The Ups and Downs of Hiking in New Zealand

For a long time I’ve thought about the contrast of good and bad emotions. We must feel sadness to truly experience happiness. We pay for exhilarating freedom with sobs and self-judgement. Every moment of this is where I belong is matched with how could I screw up so royally? 

It’s funny, as I write this Ed Sheeran song “Eraser” comes through my headphones. His words cut through my thoughts and I relate to the line I hear

“And ain’t nobody wanna see you down in the dumps
Because you’re living your dream, man, this shit should be fun”

Now, the song is not at all a perfect expression of my current experience. But Ed, I get you man. I get you.

I do not know when I first began dreaming of traveling the world. I grew up listening to my parents’ stories of living in Germany. Even as a kid in elementary school I knew the plan- get good grades, go to college, get a job, move to Europe for 3+ years. The way some people always knew they’d be a teacher I always knew I’d travel (okay, so maybe I was also one of those people who always knew I”d be a teacher, but that is beside the point).

And here I am, 10 months, 16 USA States, 8 countries, and 3 continents into my year of travel and damn, this dream is hard.

I know, I wrote about this before. And when I finished writing that post, I found peace and contentedness in my choice to keep moving forward on this path. But I still lose my resolve sometimes.

Like when I first got to New Zealand. As those of you who read my last post know, I arrived in Christchurch around 5am Friday morning. I made my way up to St. Arnaud to meet up with a girl I met on Facebook, Anja.

Well, Saturday morning we loaded up our bags with food and all the warm layers we could scrounge and hit the trail. We were hiking the Robert Ridge Track in Nelson Lakes National Park from the parking lot to the Lake Angelus Hut. The hike started in a beech forest- soft green leaves filtered the light and the tree trunks were speckled with fungus (but like, in a pretty way. Not in a gross, between your toes way). As we climbed above the tree line, we were gifted with an expansive view of Lake Rotoiti.

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Looking down on Lake Rotoiti during the hike up to the top of Robert. Photo credit Anja

We hiked to the top of the ridge and there literally was no bad place to look. No matter where my eyes landed I saw something amazing- bright blue skies, mountains in the distance, green grass by my feet.

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Cool rocks along the Robert Ridge Trail in Nelson Lakes National Park

And yet, I felt completely unaffected. I knew I was looking at something stunning, but I didn’t feel it.

My mind was caught in a spiral, trying to understand what was wrong. The thought entered my head- I couldn’t hear the mountains speak.

Well shiiiiiiiiiiiiit.

I have to go home.

I have to.

I. Have. To. Go. Home.

Next plane, let’s go.

My thoughts continued in this direction for a fair bit of the hike. I was hiking so slowly, poor Anja kept having to stop and wait for me. I had no energy to move. I kept saying “I don’t know what’s up, why I’m hiking so slow.” But I knew. I knew my mental state was holding back my body. I couldn’t move forward because my mind was spinning backwards.

Anja saved me with a question, though she probably doesn’t know it. She asked “Meet any good guys on your travels?” And so began a conversation about cute boys. As we shared our experiences with jerks and princes my head slowly unstuck itself and entered the present. I looked around me with fresh eyes. The stoppers in my ears fell out. My feet grounded into the mountain and I started to feel it’s spirit. Suddenly I found the strength to hike smoothly and my lips formed a small smile.

Who knew, all that pain and anguish and all I needed was to talk to another human being.

I feel like I learned this lesson before… Sometimes I can be a real stubborn study.

I’ve decided to make a list of things I can do when feeling blue and missing home. Here it is:

  1. Open my heart to someone nearby and make a new friend. Connect to another person.
  2. Reread my post “A Bit of Truth- Internal Turmoil”. I reread it when I started writing this post and it really made me smile and helped reaffirm my commitment to this journey and remember why I’m doing this- to have fun 🙂
  3. Call home. Talk to to my parents, my brother, my friends. I spoke to Kelsey yesterday and Olivia this morning. Both gave me wonderful support and advice. Love you two ❤

Alright, so enough of the downs. Let’s talk about the ups!

With my attitude adjustment I was much happier hiking down the trail. We passed some cool rocks and I thought “Those would be cool to climb up.” So I dropped my pack and did exactly that 🙂

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Spontaneous rock scrambling. Photo credit Anja

Eventually we got close enough to our camp for the night to look down on it from above. I’m just going to put a picture here because I have no words.

