T-minus five hours to Myanmar. I awoke at 5AM after a night of fever dreams, having sweat through everything. I emptied the entire contents of my body, again, and ran a cold shower. Standing in the dark, near tears, I steadied myself against the glass wall and leaned into the water. The only rational thought I could muster was "Will this get better before it gets worse?"
I gently woke Emily and mumbled the dreaded words: "I need to go to the hospital."
I did question my sanity at times. The 12.1 mile (19.4km) hike turned out to be quite the test of endurance, but the hike turns into a story of triumph once you're standing at 6,000+ ft with 360 degree views of Northern New Zealand.
Weezer's "Holiday" is playing in my head as I'm watching the surf drag along Kaikoura Beach's block rock sand. For real, I'm right there, right now, writing this. My trip camera, a Sony RX100-M3, my iPhone and Squarespace's Blog app are awesome teammates for mobile content creation.
When mentioning our travel plans to locals in Auckland, we quickly learned that we had no idea how to pronounce the city we would be spending a week in. Rotorua, pronounced "roh-toh-roo-uh", is set among a collection of calderas-turned-lakes and restless geothermal activity, and is a major adventure-sports hub.
Lights out. Our senses raced to process while our eyes recover. We inhaled the dampness of the air as its coolness tightened our skin, while the roar of a distant waterfall grew closer. One-by-one, then cluster-by-cluster, the watery corridor was illuminated by tiny blue lights. We'd entered a literal wormhole to a galaxy inside the earth.
Like little birds queued to take their first chance at flight, our guides gently nudged us out of the "nest" one by one onto a seemingly precarious length of PVC pipe. Perched with wide eyes, tethered to nothing but rope and hope, it was all air between us and the floor of the cave entrance 330 feet below. "Is it too late to back out?" we both thought in unison as we smiled nervously at each other.
"Ok everyone, off the platform!" said the lead guide, sending our hearts and minds racing.
We were up before sunrise on Day 2 in Auckland and luckily our host Tanah stocked our kitchenette with homemade yogurt, granola, manuka honey and coffee. For reference, we're 17 hours ahead our friends back in NYC.