Why My Husband Hiked a Volcano in the Middle of the Night

I should perhaps find it odd when my husband comes home at seven o’clock in the morning and casually announces that he “hiked up Mt. Tongariro last night.” But, I don’t. At least not anymore. Not only is it something he does fairly frequently back at home, but it’s the only way he’s been able to get out photographing these days.

Before we left for this trip, I told you that it was going to be a bit of an experiment. As a professional writer/photographer team we wanted to see if we could find a balance working from the road, spending quality time as a family, and maybe, just maybe, taking a break.

If a break looks like the surf break, which appears for only a few moments before quickly vanishing into the ocean, then yes, we’ve had lots of breaks. Like the surf, though, it teases us to ride it. We coast for a few glorious moments and even when the wave has finished breaking, we keep standing on our boards, riding the whitewater as long as we possibly can. And then we eagerly wait for the next one.

Chasing birds near the waterfront in Rotorua. Photo Meghan J. Ward.
Chasing birds near the waterfront in Rotorua. Photo Meghan J. Ward.

Don’t get me wrong: we’re absolutely loving our travels as a trio. We have smiled more in the last thirty days than on any of our previous trips abroad. Each day we get to watch our little girl grow a little more, expand her language, speed up her walking, and discover new things like sand, the ocean and birds (her favourite!). Looking back over my Instagram account today I was totally floored by just how much we’ve done with her here in New Zealand. Most recently, we took a dip in the thermal waters of Kerosene Creek near Rotorua, and enjoyed the stunning beaches and rock formations at Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula.

To cap off our very full days, we also sleep in the same room as the baby, so we really are with her 24/7.

Playing in the thermal water at Kerosene Creek. Photo Meghan J. Ward.
Playing in the thermal water at Kerosene Creek. Photo Meghan J. Ward.
Maya getting her feet wet at Kerosene Creek. Photo Meghan J. Ward.
Maya getting her feet wet at Kerosene Creek. Photo Meghan J. Ward.

But if you’ve been following our journey, you’ll know that things have been tedious at times. Carving out time for Paul to take his photographs and for me to write has been a constant challenge. We’re getting better at tag-teaming and passing on the baton at certain times of day. Our evenings, after Maya goes to bed, is our time to check in with the outside world and take care of work. Occasionally we sit with a cider and talk about our day, how the trip is going, or life back at home. And when he can Paul ventures off into the darkness to do what he does best: night photography.

When we stayed in Turangi, a town close to the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park, we were hit by the edges of Cyclone Lusi, and I was plagued with a week-long migraine. Needless to say, we didn’t see a whole lot. Though we had moved onto Rotorua a few days later, Paul decided that for his “big night out” he would drive all the way back to Tongariro (2 hours) to shoot the volcanoes. In his true style, though, he got to the trailhead for the famous Tongariro Crossing and decided he’d go to the summit of Mt. Tongariro and back. He spent the night photographing the volcanoes above the clouds, under the twinkling stars of the night sky. And as I type this, the sun has gone down, the bambino is asleep, and Paul has returned to Cathedral Cove to work his magic.

This is how we roll.

"Tongariro Magic" by Paul Zizka Photography.
“Tongariro Magic” by Paul Zizka Photography.
Cathedral Cove. Photo Meghan J. Ward collection.
Cathedral Cove. Photo Meghan J. Ward collection.

While we hiked down to the cove this morning, Paul and I discussed how much travelling with a baby has forced us to stay a bit more on the beaten track. Our preference is usually to get off the beaten track, away from the crowds and find our own hidden gems. But on this trip we simply haven’t had the time to do our research. It’s enough for us to just get out the door in the morning to go sightseeing or do a hike and try to remember everything we’ll need for the day (today we brought baby’s food but forgot to bring our breakfast…and lunch…and snacks).

It’s healthy for us to travel this way, though. It’s easy to bite off more than you can chew when you’re travelling with a baby, and we have learned the hard way that keeping things simple makes it more enjoyable for everyone. Keeping things simple also helps us achieve our balance, and helps us ride that wave a little bit longer.


We’re wrapping up our time in New Zealand, and leave tomorrow for Auckland, and shortly after for the island of Niue. We’re celebrating Maya’s first birthday this week (more on that soon!). Every parent says it, but I can’t believe it has already come.

Thanks for checking in!

Author: Meghan J. Ward

Meghan J. Ward is an outdoor, travel and adventure writer based in Banff, Canada, and a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Meghan has written several books, as well as produced content for films, anthologies, blogs and some of North America’s top outdoor, fitness and adventure publications. She has a forthcoming travel memoir (Fall 2022), to published by Rocky Mountain Books.

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