• Tongariro Alpine Crossing Part 1: 10 Lessons Learned

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    Last weekend, I had the opportunity to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

    It is declared as the best one day trek available in New Zealand. While others say it’s among the top ten single day treks in the world.

    The crossing passes over the volcanic terrain of the multi-cratered active volcano Mount Tongariro. Most people start from the west side of Mount Tongariro and finish on the north side, with a total of 19.4 km. So do we.

    And this is by far my longest hikes. It took me 9 hours and 20 minutes walking to finish the route.

    Some routes are difficult, steep, plus a strong gust of wind up there on the mountain, I am grateful enough that I can finish it.

    Looking back, I am grateful not only because I can finish it, but also for the life lessons I can learn from the journey.

    Here are 10 of them:

    1. Always make plans and prepare.

    Sounds cliché, but this is important. Ever since we make a plan to do the Crossing, I took note on how many drinks I need per kilometer every time we go walking. How hungry I can get.

    From that, I can estimate how many drinks and food I need to take. It has to be enough. Not less just in case something unexpected happened. But also not too much so it will be a burden to bring.
    I study the route, knowing where and how many stops there are, and what I should eat in each stop.

    It is same as life, I guess.

    We need to make plan, what we want to achieve by when. Life is a bit easier when you make a blueprint of it. Like Benjamin Franklin say, by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

    2. Plan and do what you can, let God do the rest.

    We were anxious even until the day of the Crossing. The weather forecast is not good. For weeks it was foggy and rainy. We are told to prepare for the worst. Easily dry pants and t shirt are some of them.

    Being a last-minute junkie, I bought the easily dry pants just the day before the Crossing. And decided to try how long it needs to dry just a few hours before we go (by spraying it with water until it’s so wet and I hang it to dry).
    Result: I forgot to bring it. Very smart, huh?

    So I pray really hard for that day not to rain. Cause even if it only drizzle (the forecast say it will be drizzle in the morning, turning to heavy rain in the afternoon), it will certainly makes my regular pants wet.

    So when it turns out it was a clear (though a bit foggy up there) morning, and drizzle only when it’s already afternoon, 3 km before finish, I can’t help but feeling so grateful. Alhamdulillah ya Allah…thank You!

    Again, same for life. Do not despair when your plans go awry. When unexpected things happen. When things go out of hands. There are things in life that you cannot control. Just face it. As long as you already do your best, let God decides the rest.

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    3. Rest if you must but don’t you quit.

    I had cramp twice. The first one was when it was only 1/3 of the journey. Not even reach the top of the mountain. My right tight hurts like hell every time I walk. Goshhh…!

    But I really don’t want to give up. We’ve been waiting for this day to come. I will not give up that easily. At least not until I try first.
    So I keep on moving, while praying. My aim was only 10 steps at first. Then stop, take a rest. Walk again.
    When I can handle 10 steps, I increase it to 20. Then rest again.

    Focus on the effort. You won’t have time to complain. Really. Alhamdulillah it works. The pain started to go.

    And again, I think it’s the same as what you face in life. Life can throw you many challenges and obstacles. Rest when you need. But keep trying. When the obstacles are too big, divide it into some more manageable chunks. It makes the problems seem lighter and later, solved.

    4. Take your own pace

    Our group consists of friends that I’ve been walked together before. Can’t help but being observant, I notice that we all have different walking pace. Some prefers to walk fast, reach the finish line soonest. Some prefers slower but steady pace.

    As for me, in a stable condition, even with no hurt and cramp, I like walking slower, especially when the surroundings are new to me. There are so many things I can see and observe. Take picture of things I like. Seize the moment.
    I guess there is nothing wrong what kind of pace you are. It’s just your personal preference. Nothing is better than the other. Embrace your pace, take your time and don’t compare yourself to others.

