This was my fourth year at burning man. Like every other year it was amazing, extraordinary and like every other year completely different from the last. Sari Blum Photography was quite the noctournal being this year – most active during sunset and sunrise. The proof is in the pictures. To everyone who I photographed, thank you so much.
To those who have never been to Burning Man before, I will say this: It’s not for everyone – but it might just be for you.
(more pictures to come so get excited)
As of March 18 my parents came to meet me in Queenstown. Together we traveled for three weeks all around the South Island. After picking up my parents at the airport we spent a very relaxed day enjoying a lovely brunch spot and then settling in nicely to our hotel. We emerged for Birthday dinner which involved a braised and slow roasted lamb shoulder. Mmmm.
That next day we went wine tasting in the Gibbston Valley just north of queenstown. We found some delicious wines and bluff oysters that were in season at the moment. After eating so much all day and night, the next day we decided to head to Glenorchy for a small day hike. Glenorchy is also where they did a lot of filming of horseback riding shots in Lord of the Rings. They announced this everywhere in the small town. We decided to do a day hike on what’s called the Routeburn track. Typically a 3 day hike across a fairly rugged mountain wilderness. As a simple day hike we did about 12 miles. It was enough to get us into somewhat shape to prepare for our Milford track adventures. After crossing many swing bridges and hiking through moss covered rain forests and crystal clear blue waterfalls we reached the ridge and waterfalls. For most people this was their stopping point and hut location, unfortunately we still had to go back down. Nonetheless it was a beautiful hike.
For our final day in Queenstown before our Milford Expedition we slept in, had a late brunch, walked around the city and enjoyed a day of quiet relaxation then hectic packing. We met our group that afternoon and was given a briefing of what to expect on the hike, what to pack, what not to bring, and who all was on the trip. By this meeting alone I was quick to realize that I was the youngest person on the trip. No matter though – the group had incredible individuals among them. The following day we departed for the milford track, which through buses and boats and our own two feet took really all day to get to our first stopping point.
For those of you who haven’t heard of the Milford Track or Milford Sounds they are located in the southwestern part of the south island of New Zealand. They are called Fiordlands because the glacier carved out large fiords that connect to the ocean. A fiord is used to describe a mountain near the ocean that has been carved by glaciers to create deep chasms and passes. The scenery is absolutely stunning.
Anywhoo – Milford Sound – a guided hike since the early 1900’s for all types of adventure seekers. Huts were established along the way and no camping was allowed until the mid 60’s when a group of rebellious youths camped all along the well established trail in protest. They believed that, what is now called ‘freedom camping’, should be allowed within the park. Meaning that you can hike the trail without being on a guided tour. They have now established a ‘freedom camper’ hut system that you must stay in if you’re not hiking with the guided groups. You can’t tent camp anywhere in the area to protect the environment. But our accommodations were a bit more lush, shall we say, complete with showers and a full fledged dinner and a bar. Everything we truly need. We spent 5 days with a group of people all ranging from my age to people in their 40’s to people well into their 70’s.
It was absolutely inspiring to hike this 33.2 mile trail with 70 year olds who once hiked the track in their youth. Each night we would have dinner in a large dinning room meeting people from across the world and hearing their life tales. The trail takes you through lush valleys surrounded by intimidating craggy peaks that have been carved by glaciers over thousands of years. There are ancient forests covered in moss, towering trees and the uninterrupted chattering of birds rings through the air. A wilderness area so pristine that we could drink directly from the hundred of flowing streams without treating the water. A humbling and awe-inspiring land to be sure. I feel so lucky to have witnessed this with my parents. The final day of the trek we were taken on a boat ride through the milford sounds. It was such a foggy cold morning it made the mountains seem even more ominous and untouched. The water was an icy black color and your thoughts would stray to explorers who had first discovered these vast, imposing waterways.
Here I am still playing catch-up. Its summer and I’m in San Francisco, still on the road but making my way home. The past few months have been nothing short of amazing and I’m so excited to start sharing pictures with everyone.
