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Women's Aboriginal AFL Academy trip to NZ: Diary Day 5

TODAY I learnt that I can do anything. I learnt that I am stronger and more resilient than I ever knew.

Today I conquered the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

As a group we hiked for 19.4 kilometres over eight hours. Sometimes I was scared, sometimes it was fun. At times I thought I couldn’t go on. But I did it, and I still can’t believe it.

We woke up at 6am and by seven we were on a rickety bus headed for the mountains.

I was in absolute awe when I saw the snow-covered mountains up ahead. I took so many photos because I want to show my family. It wasn’t as impressive in the photos but it still looked deadly.

When we arrived in the national park, we were split into three groups of nine and given a coloured ribbon to distinguish us on the mountain. There were a bunch of other school groups and members of the public headed up.

The night before our tour guides Terry, Olivia and Julian came and explained what we needed to bring. They let us borrow hiking boots, rain pants and jackets, gloves, beanies and polar fleece jumpers – which we would come to be pretty thankful for because it got pretty cold in parts.

Because there was a lot of rain forecast in the afternoon we had to leave earlier than planned.

My group started the hike second. We waited for the first group to leave and made our way down the long path towards the mountains.

I was in awe of the beauty around me. There were snow-capped mountains on our right, there was a little creek and a waterfall on our left.

Our guide Olivia explained that there were two main climbs and that we were going to get to 1886 metres above sea level. The first climb was mainly stairs. A lot of the girls were getting tired and needing to stop a lot.

Olivia broke the whole hike down into toilet stops, which made me break it into smaller targets.

My legs were burning before we even covered two kilometres and I knew there was a long way to come.

Eventually we were climbing through slippery ice, and being guided to walk instead through deep snow which gave us more grip.

The views were just absolutely deadly almost the whole way.

The scariest part was where it was slippery and the path was really narrow and we had to hold onto a chain buried into the rocks to get up.

I was so scared and had to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and not look down.

The girls helped me keep going and I remembered our coach Brownyn Davey told me that when things get hard you have to keep going so I pushed through the pain.

I can’t believe we got to see so much snow. The girls used a few of the breaks to make snowmen and throw snowballs at each other.

We stopped right at the highest point for lunch and looked down over the decline.

There were these lakes in the top of the volcanic craters and because the snow was on the black volcanic rock it was just so deadly to look at.

It felt like we had made it to the end, but we realised there was still more than 10 kilometres to go. We hadn’t even reached halfway!

The first part of the decline was so slippery and you had to come down sideways really slowly.

Some of the girls slipped over.

It slowly got easier but there were still a lot of uphill bits and my knees started to hurt because there were a lot of steep downhill bits too.

The groups started to join and then a lot of people began to separate from the main pack but we still all helped each other to the bottom.

Once we got there we entered a rainforest and still had to walk for nearly an hour to get to the carpark where our bus was.

The change in scenery just happened so quickly. We saw so many different environments in one day and the beauty helped me take my mind off how much my body was aching from all the walking and carrying my backpack.

At the end it was worth it. The girls and staff who had finished ahead of me all gave me high fives when I finished and we cheered everyone who got to the finish line once they arrived. It felt great to know I finished, but better to know I finished with my sister girls.

It was such a good experience. I got some exercise out of it and had some fun. I wasn’t looking forward to it, I was so nervous that I wouldn’t make it but I did it and I am so proud of myself.

I am sore, I am tired but I know now that if I can do that hike, I can do anything.

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