I am going to be up front and notify everyone that I will never be able to do this trip justice by describing it with just my words and pictures.
I’ve done a number of hikes in my 20 years; nothing compared to the committed mountaineers out there (some of which I’m proud to call my family), but I have become rather friendly with trailheads, summits, and sore calluses.
Going into this particular hike, I never would have guessed how absolutely insane, incredible, and… everything perfectly adventurous it would be. I was quite literally on top of the world.
At the end of our journey, about two hours before we departed from Kaikoura to head back to Christchurch to be exact, we got fish and chips (typical) at a café in town. Looking back on the morning/night, we reviewed every lucky and unlucky and semi-crazy incident that had happened to our group in the last 24 hours. All together there were 27. My plan is to highlight the best of these through an attempted time-lapse narration of the trip (I should inform you now that these times are completely estimated).
So, let’s give it a whirl…
We meet in what we call “The Oasis” (lawn in the middle of our apartments) to catch the Metro to Christchurch where we will meet the InterCity bus which will hand us off to Kaikoura. Due to a number of mishaps, we miss our first bus (the Metro).
We catch the next Metro… our bus to Kaikoura leaves at 4PM, and also requires a 10-minute walk from the Metro stop to get to the InterCity bus stop. School just let out, so every child in the country of New Zealand of course gets on at every stop along the way to Christchurch. Let’s not forget the strollers and suitcases the bus driver had to unload at the stop on Riccarton. By say, 3:45PM, the limits of our patience were more than exhausted. We arrive at City Centre at 3:50PM.
Picture: 8 kids with backpacks bigger than their bodies sprinting through the city of Christchurch -“Run Forrest Run” being yelled to us by random Kiwi kids pointing at the scene we unintentionally were making - Don’t mind me on the phone (panting loudly) trying to convince the InterCiy customer service lady to have the bus wait two minutes for us.
Fun Fact: they wait for no one. My immediate reaction is to run faster, beg more, and pant louder so she feels darn sorry if I miss that bus.
Homestretch- I can finally SEE the bus and the bus stop. The bus is packed and ready to go, I see my friend Jamie skipping up and down trying to negotiate with the driver. Later I find out he is bribing the driver by offering him $20 for every minute he waits for us. Bus driver looks a bit unhappy, but I could see some amusement resting in the lady attendant's face.
Rest of our crew arrives, loud and sweating profusely and boards a bus of…half giggling/half displeased looking people who were actually on time and want nothing to do with our sweaty griminess and loud shouts of relief. We count 7 people.
Question is: “Where’s Nick?!”
Not even two seconds after we realized we're one man down, we spot Nick sprinting up the street (he accidentally turned down the wrong street before), and now we OFFICIALLY have somehow, miraculously made our bus.
We arrive in Kaikoura and wait for our shuttle to Mount Fyffe. Overhear the InterCity bus driver making fun of our loud, untimely group to our shuttle driver (not in a mean way). He did refer to us as a “fit bunch of youngins’” on the bus intercom. Casually climb sculptures on the sidewalk not made for climbing.
Arrive at the Mount Fyffe trailhead. It’s a 5-hour hike up to the summit. The plan is to make it there by around midnight, pitch our tents, and wake up at 6:30 for the sunrise (we learn just how subjective plans become).
Personally realizing we’re not even halfway there as the sun goes down. Wondering if we’re extremely crazy or extremely determined or probably just both. There’s something utterly rewarding about watching the sun go down, and knowing you’ll be at the top of the mountain to watch it slowly peek back up from the other side of the world in 11 hours.
Dinner of every food we've managed to fit in our hiking bags. This is the first night hike I’ve ever done. This will definitely not be the last. Sore calves and calluses become negligent when the adrenaline from landscapes of cascading mountains and valleys lit silver by the new moon come into play. This by far beat any sort of beauty I’ve witnessed in my life. I think to myself, here I am in the middle of nowhere, with this view to myself and my friends, and I get to spend the night with this mountain. Better yet, on the very top of it.
Arrive at “the hut” where some people have rented out to sleep. They warn us about the fallen rock on the trail ahead, and about the wind that will exponentially rise in speed as we progress towards the top. But the trail map says we only have 1.5 hours left to go… The plan is to camp at the Summit, and wake up to the sunrise. Decision final.
The trail becomes quite a bit steeper. Quite a bit more tiring. I’m quite a bit more aware of the physical limitations of my body and what I can do with it. Maybe it wasn’t so much the increase in difficulty of the trail- it was more of the wind, my body’s ignored desire for rest and sleep, and the knowledge that I had to push through this final rough patch if I wanted to sleep at all tonight.
Either we’re fast or awesome or both because we’ve arrived at the Summit. It was at this point that I realized just how cold it was and the upsurge in the strength of the wind, but also that I’m still sweating in my cutoff and shorts. And then I realize- hey, we’re tenting in this.
