Tongariro Alpine Crossing


A year ago, when I had just met a new hiking group, I heard about Tongariro Alpine Crossing. I met people who were going to attempt the crossing with the group and I wanted to join her. I love hiking/walking and it would have been a great opportunity. But I didn’t. For the last year, I have been looking for a chance to try the crossing. I would tell everyone whenever the topic came up. Finally, some of friends decided to do it.

This is not a road trip post and neither is this a hiking blog, so I am going to spare those details. I will tell you this: Tongariro Alpine Crossing was one of the toughest walks I have done. No one ever told me that it would be this hard.

When others mentioned above had completed their crossing, the weather was pretty bad. My trip had two things going for me.

One: When we got to our starting carpark, the weather was picture perfect: blue skies with one or two clouds.

Two: I was given a DSLR camera. My friend had an old one and he was more than happy to let me use it ( he used his GoPro ). The entire crossing, I had the DSLR hanging on my chest, bouncing off my tummy.

The walk was easy until a certain point, I guess one fourth of the way in. Then we started ascending: first on spiraling staircase with many false finishes and then on the slope of Mount Tongariro. The staircase path raised my hopes so many times as I could see plateaus where people were resting & I would think: almost there. But I would be wrong cause there would be another staircase, and then another and then another and then another. After a while I stopped hoping.

The steep uphill walk of Mount Tongariro was the toughest, I kept stopping every minute. I kept asking my friends whose idea was to do this walk and they would tell me it was mine.

The last 6km of Tongariro Alpine Crossing felt like 30km. We kept walking, heading downhill steadily stressing our knees. I didn’t take one picture during that part, I was too tired to care. The 20km Tongariro Alpine Crossing sure felt like 50km long at certain points.

Once we finished and I was on the shuttle back to our lodge, I took a deep breath. I had done it, I had finally crossed Tongariro. A year of anticipation, nine hours of leg punishing walk and some three hundred pictures.

There were some great, breath taking moments. Some pictures I took instantly became my favorite. I saw Mount Ngauruhoe ( Mount Doom from Lord Of The Rings franchise ), I could see snow-clad Mount Ruapehu. In the distance I could see Mount Taranaki ( The Snow Mountain as I call it, where I saw with snow for the first time last September ). I saw the famous Emerald Pools, I could see smoke billowing out of the hills.

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I don’t think I will do this walk again, but I know that if I will have the feeling with me. Every staircase will seem puny as compared to Devils Staircase. Every uphill will be simpler with respect to Mount Tongariro. As my friends were making the joke as we were getting back to Auckland, ‘We did Tongariro, we can do anything now.’

 

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2017 in Review


I expect things to always get worse. I have always greeted new year’s with trepidation because I expect life to get harder. 2017 was a year where I always expected the other foot to fall. But now as I look back on the year, surprisingly it was relaxing.

Sure, now that I recall, first quarter of the year was stressful because my visa kept getting delayed. I also moved twice in a month. But also, I was finally able to get a job in my sector. After which it was pretty much smooth sailing for me.

I went home to India after a year and a half, gave my family a present surprise at 3 am. Met most the friends that mattered.

I also saw snow for the very first time and also discovered that I am scared of cliffs. That fear didn’t stop me from going on more adventurous bushwalks though.

Jumped off waterfalls and was mesmerized by Glowworms in Raglan which I could say was the highlight of the year. Jeez, even thinking about it makes me wanna go back and I will probably do that again someday.

Lastly, I got one of my essays published in a book. An actual paperback all thanks to Zee! I spoke in front of people and told them about my piece. I couldn’t have wanted a better first piece and it made me take my writing seriously again.

And now we are here, at the end of 2017, a year which could have been a whole lot worse but wasn’t. So this post is not about how scary the next year will be ( of course it will be scary ), I am trying to sound grateful to 2017.

I sincerely hope that your next year is great! Happy New Year everyone!

MY NAME IS IN A BOOK!


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Yes! My essay on hiking is published in a book. I can see my name in a list of contributors, can see my bio at the end of the book. My essay takes 4 pages among the last chapters.

daniel-bryan's-yes-chant

Nothing could have been better.

How Did I get here?

I follow Zee Southcombe on Twitter. A couple of months ago she asked me if I would like to be a contributor in her new book. Of course I had to say yes.

However, writing the piece wasn’t easy. I had no inspiration, no recent hikes’ memories to pull apart & prod to see how what hiking felt like. I had to go for a good hike to write this. I had a month to to write a 1000 page piece and an urgency to write it but no feelings behind it.

