As I publish this we remember that volcanoes have the explosive and unpredictable raw power of mother nature and we extend our deepest sympathy and support to the families and friends of the deceased, for the pain and suffering of the injured and to the emergency services workers and heroes in the Whakaari /White Island eruption. Kia Kaha.
Walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand. Thousands of people do it, it is one of our most ‘walked walks’ but it’s not a walk in the (national) park. It’s a physical and mental challenge.
This story in 4 parts has: Art, Travel, Writing, high-altitude Walking, Myth and Spirituality and Friends…. all of my favourite things.
The inspiration for this series came from a writing course I did earlier in 2019. 21 days of writing with Megan Mecedo. http://www.meganmecedo.com a beautiful Irish writer and visual storyteller, who hosts a closed and amazing Facebook group called Be yourself Community. During the challenge you get a prompt to write about and then share your writings with the group. After the challenge ended I got to have a 1-1 call with Megan who encouraged me to publish my stories and my art together, something I had been procrastinating about for a while.
Here it is….
And so it occurred a few weeks ago, that 5 disparate people from around the globe arranged to meet near Taupo in New Zealand, (the heart centre of the country) and walk the popular but challenging Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Tongariro is an active volcano; harsh and wild, but with glimpses of real beauty.
The 3 volcanoes rise from an alpine plateau, in an area called simply National Park (from the time when there was only one) and they are sacred to Maori (tapu) and therefore demanding of respect. The volcanoes have a strong male energy in Maori tradition.
This rugged landscape has something to teach us, something to give us, and to relieve us of. What do each of us need?
To introduce our intrepid little group we have the English Rose, visiting from London for the first time and re-emerging after raising 4 children and getting them launched into the world. Her husband is back at work in London, commuting on the Central line and taking photos of the snow falling. Then there is the Jan the energy healer; her husband dropped her off at the cafe on the corner where we picked her up en-route. She is also strengthening her independence after 40+ years of marriage. With a beautiful calm energy, she quickly becomes a favourite in the group. Then we have the redhead refugee… the most experienced hiker and living in Australia for various practical reasons but a kiwi at heart, and a local to these parts. Then we have Errol ‘you sexy thing’ the brave and only man of the group. You sexy thing is apparently a mnemonic, Errol is the name of the lead singer of the band ‘Hot Chocolate’, and the most memorable song is “you sexy thing” – this is how middle-aged ladies remember things. (It is also an irritating earworm which you may not thank me for.) He, (our Errol) is also a possible suitor for the redhead refugee, and is therefore on trial. Hailing from South Africa but living in Australia, he adds to our global quintet. Also obviously there is me, the kiwi connector of this group and somewhat laid-back trip organiser, with no dependents, I’m a frequent traveller and occasional adventurer, who doesn’t mind exercise as long as there are crisp white sheets and a hot shower and a glass of wine at the end.
As we near our destination the day before we plan to walk and after an all-day road trip, the reality hits! The volcanoes are quite high and there is still snow up there, (it’s mid summer here) Is that haze?…or is it the gale force winds whipping up the snow?…. or even more alarming; are the crater lakes heating up and steaming?
Whilst this might theoretically be a walk in the (National) park, it is not going to be easy. Added to this as we settle into the lodge with 5 gin and tonics, we hear that the mountain has been closed for the last 4 days due to high winds. It is not currently welcoming visitors. As we sip the gins the questions start to creep in…
Why did we come here? Whose idea was this anyway? Can we do it? Is this more than a physical challenge?
What happens when 5 middle-aged city slickers get out into the harsh wilderness… read on over the next 3 exciting episodes and find out.