I should have thought about it when I read the name “Key Summit” that there would be some amount of climbing involved. A summit is not usually reached by going downhill or walking merrily along a flat path. Now, I would have gone on the hike no matter what. I am not opposed to doing some work to see something beautiful. The thing is that I suck at walking uphill, but I’ll do it because I want to get in better shape and I want to see what’s at the end of the hike. No words passed between me and Adam as we began the hike because none were necessary. I know from previous experience that he will march briskly ahead of me stopping every once in a while for me to catch up so that he can be assured that I haven’t fallen over a cliff, and I will trudge slowly, stopping at times to wheeze and pant. We began on a path covered with mossy trees and giant ferns. Water trickled over the jagged blue-gray rocks on the side of the path. We saw a kea (finally) which is a type of parrot native to New Zealand. The path continued to stay relatively flat for quite some time and I started to feel simultaneously relieved, confused, and fearful. “The path isn’t climbing up yet! Why isn’t the path climbing up yet? Shit, what if the path starts climbing up right now?”
The suspense was broken when, after passing a lovely waterfall tucked away in the side of the mountain, Adam announced, “Oh good. It’s finally going up.”
“That,” I thought, “was exactly what I was hoping for.”
As we climbed and I fell further behind, I could see Adam on the switchbacks above me his steps springy and quick like a young mountain goat while I lumbered along below like a cow on its way to market. I started finding excuses to stop rather than admit to myself that I was just out of shape and out of breath. “Oh,” I would exclaim to myself, “I simply must have a look at that tree,” and “That rock looks very photogenic.”
Adam stopped to wait for me as I puffed up the mountain wondering, as I always do, if I will physically be able to make it. I have visions of me having to be airlifted off of the mountain after my body says, “OK, really. This is just the last straw.”
Near the end I began to lose the power of speech. Adam was just a little bit ahead of me as he had just stopped and waited, and I said to him “It smells like poo.”
This last word was just an aspiration, not even a word. “What? You have to poo?”
I resorted to sign language. “No,” I shook my head. “It smells,” I touched my nose, “like poo.”
I have no idea why I felt such an urgent need to communicate this fact. Maybe I just wanted to make sure that I could still get a message across.
When we finally got to the top I felt, as I always do in these situations, a sense of accomplishment. I had done it and it was more than worth it. Three different valleys stretched out before us with mountain ranges surrounding us on all sides. There was a nature walk at the top with guide sheets to inform you of the geological and botanical features of the area. Adam played tour guide and led us on the walk stopping at every post to read the text with great fanfare. “A sheltered refuge,” he would say sweeping his arm across the area like he was revealing a showcase on The Price is Right.
When we were finished and had put the information sheet responsibly back in the box, even filing it under the correct language, we headed back down. I always do prefer going up first and then being able to take my time ambling back down with little physical exertion. Everything looks so different that way. Not better, but different.
Back at the car I had to use the bathroom, (surprise) so we found the one stall that was open during the winter and I stepped inside warily. I really don’t understand. If we could all just agree not to pee on the seat, then no one would have to squat over the toilet and accidentally pee on the seat. I positioned myself over the opening, my feet flat against the wooden base as if I was en pointe, one hand grasping the pole behind me and the other planted on the toilet paper dispenser. I know that most people wouldn’t agree with this, but honestly, if the facilities are going to be like this, I would rather just pee in a hole.
Ready to go, we got into the van to drive to Te Anau, a place that I have fallen in love with.