Thursday, January 28, 2010

DAY SIX: Tongariro and Mount Doom

We got up at 5:45 a.m. and headed to Mount Doom in a big ol’ bus. It was this eerie, foggy, damp weather, exactly how the lands surrounding Mordor would be. The Dead Marshes. The Tongariro crossing is supposed to take about 6 hours without stopping. That does NOT include going off the trail to summet Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom). Piece of cake, right?
We got hiking and the fog was so thick we couldn’t really see a lot. 

We had a map and got to the point where we should turn off and climb Mt. Doom even though we couldn’t see it at all. I will say this: if we had been able to see the top of Mt. Nguaruhoe from the bottom, much fewer people would have attempted it. I think I would have still gone but our group had a lot of people that had to turn back halfway.

Now, I’ve said this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. “Let me ‘splain. No, it is too much. Let me sum up.”
  1. We couldn’t see our goal. With the heavy fog visibility was probably 25 meters. The end was nowhere in sight and as the hiking/sliding/slipping time wracked up we joked that this was hell. Doomed to hike forever without ever reaching the summit.
  2. The terrain seemed impossible. It started out as a firm sand and as we went up it only got harder with each step. It was like walking on a sandy/rocky beach…turned on a 45 degree angle, literally. It was supposed to take 2-2.5 hours return but it took our group 2 hours to get to the top. Near the upper part, for every one step taken (which took all your energy to do), you slid back two. We found out later that there was a more stable foundation on a nearby ridge but WE COULDN”T SEE IT, and we went up the “hardest way,” as people later told us.
  3. The elements. It was cold, windy, and wet up there. I was prepared with warm clothes but didn’t bring what I needed most. Gloves. My hands were freezing but the worst part was trying to use them on the sharp lava rocks. The slope was so steep that it was easier to put your hands down and crawl, but the rocks were sharp and my hands were cold. You know how it hurts to hit your fingers on something when they’re cold? That’s kind of how it felt.
  4. It was legitimately dangerous. Although most of our scrambling was on tennis ball sized volcanic rock and smaller, there were definitely bigger ones around. You’d think they would be good footing so many of us would step on them only to fall on our face and send a boulder barreling down the mountain. Not being able to see well or move very vast in the fog and sand made it difficult to dodge them as well. If you sent a rock flying you screamed “ROCK” and then every person behind you would have to pass along the message. There were a few people in our group that got hit by a rock and a few very close calls with huge, fast moving boulders. It. Was. Scary. 

Welcome to life, I suppose. Sometimes we can’t see our goal, the task seems impossible, the uncontrollable elements are brutal, and you are in some kind of danger. However, another huge thing I learned this day was that you can do more than you think you can.
We reached the top, which was not cool because you couldn’t see anything. You could hardly make out the crater’s edge. I ate nearly half my food up there since I had NO energy left and was losing calories fast to shivering. We started heading back down which was faster, yes, but still hard on the quads and lower back.
We were pretty much surfing down the mountain on a sea of rocks and sand. 

When we reached the bottom my gas tank was empty, I was dehydrated, tired, and there was still about 5 hours of hiking to go.  I ate a bit more of my food to get me going and began walking.
I kinda felt like this

After a long wasteland (to Mordor-esque) and another tall, steep climb, we were able to finally look back and get a clear view of the Mountain we had scaled.
It. Was. Huge. 

That moment was the first time all day I was kinda glad I had dominated it. Look at that thing. I made it to the top and I’m proud of myself for doing it.

The rest of the hike was amazing. Yes, it was foggy most of the time but it was cool. I was in tired, weak, and even in pain for the last 11 km of the hike (yes it was only 19.4 km without mt. doom) but I’m glad I did it. There were times I thought I may not be able to keep walking or keep stepping down these huge steps. Every step is rattling my bones. But we finally reached the end. I was looking awful, worn down, kind of grumpy from dehydration (even though I drank 4 liters of water throughout the 9 hours) and ready for a nap. Despite all that, I was still able stand, amazed, at the majesty and beauty of the Earth.

DAY FIVE: Hamilton to Waitomo

The weather was beautiful when we went to bed.

Julianne and I wanted to keep our rain fly off the tent because it’s been so hot and stuffy, but we put it on, staked it in, and got all our bags stacked under it.
It poured that night. 
Which made for a beautiful sunrise.

