An “Oprah Moment” is: A defining point in time in which a person comes to some sort of revelation or truth about themselves. Oprah is a master of getting people to crack (cry) during her sessions and the last one that comes to mind for me is that of her interview with musician Pharell.
I have these moments from time to time, everyone does, whether you want to admit it or not. For me, they tend to happen in unison with physical challenges. So let me tell you a borderline embarrassing story for me, but being that I have no shame in sharing my struggles, I will be happy to tell you about it.
It starts with my list of “Things to do in New Zealand”. One key trek I planned to do was Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Along the trail is the famous “Mount Doom” from Lord of the Rings which is actually called Mount Ngauruhoe and is an active Volcano! The “Mount Doom” climb alone, takes 2 hours to climb the steep trail (on your hands at times) and 30 mins to come down.
That was one incentive for me to hike this trail. Additionally, Tongariro crossing is considered one of the best day hikes in New Zealand, which made me curious. It is a 19km trail over various terrain and slopes. So off we went at the crack of dawn to start our hike and feed my curiosity! Moniek, our fellow friend backpacker, tagged along with me and Jose.
The first part of the trail is not too bad. Then, we start climbing a steep hill and I start getting really hot and a little tired. Jose is on a roll and giving his thumbs up.
We reach Mount Doom and take a small break. None of us wanted to climb that beast. I was too chicken. I know my mental and physical limitations, and knew I had gotten as close to the volcano as I was going to get. However, some fellow Kiwi Kids did it in 1 hour and 15 minutes!
You have to hand it to those fearless lads. We had met a few folks who had turned back from the hike because they felt it was too dangerous. That reinforced my “chicken” decision to opt out of climbing the volcano. So after climbing yet another hill, we stopped for lunch overlooking the beautiful scenery. It was truly breathtaking. I was hating and loving this hike.
The trail map has these emoticons showing the difficulty of the hike and they were dead on! I had every single face along the hike. It took me 8 hours and 45 minutes to finish the trail. I felt ashamed because people do it faster. Normally, I am comfortable with being content with my pace, but as I was walking the trail, everyone (and I mean everyone) was passing me by! Young, old, big, small…people were breezing by me. I had a group in their 60s with hiking backpacks pass me by! I didn’t have a hiking backpack so this was getting bad in my head. I began to judge myself. “Breaks” came often and I would stop every chance I got. It made me angry. I took in the views and tried not to think of my lack of breath, or how dreadful my legs felt. I kept thinking, is it over?! When I thought things couldn’t get worse, they did. The steep upward slope suddenly turned into a downward slide, with loose rocks and dirt, causing me to slip and freak out.
The picture doesn’t show how slippery it was, but it was, and I kept fighting gravity so it took me 5 times more work to get down. I was like a car accelerating and breaking constantly, inefficient. Everyone else was cruising in neutral. I was scared of falling. Funny enough, I didn’t fall at this point. Instead, I fell 3 times…on FLAT land!
The emerald lakes were amazing but I was tired and annoyed at myself for struggling. I was so nervous going downhill I spent more energy on my hike and taking short steps did not help my pace at all. Why couldn’t I have longer legs!!? I wanted to be like everyone else! I was not, I will never be and I had to get over it and just finish. It would be over when I finished (It seemed that moment couldn’t come soon enough).
As we come to the large emerald lake, Jose runs off to the restroom. I stay back with Moniek realizing that the bathroom is far away, but he has already run off so we just keep trekking. The sweet girl tried to cheer me on with conversation. God bless her attempts. As we are strolling along, about a mile later, we cut a corner and see a little man on a rock like a little hobbit.
It’s Jose! He found the natural bathroom out of desperation and chilled on a rock until we came by!I think that we are 70% done at this point but we had 3 hours left. We hiked down the Zig Zag and to say I was miserable is an understatement! Poor Jose was trying to cheer me up and get me to appreciate the views. I wanted nothing to do with it.
I fell a couple of times with a line of people behind me and I got more angry. It was FLAT! I was so grumpy; my feet hurt, I had to use the bathroom, I got dirt in my eyes and they stung, my knees hurt, It was hot, AND I kept being mad at myself for being slow. I was feeling sorry for myself. It was pathetic. I prayed to keep my sanity.
Almost 9 hours later, I was done. We walk out into the clearing, and jose screams: VICTORY!!! (in his ‘300’ voice) but all I manage to do is give him a nasty look in front of a resting crowd. I know, Im awful. I was being a baby.
My Oprah Moment happened when I put the anger and self pity aside and realized how lucky I was to have that pain. Yes, I am blessed to feel the ache in my feet and to have the physical ability and stamina to do the trek. I remembered the women of SAPA, Vietnam who trek in mud toTRY and sell a $3 bracelet. Here I am, in a little cocoon of a cushioned life, feeling sorry and comparing myself to others. There are less fortunate than me who have to work DAILY as hard as I did that ONE day.
The bus driver on the way back was telling us how he has never done the hike, yet there was another guide who had done the trail 165 times! Although I struggled to do it, I did it. Many others cannot say the same.
I didn’t come to New Zealand and take 4 months of travel to be pampered. I did it to challenge myself and gain new experiences. Many other travelers don’t do the hike because they are scared that it is too hard. I did it anyway, knowing it would be difficult. I learned that I have various degrees of “whiny” but I will still go through with it.
When finished, I don’t regret it for one second and I would do it again in a heart beat. It was worth the blisters on my feet. I do not think I have ever had blister on my feet and that is unfortunate. Without pain, you take the health and bliss for granted.