Tongariro Alpine Crossing – Monthly Happiness Report – May, 2014

Tongariro Alpine Crossing – Monthly Happiness Report – May, 2014

We are already into May! I’m slowly catching up with these happiness reports! In May, the weather continued to get less tropical, which unfortunately interfered with some weekend trips. However, we luckily managed to squeeze in a weekend doing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing! This was easily the highlight of the month, and it’s what I want to share with you.

 

My average happiness rating in May, 2014 was a 7,90. This is almost identical to last month’s happiness. Despite still living in New Zealand and a lot of traveling, there were still some negative factors keeping my overall happiness down. I have tracked my happiness the entire time, so I know exactly what made me happy and what not.

Monthly happiness

The chart below shows my happiness ratings during May, 2014:

As you may notice, this chart looks very similar to the one I posted for April, 2014. The peak in happiness during the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is clearly visible on the first weekend of the month, where my happiness ratings were a solid 9,0. I’ll explain the dip in the last days of the month at the end of this post.

Happiness factors

The table below shows all the happiness factors for May, including the factors that influenced it.

I have added a bar graph to show the number of times certain factors positively influenced my happiness.

The clear winner for me is running here. I have talked about running before, and how it is almost a certain method for me to get my happiness up. Running has very positive effect on my happiness. That’s why I still do it today. I ran during 9 of the 31 days in May 2014, and each of those runs made me a happier person.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

This weekend, I was finally able to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It was something that me and my friends wanted to do for a long time. Despite the worsening weather conditions and tiredness through work, we managed to squeeze the entire crossing in a single weekend. It was amazing.

We packed my car with the proper clothing and backpacks and headed south to the Tongariro National Park on Saturday, May 5th 2014. The weather forecasts were great, and we all hoped this would stay this way. Especially since our last attempt was cut short due to stormy conditions, after making the 5 hour drive…

After we arrived, we set up camp at a regional campsite and relaxed for the rest of the day. We hiked a bit in the woods, relaxed a little and had a few beers. Mostly, we were just mentally preparing for what was going to be an exhausting day! I decided to sleep in my car again, even though the last attempt was a disaster. Luckily, I dreamed like a baby this time!

“We were mentally preparing for what was going to be an exhausting day”

The next morning, we had to wake up early to catch the bus to the other side of the Tongariro Alpine range. We were dropped off and had to hike roughly 20 kilometres back to my car. The weather was absolutely perfect! The area is known for its volcanic activity, which makes the surroundings feel like an entirely different planet. It was amazing to hike in this kind of scenery.

After climbing for an hour, we entered the snowy area. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing track passes Mount Ngauruhoe, better known as Mt. Doom from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s a massive, cone-shaped volcano, with gravelly slopes angled at approximately 45 degrees. Walking past it was a little daunting: we all felt very insignificant and tiny!

We came up with the idea of climbing this thing! We were all relatively fit and we had plenty of time, so why not? Even though we didn’t see anyone else climbing the slopes, we were sure it would be alright.

“We came up with the idea of climbing this thing”

But boy, was it though. We definitely underestimated the steep slopes and the gravelly material. Every 2 steps forward caused us to slide one step backwards again. Every once in a while, a loose rock came rolling down. It was all very intense. Luckily, some areas of the slope were covered with snow, which made the climb much easier. We didn’t know if walking on the snow was the safest thing to do, but couldn’t care less.

After climbing for about an hour, we managed to reach the summit. It was a magical moment. We were all extremely exhausted, but were treated with the most beautiful view in the world. We were able to look directly into the massive crater, with a diameter of at least 150 meter. On the other side was the Tongariro Alpine range, with its beautiful white peaks and clear lakes. It all felt very unreal. I had never seen something so beautiful. As I’m typing this, more than 3 years later, I still think this is the most beautiful piece of scenery I have ever seen.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing collage 1
From upper left: View from Mt. Doom, crater of the volcano, Emerald Lake

What did this view do to my happiness? I don’t think I have to convince you that this made me feel euphoric. My friends and I just sat down and enjoyed the views, without even saying a word. We were all shocked by the sheer beauty of nature here.

After an hour or so, we decided to continue with the regular track. We first needed to get off this volcano again. The descent was a hell of a lot easier than the climb. It was actually a lot of fun! We used the snow-covered slopes to rapidly slide down. It looked a lot like Bear Grylls did in this video, albeit probably a little less graceful.

The regular track had us walk through the rest of what the Tongariro Alpine Crossing had to offer. We passed clear blue emerald lakes, crossed thermally heated areas and ultimately descended back to the tree line again. I remember how amazed I was with the quick change in scenery. One moment, you’re walking between snow-covered volcanoes. 2 hours later, you’re back in a dense forest with nothing but green colours. It was truly one of the best hikes of my life.

After the long hike, we jumped in the car and drove straight back to Auckland. All in all, we woke up at 6:00 AM, started hiking at 7:30 AM, got back to the car at 4:00 PM and were back in Auckland at 10:00 PM. It was an intense weekend, but also the best weekend of the month!

Tongariro Alpine Crossing collage 3
From upper left: Tongariro hike, views from above, the steep slope of the volcano, some more views, alpine range

Other sources of happiness

The rest of the month was actually quite uneventful. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I focused a lot on my internship, because I had to make sure I finished my dissertation within the planning. This had a small impact on my daily life, as I continued to work during the evenings as well. Luckily, I was able to blow off steam by running multiple times a week.

The weather continued to worsen as well. Therefore, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing weekend trip was the last big weekend adventure on the North Island of New Zealand. The other weekends were more easy-going. We spent some days surfing, swimming and relaxing. We had seen a big part of the North Island anyway. Moreover, I had planned a big 3 week road trip to the South Island of New Zealand in June, so there was a lot more adventure waiting around the corner!

As usual, there were some negative factors influencing my happiness as well.

 

Not enough sleep

I found it very challenging to get enough sleep. I learned that I need about 7 hours of sleep on average to be well rested. However, my sleep pattern during the weekend is usually quite shifted. I sleep a lot more during the weekends when compared to regular workdays. I always build a small buffer during the weekends, which I then quickly burn through during workdays. This is called a social jet lag, and is considered to be bad. Well… I can definitely agree there.

I typically sleep 9 hours on Saturdays and Sundays, and about 6 hours on workdays. This results in roughly 7 hours of sleep a night. However, if for some reasons I can not rebuild my sleep buffer during the weekends, I will logically feel tired for the rest of the week. This is what happened during May, 2014. It shouldn’t surprise you that this had a negative effect on my happiness. Sleep deprivation can have a serious effect on mental fitness, even while still doing nothing but fun things.

“Sleep deprivation can have a serious effect on mental fitness”

Also, you might have noticed a rather sharp dip in happiness at the end of the month. This had everything to do with work and the daily slur that it had become at this point. The amount of bullshit started to quickly pile up here, especially since my internship was nearing its end. There was still a lot to be done, and let’s say that my internship did not exactly stimulate me in these activities. Luckily there was light at the end of the tunnel: I was going to finish the job early in June and leave for an awesome trip to the South Island of New Zealand. But more on that in next month’s happiness report!

In the meantime, my long distance relationship was going quite strong. My girlfriend and I had a very stable relationship during this period apart. It was not easy, mind you. But at this point, we were already counting down the days until we would see each other again. I was going back to the Netherlands after my trip across the South Island, and this long distance relationship would then be over!

I’ll leave it at that for now. I’ll continue with June in the next post, where I’ll detail how traveling across the South Island made me happy! If you have any questions about anything, please let me know in the comments below, and I’ll be happy to answer them!

Cheers!

 

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