I am Addicted

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I’m addicted to sleeping out in the cold, laying on the soft grass inside of tent, and figuring out the best way to bundle up to stay warm

I’m addicted to seeing great mountain peaks off in the distance and then climbing them

I’m addicted to smelling the fresh air blowing off the ocean

I’m addicted to Tim-Tams

I’m addicted to heaving a pack onto my back and carrying everything I need inside to survive

I’m addicted to waking up early just to see the sunrise

I’m addicted to taking walks with friends along the harbor

I’m addicted to eating crackers, venison salami, edam cheese, and apple slice sandwiches on top of a ridge

I’m addicted to star-tripping

I’m addicted to traveling

I’m addicted to being forced away from the Internet, Facebook, and phones – allowing myself to truly enjoy the company of those around me

I’m addicted to New Zealand

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Two Rounds of Roy’s Peak in one day? Sure, why not

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Was I crazy? I asked a lady at the backpacker what the weather forecast was supposed to be for the day and the answer I got was “cloudy and rainy…for the next week…” That was the unfortunate news I was expecting because I had been checking the weather daily for the past couple of days. I was hoping it had magically changed to sun and cloudless skies. No such luck.

 My original plan for the day was to hike Roy’s Peak. I had traveled to Wanaka for the second time, wanting to do the same hike that I had planned to do once before. The last time I was here I had to forego the hike because of terrible weather conditions. This was my last chance, probably ever, to do it. Should I just take this as a sign that it was not meant to be, give up, and move on? If I was going to be hiking in a giant cloud all day it would not be worth it anyway.

I decided to go for it. Why not.  It was what I went there to do.

I started off by walking straight into a cloud. If you haven’t had that experience, it is not all that exciting. Basically, all you can see is white all around you. I could maybe see the landscape 20 feet in front of me, and from that point onward everything looked white. If you would have told me there were mountains beyond the white wall, I would not have believed you. Even with the dismal weather, I decided to stick with a positive attitude. At least I would get to see the native bush up close as I walked. That could be cool too. I even ended up getting to see some really neat birds.

However, after about an hour of climbing I began to walk above the clouds. Oh, what a sight! Even the small amount of blue sky I saw at first lifted my spirits. Since I was now above a layer of clouds I felt like I was walking at the same altitude that planes fly at (even though my mind was playing tricks because actually the clouds were just hanging quite low).

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Having the clouds surrounding me and blocking out the views at first was a blessing in disguise because it really made me take in and not take for granted what I was seeing once they cleared.

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After three hours of walking up a non-stop, uphill-slanted track, breathing in the fresh mountain air, enjoying the fabulous mountains surrounding me on all sides, walking along the trail with some cows right by my side, but not another human in sight, and making a snowman, I made it to the very tip top. Just in time for lunch. It was a surreal lunchtime experience.

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(My view during lunch)

I had told my Grandma that I would meet up with her four hours after I began. Most people do the hike in 6-7 hours, but for some reason I thought it would not be too hard to get done in four. I was about halfway back down when I decided to stop to have a snack. I whipped my backpack off of my back and to my horror I found my backpack had come unzipped. I am still befuddled has to how it happened because I had not opened that pocket all day. Yet, there it was, totally open. And my wallet and phone were no longer there. Shoot. “Aw man, this is not good!” is all I could keep thinking. I only had one choice but to hike back up the steep slope. But my Grandma would be waiting. I had to make it back down in four hours because I did not want her to worry. After quickly scouring the ground, I had no luck in finding either my wallet or phone. Dense tussock was on either side of the track and if either my wallet or phone bounced out of my backpack into the tall grass, there was no way I would find it. My last hope was that I misremembered putting it in my backpack, when actually it was sitting peacefully waiting for me in the car. Oh, please let that be the case!

It turns out that I actually made it back before my Grandma did, so instead of her worrying about me, I got to worry about her accidently driving on the right side (which here is the wrong side) of the road and getting into a car crash. When she finally arrived the first thought I had was, “Thank goodness, she is ok!” but then I instantly thought of my lost wallet. I jumped up and swiftly searched the car. No sign of either my wallet or phone. This was not good.

