The Tongariro Crossing is one for the bucket list and it was about time I ticked it off. Not only was this going to be a physical test, one I had prepared for but also a mental and spiritual challenge.
We couldn’t have asked for a more pristine day; the skies were a beautiful clear. However, as we proceeded nothing had prepared me for the burning feeling in my chest or my shaking legs and aching knees. These unusual feelings were diminished when I saw the beauty, it was rewarding in ways no words could describe but it was my character that got me through the hardest of parts. When taking a step, a breath, a rest I would remember this beautiful quote to motivate me:
Aim for the highest cloud, so that if you miss it, you will still land on a lofty mountain.
Whaia te iti kahuranga kit e tuahu koe me he maunga teitei.
As the walk continued and conditions changed, we were about to embark on a long steep climb on ice. The views were glorious but terrifying and the idea of taking the next step was daunting. I took a breath as I prepared myself for that brave first step onto the ice, while internally I was flip flopping between I can do this and I can’t do this. I channelled my inner meditation tape . . . .
‘Okay Mandy, now relax, you can do this. Just one foot in front of the other and you will climb a mountain. Remember to breathe, relax. Look around at where you are, relax. Don’t look up at the struggle, glimpse back at the triumph’
An hour into the hike I realised I was so locked into my internal dialogue and had forgotten to breathe, drink and eat. My first bite to eat was a mandarin. I hate fruit. But the taste of the citrus sweet juice was heaven, this was the most divine mandarin in the entire world. The intense juicy flesh put my taste buds into a tailspin. The flavours were enhanced, the textures heightened and the colour so vibrant. The satisfaction of this tiny morsel hit me like an exotic dream, providing me brief relief while settled in the icy landscape.
We reached the top and the views were spectacular. Not a cloud in the sky and we could see for miles. With only a few minor hurdles my mind had got me through the challenge. I took a breath and took in the beauty that surrounded us. I did it! Conquering the Tongariro Crossing was truly an extraordinary experience.