It had to be perfect, I kept telling myself. It had to be, because it would be the first time my name would be in a book. I have been published in a research journal and I have written ~250 posts on the web but this one is special. It had to be perfect.

On Anzac day, 25th April, I went for another hike. Rangitoto Island formed my association with Got To Get Out group and I took that night slowly going over the entire hike. What I liked, what I didn’t and which instances opened the memory banks in my head. My old hikes were fresh again and I finished the piece.

Following Months:

I know a few writers who proofread it and encouraged me. They were really happy about it and Zee loved it too!

Yes, there were grammar mistakes, lots of them ( Feel free to point them out in the comments ). But that doesn’t matter anymore cause my piece is in the book. I can say I am published now.

I received the book last night and I haven’t really gotten over my joy to read other pieces or even look at other contributors’ bios. Next Sunday, October 15th, the book’s launch takes place in Auckland city Library. I do plan on reading a small sample from my piece. Not a lot of people know that my piece got published. A few friends. My family doesn’t know either, I kept it from them as a surprise.

Lastly, thank you Zee for the opportunity. I am so excited about the launch!

Book Launch Event: https://goo.gl/95p9cy

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How hard can it be? (New Plymouth-Paritutu Rock Edition)


(My weekend was not hard except this bit. Considering how much fun I had writing last week’s post, I wanted to continue this. I might write an entire post about my New Plymouth trip later)

‘Is it hard?’ someone in the van asked. A guy, let’s call him C had done it before with his partner L said ‘You need good upper body strength to do it. L did it!’

Well, if L was able to do it, I thought how hard can it be?

My fear of cliffs and shear drops was forgotten. See a while back, while walking along the coastal hills in Piha in West Auckland, I found that I am scared of heights. I can do it but I would rather not stand close to the edge and look down at the abrupt chasm. I can walk on any height as long as I don’t have to look down at a cliff.

Paritutu Rock is hardly 100 ms, located at the edge of New Plymouth over looking the ocean. Hikes take the stairs halfway and then reach the peak rock climbing. The climb isn’t vertical so you can use just your feet while getting to the top.

I went on all fours. And I made the mistake of looking down halfway through. I bit down a scream because I was at a cliff looking down at the embrace of harbor rocks. I swear they were arranged hands spread apart.

View Down, Credits: D

I knew coming down would be harder. For the residents of the city, the hike would/should be a weekly exercise. I saw a family descending with their 6 year old daughter while I was standing at the same edge with A. It was sobering moment, cause I was really tempted to go back down.

I was right about one thing: coming down was harder and scarier. If I slipped, I would tumble down on hard rocks all the way, if I don’t fall off a cliff. My left knee (I guess the ice skating issue) had to bother me while descending too. Great!

I took my time. I didn’t care that children were climbing a million times more gracefully than I was. I squatted to keep balance, used my hands for grips slowly covered ground (or rocks?). My eyes were wide open and I don’t think I was blinking them anymore. I told (pleaded?) others behind me, ‘Don’t rush me’.

The only solace descending was I could the carpark getting closer. I knew I wasn’t just going around in circles. I took more time than my group and they were waiting for me at the carpark.I reached the stairs but didn’t stop till I reached my group. K asked me ‘How’s it?’, my face must have shown my fears. I blew out some air while nodding and sat down, allowing my fear to take over.

‘How hard can it be?’ I thought and had a small laugh. I realized that my week could have been completely different, I could have been walking around snow clad Mt Taranaki. The cliff on Taranaki would have been so much scarier.

Of course, it was worth it. The view from the top of the rock was splendid-breathtaking-astonishing and my vocabulary can’t cover it. As I got the summit, to the left, I could see the New Plymouth arrayed systematically like legos. I could see Mt Taranaki in the distance beyond the city, staunch and inviting in its white attire. Clouds obscured the peak from time to time, testing the patience of the group’s photographers H and D. The view on the opposite side was even better.

New Plymouth, Credits: H

I was standing on the edge of the world. If I started sailing straight from there I might not encounter any land till Africa. Edge of the World with nothing but blue sky shading the ocean with a darker hue, the sky and ocean seemed to be going a long way and finally meeting at the horizons. I could hear seagulls, I could see the waves crashing on the shore.

Ocean, Credits: A

Now, if I do that again, I will not be afraid. I could do it when I was scared, I could do it again. In fact, I am looking forward to the next trip and I am hoping that someone invites me for the hike to Mt Taranaki soon.

After all, how hard can that be?

Weekend, Credits: D