Trekking in New Zealand
Manuela Fletcher, firstname.lastname@example.org
When we see JR Harris at QRCA Conferences we always encourage him to visit New Zealand again. He’s trekked many of the world-renowned hiking trails in our national parks and says:
“There is no shortage of gorgeous vistas in NZ.”
Imagine our excitement in New Orleans last year when we heard he was planning another NZ adventure for March 2015!
JR’s trip allowed for a few days in Wellington, a city he hadn’t visited before. We offered to host him and show him the sights.
We met him at the airport at the end of his very long journey. He’d travelled from New York to LA, from LA to Brisbane, Australia, then from Brisbane to Wellington, New Zealand. The connection at LA was tight, and while JR made it okay, unfortunately his hiking gear didn’t. When he arrived here he only had a small backpack and the clothes he was wearing.
Our original plans were to have a fun and relaxing time together, showing JR around, helping him find trekking/outdoors shops so he could buy the freeze-dried food he needed for his trip, and stocking up with other high calorie, low weight supplementary food from the supermarket. Now we had the added challenge of trying to expedite, as much as we were able to, the relocation and eventual delivery of the crucial (and expensive!) equipment he needed for his trekking adventure.
We had constant emails, phone calls and website checks with the airlines – even visiting Wellington airport’s luggage services department to personally plead our case for speedy delivery - and thankfully JR’s pack was finally couriered to our home the night before his planned departure. It had been held up for some inexplicable reason in LA. We could all have done without that stress for sure! It was a very relieved JR who danced around our office, repeatedly kissing his large and weighty pack after it had arrived!
A very relieved JR, Manuela and Andrew Fletcher, relaxing after JR’s luggage finally arrived
Spending time with our QRCA buddies when they visit here always brings to light interesting things we didn’t know about them. In Judy Langer’s case it was a love of photography and architecture; with JR it was a love of photographing urban graffiti. We searched high and low for this art, visiting parts of our city we had previously overlooked.
Art, graffiti, tagging lane behind Wellington Opera House
JR ended up with around 180 shots, making up what is likely to be the most comprehensive collection of Wellington graffiti and wall art that currently exists. He now has the challenge of appropriately cropping and labelling each photo and colour-enhancing some of them. When that work is completed, he intends posting them on his Facebook page alongside images from Montreal, Philadelphia, Buenos Aires, San Francisco, Oslo, Mar del Plata, Lima (Peru), and each of the counties of New York City. It's quite a collection.
JR did this NZ hike with friends John and Monica Chapman, two respected and well-known Australian hikers. They have written several trekking guide books. One of them features JR on the cover! Their hiking adventure was a very rugged trip and JR worked hard on his fitness in preparation. In JR’s words:
“Our trek in Nelson Lakes NP was awesome, although not without difficulties. In fact, parts of it were very challenging and we had a few genuinely hazardous moments. Even the ferry back from Picton was a scare through heavy seas. But all in all, it was a great trip.”
If you are curious about their route, check out this link:
JR never travels without his trademark collection of red hats – yet another reason for joy when his luggage finally arrived!
JR surveying one of the wild and isolated vistas on his journey
Kilimanjaro: Living the Adventure
Sidney Clewe, email@example.com
This is a follow up from my November QuickTips article about the start of my Kilimanjaro trip.
“Another glorious day, the air as delicious to the lungs as nectar to the tongue.” John Muir
The final weeks before my dad and I left on our trip to Africa raced by, taking us closer and closer to our summit and our goal. After checking off all the “to-do” boxes, double checking all the bags, and triple checking all our travel documents, we finally flew off — away from the craziness of life in Colorado and towards a dream that, until now, had seemed so distant. Once we were on the plane, my dad and I looked at each other and nearly freaked out — it was happening! One and a half years in the planning and here we went!
The climb was fantastic. We spent eight days out on the trail in the Tanzanian wilderness. We started at 7,000 feet on one side of the mountain, ascended to 13,000 feet, circumnavigated around Kili, summited, and then headed back down the other side all the way down to 4,000 feet. The climb started and ended in the lush, hot, overgrown rainforest. We hiked through rainforest to barren volcanic landscapes to glacial views along the volcanic rocks for 43 miles on our journey towards the summit and back again.
The summit (19,341’) at 6:22 a.m. on February 3, 2015 with one of Kili’s glaciers in the background.
From start to finish, we had 48 staff members with our 12 client climb. There were six guides from the local tribes who spoke English very well, one cook, one assistant cook, two toilet porters, and the rest were baggage porters. We had so many porters because they not only carried our personal gear but also food, tents, the large dining tent, the cook’s tent and tents for all of the porters to sleep in.
Each day we would wake up around 6:30 a.m. Breakfast would be served from 7:10 to 7:40 a.m., and we would be on the trail by around 8 a.m. We would generally have a net gain of about 2,000 feet per day across varying distances.
Once the hikers had packed their personal gear and left camp, the porters would pack up all of the tents and remaining supplies at camp and then hit the trail. Each porter had his own personal gear plus 20 additional kilograms that he would carry on his head or shoulders. These porters blew us out of the water with their incredible strength! They would usually pass us on the trail within an hour and would reach the next campsite before us, so they would set up camp and greet us with smiles on their faces once we finally arrived in camp three to five hours later. John, the porter who carried my gear every day, would see me walking into camp and immediately take my day bag from me, ask me how my day was, usher me to our tent, and put my pack in for me. Once settled, we would head over to the dining tent where popcorn and snacks were already awaiting us to keep our bellies happy as we waited for dinner.
