Untamed landscapes always inspire and humble us, and our recent hike over the Tongariro Crossing was all of this, a 21 km tramp over the Central Plateau’s old volcanic wonderland with it’s big massifs and plains of buckled lava and jutting cones of mountains. A perfect day save for some early mist, blue skies all the way up the long ascent to the base of Ngaruhoe, then lunch at the red crater before crossing the ancient, flat crater beds of Mt. Tongariro.
A long line of humans, tiny as ants against the big canvas of ochre-colored earth, wending their way slowly over the beautiful tapestry of ridges and skylines, the far-off silhouettes of the Kaimanawa Ranges, green meadows of distant farmlands, shimmering distance. Then on down across Ketetahi’s northern flank and the long, long descent back to a roadhead and civilization.
Shared adventure always unites people, and we talk to strangers everywhere, many from faraway places and distant countries but sharing the calling of wild places. ‘Where are you from, what have you done, where have you travelled..?
Here too we are confronted by our limitations, our level of fitness, our daring, our fears and constraints – and here we challenge and surpass them. Sun-reddened, sore, thirsty, but happy out on these frontier lands that are as much about our self-discovering as of landscape. My companion takes a thousand photos, relishing it all, the sheer grandeur.
Then an overnight in Turangi near the river, all night long the murmurings of water at the edge of sleep, an owl – ruru, the message-bringer –  calling from the dark shadows of a kowhai tree near our open window. Nature is always a haven, bringing us back to a wider understanding of our lives, of what is important and what is not, the diminution of all our problems against the backdrop of indifferent mountains and that unburdening, calm sky.