Mountaintop moments

I sit on the rock and think about all the times I’ve been here, at the top of Mount John, but I’ve lost count.

I think back to the first time; March 2014. I wore my green walking trousers and a black t-shirt that was a size bigger than I’d usually buy, the result of months of backpacking indulgence and infrequent exercise.

I was mesmerised by the view; big mountains and low cloud that wrapped around them, New Zealand’s catchphrase ‘the land of the long white cloud’ now making sense.

There was a bench there then, and I sat quietly, staring at nothing in particular. I had nothing else to do; I had no connection to the outside world, no mobile data. I was in no rush; I had all the time in the world. I had too much time almost, the double edged sword of full time travel. I didn’t want to rush back down, because what else was there to do?

No, I was content.

A man came and talked to me for a while, but I remember nothing about that conversation. I welcomed it, but I also welcomed the solitude when he left. People came and went, but I stayed, watching them arrive, hot and breathless, take photos and leave. It felt very transactional, like many of my trips here since.

Right now, in the middle of winter, there’s only a handful of people, none of them close and I appreciate being alone. This time it’s not transactional, and I feel the cold creeping into my feet and hands while I sit with my face upturned to the warmth of the sun, reluctant to move or leave.

I sit and reminisce about that first time. I contemplate if it’s a distraction to thinking about some things going on in my life which need some attention, or whether it’s just a pleasant way to pass the time. I guess there’s no right or wrong.

No matter how much I stare at mountain views like this, my brain can never really capture it for memories. The scale, the beauty, the magnificence, the feeling. That’s why I keep coming back for more; it’s not something I can do once and remember forever.

I don’t think mountains are a place to see, they’re a place to be.

The clouds start moving to reveal the turquoise lake underneath and it still amazes me that water can naturally be that colour.

I feel small, and right now I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Usually it helps, giving me perspective on whatever’s going on in life and reminding me to take a step back and not be so self absorbed. At the moment though, I’ve been feeling small and insignificant, my confidence a little dented, and this exacerbates that. I feel disconnected from myself.

For a time, I forget everything. It’s just me, the sun, the chill in the air, the clouds and the rocks. I try to think about things, but my brain doesn’t let me, my thoughts disappearing like the clouds in the sky.

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