Stephanie Tauevihi: Ladakh
Stephanie Tauevihi never walks for more than an hour at a time. But nothing was going to stop the former Shortland Street actor from signing up for an intrepid journey to Ladakh. Stephanie agreed to trek in the Indian Himalayas - an experience she describes as "madness."
"The trek freaked me out," she said. "But I wanted to enjoy it at the same time. I can go to Fairy Falls anytime. But I can't come back to Ladakh."
Ladakh is an unspoilt gem for travellers. A part of the Indian region of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh only opened to tourists in the mid 1970s. First stop on Stephanie's trip was Delhi, an extreme city for someone who had never travelled beyond the pacific.
"It's an assault in every sense of the word, the smell, the heat, the people, the energy, it's just huge," Stephanie said. "It makes you teary, but it also makes you want to laugh and scream and dance with the nearest stranger."
With two of the world's most powerful mountain ranges bordering it - the Karakoram and the Himalayas - it is not surprising Ladakh means "land of passes". Stephanie flew to the region's centre, Leh, at an altitude of 3.500 metres - a little lower than the top of Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain.
Ladakh is better known as "Little Tibet", having culturally more in common with Tibet than the rest of India. Buddhism is a central part of life here, a religion Tauevihi knew little about before her journey. Stephanie's participation at a local festival helped put it in perspective.
"When you see a plethora of balloons going into the heavens and people sending their hopes, their dreams and their joy into the universe with them, it kind of makes sense."
Making connections despite the language barrier was what made Stephanie's journey. Stephanie had the opportunity to teach a Buddhist monk crumping, a style of urban street dance.
"I always thought monks were kind of, you know, untouchable,
these spiritual, enlightened beings that you looked at from a far
or saw in a great kind of photo book."
Catch Stephanie's trip to Ladakh on Tuesday at 9.30pm on TV ONE.
Click here for the Ladakh factsheet