Finding inner peace

The first full day of our trip started with some bad news. The car was definitely broken and needed to be taken to the garage. I'm not a mechanic but our couchsurfing host Patrick used to work as a mechanic and according to him the exhaust pipe was broken near the engine. That's what was causing those nasty sounds yesterday (like a roaring elk).

Though the news was bad especially since we had just started our trip it could not have happened at a better place. Patrick helped Johanna and me find a mechanic that was open on Saturday morning while his wife Christiane took the other girls into town for the farmer's market. We soon joined them afterwards having dropped off the brokencar and walked up and down the main road in Thames. The markets are lovely!!! They are on every Saturday from 7 to 12am and you'll find anything from food to antiques to clothing...

Thames is especially great for people with "weird" or out-of-the-normal eating habits. Heaps of offers for vegetarians and vegans, lovers or organic food and even I got very lucky. Since going off gluten and dairy there are only a few things I really miss - among them or probably top of the list is decent cheese. But New Zealand, being a dairy country, does not have a single offer of lactose-free cheese. You can get goat cheese in the supermarket but that's about it. So today I was in cheese heaven =D Though quite expensive I bought some sheep gouda and some other cheese that is perfect on bread or crackers and I indulged myself in a very delicious lunch.

Just after noon we got a phone call from the mechanic - car is fixed and ready to be picked up. Cost: $150. I think that's a greaet price considering the problem AND it being the weekend. So after lunch we could finally set off to our first hike on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Thanks to Christiane and Patrick we found one of the most stunning places on earth! And I am not exaggerating. The walk we did can not be found in any guide-book (at least none of us had heard or read about it). We drove about 40mins north of Thames along the Highway to a place called "Mana Retreat". It's a huge area mainly for spiritual purposes with huts and cabins and differents walkways. This is where we went to.

It took us about an hour to climb the steep path through the bush. Nina was leading the way getting rid of all the spiderwebs for the cowards to follow... we had good fun though it was hard work but working together and helping each other along the way made the hike a lot easier. And once we made it to the top and stood on a rock called Crystal Guardian we knew it had been worth it. The view from up there is magnificent! You feel free, at peace with yourself and the world in general and you can spend hours just admiring the scenery.

Me on top of the Crystal Guardian at the Mana Retreat.

I couldn't believe I even free-climbed one of the rocks. I felt the queen of the world =D We spent at least half an hour up there and then made our way down to the sanctuary - a building that looks like half church, half temple, half whatever... in fact it is a non-denominational place for any religion. You're supposed to be silent in there but dancing and singing is allowed (they just don't want you to chit-chat all the time while in there instead of bringing your mind to rest). So Nina, Anita, Johanna and I did exactly that. We sung.

The Sanctuary at Mana Retreat.

The accoustic inside the sanctuary is amazing. We started with Amazing Grace and each of us gut goosebumps from the sound. I also walked the mythological labyrinth thinking about the pathways my life is currently pointing me to and trying to answer some vital questions.

All in all it was a wonderful day with lots of exercise yet very peaceful and relaxing. Tomorrow we're off to the Pinnacles a six-hour-hike in the northern part of Coromandel. Should be good practice for Tongariro - the one-day-hike I'll be doing in 1.5 weeks.

The Sanctuary in front of the Crystal Guardian.

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