Part I is here
I’ve become lazy with blog post titles lately. Also, really lazy about these Throwback Thursday posts about New Zealand! I will do one today and then one at would be the end of the journey, in about 3 weeks. So, not every week, but that would be excessive anyway.
I was sitting in a restaurant last Friday night in New York, eating a really spicy, really expensive burger that I myself created, and this song came on. Which.. Even thinking about this song gives me goosebumps! At the Outdoor Pursuit Centre, we were this group of 18 teenagers, and on any given night (as long as we weren’t wiped out from the day’s activities) we’d have these dance parties in a little carpeted room, and Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger became our anthem. We played it our last night at OPC (July 22) and the next day we said goodbye to each other and it was one of the saddest days ever. Anyway. I’ve heard that song a few times here and there, but hearing it out of the blue, so very close to the actual 10 year anniversary I left OPC, I got chills. I texted a friend from those days, Leslie, who lives in New York, and I said we should get together. So we did! I saw him the next day, and he’s the first person I’ve seen from that group in 10 years, and neither of us could believe it! I guess what I’m trying to say, is that this is a trip that was utterly life changing, and is still affecting me in crazy ways today.
But, anyway. The photo up there I think was taken on a two-day backpacking trip we took from I dunno, somewhere (they drove us in a van) up to the tippy top of Mt. Ruapehu! Backpacking is hella hard, especially on volcanic ash for miles and miles. Plus at this point everybody had all but chosen the clique they were in. Teenagers. I recall we walked through a forest at one point, and it was completely this lush green color. Everything was colored in it. My camera was in my backpack and I couldn’t be bothered. I can’t imagine myself on a similar trip today. I’d need at least 3 lenses for this trip, and some sort of complicated rig that makes me look like a tool. It was winter in New Zealand at the time, but it rarely snowed anywhere where I was. Once we got high enough I guess, that’s where it started. We had trekked to a little hut (they have these all over New Zealand, for hikers and stuff), had a fire, had food, played card games. Then a brave few of us decided we were really going to rough it that night. The coolest thing about that night, is that when we left the hut to go down to the tent, I looked up and was nearly knocked back because the sky was jam packed with stars. It was, and still is, the starriest night I’ve ever seen, and it was snowing! It was amazing. It was fucking cold ass camping though. The one day it snowed….Ay, look at Ruapehu. This was visible from the little path from where our tent was up to the hut. The first time I saw it, there weren’t hardly any clouds, and I didn’t have my camera with me. Amateur. If I’m being objective, and looking at this with a more refined eye for photography, I did an awesome job. So proud of you little Caroline.The last leg of our little hike was up this hill that was nearly a vertical wall, and it went on forever and ever. I decided that on that hill is when I would complain to the guide that I was getting a blister, so he slapped some moleskin on me right on that giant hill! God I hated that hill, but at the end it was so worth it!We stayed at a pretty nice little chalet type hut, and made a lot of ramen, and I tried Marmite for the first time (it sucks as much as Vegemite), played more cards. Because we didn’t have smart phones in those days, kids, we had to use our imagination if we were bored!!!!! The next morning I was awoken by the sun piercing my eye, and I figured I might not get many more opportunities to view the sunrise from the top of a volcano. Pretty spectacular. Self portrait.
The day after getting back from the mountain (where we were picked up in a big truck and taken back, instead of walking), we did an overnight stay at a Marae. It was great. We were brought into this little community, taught some traditional song and dance, and cooked a huge feast, like it was Thanksgiving. The men learned a Haka and cooked a pig in the ground. The girls learned a stick game and peeled potatoes. Whatever, New Zealand. But, I loved it there. I might still have my sticks somewhere. But I definitely remember the song:
E Papa Wairari
Taku nei mahi
Taku nei mahi
He tuku Roimata
He aue he aue e
E hine hoki mai ra
Stick game was surprisingly difficult, because multitasking. You have to toss the sticks to an adjacent someone while singing a song in a different language. I’m still jealous the dudes got to learn a haka.
After the stay at the Marae (which I regret to not have more photos of, or meaningful things to say), we did some cool urban kid stuff, by going into Taupo to shop and bungy jump. NZ is the adventure capital of the world; Bungy is practically a national sport. There was a few minutes where I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do anything because I thought I lost my ATM card (in those days, we only had ATM cards!), but all my friends chipped in and bought me shit with the promise that I would pay them back. I spent something like, $200 of my friends’ money that day (I found the ATM card in another pocket later that night).
