Standing On My Last Leg

July 28th, 2017

Auckland Airport, International Departures

Both of my legs are fine.  It’s just a figure of speech.

Once again I’m sitting in an airport terminal, on my own, waiting for another flight.  Another month has just blown by and I now find myself with six months down and one month to go in this round the world trip.  I am about to fly across the Pacific Ocean to start the very last leg. There are all sorts of emotions running through me.

Perhaps oddly, I’m not entirely sick of sitting in airport terminals.  The time I’ve spent in so many airports in so many places has offered some of the most memorable moments of this trip.  It’s in those instances where the reality of what I am up to really hits me.  It’s a chance to reflect on how far I’ve come since the beginning of the trip, to be excited about what’s ahead, and to just let everything sink in.  It’s a pretty amazing feeling.

These last few days in New Zealand have been great.  After our little adventure up the Matukituki Valley, we got a couple more days of fun touring around Wanaka at Cardrona Resort and The Remarkables ski areas, to make for an even 10 days of skiing on the South Island.  Overall the skiing was a lot of fun, with some good powder days and some crazy adventures that you wouldn’t otherwise get into in Canada (i.e., crossing rivers in bare feet).  It was tough flying back to Auckland the other morning, as lots of snow was in the forecast and the season really was starting to ramp up (when I arrived at the beginning of the month it was still a little early in the season).

On Wednesday morning I flew back to Auckland and rented a car for a short trip down to Tongariro National Park, with hopes of skiing off Mt. Ruapehu, the highest mountain on the North Island and also an active volcano. Thursday was the only day I had to ski, and though the forecast didn’t look great, I decided to head out anyway. Maybe whatever storm that was forecast would get stalled somewhere and give me that little weather window.  Plus it would be cool to explore a little of the North Island.

I arrived to the park on Wednesday afternoon to a bluebird afternoon with great views of Ruapehu and its two other sister volcanoes, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. Mount Ngauruhoe was the film location of “Mount Doom” in the famous Lord of The Rings movies, and is one of those perfect, symmetrical volcanoes. The whole area looked quite desolate. Things were looking promising weather-wise.

On Thursday morning I awoke a total pea soup whiteout, in classic New Zealand fashion, so the skiing was obviously scrapped. So much for skiing volcanoes in this country.

Today I took most of the day to drive back to the airport here. Shortly after leaving Taupo I stopped to check out the small “Craters of The Moon” park. A large part of new Zealand’s North Island, from Ruapehu in the south all the way to the Bay of Plenty in the north, is one of the most geologically active areas in the world. There are tons of geysers, geothermal pools, craters, and volcanoes to explore. The Craters of The Moon park is just one of those places and included a short walk to see steaming fumaroles, boiling mud pools, and historic craters from previous volcanic activities. Pretty neat.

After a couple more hours of driving north, I arrived in Matamata, the filming location of “Hobbiton”, also from Lord of The Rings/The Hobbit. You can’t actually see any of the movie set without paying the big bucks for a tour (it’s located 3 km off the main road on private property). But, I still made the detour (mostly for Kim’s benefit) out to the setting off point for the tours to take a few pictures. Whoever owns the land on which the film was set must now be a millionaire with the amount of people coming and going to see the set – it was a zoo when I arrived. Understandably so, I suppose, as the whole area was very scenic, with rolling green hills dotted with sheep, small lakes, and forests. Just like in the movies – amazing!

Similarly to the time spent sitting in airports, the hours driving the last few days provided plenty of time for reflection. These last few days have seen a wave of emotions.

When I got to New Zealand I was worried about meeting the right people to go touring with and that not meeting people would prevent me from doing as much touring as I would have liked. But by the end of my time on the South Island I was really happy with the team I’d met, and it was sad to say goodbye to Jamie and Manu the other day.  It would have been easy to spend another month here with them, touring around and enjoying the winter.  It was a good little crew, with others, like my friend Federico (who I connected with through Facebook), joining here and there.

On the flip side of sadness of leaving New Zealand, is the excitement of the next stage of the trip.  Chile and Argentina seem to having a good winter so far, and conditions are looking good. Plus it is the last continent of the trip.  Federico has connected me with some folks in Bariloche, Argentina, and in two weeks three of my best friends will join me for what should be an epic week of skiing at iconic Portillo.  I can’t wait.

And amidst all of that is this overarching feeling that the finish line of this whole thing is in sight.  I wouldn’t say that I am homesick, but I certainly miss the people who are close to me.  I’m starting to picture what it will look like when I land in Montreal in a few weeks. How is it going to feel?  How am I going to react to being home?  Lots of thoughts that, until now, have just seemed so far off in the future.  But thoughts that, in their own way, are also really exciting.  I’ve had to remind myself a little bit the last few days to simply keep enjoying the present, because before I know it, it will all be over.  Right now, the present means getting on an 11 and a half hour flight to Buenos Aires.  Hurray.


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