people who make me feel like I am on fire, do work that fulfils me, have a positive impact on those around me.  That’s something I finally distilled this morning and it was the first time that I ever expressed it so simply. But of course, it is easier synthesised than done.  I don’t think what I want is too much. But I do think that it is abstract and built upon feelings and intuition rather than concrete numbers and materials…and I think that is something that is too difficult to grasp for many people. And so they chalk it down to me being ungrateful and impossibly discontent. Which sometimes is definitely applicable - I am only human.

I like to believe that I am at the top of the pyramid when it comes to gratitude. For a long time now, I have placed meaning and value on such things like my relationships, my health, the beauty of this world, the fact that I live in one of the most prosperous and safe countries in the world and the list goes on of intangibles. I can’t remember the last time I lusted over a house or a car or a piece of clothing.

And yet, so often, I get the feeling that someone thinks I am ungrateful; that I am too idealistic, too romantic, that I want too much.

What do I want? I want a passionate life. I want to live in a place that inspires me, be with people who make me feel like I am on fire, do work that fulfils me, have a positive impact on those around me.

That’s something I finally distilled this morning and it was the first time that I ever expressed it so simply. But of course, it is easier synthesised than done.

I don’t think what I want is too much. But I do think that it is abstract and built upon feelings and intuition rather than concrete numbers and materials…and I think that is something that is too difficult to grasp for many people. And so they chalk it down to me being ungrateful and impossibly discontent. Which sometimes is definitely applicable - I am only human.

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 By the way, I am and have always been really good at this solo travelling thing. In fact, it’s something I’ve dreamt about, repeatedly, since I was about 11 years old. I used to write short stories about throwing random belongings and snacks into a backpack and setting off on some adventure.   But there are two scenes that make me feel lonely. One, seeing couples being publicly affectionate (specifically that, if they’re just standing together, not so bad…if they’re holding hands etc, I die) Two, seeing big groups of friends hanging out having some laffs.   In the mountains, I saw both. But they didn’t affect me as much as they usually do. I don’t know why.

By the way, I am and have always been really good at this solo travelling thing. In fact, it’s something I’ve dreamt about, repeatedly, since I was about 11 years old. I used to write short stories about throwing random belongings and snacks into a backpack and setting off on some adventure.

But there are two scenes that make me feel lonely. One, seeing couples being publicly affectionate (specifically that, if they’re just standing together, not so bad…if they’re holding hands etc, I die) Two, seeing big groups of friends hanging out having some laffs.

In the mountains, I saw both. But they didn’t affect me as much as they usually do. I don’t know why.

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 Can you spot the tiny trampers in the left-hand corner? I hope that emphasises the sheer scale of the mountains that we were hiking in.

Can you spot the tiny trampers in the left-hand corner? I hope that emphasises the sheer scale of the mountains that we were hiking in.

 I walked all morning in rapt silence that was interrupted only by “oh my god” and sharp little inhales + exhales that seemed to just slip out of me. I felt so inspired by the mountains’ unrivalled beauty and humbled by their magnitude that made me feel so refreshingly out of control.  I wanted just one photo that would always remind me of how it felt to be amongst these peaks; one photo that captured the terrain and the size of this landscape…I felt a little silly fumbling around with my tripod + camera and posing…but now I will forever have this vignette to look at and remember how it felt to be totally present and awe-filled.  Actually, I know I said above that I don’t covet possessions…but there are a few materials that I do dream of and one is walls + walls filled with framed photos of adventure, loved ones, adventures with loved ones. Also, I am quite attached to my outdoors gear i.e. my backpack, my tent etc :)

I walked all morning in rapt silence that was interrupted only by “oh my god” and sharp little inhales + exhales that seemed to just slip out of me. I felt so inspired by the mountains’ unrivalled beauty and humbled by their magnitude that made me feel so refreshingly out of control.

I wanted just one photo that would always remind me of how it felt to be amongst these peaks; one photo that captured the terrain and the size of this landscape…I felt a little silly fumbling around with my tripod + camera and posing…but now I will forever have this vignette to look at and remember how it felt to be totally present and awe-filled.

