Sorry to keep you all waiting for the update about this weekend, but it has been a crazy couple of days after an amazing weekend! :) And just because of how amazing this weekend was, I'll be uploading some photos on here to show just how epic it was. However, to save my internet, I'll be uploading the hundred or so other pictures I took to Facebook when I head into town and get free wi-fi, so check them out there soon!
We were scheduled to leave on Friday morning early, 9:00am, to catch our bus. There were eight of us going: Kelly, Jackie, Olivia, Morgan, Kelsey, Lacy, Kara, and I. The Fellowship of College Hall. We had prepared the night before, packing all of our stuff, making our food, packing our water and other beverages, and attempting to get sleep. (Which of course didn't happen for me, but then again, I don't ever go to bed early anyhow) When we woke, we all met at breakfast early, made extra sandwiches to take along, gathered ourselves and our strength, and headed off to the bus stop early, waiting patiently for 10 minutes for our bus to arrive.....
...Yeah, right. I wish this was how the story started! :) However, the real beginning is a lot more exciting ;) In reality, we tried to get as prepared the night before as we could, but people were still pulling things together in the morning. And we did make sandwiches that morning for the next day; signing up for cut lunches so we can take them along for an extra meal was Kelly's fantastic idea :) However, we were NOT all ready ten minutes before we had to leave, and our little Fellowship was all out of sorts. Eventually, about 7 minutes before the bus was to come, Kelly, Jackie, and I began to walk to the bus stop by ourselves in order to hold it for the others until we all arrived. However, we thought the bus left at 9:05am, but it was actually due to arrive at 9:00. Big oversight on our part. So, instead of making it to the bus and holding it for the others, we actually saw our bus drive to the stop while we were still about 50 yards away and then watched it pull out and drive away.
The the rest of the girls arrived about two minutes after that, and we all began freaking out a bit, wondering whether that was our bus for sure or if another was coming. It was technically a minute or two early, and it didn't really wait longer than 15 seconds at the stop, which was annoying and we felt quite ripped off. But after a few minutes of deliberaton, Kelsey quited us and said, "Well, that was our bus. We can keep talking about it or we can figure out what to do now." And figure something out we did. We literally sprinted to the bus stop at the Uni and took a bus into Hamilton city where our connecting bus was to be picked up. But of course, the bus driver was on the phone and didn't leave for about 5 minutes after we had boarded, and we only had 25 minutes to make it into town and catch our connection. There was so much nervous chatter on that bus as we started at the clock and called two of our friends to find out the number for the Naked Bus, the bus company that was to take us to Tongariro. We did NOT want to miss out on this weekend!
Eventually, we made it into the city with a few minutes to spare. Someone called out, "There's our bus!" before we realized there were actually four Naked Buses lined up along the road. As soon as the bus parked, we were off and sprinting. We inquired at the first bus, but that wasn't us. Nervously, we walked up to the second, and Morgan showed the driver our ticket, asking if this was our bus. The cheery man smiled and said that it was indeed! He welcomed us abord, took our bags, and said we should take our seats. As I climbed into that bus, I have never felt more happy, excited, and relived in my life. And I wouldn't have changed that morning for anything! It was such an adrenalin rush booking it to our connecting bus and made the whole trip that much more worth it. Plus we were very proud of our quick thinking ;)
The rest of the trip went by pretty calmly in comparison. We had four more connecting buses to catch then and an hour layover in Rotorua and other towns along the way. But, it was my first real trip through the New Zealand countryside, and that was gorgeous. So many rolling hills and I was continually imagining hobbit holes built into every one :)
After the long trip, we finally arrived at our hostel. It was fantastic because we got two bedrooms to ourselves with three beds in each, (two single, one double), our own bathrooms and a little kitchen sink. Bedding was provided, and so was complimentary hot tea, coffee, and hot chocolate :) And on the way to our rooms, we came accross the most EPIC thing I had ever seen in my life (because I hadn't gotten close to Mt. Doom yet). Bolted to the wall was the backup staff of Gandalf the Grey for the LotR films! I had a serious geek moment while looking and, yes, touching this staff :)
What a beautious thing :)
Early the next morning, we all awoke excited and jittery. We were about to embark on the most wonderful hike of our lives. Needless to say, we all got up and ate breakfast (mine a healthy mix of chocolate-flavored breakfast drink and strawberry frosted Pop-tarts. Breakfast of champions right there) and none of us missed this bus. We were ten minutes early, and by the time we were rattling down the road in the van with about seven other hikers, we couldn't wait to get started. Believe me when I say that I STARED at Mt. Doom the entire ride there. The mountain (or volcano, I guess) is so gorgeous in a very sinister and evil way. One look at it and you'll never doubt why Peter Jackson used it.
