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Falling in Love with the Great Outdoors

Finding time for yourself can be quite a challenge in today's busy world, but when I do make the time, one of my all time favourite things to do is be out in nature with my pups. Not every where you go in the wilderness is dog friendly living in a sensitive eco system such as New Zealand, so when I'm planning a trip I do spend quite a bit of time researching suitable places to go for a wilderness adventure with my scruff nuggets. I was thinking about this the other day and had a bit of a giggle comparing the search to that of being on Tinder or some of those other random dating sites. Browsing through the Department of Conservation website looking at a plethora of hiking spots in the South Island, there are so many to choose from, yet it can be tricky to find the ones that have those key words "dog friendly", "dog access allowed" etc. It's a bit like finding that hot guy or girl on Tinder, getting all excited and ready to swipe right and get ready to meet up and then bam, no dogs allowed... Dreams crushed, moving on to the next... Swipe left. That's how Tinder works am I right? Not totally sure as I haven't given it a try, but I do enjoy hearing about my friend's random, mostly hilarious experiences on the site. But anyways, back to the story at hand. Dog friendly is a must for me, and over the years I've found quite a few amazing spots to take the nuggets out for an exploration into the great outdoors. I do plan to do trips without them, but as much as I can, I'd rather them be along for the adventure. It's such a proud mama moment, getting to see the excited faces and true appreciation for the wild in their eyes. Truly heart melting I have to say! This week I had the chance to escape for a few days and was on the fence between the Ahuriri Conservation Park or Mavora Lakes Conservation Park. I've been to the Ahuriri a few times already and absolutely love this place but had not ever been to the Mavora Lakes/ Te Anau part of the South Island. The weather tends to be the deciding factor when choosing where to go, especially at the tail end of winter/ beginning of spring. You really just never know what to expect, and as luck would have it, the South got hit by a pretty decent cold snap over the weekend. A good dumping of snow and bone chilling weather came upon us and drastically changed the weather forecast for the Ahuriri which was my first choice for adventure time. Looking at the forecast, it appeared to be mostly cloudy in that region and cold to the bones, whereas Mavora Lakes had nothing but sunshine on the radar and some frosty temps at night and in the mornings. You guessed it! I made my way towards Southland, and was stoked to be exploring a new place. Just like Tinder, you've swiped right and started chatting, stalked each other a bit on Facebook or in this case, Google maps and DOC... It all looks great! The excitement levels get high as you head out to meet this possible new love for the first time. You're nervous, what if it isn't what it's cracked up to be, what if the photos are from like 10 years ago and things are drastically different... what if the weather stuffs up and you're stuck in a blizzard for a few days (that's totally happened by the way, and we lived to tell that tale) ... limitless possibilities. But I tell you what, as I started my drive from Jacks Point (Queenstown) through to Te Anau, I had the ultimate confidence that I'd made the right choice. This first part of the driving is stunning with views of Lake Wakitipu and the Remarkables down a long windy path along the lake into the countryside. The turn off for Mavora Lakes is a bit before you get to Te Anau and you end up spending about 40kms on a dirt/gravel road to the lakes. It's truly jaw dropping country side with beautiful white capped mountains in the background. The real adventure begins at the bottom of North Mavora Lake where you get out of the car and make your way on foot along the trail. It is a really rough 4WD track, which could be fun too! The walk starts out carving it's way through a lush and magical beech forest alongside the lake. The dogs are truly in their element and the smell of the forest is beautifully intoxicating. I had no real particular place to get to and just enjoyed exploring the different paths up and through the forest, playing with the fairies and enjoying a bit of hide and seek with Luna and Saaschi. Always on the hunt for a beautiful photograph, this trip really didn't disappoint in that department. The first night we set up camp alongside the lake and watched the sun set over the mountains. The temperature dropped pretty fast, so after supper time, the dogs and I snuggled up in the tent with a good book. One of my biggest mistakes of this trip was forgetting a lighter or matches for my camp cooker, so no hot food for us on this trip and no fire for the first night. It was salami and bircher muesli for a few days. As dawn approached, I peeked through the window of the tent and smiled as I took in the view. It was a chilly morning with a beautiful misty fog wrapping it's arms over the lake and caressing the surrounding mountains. A whole new world to what we had walked through the evening before. I watched on, still nestled in my sleeping bag, as Luna and Saaschi frolicked about in the tall blonde grass chasing each other and having a play. Eventually we had breakfast and I began to pack down the tent and get my gear together, taking my time and watching as the sun slowly started reaching over the mountain side and burning off the layer of mystical mist. This made for such a beautiful golden glow over the valley, picture perfect. I said goodbye to this campsite and a thank you as I do... often talking to nature along my journey. A few hours later we stumbled upon Careys Hut and what a joyous occasion this was. After spending a bone chilling night outside in a tent, I was over the moon with happiness when we discovered a couple boxes of matches, a beautiful fireplace, and plenty of firewood in this awesome 6 bunk hut complete with tall candles fixed to the walls. It was a rustic paradise alongside the lake if I do say so myself. Swipe right, I've found my dream place! :) I dropped my cumbersome backpack and set up my bed for the night and off we went to continue to explore up the valley for the rest of the day. There are a bunch of different huts up along the Mararoa River and up to Greenstone River that I'd love to spend some time getting to on another trip. For now, I made it about halfway to Boundary Hut and got sidetracked with a swim in the river and playing in the tall grass with the dogs. It was a magic day with stunning weather and my only regret is not bringing some sunscreen... never forget the sunscreen folks! That night we ended up back at the hut, dogs knackered, I got the fire roaring and nestled up with my book, and did some writing by candlelight. We had the whole place to ourselves for the night and it was wonderful. I had officially fallen in love with the outdoors again. I'd never fallen out of love, but sometimes, you just forget what it's like, to be truly on your own... No reception, no people... Just you and nature... It's a great time for connection and reflection and to just BE. The way home was slightly bittersweet, I could have stayed out there for another week or 3, but life beckons and we had to make our way home. There was a gentle breeze from behind, like the hand of a lover on the small of your back, gently coaxing you along the way... as if to say, it's been lovely to have you here, and I can't wait to see you again. I look forward to the next adventure and hope you enjoy the photo story from this one. It's safe to say, this place has a piece of my heart... as well as Luna and Saaschi's. <3

Jacks Point to Te Anau Highway 6

Road to Mavora Lakes

Road through Beech Forest

Saaschi's first time on a swing bridge

North Mavora Lake

Kassandra Lynne Photography

North Mavora Lake

Beech Forest Heaven

West Burn Hut / 1920s Musterers Hut

#mavoralakes #greatoutdoors #adventurephotography #dogs #dogsinthewild #fiordland #southland #newzealandphotographer #outdoorphotography #tramping #hiking #careyshut #windonburn #westburnhut #connectwithnature #nature #explore #wanderlust

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