The Resilience Gives Out

DSC09115We woke in the beautiful hut at 5:30 and began packing our bags. Everything was packed and ready to go by shortly past 6. Eelco offered to take a picture of Georges and me, and we hit the trail by 6:15. It was a rapidly lightening gray outside, but there was still no visibility past 10 feet as we were still in the low clouds.

Everything was wet and Eelco mentioned it had rained in the night. The first section of the trail was beautiful boardwalk. We were able to cruise safely and enjoyable through the forest. All of us had secretly hoped the track down from the summit would just be down, but we found ourselves soon climbing many stairs to a second lookout point–the first of many more ascents we would climb that day.

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Soon after the lookout point, the boardwalk ended. The altitude, the growing rain storm and the nature of the jungle meant things were very wet. Particularly the ground. The trail was a terrible, miserable mess of deep, wet mud and slippery yellow clay. The forest lining the trail was occasionally an escape path, but was usually so thick with vines and trees we couldn’t forge a new path next to the mud. With a sigh, I pushed on past the end of the boardwalk. We had a big goal for the day and this forest was just the beginning. At least it was only listed as 3-5 hours to the road.

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My sigh didn’t hold up, though. Every single step had to be calculated for safety and not-going-to-sink-in-the-deep-mud-ability. Each was a leap, a jump, a swing around a tree to balance precisely on a tiny root or rock offering salvation.

Every single step.

Up and down several more peaks and eventually just down 500 meters of elevation. Every bend you’d come around, and every wall of tree roots or giant boulders you would climb up or down, would offer you the same sight–more vast mud passages requiring complete physical and mental concentration. It was rapidly exhausting and far beyond demoralizing. My sigh didn’t hold up. It left me completely, and I was just empty. The hours ticked by in seconds, and I had no motivation and no choice. I hated every step. I couldn’t explain a single reason to myself I should be suffering so much. I could find no gain to having climbed the mountain, and I could find no gain in climbing down it. Several times we had dangerous near-injuries–Georges slipping, tripping and flying several meters head first down the steep track; saved serious head injury by one hopelessly out-thrown arm catching around a tree trunk and my desperately grasping hands cushioning the stop.

We both fell, muddying our wet pants completely. We both slipped, narrowly avoiding broken arms and legs, fingers and ankles. We both panted, climbing and jumping, swinging and grasping. But only I suffered. G was able to keep himself motivated with the bigger picture in mind. He didn’t like the mud, but he trudged on. All I could see was the thousands of other things I could be doing at that very moment, and I had chosen none of them. I chose, almost ignorantly, to backpack New Zealand–the coldest, jungly-ist, most mountainous not-tropical island ever. I miss my family and my friends. I miss working and walking my dog. I wanted to be enjoying the very same forest from under a quilt at Molly’s house, watching a Lord of the Rings marathon with a big bowl of popcorn and a bunch of fruit for snacking. I wanted to be planning a dinner date with Brittany and Robyn to get Mexican. I wanted to be baking bread in my apartment while listening to music. I wanted to be going to church on a Sunday morning–enjoying all the friendly faces and warm smiles. I wanted to call my mom and plan a trip to visit. I wanted any of the millions of things I love. And I don’t love any of what I had.

Hard, hard, hard work.

I decided I’m not a mountaineer. I’m not a thru hiker. I’m not an explorer. I’m not a backpacker. I’m not even sure I want to be a day-hiker. I don’t want to work hard for hard work’s sake. I don’t want to leave the comfort of normal life. In the end I’m going to be a very knowledgeable and moderately experienced backpacker. Skills I don’t want to use ever again. I like car camping. And Christmas. And couches. And a dresser of clothes. And going to work. And driving places.

Not slipping and falling and heaving and panting. Not mud ponds with footsteps sinking in them. Not rocks with threatening slickness. Not trees with misleading handholds, wet leaves and deathly density. Not pushing my limits for hours on end without rest. Not the constant exhaustion or unending challenge.

Society left the jungle and made sidewalks and dressers a long time ago. I just want to be a part of society like most people. What’s-his-face took the road less traveled only because the mud wasn’t as deep; and the wild vines probably chopped his face off.

I couldn’t tell anyone why I came to New Zealand when they asked before I left. I don’t think I even gave any thought to whether I ‘should’, only how I ‘could’. The door just looked shiny, so I picked it. Without a reason to be in New Zealand, I have nothing to focus on when the going gets tough. Nothing to stop my heart from dropping and leaving me all together. I simply picked a door that looked pretty.

But it’s hard in here. This door is just hard. Not enough gains to justify the hardships. Not enough time at camp to justify the hours hiking. Not enough lambs the justify the electric fences. It just never balances. It’s too much sucky.

The mud was terrible. The mountain was unrelenting. I gave up and I give up and I don’t want to ever leave my home again except to drive to other buildings I want to be in.

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