I decided to go to the police office in town to let them know I had lost my wallet and to give them contact information for if any kind hiker turned it in later that afternoon. Turns out Wanaka must not have crime or problems on the weekend because the office is closed. Wanaka must be a wonderful place to live!

So back to Rob Roy I went. Round two. Looks like I would get to hike this mountain twice after all. It’s a wonderful hike, and I would recommend it, but not twice in one day. My legs were definitely feeling it.

Looking on the bright side, the fog had now cleared off of the lake, so now I had beautiful views of the lake which I had not been able to see earlier.

There were only a few people doing the trail today, but as I passed each one, now coming back down the mountain, I asked if they had seen either a wallet or phone. None of them had. Since the sun sets around 5:30pm now I was running out of day light. I was also tired and sore. But, I had a peanut butter and banana sandwich to eat. At least that was delicious.

I met another couple making their way back down. I had basically started the hike in the morning with them and I knew they were planning on hiking to the summit. They were my last hope. Oh please let them have found it! The man reached into his coat and he pulled out my wallet! Hallelujah! I ran up and hugged him I was so happy. I guess this makes up for me finding a girl’s lost Iphone on a trail that she had lost two weeks prior to me finding it. Karma is not always bad.

My little blue new Zealand phone decided to have an adventure of its own. It must have gone careening off into the tussock. Maybe it wanted to spend more time playing in the snow or maybe the views of the mountains were what it wanted to spend the rest of its little life looking at instead of the inside of my pocket or backpack. Totally understandable.

What a day! You could say I was relieved, exhausted, and thankful by the end of it.

 

 

 

 

 

Fiordland: “a land of sunlight where you can bask in the sun like a lizard…for maybe two days a year”

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By now, I think it is pretty evident that I enjoy tramping and am going to do as much of it as I possibly can, while I have the chance. Illinois, and my second home of Iowa, are devoid of major elevation changes. New Zealand, on the other hand, has plenty of opportunities to climb mountains. When I heard the tramping club was headed to a place called Fiordland, I put it on my calendar weeks in advance because I knew I wanted to go.

Unfortunately, it isn’t enough to just want to go. I wanted to go, along with 300 other individuals. They had room to take 100, which really is a substantial amount, but at the same time it leaves many people unable to go. The process of who gets to go is as fair as it can be. However, fairness = luck. Here is the process:

1.       Go to a meeting and listen to the 12 different tramps that will ensue (ranked into easy, medium, and hard categories)

2.       Decide which one seems like the best fit for you

3.       Talk to the leaders of that particular tramp to see if they think you are actually ready for the tramp

4.       If they give you the go ahead, write your name down on a slip of paper and put it into a hat for the tramp you want to do

5.       Hope that no one else wants to go on the same tramp (because then your chances of going are better)

6.       Wait for your fate

There were multiple tramps which sounded amazing to me. For those of you who know me, I have a terrible time making decisions. This same problem arose. I had narrowed it down to three tramps, but couldn’t decide which one to try out my luck with. There were so many variables to weigh. Meanwhile, the time was ticking and they were getting ready to pull names out. If I didn’t put my name in, I wouldn’t even have the chance for it to be pulled out.I ended up throwing my name into the tramp called Livingstone Ridge. So did around 20 other people. There were only 6 spots. Ugh, I have the worst luck. I took my seat, not getting my hopes up that my name would magically be pulled out as one of the lucky few. How could it? I had already started thinking about what my plan B could be for the weekend.

The leaders pulled out five names, none of which were mine. One more left. I sat on the edge of my seat. Ok, so I obviously hadn’t given up all hope – I definitely still wanted to go. They pulled out the little slip of green paper. One more lucky person. Please be my name, please be my name…

Somehow my name was actually called! I was the lucky last individual that got to go on the Livingstone Ridge tramp. My friends who had put their names into the hat for the same hike, weren’t so lucky. I knew no one else going on this tramp. That made me nervous, but I wasn’t giving up my spot now! Plus, by this point, knowing no one is more of a regularity than knowing any one.

