Life Lessons from a Long Hike

I opened my eyes at 8:36 am to find that the sun was shining through the curtains in the bedroom. Immediately, I jumped out of bed excited that I might be able to do the crossing after all. I quickly put my clothes on and, without even stopping to brush my teeth, headed to reception to check if I could do the crossing.

Nop.

No one else has signed up for it, the lady said, and they only take people to the start of the trail if it’s 3 or more.

AGHHH!!! So upset!

It was only because the night reception person told everyone it wouldn’t happen that no one signed up or even set the alarm to wake up early. I know there must have been other people who wanted to do the crossing, as it’s one of the major attractions to come to Tongariro National Park.

Needless to say, the day didn’t start so well.

I went back to my room and pondered my options. I could stay another day and see if the weather was still good tomorrow. I could do one of the other, shorter hikes and stay another night. Or I could just pack up and leave immediately to go to Raglan.

I was mostly mad at myself.

First, after being in New Zealand for almost four weeks, I know how fast the weather turns. Regardless of what the lady said, I should have set my alarm just in case it was a great day for the crossing. I knew this instinctively when I heard her tell me not to set the alarm. But I ignored it, and missed out on doing the crossing.

Second, I felt I had let my mind take over my choices. Despite the fact that Raglan has been calling me back since I left, I kept thinking I should see more of New Zealand, I should go to south island, I should go back to try to do the crossing.

I should, I should, I should.

It’s not that I’m not interested in seeing the rest of New Zealand. In fact, I’m so interested I want to come back many times. But I’m not interested in rushing through it. And my instincts are pulling me to Raglan.

But I postponed fulfilling that urge because my mind got in the way to tell me, “Well,… Tongariro is on the way so I might as well do that.”

And now I can’t even do the crossing!

Also, because I’m traveling by myself, I don’t dare hike through volcanic terrain on my own. It’s not that I don’t trust myself, but one never knows what could happen. In an emergency situation, having other people around makes all the difference.

Luckily, there was a German couple who were going to do the Tama Lakes 5-hour hike. Not quite the same as the 7-hour Tongariro Alpine Crossing, but still a challenge.

I decided to make the most of my stay at the National Park and join them.

The hike didn’t require any climbing skills, but it was a pretty challenging walk. There were some steep parts going uphill as well as down, and some of them were just loose rocks. Those were the most fun.*

*I’m being sarcastic, of course.
Overlooking Lower Tama Lake, an old crater

Overlooking Lower Tama Lake, an old crater

I was surprised at the lack of animals throughout the whole thing. I guess humans are the only idiots who go tramping around active volcanoes. Moreover, you can actually go skiing on these volcanoes. They have a resort and everything!

Animals are smarted than that.

Of course, I can’t make that claim about myself since I went hiking there. In fact, had I been able to do the crossing, I would have tried to go up to the volcano summit.

Anyway… After five and a half hours, I got back to the car safe, sound, and very happy I got some exercise, good company, and a great experience. My legs were sore from the yoga class to start with, so they were like jello by the end of the hike.

It struck me that hiking is a bit like life in general.

At the beginning, we are excited. We set off with all our energy behind what we are doing. Our step is sure and steady. We are fully committed, and jump in with enthusiasm and speed.

After a while, it gets challenging. We lose steam. We want to give up.

But we keep going at it, keeping in mind how great it will be when we get to our destination. The view will be amazing. We will feel a sense of accomplishment. So we keep putting one foot in front of the other, each moment reminding ourselves of the reasons why we are doing this.

And then… We get into the flow.

We accept the pain in our sore and burning muscles, and it doesn’t seem so bad anymore. Our legs seem to know what they are doing. We stop focusing on what’s coming 10 steps ahead, and look just in front of our feet to see where we will be stepping next. We are able to be in the moment and enjoy.

There are times in which the road gets challenging again, so we look up at the amazing scenery and get reminded of the reasons to keep at it. And after a bit more struggle, we get into the flow again.

Life is like this too.

It takes effort to get the ball rolling but, once you get into the flow… There’s nothing easier than to keep going.

So it is with this lesson that I ended my hike, and my struggle with my stay at National Park. This is what I came here to do.

And it seems something more:

After a deliciously hot shower, I stopped by the pub next door for a well-deserved hot chocolate. After chatting for a bit with the guy behind the counter, I learned that he used to study naturopathy.

It’s so great when you unexpectedly meet people who are on your same wavelength! It can happen in the most random places, such as in a pub.

After today, I’ve come full circle. I’m glad that I came to National Park.

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