Far from civilization

Trip Start Nov 21, 2008
Trip End Mar 31, 2010

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Where I stayed
a lodge

Flag of New Zealand  ,
Monday, April 13, 2009

I'm sitting in a lodge 30km away from any civilization on the other side of the world. The location is River Valley, New Zealand. The lodge has a spacious open main room where large groups of backpackers gather around tables playing drinking games. Specifically "Ring of Fire", or what I would call "Waterfalls". Just an hour ago we feasted on a wonderful roast beef and veggie dinner that the lodge served us. There's a huge room upstairs with really long continuous beds that everyone sleeps next to eachother in. Totally goofy, and you can imagine the name they give it. I'm happy to pass on that as tonight is the first time I get to use my tent. They have a nice camping area just outside the lodge with a babbling river next to it. The weather is cool and the tent designed for warmer weather but my sleeping bag is extremley warm so I know I'll be fine (I actually end up sweating). Also I'm looking forward to a good nights sleep. The last 2 days have been so intense with an enormous amount of physical activity (walking), plenty of drinking at night, and very little sleep.
Yesterday I completed the Tongariro Crossing which is New Zealands most popular day walk. It was 19.4 Km or 12 miles long, taking me 7 hours to complete. It started out walking through this vast open plain between mountains, then across a long, flat valley floor where we passed a huge snow-capped mountain on the right which was Mt. Doom in Lord of the Rings. Next I came face-to-face with the "Devil's Staircase". I had no idea how hard it would end up being, but let's just say it was named accordingly. That was the toughest part but I was walking with friends of mine, Suzy and Cat and we took our time and stopped for breaks. Another girl, Kari, joined our group and we proceeded up this steep and fairly dangerous hike/ climb up to the summit. At the top you could see a huge red rock formation to the left and three lakes on the other side of the peak. The lakes were such a bright and brilliant blue and green that it almost looked unreal. On the way down from the summit the ground was very loose and it was hard to get a good footing. Cat and I adopted a technique of almost skiing down the loose rock which was quite fun, while Kari did the crab crawl because she was more apprehensive. The whole area smelled strongly of sulfur and the rocks let off steam. The mountain ranges were creations of intense volcanic area about 80,000 years ago and are now a World Heritage Sight. We then proceeded past the lakes and zig-zagged down some mountains. Easy to quickly describe but it took a long time to complete. The last portion of the trail was through a cool and shady rainforest which was a big change from the rest of the dry and open landscape. It was a very challenging and demanding walk but so rewarding. It's the longest hike I've ever done and I'm glad it's under my belt now because I have several more walking tramps planned during my trip.
When we got back I took a much needed nap and then hung ut with 16 kids in a tiny hostel room shooting the breeze and having a couple of drinks before the bar opened at Midnight (It was Easter Sunday).
Despite walking all day the girls and I were dancing up a storm and having a great time.

This trip has been amazing so far. It's a lot different from any sort of traveling I've ever done before. Every day is filled with lots of activities. What you do depends on your decisions and I haven't really done a lot of the extreme activities so far because I feel I don't need to do everything and I'm saving my money and energies for the activities I plan on doing later. Even without doing all of the activities the days are jam packed with constant entertainment even if it's just hanging out with the new friends I've made.
Tomorrow we drive to Wellington and the day after we take the ferry to the South Island which everyone talks about as being the better of the two (although it's hard to imagine more beauty than I've seen. I think coming from such flat land in the Mid-West I'm hyper sensitive to the rolling and choppy landscape. After the ferry arrives in Picton on the Northern tip of the South Island I get off the bus and leave all of my new friends to hike and camp the Queen Charlotte Track. I'm excited for that and all that comes after.

Everyone is getting really rowdy playing drinking games and I'm glad I decided to chill tonight and give myself a rest. Still fun to be around but I'm glad I have my tent and I can get away from the action and sleep in the cool night air. Also I get to sleep in, yay! Everyday we have to wake up early to catch the bus but tomorrow we have a bit more time. All of the English people say we get to have a 'lie in'. One of those phrases I didn't catch at first but now I'm so used to hearing it.
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