I’ve never felt more like a boy scout in my life. “Be Prepared.” It felt good. Since we were prepared, we could enjoy the rain rather than curse it’s name. . I’ve been thinking about Steven and what our family is going through. There isn’t a lot of happiness in the situation but there are things to be enjoyed. I enjoy how much closer our family has become. I enjoy applying the Plan of Salvation to our lives. I enjoy remembering that, although we do not know all things, we know that God loveth his children.

With those thoughts in my mind, we drove to Waitomo where we went to the Waitomo glow worm caves. We got fitted in thick wetsuits that smelled like urine, a helmet with a light on it, gogo boots, and an inner tube. We then climbed through a small opening in the mountain and began floating through the dark caves. At times we had to walk and the footing was unsure. Also, my group of 15 was the only group that they made turn of our head lamps and walk. It was terrifying and I didn’t like it but I'm sure there was a lesson to be learned there. Make one up.
Anyway, we got into the caves and turned our torches out. If you’ve ever watched the Planet Earth about caves and those nasty glow worms, that’s what we did. It may be the coolest thing I’ve ever done. The light is one of the purest lights, like a star, and that’s what it looked like. It looked like we were looking at stars. (I also had the “jenny” song by Flight of the Conchords stuck in my head. The part where he talks about the lights from the buildings and cars looked like reflections of the stars…) It. Was. Amazing. Can’t put words to it.

DAY FOUR: Hamilton

We slept in today! 7:30 a.m.! I rubbed my eyes and forgot that two days ago I burned my eye lids. Ouch. I take great pride in the fact that I HAVE been wearing sunscreen daily and don’t have any weird red tan lines and burns but for my eye lids. I fell asleep outside after sledging while waiting for the rafting part of our group to be done and my eyelids got too much sun ha.

Went to church at a singles ward today. Sang a duet with Julianne. Don’t know how I got talked into that. A member of the bishopbric shamelessly pushed the opportunity for a free green card. “If you see something you like, go for it.” Church was good, it’s the same wherever you go. Afterwards there was a little mix and mingle (to be said like Deverll in The Singles Ward) and one particularly awkward yet forward guy got about ten girls email address. I’ll be excited to see how this all plays out.

We went to the temple again today but got to spend time walking the grounds and visiting the visitors center, and appropriate thing to do to a visitor’s center; visit it. Anyway, I was keeping an eye out for Blake since his mission is nearby when a mission president came right up to me and asked, “Is there a Christina Naegle in your group?” It was NOT a message from Blake, but something better...a “hello” from my Aunt Cristy! He, President Marion, is the President at the MTC there and had spoken to her just a few days before! It was so good to get that little hello since I had not spoken to or heard anything from my family yet. We stayed there and watch a really good documentary on Matthew Cowley.

Got back and I headed our dinner group, barking orders at everyone ;) Then we watched some LOTR because our holiday park had a tv! Rusty talked about the preferred chest size of his future wife and then we all went to bed on that happy note!

DAY THREE: Rotorua to Hamilton

Up, fed, packed, and on the road by 8:00 a.m.
Drove to Hamilton and hiked Mount Maungarui. It was very similar to hiking the Y; steep, rocks and dirt, switchbacks (kind of sounding like any other hike but you know what I mean). We ran when we could breathe, walked when we couldn’t, and took pictures moments before cardiac arrest. Nah it wasn’t that hard, but steeper than the Y… and like one thousand times more beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, I love Utah, everyone knows I’ll always back Utah up, but that just shows how beautiful it was here.

After the hike we hit the beach for about an hour and it was glorious. Made sandwiches for lunch and hurried to camp where we had 15 minutes before we needed to get back on the road to go to the temple. Let me tell you, I don’t like feeling dirty when I go to the temple (odd, I know) but I was one of the few who was lucky enough to rinse off in the shower…without washing my hair. Bleh. That font had better be heavily chlorinated.

My group (4) is in charge of food for tomorrow so we went to the grocery store and took Carly to the hospital while we were at it. Poor Carly woke up with swollen legs and it’s spreading to her arms haha. I laugh because she’s ok and it’s funny to tell about now but it was kinda scary then. Also, when we got back to the temple, I set up mine and Julianne’s tent in my Sunday clothes. I’m so cool.

