relax after a period of work or tension.
If there’s ever a time to learn the lesson of unwinding, it is now.
With the year we’ve all had, the neverending rollercoaster we’ve been riding (and don’t get me wrong I’m a fan of rides, just not this one), stepping away from the concrete jungle is just the medicine we all need right now.
It’s no secret that you usually don’t find “Aziz” and “camping” in the same sentence, in fact, probably not even in the same language -- shock horror. So you can imagine my surprise when I found out that was going to be the next part of my Rediscover Ruapehu adventure.
Thanks to Torpedo7 and Visit Ruapehu, I’ve been given the opportunity to explore some of New Zealand’s most remote and beautiful places in the central North Island.
The terrain is raw, perhaps even prehistoric, some untouched by humans for hundreds of years. If you were to look up New Zealand in a picture book dictionary, I’d like to think this is exactly what you would see.
My journey first started in Owhango, a small town situated about 20 kilometres south of Taumarunui. It’s quaint, and the history runs deep. I met a man by the name of Willie Huch, and he taught me what it really means to be part of the community.
Today Visit Ruapehu’s Alex Pearce taught me just how important unwinding can be for the soul.
I have just arrived at Ruatiti Domain, and I can’t get over just how gorgeous this place is. The first thing I notice is the unpolluted sound of the outdoors. The birdsong in particular is just beautiful and it seems we have a friendly kererū following us around.
If you looked up the definition of Ruatiti I think you would find it would say remote, spacious, and tranquil. The area is just over three kilometres away from the Raetihi township. Instantly I am at ease despite knowing full well that I am looking straight down the barrel of, or rather inside, a tent. Yet, the sound of the river is calming, and I think to myself both sleeping and waking up to the sound of that is going to be something special.
Torpedo7 adventurer and extraordinaire Tom Patrick has joined me for the journey, and just as well because I know nothing about putting up a tent. He asks me if I’ve ever been camping before, to which I just laugh - I believe this is the only appropriate response I can give to Tom (why create a false expectation? If he has a low expectation of me I figure I can only impress him).
Thankfully he’s also hooked me up with some gear to get me through -- a warm merino top, comfortable outdoor shorts, warm socks, sturdy hiking boots, and everything I need to get me through the night - at least I look the part right?
When we meet local Alex Pearce, I instantly see why she calls this place home. In fact, all the locals I have been meeting from the area all seem to have the same calm, peaceful, relaxed nature about them. You need not look far to see what the common denominator is.
And just like that she’s put Tom and I to work setting up our accommodation. We set up shop right by the river in one of the most beautiful spots. It’s flat, not too close to the water, and surprisingly no instructions were needed (I feel like this would have gone quite differently had it just been me).
The tarpaulin goes down, the poles go up, and the pegs go in. While we are setting up, I ask Alex what it is about camping and Kiwis that go hand in hand. She says simply how can it not, when we’re surrounded by paradise? It’s true.
And yet we really do take it for granted because of that same fact. Seeing paradise every day you really get quite desensitised to how beautiful Aotearoa actually is. Sometimes we just need a gentle reminder.
While Tom is giving me some much-needed camping tips, he says something that resonates with me instantly. He talks openly about how important the outdoors is for his mental health. He talks about it as if to say it’s just the reset he needs everytime he gets out there, and Alex echoes the same sentiment.
The reality is mental health (as much as physical health) and the outdoors go hand-in-hand. It’s actually scientifically proven too. Even just ten minutes can create the endorphins that make you genuinely a happier person in that moment.
I think to myself I am indeed a happier person than when we first started (perhaps it’s because I have two experts who are making my camping experience all the more better).
The tent is done and we’re just starting to set up our very humble outdoor area, complete with chairs, a table, and a gas burner. More endorphins are entering my brain - life is good.
We sit down and all one can do at this point is admire the surroundings. And that’s the beauty of it all, no Netflix, no reception, no almond trim lattes. No now we’re streaming birdsong, connected to nature, and drinking some hearty coffee we’ve brewed ourselves on a stovetop.
This is the moment I feel it. I’m finally unwinding, which for me is particularly difficult. This time last week I was stressed and frustrated, and now I am anything but. There’s something to be said about being out of the rat race and finally slowing down to do nothing and not having to particularly be anywhere. This was it.
I turn to Alex and ask what the bathroom situation is, and both her and Tom laugh. She points into the direction of what appears to be a longdrop and says “over there mate”.
I’m a little less happy now.
It’s one giant step for man, and one giant leap into the longdrop for this little hobbit.