The tramp began with an overly long bus ride. Finally at 1am we made it to our final destination which was a concrete slab on the ground with a roof over the top. Ah, what a magnificent spot for a bed…I rolled out my sleeping bag and beckoned sleep to come. Although I was a bit sore in the morning, it was a fairly comfortable slab of concrete.

My group woke up at 7:30, packed up our gear, and had breakfast. This consisted of Muesli with Skim milk powder – you add this powder to water and it supposedly turns it into milk? Well, it turned the water white anyway, which was a nice psychological trick for my brain to pretend it was milk. Then we hauled our bags onto our backs and headed on our way.

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This is the first time I have ever had the chance to use a pack. My pack could hold 70 Liters. So basically, I could carry me on my back…all day long…up a mountain….I could barely lift my pack up onto my back. Then, when I did finally get it up there, I felt as if I could topple over if anyone barely touched me. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. The last tramp I went on my arm went numb, I certainly didn’t want to have that problem again, but it seemed imminent with the weight on my shoulders.

However, the pack is a wonderful invention. Once I got my “sea legs” under me I didn’t have a problem. You buckle a strap around your waist that somehow magically transfers most of the weight you are carrying to your hips, instead of it all being compressed onto your shoulders. Although I did have a minor scare of the loss of both of my hands to have the ability to make a fist for a short time (which I think must have been caused by being cold…?) my arms never went numb and my shoulders were not sore.

We started off on the Routeburn track, which is a well-marked and well-used track in Fiordland. From the first step we took, we were climbing upward. Why wait? After about an hour we made it to the top of the marked path. Just because this was the end of the path does not mean it was the end of our journey. Far from it.

Now was the fun part. Bushwhacking. Finding our own way. Going whichever route looked to be the most fun. Knowing that no one has ever tramped in the exact same route as we were tramping, and no one will ever be able to replicate it in the exact same way. That’s refreshing.

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Although the use of GPS systems seem to make map reading non-existent, the knowledge of how to read a topographical map comes in extremely useful up on a mountain.

My group was hiking along the top of a ridge. I guess I originally was thinking that meant you do a bit of incline, reach the top, and then get to meander along on more or less flat land for a while. This ridge did not have that in mind. Instead, we were always increasing our elevation. Flat land decided to take a vacation to Illinois.

ImageOnce we reached one peak, there was always another one looming up ahead, a little higher than the one we had just conquered. However, every peak we mastered left me with a sense of accomplishment.

Once we reached our highest elevation, which I believe was 1543, we took a long break to absorb the amazing scenery around us. Snow-capped mountains sat quietly in one direction, while pristine lakes laid lazily in the valleys. Meanwhile I was breathing in wonderfully fresh air. Not to mention the weather. The weather could not have been more perfect. The speaker who said that Fiordland gets one or two days of sunlight a year? I got lucky yet again and got that day. I was on the top of a mountain, laying on my back, soaking in the sun like a lizard. Life could not get any more beautiful.

What goes up must come down. Straight down. We had spent all day climbing up the side of a ridge, but we were sleeping down in the valley. There was no easy way to get back down. The side of the mountain was basically straight down. It was extremely mentally draining. I wasn’t fond of the idea of falling to my death. One would think a downhill slope would be easier than uphill. On the contrary, I believe they are as equally as hard. A steep downhill slope, I find actually worse than uphill. At times, taking a seat in the long grass and sliding down was the best idea. “I never did get to go sledding this winter, so this could make up for it”, I thought. Oh boy. Do not underestimate grass and its ability to turn into the fastest slide you have ever been on. I started sliding down and there was no way to put on the breaks! Who forgot to install the breaks!? I decided I would take my chances with just slowly walking down.

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Eventually, we made it to a dense forest. I kept wanting to stop and just look at the incredible scenery in front of me. This was totally different from the ridge. Here, life grew from every space possible. Moss grew on the trees. There were new colors of green, which I have never witnessed before. The greens of the forest blended into a magnificent harmony. If my knees had not been aching from the continual downhill slope, I would have loved to keep hiking this all day long and into the night. However, finally making it to the hut, was a sense of relief. I could rest up for the night and continue on with the rest of my journey in the morning. My tramp could not have been any better.

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A view from the top of the ridge