Alyssa in New Zealand: Reaching new heights

How high can you possibly imagine hiking? Personally I find it hard to imagine.  At this point, it is hard to believe that there is a limit to how high I can climb, for tramping (another word for hiking in New Zealand) has become an addiction. If there wasn’t an end to the trails, I would certainly venture higher through the mountains.

Two weekends ago, I tramped to the height of 1,250 meters, which can be reached on the Sealy Tarns Track. My friends and I were planning on doing the tramp to Mueller Hut, which is 1,800 meters high and the halfway point to the summit of the highest mountain in New Zealand, Mount Cook. However, our plans were foiled once we were informed that there was too much snow blocking the track. As disappointing as it was, we weren’t going to let that prevent us from going up. I became determined to go as far up as I could.

The higher you go, the more you see. The more you see, the better the view is.

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The view that we were rewarded with after climbing 1,810 steps to the top of Sealy Tarns track

So much can be achieved by reaching the top. Not only have you tested the limits of your fitness, but you have also tested your drive to complete the challenge. In order to get to the top, we had to climb 1,810 steps. As I arrived at the top of Sealy Tarns track, I found myself completely surrounded by a new level of nature. The weather was still brisk enough that snow capped the peak of every mountain. Mount Cook was fighting to reveal itself to us through the thick clouds. The depths of the valley seemed never ending and the glacial waters below were reflecting several different shades of blue even with the grey skies above, all the way from navy to turquoise.


Tasting some of the glacier ice that is over hundreds of years old

I was so enamored by what I had seen, I was unsure of what my next adventure should be.  I kept thinking that nothing could possibly be better than what I just accomplished. After returning to Dunedin and talking to my neighbors about my weekend, they told me about their plans for the following weekend. Although I wasn’t particularly close with them, I decided to join, as the plans were to hike in Wanaka and go bungee jumping (even though it is not an activity covered by the insurance the UR OIE provides, and they advise not to do so, it’s been something on my bucket list that I’ve been keen to do for my entire life).

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The new group of friends that I have recently acquired

As I am usually embarking on trips with only my flatmates and a select few of other internationals, traveling with my complex neighbors was something new to me. There were some that I have never even met or seen before. However, by the time the weekend was over, it seemed like we all had known each other since the start of our arrival in the country. I now find it hard to believe that I haven’t spent time with them before. It has become much easier to make friends, for we all have the same motives to explore and make the best of our time in a country that has so much to offer.

I reached an even higher peak in Wanaka when hiking on the track Roy’s Peak. There was a view the entire time we hiked. The track was open and offered an incredible scene of Lake Wanaka and the mountains surrounding it the entire way through. As we gained height in the clouds, the valley continued to expand right in front of our eyes. We passed several grazing areas and sheep as we made our way to the top.

After tramping for a little over two hours, we reached the summit, which is 1,600 meters. Clouds completely blocked every direction that we looked, leaving us slightly disappointed. Just as we were about to give up on the view, a huge gust of wind came through and blew every single obstruction away. Everything was revealed and the entire valley was crystal clear. There were countless elements that were in front of our eyes. From the pastures to the lake to the mountains, we were completely immersed in an environment like no other. Not thinking that anything would ever compare to Mount Cook, I was certainly convinced otherwise as I looked at the beautiful and encompassing scene of Wanaka.

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The crystal clear view of Wanaka from the summit of Roy’s Peak

Just when I think that I’ve seen it all, I immediately realize how wrong I am as I keep embarking on new journeys. Each destination is so unique that they cannot be compared to one another. None of them are remotely the same, but each place is equally as spectacular.

The following day was the when the thrill of adventure really presented itself. A bus transported two of my new found friends and I to the large canyon where we would bungee jump. As we approached the cable car that hung above the canyon, I caught a glimpse of how far I would be jumping. My nerves didn’t begin to hit me until I was actually standing at the edge of the platform, seconds before my fall.

As the overseer counted down to 1, I leaned forward, trying to manage of all the thoughts and emotions going through my head. For a split second, I lost all control of everything that was in my mind. I couldn’t think of anything except for the fact that this was actually the craziest thing that I’ve ever done. Jumping off completely stable ground and into open air was going against all human instincts. I barely had time to think about being scared. However, once I gained momentum, I never felt so exhilarated. It turned out to be a 9 second fall, for the drop is 134 meters (440 feet). The fall was long enough for me to realize that I was in fact free falling. I never wanted that feeling to end. Before I knew it, the cable retracted and I began to bounce, indicating that it was over. As I was being pulled up, I finally had time to collect my thought and all I could think of was that I have never been more happy with what I had just experienced.

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A 440 ft drop and 9 second fall

Even though I have hiked to heights that are extremely higher than 134 meters, the distance of the fall seemed greater than anything that I had tramped at that moment. Just when I thought I had befriended a decent amount of people here in Dunedin, more have come into the picture and my social circle has expanded.

There is no limit to anything. The only limit that exists is the one that you impose on yourself. A maximum may exist, but there is no reason for you to not alter let alone increase it. If such an opportunity presents itself, the best thing that you could do is to step out of your comfort zone and exert a change in your life. Nothing is monotonous in New Zealand. Everything is always changing around me, and it encourages me to take advantage of what’s there. You never really know what you’re going to encounter until you’re actually there. The worst that could happen is not experiencing it for yourself.

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