Tongariro Crossing

New Zealand, RTW: 2007-2008 — By on March 13, 2008 8:20 PM

I arrived at Lake Taupo and decided to tackle what would be the longest day hike I have ever done. I had heard many people rave about the Tongariro Crossing hike which is considered New Zealand’s best one day alpine hike and is also considered very challenging. The hike is 18.5km (11 miles) through scenic and active volcanic areas to steaming vents. Tongariro was New Zealand’s first national park and is best known for its appearance in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy as Mordor’s Mt Doom.

I was planning on doing the hike alone, which would have been a first for me and I admit I was a little nervous at the idea as I can be directionally challenged at times! I was chatting with two very nice Irish boys, Paddy & Neils, about their experience on the hike and they mentioned having a friend who also wanted to do the hike but didn’t want to go alone. I ended up meeting their friend Claire, a really cool girl from England. We ended up doing the hike together and it was nice to have someone to chat with and I enjoyed getting to know Claire.

A bus picked us up at 5:30 am and drove us 1.5 hours south and we began the hike around 7:30 am and finished 8 hours later! I wore 4 layers of top to begin the hike as it was so cold and very windy but ended up finishing in a tank top as the weather changed dramatically throughout the day. There were periods of extreme wind, fog, and then heat. We were lucky in the fact that it didn’t rain! We were both fully equipped with lots of food, water, energy drinks, and of course chocolate!

We started out by winding through the Mangatepopo Valley to the saddle between Tongariro and Ngauruhoe. The first big climb was the “Devils Staircase” followed by an easy hike through the South Crater which was very flat. Next, we climbed to Red Crater (1886 m), then climbed down to the beautiful Emerald Lakes. This climb down Red Crater was the most difficult for us and there were many loose stones and the dirt was deep and loose and your feet would sink in and it was very hard to not slide down the hill.
I fell 4 different times and we both thought this was a very dangerous part of the hike as it was very foggy and slippery with a very narrow path with big drops on both sides. Our brochure warned us that this section could be very scary as winds can be 50kph+ and you many need to get on your hands and knees for this part of the journey! It also says and I quote “Please do not walk too close to the edge of the Crater because if you fall in you will not come out”. Now that was a scary thought!?!

We stopped for lunch at the Ketathi Hut and after sitting for a while we both realized how stiff our legs already were! We had 2 more hours to go but the end of the hike was pretty easy as it was mostly flat and downhill. I am so glad I decided to do this hike as it was so different than the other hiking I have done in New Zealand.

My feet were aching and I was exhausted by the time we finished the hike. It was a great feeling to have pushed myself and successfully complete my longest and most challenging day hike. I definitely think I am in much better shape today than when I came to New Zealand! I literally passed out the minute I got on the bus and slept the whole way back to Taupo.

Lake Taupo is actually a water filled crater of a very large volcano. The crater is Caldera and was made by an eruption that is perhaps the biggest in the history of earth.

Be sure to check out all of the pictures from my hike… CLICK HERE!

Claire and her Irish friends made dinner and were nice enough to invite me to join them. I took an overnight bus ride at 1:00 am from Taupo to Wellington. Paddy insisted on riding with me in the cab to the bus station and waited with me until the bus arrived. I feel so lucky to have met so many nice people during my travels!

The woman behind me on the bus thought it was a good idea to travel on an overnight bus with a 2 year old. As you can imagine I go no sleep at all! I arrived in Wellington at 7 this morning and found a hostel to store my backpack. I acted as if I belonged there and ended up sleeping on the hostel couch most of the morning. I spent the afternoon at the Te Papa Museum of New Zealand which was a very cool interactive museum. Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and the third largest city. I didn’t get to see much of the city in one day, but it seemed very cool and reminded me of San Francisco with cable cars and houses in the hills.

I took a 3 hour ferry ride from Wellington to Picton in the South Island and Nichole picked me up at the ferry building. We drove 2 hours to Nelson where we are spending tonight at a place called the Gingerbread House. Tomorrow morning we are driving to Abel Tasman where we will spend the weekend!

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