Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mount Doom, I conquer you!

Let me preface this by saying I’m not an experienced hiker. I could pretend that I’ve been a hiker my whole life, but let’s face it, I lived on the East Coast and a hike for me was walking down Market Street to get lunch. I lived a lame hiking existence.
So what was I thinking I would be able to do a 19km hike over Mount Doom? It was just a fleeting thought while I was talking to a girl from my hostel who had walked it the day before. And then a growing idea when I saw the weather forecast and saw it was going to be bright and warm the next day. A confirmed plan once I made my deposit for the shuttle, the shuttle that was picking me up at 5:40 am. I seriously must have lost my mind.
Of course this meant I had to watch a preview of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King so I knew exactly what I was getting into. Five other people from my hostel were going the next day, and we piled into the TV room, preparing ourselves for the hike with images of battles in Mordor. I was siked to go.
The break of dawn came and my room awoke with activity, dressing in layers and preparing meals. The shuttle came promptly at 5:40am and we were out the door and on our way. An hour later we were saying “Good Morning” to Mount Doom.

I started out at a good pace, just kept trucking along, making sure not to stumble on the rocks while getting blinded by the early morning sun my sunglasses couldn’t block. I stopped and took pictures, looked around at the landscape around me, and took in the beauty of just being there.
Then I hit the stairs. Those hundreds and hundreds of stairs, one after another, seemingly never ending. I vowed about half way up to add the Stairmaster to my exercise routine when I get home.

But I just kept moving on, watching others breeze right by like it was a walk in the park. Which, if we get technical, it was a park.

A while later I made the half-way point and the trail to head up Mount Tongariro Summit, aka Mount Doom. I looked at the sign, I looked at the trail, and then I sat and had a bit of lunch to think over the possibilities.
Did I really need to go up? Was the view going to be worth it? Would I last making the extra hour and half? In the end I finished my PB&J sandwich and decided I was going to be smart and continue on without going up, which I figured was a smart move seeing as this was my first real hike ever. Plus, I already had my picture that I was there.

The views of the top were something else, just expanses of open sky and fields below. I had to be careful I didn’t get too close to the edge, as I was worried about sliding down. But this did come to pass when I started to follow the trail down the summit onto the Emerald Lakes. 5 times I slide and landed on my bum, twice so hard I’m surprised I don’t have worse burses!
The walk is considered one of the best in New Zealand and I can understand why once I got further along the trail and into more lush landscape. The contrast from the start of the day, with barren ground and absolutely no wild life, to the end of the trail which finished in a rainforest, was truly something I had never experienced before. And though I did find some parts really trying and tough, I’m proud I pushed myself to keep on going…just like the Little Engine That Could!

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