Even though it’s been a few weeks now since our “spring” term break, this is the earliest opportunity we’ve had to share a story from one of our students–Dena DeKryger (Calvin College ’17). The semester sure has been full recently! Dena, Troy (Dordt College ’16), Sarah (Dordt College ’16), Andy (Cedarville ’17) and Malorie (Cedarville ’16) all went on a tramping (backpacking) trip together in world-renowned Fiordland National Park in the South Island:
“The Greenstone-Caples loop track is a good four-day tramp through beech forests, tussocked grasslands, and mountainous rockslide zones. Four of my friends and I decided that we wanted to tackle this track on our semester break. We prepared by getting good hiking food like porridge for breakfast and pasta for tea. We prepared by filling our water bottles before setting out on Tuesday morning. What we weren’t prepared for was the rain throughout the day on Wednesday; we were soaked to the skin within a half hour of our seven-hour hike.
This second section of four brought us 22 km from the Mid-Caples Hut to the McKeller Hut, up and over the McKeller Saddle (a saddle is where two mountains rub shoulders, creating a relatively higher spot in the valley between them). On the way up, we kept getting colder and colder as the wind picked up around us. Occasionally, we heard deep rumbling that lasted for up to 10 seconds, as well as the rare clap of thunder (NZed does not often have thunder storms because of the mountains and ocean in such close proximity). The small streams we needed to ford were more like rushing streams, soaking and re-soaking our hiking boots as we crossed. Once we reached the McKeller Saddle at +900 meters, the wind nearly knocked me off the boardwalk into the marshy swamp at the Saddle!
Because I wasn’t feeling well, I soon began to lag behind my friends. This was more than OK with me because, behind us, there were three other hikers that we had met the night before at the Mid-Caples Hut: Sue, her husband Ross, and a young German named Nikolas. Ross lent me his walking stick, which helped to keep me walking upright instead of dragging my waterlogged feet. Soon, I was hiking with only Nikolas as my friends had gone on ahead, and Sue and Ross stopped to take pictures. Nikolas told me all about his gap year here in N-Zed (as they pronounce “Z” here in New Zealand), his time picking apples near Nelson, the amazing hikes he has accomplished, and the strange people he’s met while hitchhiking. He has some “crazy as” (New Zealand slang for “super crazy!”) stories, but I was thankful for his company in the rain. Once we reached the McKeller Hut, he shared a cuppa tea with me; funny how a few hours of hard hiking in the rain build friendships in a way that years together can’t!
While I was hiking, my mind went as numb as my toes: I didn’t think about a whole lot. In fact, I rarely even looked up to see my surroundings. Yet, looking back, I am thankful for that rain and wind; I faced the raw elements of NZed weather and survived. I am thankful for the blisters on my heels and the ache in my knee; they remind me of the great physical feat that I realized last week. I am thankful for Sue, Ross, and Nikolas; what great hiking partners they all made. I am thankful for the DOC huts; tenting would have been that much more miserable! I am thankful for my friends: Malorie, Andy, Troy, and Sarah; I would not have made it if not for their encouragement and companionship.”
Calvin College ’17