Mountain Mission

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Mid semester break was coming up, and I was ready for an entire week of adventure. During my pre semester trip to New Zealand with my parents, we only hit the north island, so when I heard Theresa, a girl living in UNSW hall with me, was looking for buddies to go hiking with in the south island, I signed up immediately. My good friend Rachel decided to join us too! Theresa had posted about her plans in a very large Facebook group full of international students, so it was funny that our group ended up consisting of three tallish, light-haired American girls who all study engineering and admire Emma Watson. But that is something I learned in statistics class- sometimes random doesn’t look so random. (See Dad, I did go to a few lectures between all my traveling!)

Our hiking packs packed lightly, it took a 3 hour plane ride to get us to the Wellington airport, which is exquisitely decorated to the theme of Lord of the Rings. Pulling out our sleeping bags (which make excellent carry-on items: instant pillow or blanket on the plane!) we entered caterpillar mode and slept between the seats in the airport waiting area. Although the airport technically closed from 2-4 am, they let us stay, where we experienced an inconsistent sleep, waking up to  vacuuming and a consistent barrage of music, which included the ever catchy Istanbul (not Constantinople) multiple times on the playlist. In the morning, at a reasonable hour of 6am, Theresa woke us up to excellent news: our flight was delayed an hour, and due to the inconvenience, the airline gave us food vouchers for breakfast, which we spent on cake!

 

One flight later, we went grocery shopping in Nelson. We became those people in math problems who buy 14 sleeves of crackers, 12 bags of mac n cheese, and too many granola bars to count. The shuttle picked us up in town and dropped us off at our starting point: the visitors centre. “Waterproofing” our map in a ziplock baggie, we set off onto the  Travers-Sabine Circuit.

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If you want breathtaking nature in the form of mountains, forrest, or lakes, I recommend New Zealand. Whenever we summited a mountain, we chowed on Summit Scroggin: a delicious mixture of nuts, dried fruits, and chocolate lollies, which we meticulously divided into portioned baggies before we set out. Each night, we slept in a different cabin, signing in with our cabin passes, which would allow us to sleep in any of the 900 mountain accomodations available for the next 6 months. Easter Sunday consisted of hiking along the trail, with the added treat of hiding Cadbury Eggs for each other to find during breaks and at the cabin we reached in the evening. On Easter night, we partook in the most glorious stargazing I have ever experienced.

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We took a detour  from our loop to go to see a lake full of the clearest water in the world. It was extremely cold in the cabin that night, but it was worth it. We saw some endangered ducks! After several days of canned salmon on crackers for lunch and 2 cut thumbs, we all became experts at opening a can with a knife. We met the coolest trampers in the cabins each evening. I once borrowed a spatula filled with holes- the owner was serious about minimising pack weight. Each of us allowed ourselves a frivolous item. Mine was the chocolate eggs. Rachel’s was marshmallows (the Aussie/New Zealand kind that are pink and sugary), which we roasted over a fire of slightly damp wood. By the way, Rachel is an excellent marshmallow roaster. Theresa brought avocados- when you add them to your mac n cheese, a feast is created.

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Plenty of bug bites were acquired, and I could not tell you if Theresa’s solution of slathering them with toothpaste helped or not.  After 6 days of no showering (jumping into a couple bodies of cold water does not get you clean), we returned to civilisation. The first thing we did: purchase and eat Magnum bars and Cadbury Creme Eggs at the general store. That night we slept under the stars, with a tarp below us and bugs above. We survived the cold by cuddling with hot water bottles. The next day, the shuttle retrieved us and we got to our hostel, where I met up with my UConn friend Eleanor. We shared stories over to-die-for hot pudding and ice cream, complimentary of the hostel. These people were serious about pudding: all the guests lined up outside the kitchen a bit before 8 (Pudding Time) and we were asked to socialise and not use our phones during Pudding Hour. It lived up to the hype.

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