    Same as how we are in life. It’s tiring to compare our lives with others.
    Just focus on reaching your own destination and enjoy the journey. There is no life journey that is so difficult that you cannot find gold nuggets along the way. Find the best in every situation and hold on to those great memories.

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    5. Age (and weight) are just numbers

    Out of 9 people in our team, I am the second youngest. But for stamina, I am not sure. As you know, after getting married and have a son 8 years ago, I just started to exercise again last year. If you see my other teammates, some are over middle-aged, but they are way more fitter and healthier than me. Salute!
    Looking at them, I promise nothing but having a healthier lifestyle, and exercise more. Age and weight are indeed just numbers. When you are healthy and fit, who cares about numbers?

    6. Don’t stay in your comfort zone for too long.

    My muscles are cramping, winds blowing hard makes it harder to move forward even one step and I can’t seem to catch my breath. And I ask myself a few times, why do I do this? But I want. And I will.
    The discomfort and the pain seem to make me stronger.

    In life? I believe that we grow by doing things that we don’t think we can accomplish. I once wrote about our comfort zone here , and still think the same way until now.

    Try it first. Who knows that you might surprise yourself.

    7. Don’t let fear stop you.

    I am just glad that I did the Crossing. What if I suddenly just let a little fear cancelling me? I will regret it for life. In life, don’t let fear hold you back.

    Still my most favourite quote from Mark Twain:

    Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.

    So throw off the bowlines.

    Sail away from the safe harbor.

    Catch the trade winds in your sails.

    Explore. Dream. Discover.

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    8. Believe in yourself

    The Crossing was not easy. It tests me physically, mentally, emotionally, push me to the limits. Yes I hike with a group of friends, and we help each other. But in the middle of the routes, there are moments that I just gotta rely on myself. The moment when up there on top of the mountain, my glasses are blurred because of the rain, the wind blows hard that makes me hard to move, but I just gotta keep going. Trying my best to put one foot in front of the other and just keep going. Believe that I can do it.

    9. Celebrate!

    Always take time to celebrate. For any accomplishment you reach in life. However small it is. You deserve it.

    I spend some time at the lakes. Take photos. Not everyone can experience that. I’ve earned it. I made it! And the feeling is kind of motivating. So instead of rushing down to the bottom, I take time to take picture, watching the fogs move and reveals a much more beautiful scenery underneath.

    10. Last but not least: friends make everything better.

    I am glad and grateful that I did the Crossing with bunch of wonderful people. They are the best! So this one is especially dedicated to (on alphabetical order): Pak Atot Sultantono, mba Endang S(usi) Liem, Irmalina Shaw, Bu Nani Sultantono, mas Nino Triono, bu Nyoman Laura Wardani, mba Ruliyati Ijoth Dewi, Nana Siti Aisyah Farhana, Bu Sintha Raharmawanti, mba Sri Lestari Galloway.

    I could not ask for a better group than you. Thank youuuu veryveryvery much for everything that will be too much to mention. Semoga kita semua dikasih rejeki sehat dan keluangan waktu supaya bisa trip bareng lagi ya. Amiiin…

    A journey is best measured in friends, not in miles (Tim Cahill)

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    As in life, the best thing to hold on to is each other. And for that, I am grateful for having a really supportive, patient and kind husband. Makasih ya suamiii…!!!

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    IN THE END

    This is maybe my first time climbing a mountain. But insha Allah will not be my last.

    I remember once I get to the top, then see the lakes, I tell myself, “Wow, this is it. Beautiful.” It’s like taking away all the pain and all the complains that I had going there. It is worth it, and in life there are things that are worth our effort, our fight and our time.

    And to achieve that, mental preparation is far more important than physical preparation. A positive mental attitude helps me past those tough times. If you want to achieve your goals, you have to mentally commit yourself to success and believe that you will succeed.

    “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

    Edmund Hillary

    Photos credit: Mas Nino, Bu Sintha, and me

    To be continued to Tongariro Alpine Crossing Part 2: The Tracks (coming soon)

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