New Zealand – February 28, 2016

We rally for the Tongariro Crossing, perhaps the most anticipated piece of our journey. The Tongariro Crossing is considered one of the world’s most inspiring and demanding day hikes. The route takes one up the slopes of a volcano past streams and lava flows followed by a steep climb to mineral lakes and stunning vistas of the verdant countryside and other volcanoes. It’s really not to be undertaken lightly.

I remember that I had requested in an email that Tim of the Wood Pigeon Lodge arrange for transportation to the trailhead. Tim did not remember. We scurry about, packing lunch and sunblock and whatnot, when Tim appears breathless to tell us we’re good to go – Now. “I’ve called Zeus. He’s got the van ready at the Plateau Lodge.” We fly.

Bouncing along the plains in our naiveté and gazing up at the snow-streaked volcano peak, we make breezy chatter. “Look,” says Greg, pointing at two black-clad girls slouching along the roadside – “Goths.” This observation delights the van. “They’re awfully far from their native habitat.”

As am I, it turns out. Once again, the arrogance of previous adventures has done me in. At the three kilometer mark, I am just too fuckin’ wheezy to enjoy myself, so I bid the others adieu and turn tail. Seven hours later, after a total of twelve miles and an ascent of just under 1,000 feet and a descent of 1,500, Devon comes by and picks me up. I have spent a very meditative afternoon in a Nat’l Park shelter lean-to, counting bees, napping, and memorizing a brochure while other hikers go and come, spouting gaily in foreign tongues or mutely zombified.

Jocelyn’s Tongariro tale is one of self-doubt, trudging, and giddy triumph. “I really fucking did this!!” In the end, she was her own Samwise Gamgee.

After a subdued meal at the local sports bar, the four Kiwis bolt (they have far to go and lives to resume), so the two of us spend a quiet night being exhausted.

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