Tag Archives: Hiking

Tongariro Trek Triumph!

We were still enjoying the beautiful Lake Taupo area and decided to do one of the Great New Zealand Walks while we were here. These are treks that give you the chance to be among some of the country’s most impressive scenery and usually take several days to complete – while we didn’t have time to do a full one of these walks this trip, we decided to walk most of one of the trails in a one day hike – the Tongariro Crossing.

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People had described this hike as, the closest you can get to hiking on Mars, and I didn’t know what to make of that statement until I was there. The landscape is unlike anything I had ever seen before with all of the lava flow – it was just awesome!

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The main peak (seen in the 2 pictures above) we hiked past is called Mt Ngauruhoe and it was used as Mt Doom in Lord of the Rings. Interesting story – the Maori Chiefs did not allow Peter Jackson to film the peak/interior of the volcano for the movies because they believe it to be sacred so they had to CG the top part. This part of the trail was nice and warm with the sun beaming down on us and lots of volcanic rocks around us – it was a great start to our full day trek!

Tongariro Start Collage

The landscapes really did seem to be out of this world – some places were so barren. Ryan couldn’t help but take a picture so it looks like he’s in the middle of nowhere.

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Along the trail, there was another Lord of the Rings filming spot (last one, I promise!) – the valley below was where they filmed Mordor. Can you tell by my expression I thought this was pretty cool?!

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At the top were some great views into one of the volcano craters – you’ll notice we’ve put our jackets on at this point – as you got closer to the top, it got chillier and much, much windier.

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After all the hard work of climbing to get up to the top, we started to head downhill and as soon as we did that, we had a great view of some turquoise colored pools. We ended up having lunch right next to them – a well deserved break after our few hours of hiking.

Tongariro Collage 2

We had decided to do this trek through a guided tour because you start and end in two different spots and we weren’t sure how to handle those logistics and we wanted to make sure we stayed safe as this was an active volcanic area (there was an eruption a couple of years ago – in fact, our guide, Tom,  is the one you hear calming everyone down in the video of the eruption) so we thought it would be good to have an expert close by. Being the science enthusiasts that we were, we loved walking through the volcanic area. 

Active Volcano Collage

Here is one of the craters left when the rocks went flying out during the eruption – that would have certainly been an exciting day to be hiking the trail!

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The last bit of the trail is certainly the easiest and the scenery changes again to be more green and there is a great view of Lake Taupo in the distance. It’s a somewhat relaxing way to end a long but wonderful day hiking.

Tongariro Crossing Lake Taupo

We had an absolute blast on our trek along the Tongariro Crossing and highly recommend it if you’re in that area in New Zealand – the scenery is unlike anything you will have likely seen and you feel accomplished after you finish! We finished our tour with some celebratory locally brewed beers!

Beers after Tongariro

 

Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty

After our awesome NYE in Sydney, we headed straight to New Zealand on the first day of 2014 – all set for 10 days of adventure! We landed in Auckland, spent the night, picked up our rental car and then drove to Tauranga which is on the Bay of Plenty on the North Island. The weather was great and we headed to Mount Maunganui to hike…it was right on the water with a beach just in front of it, so we knew the view was going to be a great one!

Mt Maunganui

It was a really nice hike and the views were wonderful!

Tauranga Collage

Mt Maunganui Hike 1

Mt Maunganui Hike 2

Afterwards, we enjoyed some really delicious beer at a local brewery. Being in Korea, one of the things that we miss most is local, awesome beer on tap so we were in heaven.

NZ Beer

The next day, we went out on a dolphin watching trip – we had wet suits so that if we found a pod of dolphins, we could jump in and swim with them. I was super excited about it and so we headed out early in the morning on a beautiful day. Unfortunately, we didn’t find enough dolphins to get in the water with them, but we did get the chance to have some swim with the boat we were on for a little while which was great. One of the dolphins even had a baby with her!

Dolphin Watching TaurangaTravel Tip: If you’re heading there and looking for a nice little place to stay, we really enjoyed our stay at City Suites.

