WHOOP, WHOOP, WHOOP!
What is that strange sound going off right next to my ear?
Oh, that’s the alarm clock on my phone.
So far on The Global Stroll I’ve had no need to wake up at a certain time so I let my body decide when the day started.
But, when you agree to wake up at 2:30am to go hike up a mountain for sunrise, a little assistance is welcomed.
A few short hours before my phone started yelling at me to GET UP, I was in the hostel kitchen, cooking a simple meal and planning out my tomorrow.
Keeping one ear open I overheard two people talking about climbing Roy’s Peak, one of the “must do’s” while in Wanaka, New Zealand. We began chatting and before long we had a shuttle scheduled to pick us up in the middle of the night for a nice, pitch-black walk up to the top.
Fast forward to after my wake-up call and you’ll find me in the kitchen once again, this time with the largest mug of coffee available. Life was slowly returning to me when I realized my companions for this adventure were nowhere to be found.
Did they over sleep?
Am I really going to do this solo?
Once my mini panic attack subsided I looked down at my then half-empty mug and realized it was too late to go crawl back into bed even if I wanted to.
Let’s do this!
I made my way outside to wait for my shuttle when I heard movement off in the distance. Seconds later two shadows emerged from around the corner and a small feeling of relief came over me.
They made it!
Before long we were zooming down the empty roads toward our objective. Whether from being too tired, mentally preparing or wondering what the hell we were doing, each of us remained silent for the 10 minute ride to Roy’s Peak.
With a high-pitched squeak of the brakes we knew we arrived at our destination and it was time to get this thing going. We filed out of our shuttle, paid our portion of the fare and said our thanks to the driver.
When those once bright headlights faded into a small flicker in the distance I took a moment to take in my surroundings and that’s when I noticed them – the stars!
Glittering white lights littered throughout the night sky. So vibrant and plenty, it was something I’ve only seen in pictures.
Wow, I’m here looking at this with my own two eyes.
If there was any sleep still lingering in me after my massive coffee it was washed away in that second.
Head up, alert and filled with amazement, I set off with my companions on our march to the top.
4 hours until sunrise, plenty of time!
Left, right, left, right, left right…
Up we went, one foot in front of the other.
Aside from a handful of other adventurers we had the mountain to ourselves.
Every so often though we would round a bend and come face-to-face with a flock of sheep resting on the paths.
If only they could talk, I wonder what they’d say?
“Look Billy, here come more tourists.”
“What time is it? Don’t these kids have mountains in their own country?!”
Our walk continued like that for a few hours until finally we neared the summit.
Ok, I want to interject here to mention that I’ve never been good at pacing myself. Whether running, walking, exercising, whatever. When I have the energy I tend to use it until my tank is on empty. Well, this would have been a great moment to work on that.
There it is!
The final bend in the path that leads to the top of this damn mountain. Only a few more steps and we made it.
What a relief to have trudged through the difficult moments over the last few hours and reach our destination.
After throwing our hands up in victory and basking in the wave of accomplishment we realized it was still pitch black.
“What time is it?” I asked my friend.
“6am,” she responded.
“And what time is sunrise?”
“…7:24am,” she sighed with an undertone of dread.
You may be thinking 1.5 hours isn’t too bad. You just climbed a mountain in the middle of the night. Why not kick back and relax on top of the world?
I’d agree with you if it wasn’t for a small nuisance that made it’s presence known in gusts that had the potential to throw us right off the top.
That’s right. Loud, powerful and ceaseless, Mr. Wind was the king of this peak and was fighting us for his spot at the top.
But we were not easily deterred. Come on, we just climbed this damn mountain to watch the sunrise and we are not leaving until we do just that.
And so began our long, frigid wait.
We tried everything to distract from the loss of feeling in our limbs – swapping travel stories, bucket lists, riddles, dirty jokes, whatever.
And then we checked our clock…1 hour 10 minutes to go.
WHAT??!!! It’s only been 20 minutes?!
Did I seriously agree to this? I really am going crazy!
When hope for sunrise seemed to be rapidly fading (not to mention any feeling in our bodies) up came the other crazies on the trail this morning.
Girls, guys, a little of both, didn’t matter to me. All I could see were warm bodies to help block the wind and maybe return feeling to a finger or two.
Was that too much to ask?
After all, I wanted a picture of this spectacular site I was about to witness.
More swapping of travel stories, jokes and sharing which body parts are numb are how we banded together to continue our fight against the wind.
Finally, FINALLY, we saw a dim glow in the distance.
As the minutes passed the sliver of light seemed to paint the sky with vivid hues of orange and red, slowly bleeding over the entire horizon and illuminating the world around us.
This was it.
Why we woke up at a ridiculous hour.
Why we battled the mountain to reach its summit.
Why we defiantly held our ground in the clouds against that treacherous Mr. Wind.
And it was all worth it!
The group stood in awe of the natural masterpiece unfolding in front of us.
There were very few words shared in those minutes as all would fall short in expressing what it was we were feeling.
We soaked it up together, smiling and snapping photos (yes, I regained feeling in my fingers).
After a long while we slowly began backing down from the precipice and turning our sites toward the journey home.
By this time the sun was shining bright, offering a new perspective on the pathways we just conquered.
Hello again, sheep. Don’t mind us.
We ventured down without incident and caught another shuttle back into town.
And the best part…
It was all done before breakfast.
How’s that for early morning exercise?
A new accomplishment added to the growing list of The Global Stroll. I’m grateful to my fellow travelers for introducing the idea of a sunrise hike to me and will always remember the fun, struggles and beauty of the morning.