Category Archives: Australasia

The stories, travel tips, and listicles from my adventures in countries in Australasia

Hiking to the top of Mount Doom, in New Zealand

April, 2014

We woke up at 5:30am this morning. That’s right, 5:30am. The last time I was up at 5:30am it was because I was still awake from the night before! I dressed and head out into the kitchen where everyone was already sorting breakfast. The whole gang loaded into the van before the sun was even hinting at rising, and made our way to the Tongariro Crossing. We pulled into the parking lot and piled out of the van. Here I was, standing in front of Mount Ngauruhoe, the mountain featured in Lord of the Rings as Mount Doom, about to climb it. Oh boy.

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We arrived at what is known as the “Devil’s Staircase.” The steps aren’t steep, it’s just that there are a ton of them. I wish I had counted. (Later I will google the height of the Devil’s Staircase and will find out that the staircase climbs from 1400 to 1600 metres above sea level). It was taxing, and I was tired, but I didn’t make a sound. I didn’t want to be whiny. Ebba and I climbed in silence, other than my delicate panting.

We reached the top of the staircase and stared back from whence we came. Holy mackerel! It was the most beautiful view I have seen in a long while. What made the view more beautiful, of course, is that I hiked to this spot. I am a champion. I smiled. With not one damn cloud in the whole damn sky, I couldn’t think of one place I would rather be than right here, alongside all these other breathless trampers.

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I looked up, and Mount Ngauruhoe loomed over us. Mount Doom! I felt like Frodo Baggins and Ebba, my Samwise Gamgee. I had to make it up to the summit and drop my ring into the flaming fire of the volcano. I nerded out for a moment. We began our climb to the top. My friends seemed to fly up the hill. They left Deb and I to fend for ourselves. She said, “some team effort, eh guys?” I laughed. Then I realized why Deb and I were taking so long. Not only was it our horrendously inappropriate footwear and our lack of physical fitness, but it was also terribly hard to climb when laughing so much. We shared jokes, stories, and anecdotes as we scrambled up the loose rock and sand. We helped each other, yelling out inspiring words to one another, and all the strangers we passed. We reached the part of the climb where we would take two steps forward, and fall one step back. It was exhausting. My feet scrambled, my hands scrambled, and it was SO tiring. It felt like huge weights were attached to each of my limbs, and I was climbing through maple syrup.

And then, I made it.

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I stood at the top of Mount Doom! I laughed and cheered like a fool, and hugged all my patient friends. I looked back to where I had climbed and saw a beautiful stretch of New Zealand landscape. Oh. My. Nature. I could see as far as the spherical earth would let me. I stood in silence and total breathlessness for a split second. One sneaky tear escaped my eye, and I laughed as I wiped it away. Come on Beth, don’t let anyone see how weepy you get when something is beautiful. I turned around and found myself looking into a giant crater. Standing on an active volcano is not as scary— or hot— as I thought. All I could feel was joy. WE CRUSHED THAT VOLCANO!

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New Years Eve in Sydney, Australia

December 31, 2013

Sydney, Australia

I found my way to Darling Harbour, and stopped in the King’s Brewhouse to meet up with my buddy Rob for an ice cold pint. He works this evening, so I am spending New Years on my own, but we made plans to meet up later. After midnight, I would come back to Darling Harbour, find wifi, and we would meet up.

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I left the bar and began my wander over to the Sydney Opera House. Finding out there were 2.6 million people already lining the entirety of Sydney Harbour should have been the first clue: that was the last time I would see Rob today. I shuffled past millions (literally) of people, and found myself in the centre of a parking lot, turned picnic area. Over the loudspeaker I heard an announcement telling us that the section we were in was now at capacity, and nobody else is allowed in. I began to scope the area. My plan was to find an empty space among the throngs, and just sit myself down next to some nice looking people. The criteria was easy; youngish. And then I found them! Three young ladies, indiscreetly drinking wine, sitting next to a big empty space, on the other side of which, were three handsome and very tanned young men, doing an even worse job of concealing their wine! I asked the girls if I could join them, and they allowed it. We began chatting. The men on my other side realized we were all backpackers and joined our conversation. Our group was so wonderful. Two ladies from Sweden, one from Spain, a Dutch guy, two boys from France, and a Canadian!

40 minutes to go…

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We all had alcohol in our bags and were all doing a laughable job of concealing it. We continued to drink and get to know each other. The conversation we had was entertaining to say the least. Someone would say something that was super witty and funny, but nobody would really laugh. So, they would have to explain what they meant. It was lovely. The five different first languages, the noise from the millions (literally) of people around us, and the irresponsible amount of wine we had all drunk up to this point, didn’t really help the conversations.