Birthday Hike!

I finally had a birthday on a Saturday so I was really excited! Ryan was so sweet and made me breakfast and then we got together with a group of friends to go on a hike. The weather was great so we decided to head out and hike the highest mountain on the island: Mt. Garasan. We had an absolutely wonderful hike and then went out to a great dinner that night! It was a great day – we’re so lucky to have fun friends!

Mt Garasan

At the top of Mt Garasan

Exploring Geoje Island with Ryan’s Parents!

We spent the rest of the week exploring Geoje island which is quite beautiful. On New Year’s Eve, we went out for a great dinner and then woke up early the next day to watch the sunrise. We were told by all of the Koreans that this is the cultural tradition here. Luckily for us, we had a great spot in our apartment to watch this, so we brewed some fresh coffee and enjoyed it together. Great way to see the first sunrise of 2013!

First Sunrise in 2013

Afterwards, we went on a great hike to one of the smoke signals up on the mountain that was used many years ago to warn Korea against a potential invading Japan. Then, we took a wonderful drive around the island, stopping at two of our favorite beaches: Gujora Beach and then the Pebble Beach – I’m not sure what it’s called but it’s full of black pebbles, so we just call it the pebble beach. We had beautiful sunshine and truly enjoyed our day!

Exploring Geoje Island

Exploring Geoje Island

We also made a stop at one of the local open markets which was fun – the fish market is an experience that everyone has to have in Asia. It’s hard to describe  in words and have someone truly understand what it’s like – you have to experience it. It certainly gives a new meaning to the word “fresh.”

Local Korean Fish Market

We also took them to our favorite Korean BBQ place, Seo Rae.

Enjoying Korean BBQ

The best part was getting to see them – being around family is so important to both Ryan and I so this was such a blessing! CeCe even taught me to crochet so I need to get back to practicing so I can start making fun gifts for everyone! CeCe and Tim did some exploring on their own during the day while Ryan and I were at work…she’s already promised me a post about their experiences, so stay tuned!

Summer!

I need to catch up on activities from the past couple of weekends – the rainy season in Korea is over so our sunny weekends are back and we’ve been taking advantage of it!The past two weekends, we have taken some time to see the “sights” on the island. The first weekend, we went to the Mungdong Waterfall. I am a huge fan of waterfalls, so every time I see that word, I’m immediately interested to go check it out. We drove to the area and there was a huge line of cars to get to the parking lot, so we decided to park in an empty spot at the bottom of the hill and walk up to the entrance (I’m not sure why more people didn’t have this idea as well, because there were a lot of angry Koreans in cars and we were the only people walking).We got to the entrance, and Ryan showed me that the path of rocks was designed for you to walk barefoot across and it targeted different parts of your feet to cleanse other parts of your organs. Sounded good enough, so I took off my shoes and started walking across the rocks. It was incredibly painful – you can tell my feet have been in shoes my whole life, haha. Many of the Koreans giggled at me as they walked by because I was making my usual squeaks as I walked across the torture rocks. Ryan kept encouraging me that it feels really great when you’re done, so I kept going. When we got to the end, and stepped on the normal path, it did feel really good. My feet felt rejuvenated - it was crazy!

Start of the Trail

These rocks were much tougher to walk on than some of the smoother ones, but they probably did the most rejuvenation :)

Ryan walking over the rocks

As we were walking, we noticed that there were people camping (or what appeared to be camping) all along the river coming off of the waterfall. The place was packed! They had their grills out and many of them were napping on the rocks or along this path while their kids played in the small pools in the little river. It was interesting because the idea would never have crossed my mind to set up camp on a rock by a river and take a nap there. In the States, people would have their nice camping chairs and other comfortable “necessities”…it’s nice seeing people who take advantage of the small things and enjoy the day wherever they are.

We got up to the top and saw the Waterfall…it was a nice little waterfall and we hiked up to the top to look down. There were a bunch of kids taking turns jumping into the pool at the bottom so this is clearly a hot spot with the kids!