Bungy jumping is really fun, and not at all scary when you’re doing it. Everything up until that point is terrifying, and I wore a stupid pink shirt. I definitely need to bungy jump again in my lifetime. Hopefully in front of my kids so they know I’m not fucking around. Huka Falls, in Taupo. We looked at that between the shopping. Speaking of shopping, I bought a little fun pack of All Blacks merch, some wool, a phone card so I could call home (I did, and my parents probably cried afterwards), and I got a Coldplay poster at a record store. YESSSSS. On the day we were going to go skiing, it got called for crappy weather, so we went on a little day hike instead. One group of us branched off, and then our guide Tony dared us to jump in little lake that was there, so we did. And guess what, it was cold. But later on we went to some thermal pools so it all worked out. Look. How. Skinny. I. Was.
On… some day, I’m not sure, we went skiing on Ruapehu. We were warned that skiing on a volcano would not be like skiing back home. The snow just sucks mostly, PLUS you could die super easily. Fun. I decided to put myself in the intermediate group lesson because I’m pretty good at skiing. They don’t have a lot of chair lifts on Ruapehu though, they have T-Bars, where, if you’re being responsible and focused, is not a problem at all. However, I was sharing one with a guy from my group, Tyler, who at that moment was being a total piece of shit ass wipe teenager (he’ll never see this, but if he does, GOOD, he needs to know what a piece of shit he was that day), he starts swaying the thing back and forth, and I fall down, and I’m holding onto the T-Bar for dear life, because they told us WE COULD DIE on this mountain. Tyler, piece of shit that he was, was like “What are you doing?! Get up!” But I couldn’t get up, because I was being dragged up a mountain by a metal bar, and I was wearing skis, so I let go, and I slid down the hill, screaming, and trying to grab onto anything. It’s very possible I could’ve veered off a cliff, because there were cliffs everywhere, because we were skiing on a volcano. My skiing instructure, Lyall, found me at the bottom, and was very soothing and consoling, but told me we had to go back up the T-Bar so I could go get checked out, medically. At the top of the mountain Tyler said he was sorry and gave me a hug, and I said I forgave him, but I don’t think I forgive him.
The rest of the day, I sat on a table outside, listening to Keane’s “Bend and Break” over and over and over, feeling really sad for myself, and acutely aware of how far away from home I was. When we got back to OPC I examined the damage, and I was covered in scrapes and bruises, and had the most gnarly bruise on my thigh. It was sick. I was mostly worried because the next day we were going on a 5 day paddling trip down the Whanganui River, where we would be roughing it a little. I was bruised and sore, and my shoulder, while not disconnected, was badly hurt. Somehow, I got over that shit, because I was much tougher in those days I think. The Outdoors Pursuit Centre gave me a lot of confidence that I could do anything, and that I was tough if I wanted to be. So the next day we went on an E P I C canoe trip. Oh yeah, I got the splinter on this trip! So we had these canoes with wooden trim, and on a down stroke, I got a massive splinter shot straight up my middle finger nail. It was stunning. I had to extract the splinter myself in the canoe while our guide helped. As soon as I saw it come out and how big it was, I said “I’m gonna frame it!”Easily an inch long. These are the types of trip souvenirs you hang onto your entire life. It was 5 days of pure beauty. We were literally the Fellowship of the Ring. We camped one or two nights, and stayed in huts the rest of the time. Do other countries have this? They had bunks and little kitchens and as far as I knew, we didn’t have to reserve them, or even pay for them? That’s a pretty sweet deal. Our final night on the journey we stayed at another Marae, but we were the only ones there. As I recall there was some drama in the group which I ignored and took pictures instead. I truly was a better person then.
The paddling trip was the last thing we did at OPC. We had one more day to hang out, do group activities, and eat a ton of food. It was sad. I don’t keep in touch with people from this trip much, but we all did share a really incredibly experience with each other, that nobody else will ever understand. Our awesome two guides, Paddy and Tony, whom we loved, took us up to Ruapehu one last time to watch the sunset. Then, we ate a massive feast made for us. A slideshow of our time there was made and we all cried (because “Yellow” by Coldplay was the song. GODDAMMIT). Then we had a dance party, and the next day we all went in different directions, off to homestays for four weeks.