About halfway up the steep climb on the Sealy Tarns Track, struggling to catch my breath and feeling overheated, I inevitably wonder why I’m doing this. I hate the ups. I always do. Especially when the climb is straight up – with stairs. I am not a natural climber and have never had great endurance. And, as grateful as I am for the beautiful sunny day when the base temperature was only 4 degrees today, I could really use some shade about now on this completely exposed route. (Yes, I overheat on even the coldest days!) Why am I doing this?
Then, I turn around…
And the view is just that much more awesome than 10 or 15 minutes ago… sometimes even just a few minutes ago.
Oh right, that’s why I do this. But looking up at the rest of the track, it feels like I’ll never get there. I try to remind myself that I go through this every time.
Every. Single. Time.
There must be something about hiking that wipes my memory of this struggle I go through; these moments of dread. Because if you ask me on any other day, I love hiking!
And, I don’t hate everything about the ups. The fact that I need to stop more often, or go more slowly, lets me really take in the whole trail. I get to notice things like how the light is changing on the mountain and how the details in glaciers become more pronounced and I always get excited at the first sighting of snow on the trail. Taking it all in at each of my breaks is what I love about hiking. (Now if only I could breathe a little easier, I’d really love it… )
Then, I get to the peak of the trail. And the view knocks me back. Every time. The grandeur and the expanse of the mountains always remind me of just how small my piece of the puzzle is in this world; how you are such an insignificant piece of the history of the planet. That day, I found a nice isolated little spot for lunch and took in the spectacular views all by myself.
Mount John Observatory Walkway
The next day, I went through the same feeling of dread on the first stretch of the Mount John Observatory Walkway. And again, as I struggle for breath, I reminded myself that the views are worth it. It was a steadier climb this time, but the burn of the hike the day before was still there in my thighs. At least today’s upward climb is in full shade for most of the way (and, thankfully, it’s much shorter). The forest was mossy green and felt like something out of a Disney fairy tale. I just had to follow the yellow needle road…
At one point, peaks were peeking over the hill just taunting me to go a bit faster. If only I could! And again, I found a quiet place on my own for lunch to take in more of the gorgeous mountain views.
I decided to take the long way down that follows the length of Lake Tekapo. The colours of fall were beautifully contrasted against the blues of the water and the sky. And, continuing the Disney fairy tale, I found myself surrounded by bunnies at the end of the trail. Although, they were difficult to catch in a photo! Especially since I would finally get quiet enough to have them come out of hiding and they’d immediately scatter when other hikers would come trampling through. However, at one point, I did finally manage to stay quiet without interruption and had one little guy curious about me just long enough to stay still for a quick picture.
Driving anywhere in New Zealand takes longer than any google maps prediction can give you. They just can’t account for all the stops to take pictures or how your foot slowly creeps off the gas when you’re distracted by the amazing views all around! I’m sure this is nothing new to anyone who has traveled New Zealand or read anything about it, but I’m sure it can’t be said enough: it is stunning.
From the morning or evening views to rain coming in or different cloud formations, I never tire of the mountains (from below or above) because they are ever-changing. No two days – or moments in the day – are ever alike.
And sometimes, when you’re driving somewhere not on the radar of most tourists, you might get lost… The signs aren’t as clear and you feel like you’ve missed the turnoff. That being the case, I took a turn a bit too early in an effort to reach Lake Ohau and instead ended up at a big treatment plant along the Pukaki canal. To get out of there, I found myself further back than where I started earlier that day. But, it was at least a good little tour around the valley behind Twizel!
Getting myself reoriented and back on the right road, I was soon greeted with a rather stunning view of Mount Glenmary, Ben Ohau and its mountain range. The only other people in sight happened to be an older couple from just down the road (Timaru) that lived there their whole lives and never been up to see this particular lake. Enjoying the solitude, I sat and read my book and took in the ever changing scene for a little while. Once the strong winds became just a bit too much, I packed up and headed back to my little chalet.
Only four days into this road trip, I look forward to what waits ahead. As far as I’m concerned, when the road or trail leads into the mountains, the only possible destination is: awesome.