It’s hard to tell from the picture but there IS water flowing down :)

The next Saturday, we headed to the Sculpture Park and walked one of the trails there with Cory & Rachel. It was really hot so we didn’t want to do a hardcore hike, so we thought this would be a good alternative.

This is the Sculpture Park – there are several sculptures and the park is right next to the water!

More sculptures…

As with all of the hiking trails we’ve been on, there is outdoor exercising equipment! I doubt there are very many fitness facilities in such a beautiful spot (the view of the water and islands behind is so nice!)

Cory going to do dips

This was next to us for a ways during our hike – I love the waves crashing on the rocks!

At the end of the trail were these red stairs to this lighthouse so we climbed up and checked out the view

The view from the lighthouse – we live in such a beautiful place!

We wanted to hike down to the rocks to get a better view, so we found a trail that took us down there and it was well worth the trek down!

Ryan has been going mountain biking every Sunday mornings which he absolutely LOVES! This video shows the mountain behind our house that they ride sometimes: Guksabong Mountain Bike Video, (it’s some other guy riding, but the same trail). While they are out mountain biking, I usually hike up Guksabong or go for a nice run. We really want to make sure that we stay fit and healthy and Korea makes that pretty easy for us with access to the mountains and lovely weather!

He bikes in the mountains but he caught me coming up from the local grocery store to get some ingredients to make him a delicious brunch on his way home & I got a shot of him heading up the hill to our apartment! Such a stud! :)

Another tradition that has been started amongst some of our expat friends is to head to the beach on Sundays in the afternoon and then BBQ in the evenings. It’s been really fun and we’ve enjoyed all being together and enjoying the summer!

Happy Summer to everyone!! :)

Accidental Summit

A couple of weekends ago, we met our friends Cory and Rachel out for a short day hike. We followed them to the start of the trail and headed up. The trail started at a temple…it is a more modern temple so it didn’t have the ancient feel to it, but they had some neat statues and it was decorated for Buddha’s birthday with colorful lanterns which was neat.

Buddhist Statue & Temple

We saw this little frog in the pond – we really haven’t seen very many animals while we’ve been here so we excited to see this little guy!

Colorful lanterns

They had a big bell at the temple – Ryan and I took turn ringing it…well, I pretended and Ryan actually rung it :)

The hike was great! It was a trail through rocks/boulders and it was very steep! We didn’t know where this trail would take us and we kept hiking until we got to the summit and realized that we had just hiked to the summit of one of the highest mountains in Geoje!

There was a bamboo forest in the middle of the hike…the funny thing was that the bamboo was only in this small area of the trail – we didn’t see bamboo anywhere else

Cory & Rachel with our trail guides – their dogs are quite the trail guides!

We made it to the summit!

View of Okpo

View from the other side

Exploring the island!

We have now been in Korea for a few weeks and another blog post is way overdue! We have been really enjoying our time here in Korea. For the most part, we have been lucky enough to have really good weather which means we can spend a lot of time outside! One of our favorite things to do here so far is to hike some of the different paths – it’s such a welcome change from the flatness of Houston! One weekend, we hiked with our friends up to one of the smoke stacks that was used to warn the other Koreans if the Japanese invaded. The hike was great – it started out with steep steps and continued to go up a ways – we are certainly getting in better shape!

This is the sign at the base of the trail; the pebbles wearing pink & blue outfits are the mascots of Gejoe

They had some really pretty flowers up at the top!

Ryan with the smoke stack behind him

Cory, Rachel, me & Ryan at the top of the hike

Ryan & I with the smoke stack

Good view of the fabrication yard where we work

We spent the rest of the day driving around the island and exploring – these are some of the pictures from our afternoon!

This woman is drying the little fishes that are caught locally

Fishing boats on the coast of Geoje Island

View of some of the islands off of the island that we live on – so beautiful!

Ryan made a friend while we were walking around!

We found our way to a nice beach as well!

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