This one is long overdue. A few months ago, on a whim I decided to get out for the weekend, so I packed a pack, jumped in the car and walked the track to the Pinnacles in Coromandel. I stayed the night in the campground and got up early the next morning to watch one of the most spectacular sunrises of my life. It was so inspiring that I’ve been meaning to write something about it ever since, so without further adieu…
There are not many things that will get me up at 4am, but somehow one morning, with my muscles still aching from yesterday’s hike, I find myself trailing a possum through the darkness with my headlight. I’m on my way to the pinnacles.
Walking the track in the dark gives it a surreal quality. I can hardly see except for the short distance that my headlight reveals, and at this elevation, when the trees clear it seems like I’m surrounded by stars, sometimes stars that appear in unexpected places. As I get higher though the stars start to disappear. It takes a minute for me to realize that the moisture that keeps hitting my face isn’t rain, I’ve climbed inside a cloud. Along with the elements, the track starts to get more rugged. Steps turn into ladders. Ladders become metal rungs bolted into the rock. In the blackness I have no concept of where the edges are, or indeed how far down it is. I have a few panicky moments where the possible height starts to frighten me, but I take a deep breath and push on. Eventually, I arrive at the viewing platform.
At first in the darkness all I can see is clouds whipping past in some sort of elemental race, some of them surrounding me momentarily as they rush past. Wrapped up in my layers I take shelter from the brutal wind behind a rock and sip on peppermint tea from the thermos I packed at camp. Slowly the blue hour seeps through the blackness, and even after all my worries about falling, when the vista in front of me finally becomes visible the sheer height of where I am takes me completely unawares. Even in the dim light of dawn, the view is spectacular, a rugged panorama of jagged peaks, and I’m perched on top of it all.
As my tea runs out I realize that I made a mistake coming up so early. I succeeded in making it to the top well before sunrise, but I’ve left myself so much time that I have a long wait in the cold, and without the tea warding off the chill, sitting in the vicious wind and clouds starts to become unbearable even in all my layers, so I decide to watch the sunrise proper from further down to warm up. Where the climb up was dominated by fears of falling, the descent is pure magic. The track curls around the mountainside giving different perspectives on the vast vistas, each more glorious than the next. I smile at every turn, baffled that I climbed all this way with no knowledge of the views that were hiding in the darkness.
My mistake turns out to be a blessing in disguise. Warmed up from the climb down and out of the wind and damp, I realize the rock I’m perched on is a much better vantage point for the sunrise anyway. The panorama from the top is certainly impressive and well worth the climb, but the view from lower down has its own sort of magic. At the top the view is like that of a god, surveying the world from its vantage point in the sky, but down here the way the ranges curl around makes the hills almost seem to embrace me, like I’m a part of the scene instead of just a detached observer. My eyes have a perfect beeline to where the sun eventually peeks its head over the horizon, and I watch, mesmerized, as its golden glow floods rapidly through the valley. It rises quickly now, heating my skin slightly where my face peeks out of my jacket. My mission accomplished I feel, tired, inspired, and ready for another cup of tea.
Listening to: Dad’s Gonna Kill Me – Richard Thompson