7 layers up top. 2 pairs of pants, a pair of wool socks, 2.5L of water, a pack full of food and a brilliant sunny morning. This is a description of what I was pulling together at 5 am Saturday morning in preparation to walk 19.4 km (let's make it a nice 20 km at the end of the day) across Mount Ngauruhoe; or more commonly known as Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings.
My friend Anke and I headed out towards the mountain with the beautiful sun shining, excitement and some apprehension of what we were going to face; it didn't look TOO steep from the ground.
The first lag wasn't too bad. It was mostly boardwalk and path over a few streams and through flatland. The next lag was called the "Devil's Staircase" or "Thigh Master". Basically, 1 hour of stairs and mountainous incline. With a brief stop at the top we carried on up to the Red Crater and up the second steep slope of the day. This was covered in Scree which is loose gravelly rock alongside snow and ice. We basically took 2 steps forward and 1 step back slipping on this stuff. Not a very nice 1/2 hour climb. Once we reached the top of this, the sights were unreal and the burning sensation was forgotten. We made our way down to the Emerald Lakes where we sat on rocks naturally warmed by the volcano and ate our lunch.
As we carried on across a snowy plateau, I was especially giddy when it started to lightly snow at the top of the second peak. The scenery drastically changed again to rock and brush on the other side of the mountain as we began our descent.
At the bottom of this mountainside, we wandered through a rainforest for about an hour to find ourselves out by the bus. A great day for an unreal hike! The next day I took it easy thinking my body was going to hate me but it wasn't until a few days later when I could hardly walk.
After Taupo, I went to Turangi for a day, did a short hike and found my way to the lovely "Lahar Farm" to stay with Mr. and Mrs. Bishop. I had a fantastic stay with them on their farm playing around with the sheep, cow and deer. I ate like a queen and got to sleep in an actual bed. The first night I was staying there, I was actually quite afraid to sleep on my own as I hadn't slept in a room with less than 4 people in almost 2 months. It felt pretty silly to be 22 and talking myself out of checking for monsters under the bed.
The weather changed drastically while I was there being beautiful and summery one day allowing you to see Mt. Ruehpu from their back window, to a complete blizzard the next.
The one afternoon I decided to take a little walk around the farm on my own. I bundled up, and mentally prepped myself for some fence climbing and bushwalking. Brent had warned me to be cautious when I entered the deer pens because if I cornered them, they may jump the fence which would mean that their livestock just ran away. As I wandered through the fields chasing sheep around and taking pictures, I found myself in a small bushy area and got a little lost. I made my way out to a grassy part which I was familiar with and had to jump over a little 1.5 meter gully. I don't know if I was a little confident from all of the fence hopping I had been doing, but there was a reason why I had always avoided the jumping sports in track and field and jumping this ditch reminded me why.
As I backed away a couple of meters, took a few running steps and launched myself to the other bank with perfectly pointed toes in a jazzy type of way. I thought I had made it when my left foot landed; until my right shin caught the edge throwing my knee into my gut and winding myself. As I rolled onto the grass trying to catch my breath I couldn't help but laugh to myself thinking about how poor I had always done in the running long jump.
After the farm, I made my way to Wellington for 1 night. I would have loved to stay a little longer in this windy city but I was more than ready to carry onto the South Island. I boarded the ferry first thing Saturday morning and travelled across the Cook Strait to Picton and onward to Nelson. We had a fantastic Halloween party Saturday night with everyone dressing up in mismatched costumes.
Sunday morning myself and a friend took off to Abel Tasman National Park to do a day hike. It was easy as compared to the Alpine Crossing but beautiful none the less.
Today I climbed a hill to stand on the "Centre of New Zealand" in the heart of Nelson. Beautiful view, and again, great climb!
Off and running down the coast tomorrow.