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We headed down to the hut and, after a short break, started hiking again. We hoped to make it to the top of Mount Angelus and back again before dark. Unfortunately, we had to turn back before reaching the top. There isn’t a clear trail to the peak and with all the rock slides we did not want to hike in the dark.

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On break at the hut. Photo credit to that big family staying at the hut that night

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Mountain Reflections, Afternoon Sun

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Mountain Reflections, Sunset

After a filling dinner and hot chocolate in the hut, I headed outside to set up the tent. Even with my head lamp on, the stars shocked me with their brightness. When I was done with the tent I just looked up at the sky. It’s still strange seeing some familiar constellations upside down (I was able to recognize Orion and Cassiopeia that night, in addition to the Southern Cross and Scorpius. Saturn and Jupiter were also shining bright. A lot more was visible, I just don’t know my stars well enough). But damn, the stars shine bright down under.

Anja and I survived the below freezing night with a combination of excessive layers, body heat, and warm water bottles. After a blessedly relaxed morning we sad goodbye to our beautiful lake and started hiking back to the car park. We took a different path, the Speargrass Track. Everyone said it would be very steep, and it was.

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Anja hiking down one of the not steep sections

But no one said anything about stream crossings.

Cause there were some stream crossings

Like, never ending stream crossings

Oh, who am I kidding. I LOVED all the stream crossings. Yeah, I was super slow and relied heavily on my trekking poles for stability, but it was beautiful. As we hiked along it the vegetation, geology, and lighting changed, altering the color of the water.

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Stream crossing! Photo credit Anja

I thoroughly enjoyed the hike on Sunday. Saturday was rough, but Sunday was great. And the end of the hike meant a warm shower 🙂

After we cleaned up we hitched a ride up to Nelson to stay with a couch surfing host. More star gazing ensued and then a fantastic sleep. I felt so rested Monday morning!

Anja and I got out pretty late Monday, after 9:30am. But it worked out for the best. We were hitching up to Abel Tasman and, get this, the guy who picked us up was on vacation, had no plans for the day, and drove us all the way to the park. We invited him to join us on our hike and he did! To top it off, after the hike he drove us back to our accommodations for the night (I went to a hostel in Motueka and Anja went back to Nelson). His name is Brad and he’s a cool dude!

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Cheeky grass stickin’ it to the man in Marahau

But back to the hike around Abel Tasman. The three of us hopped on the water taxi out of Marahau and were dropped off at The Anchorage. We hiked the Coastal Track back to Marahau. The path was well above the water and did go through the inland rain forest a fair bit. But there were paths down to the beaches and you bet we walked down 🙂

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I still can’t get over how clear the water is here

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And isn’t it just amazing how many different colors water can be?

We also saw a cute little weka bird and followed him down the trail for quite some time. Poor guy couldn’t figure out how to shake us!

After the hike we ate the greatest of post-adventure food, pizza 🙂

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We raced the sun, and lost. But this sunset was worth the little bit of hiking we had to do in the dark. I’m telling you guys, I’m obsessed with the way water reflects light.

And those were the three days I spent with the wonderful Anja! I’ll write more about his week tomorrow cause it’s a travel day. Going to Sydney to see Alex and Hanna!

Sending y’all all the love ❤ ❤ ❤

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The only picture of both Anja and I. Please ignore my squinty eyes

3 thoughts on “The Ups and Downs of Hiking in New Zealand

  1. I love that talking about boys snapped you out of a funk! 😂
    Your dreams, your plans, and your melding with all the beautiful interruptions are the rythms that make every day cool and every night amazing. The obstacles are simply the rest of the world trying to catch up.

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  2. I think it’s going to take you time to really reflect on this amazing adventure, dear Megan. Be patient with yourself. I loved how you shook yourself out of the mood you were in. Just know it’s okay to miss those you love. We all miss you like crazy. Dreams don’t come easy. They are hard work, sometimes heartbreaking, and even sometimes just beyond our reach. That doesn’t mean we stop reaching. Through it all, know that ILOWOSMYH and am so proud of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Following your heart takes courage and sacrifice. Even though you are doing what you always wanted, it doesn’t take away from missing the other things that also form part of your life. And that is ok. I want to thank you for this post. It’s an inspiration. Yes, the sights are amazing and breathtaking but it’s more. You’re going far and have the guts to live the way you want to. The living your dream is hard because it’s 100% true. The heart wants what it wants but it’s not always easy when we get it. There’s so much we have to give up, and work at. But hang in there. You are doing awesome and staying open to every experience. I can’t wait to read your next entry. Make sure you’re jumping in the water and not just admiring it!

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