At first I thought this was practically cheating! How could I say that I climbed Kili when I was being waited on so dutifully and all the heavy lifting was being done by someone else? Seeing all these men in action helped me realize how extremely integral the mountain is to their culture. Not only is Kili a revered mountain where the men of this area bonded and grew in their community, but it gives many men jobs to sustain their families. By allowing John to carry my bag for me, I was providing him a job and helping to support him and those who rely on him. After understanding that, my hesitations became enthusiasm. Sure, John! Take my bag! Please!
And of course, summit day was the highlight. The day before, we had reached base camp (at 15,000’) fairly early so that we could eat dinner around 5 p.m. We slept from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., when we were awakened in the cold of the night. Adrenaline rushing to help keep us warm, we dressed and hit the trail by midnight. We had six guides and two porter guides with us. After a couple hours of climbing, we split into three groups — slow, medium and “fast” — with the goal to get all climbers in our group to the summit by sunrise. In the dark, each hiker’s world was the 2 foot-wide circle of light from their headlamp, which prodded us forward one step after another, up and up and up! The stars offered a stunning display of twinkling beauty and the lights of Moshi were far below us, as we kept trudging upwards for hours. Finally, with some hints of light on the horizon, we came to 18,800 feet, which is at the crater rim and called Stella Point. We had 500 feet to go.
My dad, our guide Robert, and me on Day 2. Robert (31 years old) had been climbing Kili for 11 years, starting as a porter, getting kicked out of the cook’s tent as an assistant cook (apparently he wasn’t very good in the kitchen!), becoming an assistant guide then junior guide and finally a senior guide. Incredibly knowledgeable. He cared deeply about helping us reach our dream of summiting.
We reached the summit, 19,341 feet, right at sunrise (6:22 a.m. to be precise). It was gorgeous! We could see the shadow of Kili from the rising sun on the clouds to the west. We did a little dance; got pictures with the summit signs; waved our Colorado flag around; took deep breaths of thin, cold mountain air; appreciated the glaciers; and tried to take as many mental pictures as possible (as well as real ones). Our guides ushered us down after about 30 minutes, seeing as it was about 15 degrees (single digits with the wind chill) and also because the longer amount of time spent at altitudes like that, the more likely altitude sickness is to hit. Two in our group felt the effects and threw up multiple times during the summit climb and descent.
When we got back to camp, we took a two hour nap, ate lunch, and headed another 5,000 feet down to our final camp. My favorite part of that day was how every person we passed on the way down congratulated us on our accomplishment. That has never happened to me before on other mountains I’ve climbed! Our cook, Little Man (he was 5’1” and was called Little Man by all the staff), made us a cake as a surprise at our final camp at 10,000 feet. It was incredible! He iced it and drew a picture of Kilimanjaro and wrote the elevation in the icing on the cake and brought it in singing and dancing with the staff to our dining tent. These are memories of a lifetime!
One of the things that I deliberately and consistently tried to do on the trip was to be present; it is so easy to think about the work, friends and family we left behind in the States, but we were in the midst of our climb and I wanted it to last forever.
One of my favorite experiences was the final night of the climb — we were back at 10,000 feet, and had just summited Kili 12 hours earlier. It was dark and you could hear the insects and the distant joyful laughter of the porters enjoying their last night out on the trail with their comrades before returning to town. There were a gazillion stars and the air temperature was perfect. The moon was full and casting a silver glow over all of our tents. I liked just standing outside our tent, alone, thinking of the wondrous setting I was in and wishing we had another night out on the trail.
What had amazed me was that there was an option for climbers to head all the way from the summit down to town in one day. One, that was crazy for the pure fact that that is at least a 15,000-foot elevation difference and one freaking long day of hiking down-down-down. But too, I felt that would be rushing the experience. The moment we got back to town, there would be the internet, showers, people to catch up with, planes to catch, and traveling to happen. Why rush back to all of that? I wanted a day to recognize and appreciate what we had just done. We had just summited one of the highest peaks in the world. We had been on the roof of Africa. Whoa. I wanted us to slow down and take that in, to be present and be aware of the experience we just had.
My dad and I checking out the summit and Kili’s glaciers at sunset from camp at 13,000 feet. Still unable to believe that we were heading up there!
Being present is something that needs to be a constant part of life, on and off the trail. I think it greatly contributes to general happiness at work and out of work. Spending time worrying about all that that needs to be done just muddies the water. I think if there’s one thing to truly take away from this article, it is the brilliance of learning how to truly live in the moment and be present. I’d hope that that is something we can all do actively in our lives.
By the way, for any of you who know the song SexyBack from Justin Timberlake (yay JT!), here’s a little treat from me and a fellow hiker. Just remember that we had a lot of time day after day on the trail with only our creativity to amuse ourselves.
Here’s the re-written version for hikers:
I’m bringing CamelBak - yea!
You other hikers don’t know how to pack - yea!
Un-iodized water is one thing that I lack - yea!
I’m climbing Kilimanjaro and that’s a fact! - yea!
Take it to the trail!
Stinky babe —
Sleeping in a tent for 8 days.
I’ll wear these same socks if that’s okay.
Recycled underwear is not okay!
Back to Top