Monday, March 22, 2010

There and Back Again

Hello friends,

This past weekend was one of the most physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing of my entire life. I did things I never expected or wanted to do, and I pushed my body to its breaking point. It was a harrowing couple of days, but I had experiences that I will remember for as long as I live.


After classes were done for the day, a bunch of us rented a car and drove to the town of Tarangi, where we stayed the night at a local campsite (we did this two nights without paying, but no one ever said anything, so it must not have been a big deal). We just kind of hung out for a bit, and then headed to bed. It was interesting riding on the left side of the road, but our drivers got the hang of it after a while.


We woke up early to try to catch the bus to Mount Ngauruhoe, but it had already left. Forced to change our plans at the last minute, we decided to do what anyone would do in our position: go skydiving. We drove to the nearby town of Taupo, and passed the time by visiting the beautiful Huka Falls park. Around 2:00 PM, six of us headed to Taupo Tandem Skydiving and prepared to jump out of a plane from 15,000 ft. in the air.

Now, as many of you know, I have had a deathly fear of heights for most of my life. I mean, I have turned down roller coasters cause they were too high for me. So you may ask, what was I thinking jumping out of a plane? The answer? I wasn’t thinking. When I came to New Zealand, I decided that I was going to let go of all of my inhibitions, and welcome any opportunity with open arms. Now, that’s not saying I wasn’t nervous as the plane was ascending and my instructor strapped himself to me. Are you KIDDING me?

I was scared out of my mind.

Did I let that stop me? Hell no.

I was the last one out of the plane. After watching five of my friends plummet to their certain doom, it was my turn. My instructor asked if I was ready, and before I could reply, he shoved us out of the plane. For a moment, I didn’t have a single thought in my head. Then, it hit me. I think I may have sounded something like this:


I was flying. I couldn’t believe it. It was without a doubt the biggest adrenaline rush of my entire life. I was in free-fall for a full minute, and when my instructor finally pulled our parachute, I was instantly snapped back into reality. We floated leisurely down the rest of the way back to Earth, chatting the whole way down. After a perfect landing, I re-joined the rest of my comrades, and we screamed in celebration. It truly was the scariest and most exciting experience of my life. I would do it again in a heartbeat, and it was the first significant step in conquering my fear of heights.

Me realizing I am no longer in the plane


Sunday morning we got up even EARLIER than we had on Saturday and caught the 6:00 AM bus to Mount Ngauruhoe AKA Mount Doom (it is the mountain that was used as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films). The bus driver told us that the forecast was for strong winds and bad weather, and that after he left us, whatever happened to us should we decide to climb the mountain was “between you and God.”


At the base of Mount Doom, ready for the longest trek of my life

The nine of us set out around 7:00 AM toward Mount Doom, with the intent to climb. And climb we certainly did. Like a merry band of hobbits, we scrambled up the rocky face of the mountain with no gear whatsoever, but a fire in our hearts. After about an hour and a half or so we reached the top of Mount Doom, and our spirits soared. The view was incredible, and we could look down into the volcanic crater that formed the cone of Mount Doom. Simply amazing. I never in my life thought that I could one day call myself a mountain climber.

Mount Doom, in all its glory

The rest of the 19.4 km walk was equally beautiful. We passed by several thermal lakes that were heated by underground vents, and travelled up and down a few more smaller mountains. After we finished the hike, we drove back to Auckland for a good night’s sleep.

All in all, it was one of the most challenging and most amazing weekends of my life, and I am so glad that I pushed myself to be stronger than my fears. It’s times like these that I am incredibly thankful for all the opportunities I have been afforded in my life.

I love you all, and I will write again soon. :-)


P.S. Here are the links to this week's Facebook photo albums:

Miscellaneous NZ

The World According to Stuart

Huka Falls

15,000 Ft. and Falling

Doom Patrol or There and Back Again


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