The never-ending road back home
After what must have been many ages of the world, my feet finally reunited with solid pavement. O’ how blissful it was to feel the touch of ground! To make up for lost time — I had to catch the last bus at 4:30pm, or it would be a very expensive cab ride home — I began picking up speed. I brimmed with optimism: I still had two hours left on the clock and it was all downhill now. How naïve I was to think my harrowing experience was over.
A stretch of flatland I now traversed, and then horror awoke in me again. I blanched as I reached the edge of a winding ascent leading to North Crater’s summit. Less treacherous the road was, no slippery slush to sidestep for one, but all my strength was already spent. By now my water supply had depleted, but my back relished the lightened load. I felt the occasional rumble of hunger pangs, but I had barely desired to stop and eat. On my way up, I sat on one of the boulders, as did a fellow hiker, whose head of white hair betrayed his age. “I thought that was the end of the climb,” he gasped, pointing to the Red Crater which stood proudly. “I know,” answered I, furrowing my brows. Behind me, the sea of blue and red and other t-shirt colours had greatly dwindled.
Through new peaks, zig-zagging paths and personal nadirs the route took me. There were many stairs, which I cursed at, but glorious views of faraway mountains and pristine lakes returned once again, and encouraged my heart.
Then, I espied something that evoked unbridled joy: Ketetahi Hut. A lone shelter nestled in the heart of nowhere, rising taller than beds of overgrown grass, recalling to memory civilisation. It housed the mountain’s only toilet facility. The end was now not very far, I thought.