After being dropped off and taking the usual touristy pictures, we started off around 7:30am. The trek was to take us most of the day, and we were eager to begin. At first it was cake. Just like a normal hike (or tramp, as they say here in NZ), only a LOT more beautiful. We probably took about 30 photos just in the first 45 minutes :) But as the going started to get more difficult with more of an uphill climb, our little fellowship began to get split up. Some could move faster than others up the rocks, and with Kelly's knee being sore (she jammed it during our first week here), she needed to just keep going at her own pace and not stop for fear it would stiffen up. But Olivia, my dear friend, had a much slower and more casual pace, and so I decided to stay with her and we ventured the crossing together. Again, pictures will not be able to adequately show how simply AMAZING and breathtaking this tramp was, but I'll share a few to try and help you see :) For most of the afternoon, it was Oliva and I, working hard to make it up to the top of the crossing (being passed by 75 year old women trampers who were much more fit than us), and while we were tramping we pretended (of course) that we were Samwise and Frodo, helping and encouraging one another to the top and the end of our journey :) I'm sure you guessed, but the LotR quotes were flying :)
Finally, Olivia and I made it to the top! We were so proud of ourselves and I'm especially proud of her. Best tramping partner ever :)
And then of course, there was seeing Mt. Doom in person. This changed my life :) If you like tramping and ever have the chance to go to New Zealand, do the Tongariro Crossing! You will NOT be disappointed :)
While this day was fantastic, and the tramp up was fantastic, the way down was just as beautiful. Sliding down a mountain of ash and sand, past glittering blue pools of water, small lakes, winding through a wooded mountainside and finally down a wooded trail to the bottom the mountains and the crossing. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. However, by this time, my knee was killing me and I was so exhausted and tired that all I wanted was to be done and lying on the grass waiting for our bus back to the hostel. And soon enough we were there, ending our long day around 3:45pm. But every minute was well worth it :)
That night in our hostel we crashed, eating as much as we could and watching American Idol before falling asleep by 9:30pm. We slept in the next morning, packed up our bags, and hung out in the game room until the bus came to collect us. And to make what was an amazing game room to begin with even better, there was a plain as wardrobe in the room, smallish and undecorated. But once you opened the door, you were greated by Aslan's face welcoming you into Narnia and the hidden DVD room, complete with surround sound and a huge projector screen, that was behind the wardrobe. So natrually, Kelly, Jackie, Olivia, and I sprawled out in the room and watched the Dark Knight. An epic end to a completely epic weekend :)
The ride home was then uneventful. We made every bus and slept most of the way. It was lovely and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
...So there you have it friends! Sorry it took so long for this update, but I hope it was well worth the wait. And now I can add that since it's taken so long to post this, I can say that the midnight showing of The Hunger Games is FANTASTIC. Actually quite good and while still not as good as the book, it did a very fine job of capturing the essence of the novel. If you haven't seen it, go watch it now. In New Zealand. Cause they have WAY better theaters than we do in the States. We don't get awesome plush chairs all to ourselves with a giant screen far enough away that even front row seats are great. What an experience :)
Well, that's all for now! I'll update soon and more often, I promise! Black water rafting this weekend, and I'm so pumped for it. Gonna be another great day :)