So, three Kiwis, two Canadians and a Scotsman were scrambling up a volcano…

…Kinda sounds like I’m prefacing a punchline, non?
However, the truth of the matter is – hiking up Mount Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings fame) was definitely not a joke.

Well, except for maybe this part, but this was fairly early in the hike, when we we had enough energy for frivolous things like joking and shenanigans and the like. (I had told my sister to get on my shoulders and be a scary Orc and this is what she came up with.)

Anyway, moving to New Zealand has presented me with many challenges to date. Mostly emotional and mental challenges. Like missing all my loved ones.  Or battling a borer infestation (which are essentially termites that I think look like wee baby cockroaches). Or having my credit card scammed. Or coming to terms with the fact that there are NO GAIN DRYER SHEETS HERE (or dryer sheets of any kind!…Yep, really roughing it over here).

The Tongariro Crossing has proven to be the most physical challenge so far. (Close second – running after a carload of kids that tried to egg Leila-dog and me while we were out for a run. Ha!).

It took us almost 9.5 hours total. The Half Dome hike in Yosemite still holds the title for the longest hike I’ve done (roughly 10 hours), but scrambling to the summit of Mount Ngauruhoe was far more grueling (even though I had tackled the Half Dome with some stretched ankle ligaments from a snowboarding snafu). Those hobbitses made it look so easy.

It was the most rewarding experience I’ve had in quite some time. And this was the amazing group that I had the privilege of sharing it with:

And this is an aerial shot of our accomplishment (the mountain in the middle!) – it looks a little less forgiving from this angle ;).