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Glimpse of a Dream World MAG
Before the summer of 2006, abseiling in Nowheresville, New Zealand was never something I envisioned myself doing. Not until I'm dangling off a 200-foot cliff do I comprehend the seriousness of the situation. Guilty of peer pressure, I've somehow let my friend, Blake, talk me into hiking up the side of a mountain to experience an extreme sport the equivalent of rappelling, known as abseiling. Just a few moments earlier I was happily trekking across miles of mud and snow only to find myself now voluntarily backing off a cliff I again, voluntarily, climbed. Madness appears to be the only word capable of summing up my circumstances.
As I slowly shift my body to look up at the death grip I have on my rope, it almost feels like the harness isn't there. If it wasn't below zero I would be able to feel the pain in my nearly-frostbitten knuckles. Fortunately, shock's taken over all of my senses, not letting something as mundane as frostbite worry me. A slight breeze disrupts my concentration and I subconsciously drag my gaze toward the ground. I let my mind wander as I attempt to peer through the overbearing mist, flashes of my journey flickering across my eyes as I fade into a daydream:
Awakening from a dead sleep as the main attraction for six laughing faces isn't ordinarily very pleasant. Nevertheless, my newfound best friends can never make me too mad.
“The best part,” Edric says, laughing, “is when her mouth and her eyes are open.”
“I feel bad for that trucker at the red light,” Blake starts. “That definitely wasn't a pretty face to see smashed against the window!”
“That's not fair,” I protest. “I told you I slept with my eyes open!”
So maybe they do get a bit irritating. Nonetheless, when a travel bus has become your home and 36 strangers your family, you cope. Leaving America two weeks before has been by far the most terrifying and electrifying experience of my life. Australia and New Zealand are two major milestones to check off my list of “100 Places to See before I Die.” Most importantly, New Zealand is where they filmed “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the most phenomenal movie of my time! When I left home that was all I really cared about, seeing where they filmed the Shire and Mount Doom. I naively assumed the rest was just seeing another country. Incidentally, Blake shared my same enthusiasm for experiencing the legend of our generation firsthand. To walk in the same fields as unrivaled actors, to find their footsteps, was a dream we both shared. Without it, we never would have experienced the greatness of such a magnificent new world.
In the meantime, I drift down a dark tunnel; a faint whisper and muted light caress my senses from the back of my mind. I know I'm not sleeping, but it feels the same nevertheless.
“Yoo-hoo? Hey, mate, are you done with your tiki tour? Don't be a picker, get to the bottom already. The next one's got to use the dunny!” shouts a familiar voice from the top of the cliff. I snap out of my thoughts and realize Jason, the man who strapped on my useless blue harness, is urging me to continue my descent. As I decide whether or not to heed his instructions, I remember his abrasiveness while hooking me up. If this ancient harness weren't bad enough, Jason nearly cut off my circulation trying to secure me. I've come to realize Kiwis are a very particular kind of people. I meet Jason's gaze and can barely see him narrow his eyes as I float back into another memory.
Domineering ferns, still wet with condensation from the morning's rain, reach out to trip my fellow travelers and me. Like an infectious disease, the undergrowth suffocates everything in its path, stretching across creeks and fallen trees in attempts at complete domination. The muddy, worn path is lightly frosted with a thin layer of snow. As I heave my backpack higher on my tired shoulders, I take a look around to get my bearings. It started out easy but we've been stumbling up this mountain for three hours now. I'm guessing it's around two in the afternoon. Blake is moving at an easy pace ahead of me but Edric seems to be falling behind, so I stop for a breather. All I can think about is how seeing the “Lord of the Rings” on the big screen is no measure of how utterly breathtaking New Zealand really is. I've experienced so many unique things since I set foot in this otherworldly place: snow-capped mountains parallel to sandy beaches, the famed Southern Alps, eerie cone volcanoes, and emerald mountains that literally roll into the sea.
“Pretty, isn't it?” Edric mumbles.
“You could say that,” I reply. The damp log, unknowingly flaking bark and moss on my jeans, gives a bit with the introduction of my weight. We sit in silence for a while, just taking it in.
Numb from the lack of movement, I can barely sense that same voice and light slowly come back into focus and I remember Jason, desperately trying to make me crawl down the rope.
“Hey, mate! Get a move on!” Jason barks.
“O-oh, sorry!” I manage to choke out and take one last look around. If I've ever felt corny in my whole life, it's this exact moment. Dangling there a fourth of the way down the cliff, my brain takes a snapshot, careful to file away every detail. The clouds are clearing but each tiny, perfect snowflake heedlessly floats to the ground. A wintry veil of snow carefully laces the earth below as the temperature inevitably plummets. The silky sheen of the iridescent snow reflects the sun's beaming rays, creating a prismatic effect of infinite enchantment. A murmuring breeze wisps its way down the majestic slopes of the mountain, unknowing that its demise waits at the icy landscape below. Before it can break away, a sharp gust of arctic wind pierces the breeze, generating an amorphous creature of endless twists and turns.
I softly inhale. The breeze smells of evergreens and ice. The trees sway delicately, careful not to disturb the picture before me. Each icy crystalline structure desperately grabs hold, cautious not to drift away from the branch that has become its home. Verdant mountains flow into each other, creating one sea of luscious green carpet. In this new world, nature's exoticism is nearly hypnotizing. The tranquility of the land forms a permanent imprint on my psyche. The only slight disturbance is the rhythmic drizzle of a nearby stream. Alienated from the horrors of the modern world, one could get lost forever. Nevertheless, the concrete world that is my life cannot be shoved aside forever. So as I cast one last glimpse at a dream world, I begin my descent back to reality.