Nau mai!

23 12 2011


By Whitney

Nau mai!” is “welcome” in the native Maori language in New Zealand. It’s the sentiment we’ve felt every moment we’ve spent in New Zealand. We’re pretty sure it isn’t the relief of being someplace so much closer to home, culturally – New Zealanders really are the nicest group of people we’ve ever met. Need proof? Our cab driver in Auckland rolled down his window and politely asked if he could jump ahead into the next lane over instead of the typical Boston move we’re used to (the “gun it and flip off the driver as you cut them off” move). On the hiking trails in the US, you might get a polite nod and a short “Hi”. On hiking trails in New Zealand, you get jolly hikers who comment enthusiastically on the marvel at the end of the trail, encouragement to get there, and a hearty “Good day!!”. If you drop your iPhone in the parking lot in Dunedin, New Zealand, someone will wait for you to come back to your car to return it to you. If you do that in Boston, it’s already been wiped and put up for sale on Craigslist by the time you finish grocery shopping.

(Maybe it’s just Bostonians that are assholes to one another? My 7 years there have jaded me, I fear).

Regardless, New Zealand is amazing. In the 28 countries i’ve been to, it is the one I have felt simultaneously amazed and at home in. I wish I could take some Kiwi-ness home with me. Maybe someday we’ll be lucky enough to live here, if only for a few years!

I’m going to start the New Zealand posts with my favorite day in New Zealand – a famous hike – the Alpine Crossing in Tongariro National Park. It’s a 19-kilometer brutal trudge across volcanoes, past alpine thermal lakes and pools, and through Mordor and Mt. Doom from the famous Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tourists often underestimate this walk because it is so popular – you can have all four seasons in a day, and it’s a dramatic, steep change in altitude. It’s the kind of thing that people who come from countries where people don’t hike or do serious outdoors stuff (**COUGH** China **COUGH**) regularly cost New Zealand over $250,000 a year in rescue missions. That’s a real number. A quarter million dollars a year. If you go to New Zealand, you HAVE to do this hike. Just spend some time in an REI store and on a stair climber first.

Here are stunning photos of this hike – one of the best days of my life.

The famous Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings! More shots to come…(and yes, it has a real name, but its far less interesting).

We hiked across this entire lava field, and down from the left out of shot. And that was only the first hour and a half of 8 hours!

Mordor!

The clouds make Mt. Doom look like it is erupting, no? 🙂 That’s Phil in the foreground.

This is an open lava tube with Mt. Doom in the background:

The red crater is an active thermal vent! It was a nice way to warm up on the cold, windy peak.

And now for gratuituous gorgeous thermal pool shots! (with some people thrown in for scale!)

I am actually really afraid of going down steep slopes. I’m 100% fine with heights – cliffs, tall buildings, dangling off a mountainside on a harness are all fine with me. Ask me to descend down an ashy mountanside at a steep angle? I get all clammy. This fear gets validated later on in the trip…stay tuned.

One of the few flat passages of the hike:

An alpine lake:

Beginning our descent….

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One response

6 01 2012
Ming Yin

Cool, Whitney! I want to hike this trail one day. Guess I need to exercise more to be ready…

Enjoy your trip,
Ming

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