We left off leaving Wellington, New Zealand – taking the ‘Inter-Islander Ferry’ to the South Island where a five day road trip to Queenstown was about to commence with my friend Will. Our stops included Picton, Nelson, Hokatika, Lake Tekapo, Mt Cook, and finally Queenstown. The ferry ride was about four hours and then we picked up a car and headed into the mountains of the South Island. Our first stop was Nelson, a beautiful town where some of my friends from New Zealand grew up. It was too short of a stay for in the morning we were up early to head over to the West Coast to stop in a town called Hokatika.
There isn’t really anything special about Hokatika except for the fact that the drive down was superbly stunning, crossing through mountains and then immediately having them plunge into a rugged coast line with extraordinarily blue water. The only other great thing about Hokatika (can you say it yet? Ho – Ka – TI – KA) is that it is one of the place where greenstone is produced.
Produced seems like the wrong word, but maybe harvested? Carved into jewelry? Both are true, but either way lets move on from there. Greenstone is very similar to Jade and it is very prominent within the Maori culture. It was used for jewelry as well as weapons. It is very beautiful and very strong. The greens can differ hugely, ranging from sea green to a deep emerald green to a very, well, green stone. What I love most about the green stone is that there is a lot of tradition and symbolism seeped into them. They are usually carved in about 1 of 5 shapes that symbolize different meanings. They vary from strength and courage to safe passage over water or friendship or new beginnings. Almost every kiwi person I know or who has been to New Zealand has one. The catch is though is that you are not supposed to buy it for yourself. Call me a stickler for tradition – but I didn’t get one for myself because of that.
Will and I then drove down to a lake called Lake Tekapo. I was told that it was one of the bluest lakes you will ever see in your life and it’s one of the best places to stargaze in New Zealand. I agreed with the star gazing and we were fortunate enough to have a crystal clear night – but the lake – maybe it was cloudy and that made all the difference, but honestly I wasn’t that impressed. The following day we shuttled a german couple from our hostel with us to our next destination which was Mt Cook. Now the lake that came before Mt Cook – THAT was a BLUE lake. Because of the glaciers surrounding the area the lake is composed of glacial runoff and therefore filled with what’s called glacial flour. It gives the water this impossible almost neon blue chalky look. The sun came out for us and absolutely illuminated the water and the golden grass. It was truly gorgeous.
The german couple had plans to hike up to a hut on a neighboring mountain to stay in a cabin over night. New Zealand has a whole chain of public use huts created by the Department of Conservation. Sounds a bit Orwellian but really it’s a wonderful program that creates and sustains all the amazing hiking trails all over this country and builds huts/cabins for people to stay in so there is less impact from overnight campers. Will and I decided to join them as far as a look out point to enjoy a day hike. The lonely planet even described the hike as – for the energetic… I will now think twice about what “energetic hikes” truly mean. After half an hour of a lovely meandering path through a valley the path reaches the side of a mountain.The trail turns into a winding, steep staircase that we climbed mercilessly for the next 2 hours. Think of Frodo climbing up that creepy staircase in the last movie of the lord of the rings, and that was almost us. Except it was a gloriously sunny day and there was no giant spider waiting at the top. Don’t dwell on this analogy if you don’t get it – just know that these stairs were steep. It was like being stuck on the worst stair master of your life.
However, once we got to our plateau/stopping point the view was breath taking and worth every painful step. Our german friend’s continued onto their hut and Will (literally) skipped down the mountain while I hobbled slowly down. The hostel we stayed in at Mt Cook felt like being back in summer camp again. All log cabin style and bunk beds. The next day we drove on down to Queenstown to spend st. patricks day. Queenstown is a beautiful mountain town nestled against some rugged mountains called the Remarkables or the ‘remarks’ for short and a large large lake. It is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand. I think my parents and I proved that to be true.
And now the photos to accompany the tale…
West Coast of the South Island
Long Exposure Fun
This how you skype your parents from NZ
The drive into the Mt Cook Valley
Just another day at the office.
Most Amazing stars – the picture still cannot do it justice.