Last week Facebook nicely reminded me of a fond memory, that ironically, I’d already been thinking about that very week. Spooky ESP aside, the image was an exclamation point on a road sign in Mt. Aspiring National Park, in the Wanaka area of New Zealand. I’ll start with a disclaimer: we traveled to this jewel of a country (Middle Earth if you’d like to call it that) for our honeymoon over a dozen years ago and it is hands down my favorite place on earth (sorry, Scotland, you’re second place). But I digress. What’s interesting about this sign is that it’s an exclamation point! First, you laugh at the image and think what the what? Then you see the sheep photobomb (and laugh more).
Why the exclamation point?
Doesn't look intimidating at all, right?
Let’s start with how we got there. The drive to the Rob Roy Track was long, gravely, and a shakin’, window-nearly-breakin’ nauseating ride. There was no way to drive “just right”: fast, slow, in the tire ruts, or dodging holes…our car rumbled and roared on the 19-mile (30km) gravel road. The second challenge was alluded to by those lovely yellow signs. Fords in the road.
Yes, with our small rental car we needed to ford washed out parts of the road. Another disclaimer: we had asked a park ranger if the tiny rental car could handle the fords and she advised that it could. These were not little trickles of water. They were a foot deep, twenty feet in width, filled with rocks of all sizes, like your typical river. And we had to ford it over and over. I lost count. We probably crossed eight passes. Each time, I held onto the car for dear life while my husband drove us down, through the rocky, deep bottom, and back up the other side.
Looks easy? Tell our car that. Just you wait and see what's coming for you in a few more miles...(Okay, I just personified the road, but hey, it was mean!)
We were so busy crossing the river that I didn’t snag a photo of the fords!
How often in life are we living in the moment, crossing fords, and hurrying to the finish line (or to the next adventure)? We are so hyper-focused on the task that we don’t take a moment to enjoy the journey. Or at least to appreciate it. Certainly, we reminisce in happy fondness later.
But what do we do during those times?
Sometimes we survive. We wake up, do the daily grind (whatever it may be: careers, parenting, caregiving for a loved one, going to school…the list is infinite). Some nights, we crawl into bed, achy and beaten by the day.
Sometimes we live. We cherish those moments like enjoying a great cup of coffee at sunrise, strengthening muscle while paddling a lake, listening to the laughter of our kids building Lego structures, conversing with a good friend or partner, or writing a new scene in a manuscript with sweet abandon!
And sometimes we doubt. On our trek in New Zealand, we questioned that road, those fords, even the track itself: can we make it? Should we keep going?
While on that bumpy-ford-crossing-will-we-ever-get-there road, my husband and I took in the magnificent glacial valley scenery: slender trees lined up like lollipops, cows and a million sheep nibbling on grass, tall cascading waterfalls, blue sky, puffy clouds, and sweeping mountainsides.
When we reached the trail head, we were exhilarated to have made it through the cumbersome, scary, nerve-wracking, beautiful, amazing journey there. But the journey wasn’t finished yet. First a rain shower hit, and we took cover (it was spring after all). Then we donned our packs and huffed up the mountain trail to even greater views of the valley. “Oh, look, swing bridges!” my husband exclaimed. My stomach didn’t match his excitement. But I made it across. The reward at the end of the trail: the Rob Roy Glacier.
But truly, the real reward was the journey it took to get there.
Would we do it again?
p.s. There will likely be more travel adventure posts coming from me because this gal loves to travel, photograph, and write all about it! And you betcha’ I have many misadventures to share, too!