DAY TWO: Rotorua

Woke up cozy and warm at 5:00 a.m. Julianne and I went to the lake to watch the sun rise but she ended up leaving before it came up. Breakfast duty. Luckily Monica stayed till about 6:15 and watched it with me. It was pretty good. Kinda trippy, the sun rises in the west…

Today I did a thing called Sledging, which is pretty much white water rafting on a heavy duty boogie board. I banged my knees up on the first rapid but made sure not to do it again, since I’ve been sporting some pretty sweet bruises on my knees for it. We were on old battle grounds where people’s bodies had been buried, so our guides chanted a prayer to the ancestors before we started. After that it was a lot of kicking, screaming, choking, blinking, and F.U.N. !

Later that day we went to something called Mitai. It was kind of like a luau but more focused on history. We saw a lot of cool stuff but more importantly ate a lot of good food!

DAY ONE: Auckland to Rotorua

The plane ride over was horrendous.
Ok, it wasn’t that bad. I was on a Boeing 747 (aka a small building) sitting in the middle of a row with elderly folk on either side of me. I started watching The Surrogates on my individual tv but the screen was way too dark. The funny thing is I watched it for a good 15 minutes thinking it was just a dark scene ha. The food was good and the conversation invigorating. Ok, that’s not true either. I guess I slept a lot because before I knew it there was only 45 minutes of the flight left. And that’s when I figured out how to change the lighting of my tv. Ironic.
A big plus side, I was able to get my sticky hands on something I really needed; a mess kit. Yeah, I didn’t pack a mess kit but when we got our dinners on the plane they also gave us some heavy duty plastic ware. The second I laid my eyes on the plastic, yet durable knife, fork, and spoon, I knew I would be sneaking them away with me. They’ve served me well…no pun intended.

This was the longest day of my life. Sleeping on the plane didn’t really help my body think it had been another day so it still felt like January 12th, although it was now the 14th. We got out of the airport at sunrise and into the vans. Drove across beautiful country from Auckland to Rotorua.

We got into camp by noon after being lost for a few hours and ate pizza before heading to the lake. I kayaked from the tire swing at camp to the lake and back before lunch then walked back out after lunch where we all played Frisbee in the long shallow lake (which we later found out was contaminated because a dead cow had been found in the water haha. No one got sick, don’t worry). 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

One Week and Counting

Well, the time has come. I am officially in Panic Mode.
I will be leaving in less than one week and I wouldn't say I'm completely ready. In fact, I'm not really anywhere near ready. And to top it off I kind of have a cold so I don't really feel like bustling about getting packed and what not. But look at this, it'll all be worth it.

Apart from preparing for my Adventure (yes, Adventure with a capital "A") I've had a Christmas break filled with family, heartache, friends, fun, laughing, crying, traditions, new experiences...everything.

Before I took my last final on Friday evening, I got a phone call from my sister letting me know that one of my cousins had gone missing. The next few days were a blur of private investigators, family, police, shopping, muddy buddies, and prayers.  Read about my cousin  here.
On top of that, the father of a good friend of mine passed away tragically on Christmas Eve. I didn't know you could cry so much during the happiest time of the year. 

Christmas came and went with my parents, younger brother, sister, brother-in-law, and niece all in tow. It was a great day to remember Christ and spend together. The next day we headed up to Aspen Grove to spend a few days with my dad's side of the family. Despite our missing cousin and all the heartache it was bringing, EVERY Naegle, Simmons, Koecher, Bennett, Benson, Stagg (am I missing anyone?) was in attendance, save Stevie. I learned more about what family means and what the plan of salvation entails during those few days then I ever have before. It's a good day to be a member of the Church.

I've sort of picked up the phrase "Thank goodness for the the Church" in the last month. It comes in handy, even when your water turns off the night before a Sunday...AFTER you worked out and absolutely NEED a shower, and then turns on 23 hours earlier than expected. Yes, that happened.

Got home on Saturday and headed to Charlotte's baby blessing Sunday. I have the cutest niece ever!

And here we are. Crunch time. The past few days I've just been getting ready, buying chacos, trying not to let my head cold get out of control (unsuccessfully, I might add.) As soon as I get there January 14th I'm pretty sure I'll be cut off from computer access for a few weeks. Guess we'll see.