Bedtime/rough beginnings of a windstorm. Not the easiest conditions to pitch a tent in. Not the easiest conditions to keep a tent pitched in (but I wouldn’t really know because I supervised more than helped). I was quite literally blown over by the wind several times that night.
Tent pitched. Jamie thought it’d be fun to camp literally at the very top of the summit as opposed to behind the ridge the rest of our group was camping on. Can’t say Jacob nor I were opposed to this.
Go to bed… but not really because who’s actually going to sleep tonight. The wind was… loud. So we ate cookies and played games.
First attempt to sleep. Winds start picking up even more. I know this from being knocked in the head with the tent pole multiple times.
Personally, I started becoming frightened of the wind. Mostly because I thought I was the only one still awake and no one else noticed just how much it was picking up, but later found out there were multiple members of our group awake for this.
Everyone is awake. Jacob is convinced it’ll start down pouring any second and is quite the overachiever in packing for the morning hike down. Meanwhile I’m still in my pajamas and sleeping bag and trying to count sheep.
Now we’re all a little worried. No sleep tonight. For the first time, Jamie reads the directions that came with his brand new tent. They state: “In conditions of high wind, immediately take down tent and find shelter elsewhere.”
Tent’s stilts begin to start coming out of the ground and Jamie and Jacob had to start taking turns in going outside to replace them. Things start looking pretty rad. Jamie comes in from outside – “THE SKY LOOKS LIKE MORDOR!” I peek outside to see for myself. This was astoundingly very true.
Storm cloud spotted. Nick politely “knocks” on our tent door to inquire if he can join us. His tent kicked the bucket.
New challenge outside of surviving windstorm: Fit 8 people into 5 people’s worth of tent space.
I hear snapping of unknown things. No big deal right? I roll over and am now looking at mountains as opposed to the tent cover previously next to my body. Nothing more calming to sleep in than wind ripping at your face.
Four young adults gripping to a broken tent on top of us, blown about on the summit of a mountain, having way too much fun for the weather conditions encompassing them…safety and sanity were of zero concern.
Here we were, in a broken tent, only one two-person tent already packed with four people in it still up, pajamas on, the most powerful winds I’ve ever experienced in my life. The saying goes, “You’ll sleep when you’re dead”… I was starting to question which would come first (just kidding).
The tent game was over. I clumsily (and I have no idea how) rolled my sleeping bag into its bag and packed up my things whilst trying to remain standing in the gusting winds… atop the summit of a mountain… under a sky that mirrored an enraged Mother Nature.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Despite numerous occurrences of sarcasm throughout my details of this night, I loved every second of it and don’t want these hints of sarcasm to be confused for me complaining.
We all “settle down” for the sunrise. The fight with the night was just about over. The fight with the windstorm was not. I must say, never have I ever felt such powerful winds in my life. I was able to fully lean back into a trust fall position without actually falling.
It's a lot for me to say when I'm at a loss for words. This was one of those rare instances.
I lost track of time:00AM
Enthralled with the sunrise, the elevation, the pink and orange zest radiating from clouds surrounding me, the huge waves crashing into the shore 1610 feet below me, I suddenly hear someone yell “Rainbow!”
Yupp, Mother Nature secretly did have a crush on us. She was just playing hard to get at first.
Better yet, look closely and you’ll notice it’s a double rainbow.
Words can’t describe the feeling of making it through an insane night, and being greeted in the early morning by an ocean below, a sunrise above, and a double rainbow right beside me. I had to remind myself that yes, this was real, I wasn’t in a movie despite my attempt to awkwardly video document the entire adventure. Seeing the world through this lens was like meeting a secret but engrossing side of a person I never even knew existed. I’ve seen the world be pretty great before, but I have never gazed upon so many clouds and colors and celestial awesomeness in my life. And I question if I’ll ever be able to see the world the same way again.
Some more of the lucky coincides we ran into post the climax of my story?
We witnessed two more rainbows on the hike down.
Despite the storm clouds we were within viewing distance of throughout the night and morning (I mean we could literally see the rain coming from clouds miles away), it didn’t start come pouring down until we arrived back in town.
With 2 broken tents and the prospect of a rainy night to camp in, we decided we’d had our fun. But our bus back to Christchurch wasn’t due to leave until 4PM the next day. There were 8 of us, and there were exactly 8 seats left on the bus we ended up taking back that afternoon. That’s not even math. That just… Mother Nature still playing head games with us.
Currently, it was the best 24 hours I’ve ever spent in my life. I have 3 and a half months left here, which calculates to approximately 2,640 hours, to see more, do more, and experience more than I’ve previously only dreamed of.
Rock on, climb on, all of it.
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<p>A native of Syracuse, NY, (US) Emily is currently pursuing her B.A. in Integrated Marketing Communications with Minors in Art and Honors. A curious explorer and outdoors lover, Emily's spontaneity and passions will one day lead her to all ends of the Earth. Witty author, candid photo snapper, and avid dreamer, Emily plans to pursue a career in the fields of advertising and/or design. </p>