Confessions of a Teenage YSARian

"Every day you make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet, there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever ascending, ever improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb."
~ Winston Churchill

Welcome back! I won't apologise for the wait, because now you get a post or two of epic proportions, documenting my hijinks from the point where real life hijacked me from the internet, right up 'til today. Now, a full two weeks have passed, so I know you're probably shaking in your seats – don't be embarrassed, everyone gets withdrawals –

Some more than others.

and in light of that, this post is a full and unbiased account of my adventures during the time we've been so cruelly parted.

You can't handle the analogue life!

Let's begin with New Year's. Actually, let's ignore New Year's. Because I'm cool and secure enough to spend it at home, watching TV and drinking sparkling grape juice with my parents. Don't judge me.

From that delightful and not-at-all-anticlimactic death/birth of the year, I was thrown head-first into a den of delirium and depravity, the sort of questionable place a man might hesitantly visit if he hadn't felt the caress of woman in years. That's right. I confess it. I took part in the Youth Search and Rescue (YSAR) end-of-year camp.

They know not what they do.

Such a week-long hotbed of danger, violence, innuendo and humour is rarely seen, and even more rarely survived. Yet I can make that boast, possibly at cost of my sanity (though maybe not, as that does imply that I had some, at some point in time).

The first day started ignomiously at 2:30am. Anyone who knows me (or teenagers in general) would be astounded at the readiness with which we sprang up and prepared ourselves for a hard day of mountain-conquering. Yes, we were in one of the highest parts of the North Island (I certainly felt high): National Park, home of the eternal love-triangle comprised of Tongariro, Ngarauhoe, and Ruapehu.

'Hoe is no ho.

A long and arduous trek commenced in the dead stillness of early morning. It was rather eerie to witness the track, usually smothered in tourists, so dark and deserted. Our centipede of glowing hi-vis vests studiously trailed its way toward the base of the mountain, arriving at around 5am. Please forgive the repeated time references, but you have to hand it to us for managing to face such ridiculously early hours, without clocking out or getting too ticked off. </terriblepuns>

Okay, okay, I'll stop winding you up.

My old nemesis the Devil's Staircase stood no chance this time. I may have been the slowest, but I'm also the only one able to claim that I climbed it without stopping. Admittedly, my snail impression was impressive, but we made it in the end and that's what counts. In fairness, it would never have happened without Fearless Leader (Steve, our rock of support and the founder of Tauranga YSAR), who urged me to place mind over matter every step of the way. This is less effective than it sounds when the matter is almost two kilometres above sea level and the mind is still on the ground floor staring up. But thanks anyway, Steve.

The rest of the team clambered on up Ngarauhoe's pretty little peak, while I stuck to good ol' Tongariro. He's still no picnic though, folks, stroppy old man that he is. On the other hand, I wouldn't take too kindly to strange little people stomping all over my head either.

Not pictured: the blood-soaked revenge.

This tramp took 'til noon, and was around twenty kilometres. That's a full day's trip, crammed into one morning and fueled by around three hours' sleep. We were exhausted when we finally made it back. And then of course we had to go canyoning all afternoon, and caving in the evening. Yup, pretty sure most of us were sleepwalking through such horrifying natural underground bear-traps (worm-traps?) as the Letterbox and the Toaster. Don't let the names fool you. These things were out for blood.

On the plus side, coming down from our glorious heights, all the poor punters struggling up the staircase from Hell gave way to us and our shiny, official-looking bright orange vests. Dear Melvern was afraid that I'd be left behind, doing my slimy insectoid impression all by my lonesome, so he gave me a radio. This only added to the emanating aura of authority.

In the end, I was asked questions by three or four different tourists, and gave directions, information and travel advice to all. The diminutive Asian lady was very pleased to hear Soda Springs was that way, and snappishly told her doubtful husband all about it in a flood of sharp Chinese. The American tour group was fascinated by the tale of unrequited love – half-remembered and half made up on the spot – surrounding the misty twin peaks of Ruapehu. I felt like a wise old native, spinning tales and guiding the foreigners in the ways of my land.

I think Soda Springs is that way …

Eh, I'm pretty sure none of them got too lost. However, the epic and tragically-recounted misinformation may be circling for decades to come. Keep an ear to the ground, kids.

The 42 Traverse was planned for day two, but due to unforseen complications, that never eventuated for me. My arms plotted against me in that terrifying way very few people can relate to.


Sooo, I spent a day with the other young lady who likewise found herself bikeless; harassed by kamikaze wasps and their spastic bumblebee minions, left overheated and starving as camp helpers ferried vehicles to the next campsite, and bitterly wishing all the while that the mutated hands of doom hadn't decided to make life miserable. I'm not sure exactly what I expect from evil mutated hands of doom, but it'd be nice if they'd try to behave cordially every now and then.

Smile for the camera.
The distinct lack of limb-ular cooperation ended up helping me dodge at least a few face-plants, so I'll grudgingly admit that it wasn't all bad. One of our members managed to acquire a wonderful gash just below his eye, and a delayed concussion for which he was rushed to hospital and therein given a pleasant three day holiday. For the rest of the camp we got regular updates on how he was doing. This outdoorsy life is serious business.

Cheerful as ever. Though that's probably the concussion talking.

The next two days saw us sailing down various rivers in inflatable tandem kayaks. To begin with, I was partnered with a sweet girl who had absolutely no paddling experience and seemingly just as little motivation to learn. The arms took exception to this (though their taking exception was really nothing exceptional) and so partners had to be swapped.

I ended up with the most interesting character – he had to be in his fifties, with no lips and few teeth and an oddly arresting habit of sticking his tongue out nearly over his chin after long paragraphs. His laugh was the strangest mixture of booming mad-scientist and staccato witch-cackle ever known to man. Conversation and fascination abounded. And it helped that he was an expert kayaker, so I ended up with very little hard physical exertion to compound the mountaineering aches and pains. It's all about who you know.


Just before sunset on the fourth night, the boys created a bonfire on the shoal down by the river. Fire licked up like flax dancing in the wind, and the sun began to stream its setting from behind a few well-placed clouds. The light reflected off the water and matched perfectly with the bonfire and it was all just idyllic. The cliff overlooking it had a beautiful vantage point, as evidenced by the moisture slipping from two suspiciously eye-like lines on its face. Still pretty sure it was a giant in disguise, reduced to tears by the beauty, but still snickering at us as we slept obliviously across the bank. I couldn't help but try to capture it all in words:

Tears – dark stains perch
on a wrinkled alabaster face,
like the raven,
cooing softly.
Rugged countenance oversees,
comings and goings,
to-ings and fro-ings,
and all in-betweenings –
as oft be.
Flames flicker fiercely and alight the sky
as billowing clouds flash with
Shepherd's delight.
Rippling burbling waters
whisper on by
while swirlings of peaches and
crimsons blaze bright.
Haggard face weeps for passion,
for beauty, for fire;
for night.

Half of the panorama half-captured.

Overall, a worthwhile endeavour – and possibly, though hopefully not, the last time I'll ever see some of my old YSAR buddies. I am technically turning traitor by moving to Hamilton (our fierce rivalry with the Hamilton YSAR takes no prisoners, not even for founding members like myself). Let's hope that one day my hometown homies can forgive me. </fauxtragicfinalcommentary>

This post ran way overtime, folks, so we're splitting up the catching up into two separate sections. Expect another update very soon! And stay spiffy.


Julia said...

I'm holding you at gunpointyness until the next post. I think you know why. :D

Lauren said...

Don't shoot! The next one's up! :D

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