Actually, I know I said above that I don’t covet possessions…but there are a few materials that I do dream of and one is walls + walls filled with framed photos of adventure, loved ones, adventures with loved ones. Also, I am quite attached to my outdoors gear i.e. my backpack, my tent etc :)

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 The most common response that I’ve received to this photo on Instagram (mostly in DMs) has been how happy I look.  I have been told that I smile a lot and that my smile takes over my whole face. Sometimes, I feel really vulnerable when someone says this to me. Other times, it makes me feel really proud to wear my heart on my sleeve like that, in a world where many people filter + hide.  I suppose if I ever look like this when I’m with you, you know that I am loving hard on you!

The most common response that I’ve received to this photo on Instagram (mostly in DMs) has been how happy I look.

I have been told that I smile a lot and that my smile takes over my whole face. Sometimes, I feel really vulnerable when someone says this to me. Other times, it makes me feel really proud to wear my heart on my sleeve like that, in a world where many people filter + hide.

I suppose if I ever look like this when I’m with you, you know that I am loving hard on you!

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 What is it about sunrises that are so magical? I went through a decent period at home in Sydney when I was up for every sunrise. I would just stroll down to the water’s edge or along this little bush track near home and wait for the colours to dance in the sky. But before I came to New Zealand, it had been a long while since I’d been up in time to catch first light.  Sunrise at Luxmore Hut is an unforgettable experience. It’s not everyday that you can stumble steps from your bed (not even your doorstep but your bed) and see the sun rising over the mountains, casting its glow on the OTHER mountain ranges that are completely surrounding you.  And yet, there weren’t really that many people around. This was surprising but welcome to me. And I loved seeing us all so captivated and engaged. Once I took some photos, I just sat there and watched and felt and soaked it all up. Every single other person was doing exactly the same. It was beautiful.

What is it about sunrises that are so magical? I went through a decent period at home in Sydney when I was up for every sunrise. I would just stroll down to the water’s edge or along this little bush track near home and wait for the colours to dance in the sky. But before I came to New Zealand, it had been a long while since I’d been up in time to catch first light.

Sunrise at Luxmore Hut is an unforgettable experience. It’s not everyday that you can stumble steps from your bed (not even your doorstep but your bed) and see the sun rising over the mountains, casting its glow on the OTHER mountain ranges that are completely surrounding you.

And yet, there weren’t really that many people around. This was surprising but welcome to me. And I loved seeing us all so captivated and engaged. Once I took some photos, I just sat there and watched and felt and soaked it all up. Every single other person was doing exactly the same. It was beautiful.

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 The track already feels like such a distant memory to me in some ways and yet sometimes, if I stop whatever it is I am doing and just gaze out into nothing, I remember exactly how the tussock felt beneath my feet, the extreme contrast of the hot sun and the bitter chill of the breeze assaulting my face just moments apart, the sweat trickling down my back, the sound of the rocks scattering around my feet as I trotted downhill, feeling like I could just skip on over to the nearby mountains because they were so close. Memory is such a wonderful thing. I really cherish mine.

The track already feels like such a distant memory to me in some ways and yet sometimes, if I stop whatever it is I am doing and just gaze out into nothing, I remember exactly how the tussock felt beneath my feet, the extreme contrast of the hot sun and the bitter chill of the breeze assaulting my face just moments apart, the sweat trickling down my back, the sound of the rocks scattering around my feet as I trotted downhill, feeling like I could just skip on over to the nearby mountains because they were so close. Memory is such a wonderful thing. I really cherish mine.

Since returning from the Kepler Track, I’ve been on somewhat of a comedown. I did need some town days to work and I definitely needed some time to recover especially as the tramp aggravated the crapola out of my right calf (that I hurt falling off the bouldering wall back in SEPTEMBER) but as I write this, I only have 12 days left and I’m starting to stress about all that I still want to do…

So I’m going to pull myself out of this strange comatose puddle that I’ve become to bring you a super beautiful and adventure-packed week 3….stay tuned xxx

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