25 minutes to go…

I went to a stand nearby and bought a few light up toys. They were light up swords, and were exactly what our wine-saturated group needed. There was a little boy nearby our blanket, who was also wielding a light up sword. I challenged him to a duel. We combatted our swords like proper knights, and when he sliced my side with his light, I made a huge scene as I died. The people around us cheered and laughed. The two French guys grabbed their swords and attacked with a vengeance. The little boy sliced them, and they too, acted out excessive death scenes. The crowd around us went wild. The boy bowed, sheathed his blade, and walked back to his mom.

10 minutes to go…

The noise around us grew. The once empty spaces in the crowd had now filled up, people were almost yelling to hear each other, and I could hear a lot more drunken singing in the distance. The loudspeakers began to play music. All of a sudden, the crowd joined in the countdown, 10…9…8…7…6… I looked around at my new friends, drunkenly counting down, swaying back and forth, faces to the sky…5…4…3…2… My face began to hurt from smiling so much. Tears of joy began to well up in my eyes…1… Oh. My. God. The fireworks lit up the sky. Everywhere were fireworks. Everywhere. I looked on in amazement, and childlike joy. There were seven different points from which the fireworks were being lit. In front of me was a full 180 degrees of colour and explosions and magic. I couldn’t believe the beauty. I looked on with wonder. As the blasts echoed off the buildings behind us, and around the Harbour, the crowd burst into song. There I was, in the midst of 2.6 million people singing Auld Lang Syne.

Happy New Years, world!

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Hiking through Abel Tasman

We landed at Totaranui and piled off the boat. A German guy valiantly took our giant backpacks to shore for us, and then decided to go for a sprint down the beach and throw his hands triumphantly in the air. It was strange, but provided us with something to laugh at. Here we were, Totaranui, and we were here to start our walk. It, as luck would have it, began with an incredulous uphill. Oh. My. God. If the whole walk is going to be like this, my feet will probably fall off by the end. We finally began going downhill, and found ourselves at Goats bay. We were hiking on the beach! It was so cool! However, I didn’t see any goats. Not one.

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After a blur of more uphills, downhills, and beautiful scenery, we came to the tidal crossing. We recalled what Skipper Brett said about the tide moving almost 5m in six hours, and like the brilliant hikers we were, decided to cross at low tide. The expanse of sand was not unlike a graveyard, with millions of broken clam and mussel shells scattered as far as the eye could see. We dodged crabs as they scurried from one hole to the next.

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On, on, and on and on we hiked. My obvious lack of physical fitness began to show, and I trailed behind Ebba and Erin as they seemingly flew up the hills. I would stop, catch my breath, say, “stop being such a wimp, Beth,” and hike to catch up. It was exhausting. The path took us to an epic waterfall, and we were all stoked we chose this path. Waterfalls are bomb.

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We finally made it to Bark’s Bay! We met Ranger Mark, who checked our booking number. He was cheerful and pleasant, and when he left, we decided Erin would be a perfect Ranger. Ranger Erin, we would call her! We cooked an entire bag of pasta, used an entire jar of sauce, and probably sliced half a kg of cheese. After we polished off the pasta, Erin cooked some cheesy bread which we added cheese to. Then we had some chocolate and climbed into the tent, satiated AF. As we stepped in our tent, it started to rain! Perfect timing. We lay in bed, all zipped up in our cozy sleeping bags, listening to the rain and chatting about the day. I asked Erin the time. 7:21pm. Lights out.

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I woke up 12 hours later!! Oh man. I slipped out of the tent, sure to not wake the girls, and sat by the beach Ito amp myself up for the day. With a few MASSIVE blisters forming on my little piggies, I dreaded what the day had to offer. I prayed to nature and asked for a lovely day of relatively flat hiking, with pretty scenery and no rain- too much to ask? I didn’t think so. As we were cooking WAY too much oatmeal, the enthusiastic German guy from the boat (and the triumphant fist pump on the beach) walked into the campsite. We chatted for a bit, and he said he would see us on the trail. As he sprinted out of earshot, we all laughed. There is no way he would see us on the trail— we had no intention of sprinting.

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Another blur of ups and downs, a little spatter of rain, and beautiful, breathtaking views. We walked by only really good smelling people. One man was holding an umbrella over the girl who walked in front of him— so chivalrous— and he smelled amazing. We couldn’t decide whether it was the passing hikers who smelled so good, or if it was us who smelled so damn bad. We agreed it must be them.

The end of the trail came into view and I almost wept at the sight of it. My feet sure did— then I realized that was just a blister that had popped and filled my sock with pus.

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