What inspires you? Where do you find the motivation to do the
things that bring you the most fulfillment? Would you go halfway across the
world to drop into a hole in the earth all because of a photograph?
That's exactly what Patrick did. After coming across a photo of Harwoods
Hole in New Zealand, he could never get the spot out of his head. That photo served as
the inspiration he needed to train and learn the ropes before taking off years later on the ultimate
adventure. But don't listen to me ramble. Take it from Patrick himself and check out the
pixelated inspiration that took him to the other side of the world.
It’s amazing how a photo can capture the imagination and send you on an adventure. With 650 feet of cold air beneath my swinging feet, in that moment all I can think of is how it all started. My focus went inwards and nothing else mattered. Not the tensioned rope running between my gloved hands that held me from a deathly free fall. Not the pale light squeezed to nothing down below in that black hole. Not even the mist swirling in tendrils with my passing. A photo was in my mind's eye. The place it all began.
Five years prior, those red, blue and green pixels on my screen had combined to evoke a lust for a grand adventure in a world far different from what I knew. An image is all it took, found in the masses of data on the world wide web. It captured my imagination of exploration and possibilities.
Harwoods Hole in New Zealand.
The country's deepest vertical shaft. A sinkhole and cave of epic proportions that held a fantastical adventure for those willing to brave it. Rumoured among all sorts to be the best adventure trip in the world, I just had to go. But it was a serious undertaking. I had no caving experience and no rope skills further than knowing one end from the other. The commitment levels screamed of fine margins and perfect planning.
Somehow, I would learn.
I had just started rock climbing with a friend. This would be the stepping stone to begin. I remember that first time I abseiled from the top of a cliff, legs shaking and mouth swearing. One step at a time, that’s how to do it, right? I protrude my butt over the edge. A gust of wind whips up from below, right on cue, and sends me back to safety. I can’t do this! Have you ever felt scared and didn’t think you could do something? I know I have.
But I don’t give up, and I keep trying.
Years go by and I continued to stand on cliff edges. With an array of outdoor sports, I honed my skills. At times I forgot about Harwoods, the impossible dream. But then I would find the saved photo in a folder on my laptop. It’s always there, ready to encourage me further. And the dream continued.
I try my first cave as practice for Harwoods Hole and find out I don’t like small spaces. I don’t like the dark much either come to think of it. Caves open and close like jaws of the earth. Contorting this way and that, I shove and swear my lanky form through holes made for gymnasts. Child gymnasts I should add. My mind spins in disorientation. Keeping my wits from leaving me seems like a never ending battle.
But I don’t give up, and I keep trying.
Then one day, after all those tries and copious swearing, I’ve made it. I’m there.
I finish the rigging and lower 650 feet of 11mm thick rope into the abyss. The cool air brings up the scent of earth from below. I shiver, but I’m not cold. I double, triple check all my connections and I push off. Down the steep slab of slippery rock I walk, and I feel my heart racing as I near the free hanging drop.
Am I ready?
And at that moment I see a photo in my mind’s eye, the place where it all started. Those red, blue and green pixels that had spurred the dream, the adventure, the long journey and the ups and downs.
Isn’t it funny what a photo can do?
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