Lady and the (Alpine) Tramp

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Where I stayed
Tongariro Base Camp Holiday Park

Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Friday, October 15, 2010

The alarm went off at 6.30am and we tucked in to tinned pears and peach and passion fruit yoghurt – yes it should have been porridge but we hadn't had the forethought. We got layered up with clothing, hats, gloves, hoodies, coats and headed for the base camp collection point.  Amongst the group that were waiting was an American who quite frankly looked ridiculous in leggings and white board shorts with black stars all over them – for once we weren’t the one’s making a fashion statement in our bright yellow socks and flip flop combo (my mum loves that look).  The bus arrived at 7.30am and was full by 7.40am, as the track hadn’t been open for a week there was a bit of a backlog with the people who had been hanging around waiting for the winds to drop.  We were told that at the moment there are approximately 200 people a day doing the trek but in the summer this figure can rise to 2000.

We arrived 20 minutes later at the Tongariro Alpine Crossing start point in the 79,598 hectare covering, World Heritage listed, Tongariro National Park.  This 19km tramp is considered the best day walk in the whole of New Zealand (and one of the best in the world) and hikes across active volcano craters , lush vegetation, and past beautiful emerald lakes, offering spectacular views up close of Mt  Tongariro, Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy).  It was an easy walk along a dirt track with a few rocky outcrops until we reached the 'Devil’s Staircase’ which lived up to its name and was hellish, we could definitely feel the burn (Andrew edit - and I think the altitude as well).  The next stage was to the South Crater which was beautiful deep in thick snow up to our knees at points and yes we did get our feet wet, very wet our socks were squelching with an estimated time of 6 hours left to go.  We decided that we would be finishing the day with not only stench foot but probably trench foot.   (andrew edit - at times it was a bit like being on an entirely different planet, with snow making weird shapes and the boiling heat of the volcano making hot streams through the snow. It was quite frankly incredible and I would strongly recommend this walk to anyone even if it means wasting a day waiting. Anyway Erica also neglects to mention another naked photo with the most spectacular scenery however as I stripped off with crowds of people approaching she decided to break down into tears of laughter again instead of getting the stunning background in and any reasonable amount, also we were on top of the mountain with lots of people in view below who could no doubt see me).
We made it to the summit of Red Crater at 1886 metres and breathed in a huge, deep sigh of relief – if the tramp wasn’t hard enough the snow was making it much harder and in some places some would say treacherous (we had originally laughed at talk of crampons, ice picks and walking poles).  A couple of times on the way up we heard a few ominous rumbles and I have to say we were scared (Andrew Edit - Erica neglects to mention the large warning signs that the volcano is still active and what to do if it erupts this gave me something serious to worry about when we heard the loud noises).  Even the Swedish girls and the French couple in front of us turned round and we all shared a look of horror but kept going for lack of knowing what else to do.  From here we could see the Emerald lakes mostly covered in ice and snow but revealing deep green edges.  We stopped down at the lakes for lunch and ravenously ate a tub of our pre-made pasta between us before setting back off down towards Ketetahi hut, a DOC hut on the mountain where you can stay over night, in parts this bit was really scary.  The paths were still covered in deep snow and we were forced to walk on the edge in the people ahead of us’ footsteps.  As we walked along the steep hillsides snow would fall away from the edge where we had just stepped and roll all the way down to the rocks below.  I couldn’t get the image of my body doing the same out of my head.

We arrived at the hut and ate the second pot of pasta that we had brought over looking a beautiful lake fringed by hills with Lake Taupo, the largest fresh water lake in Australasia (in fact the size of Singapore), visible in the distance bathed in sunshine, it was an amazing view.  The rest of the tramp was easy and all downhill along clear tracks amongst scrub that gave way to forest.  It was at this point that it started to rain quite heavily (we had just got down below cloud level) so we upped the pace a bit and made it to the end in under 6 hours.  The bus wasn’t due to leave for another hour and a half, but by this stage the sun had come out so we lay on the benches on the grass and took our socks and shoes off to give our feet an air.  Andrew’s feet were disgusting, all pale, wrinkly and peeling, we have included a photo for your viewing pleasure you lucky things.  We got chatting to another English couple doing a similar trip to ours in reverse so they gave us some tips for South America then we were back on the bus to go back to camp.  On the bus we found Emma and Stuart the lovely couple that we had met the other night, they had stayed around Taupo to do the walk too so we had a wine or two back at our van while they waited for the keys to their van to be dropped off and we promised to meet up for a drink when we were back in Manchester.

After they left we booked ourselves in to the on-site spa to ease our aching muscles and didn’t speak for about half an hour as we just lay there comatose.  It had been an amazing day and we were just so glad that we had been able to do the tramp whilst we were here.  Undoubtedly the snow made the walk so much more difficult, I even commented that I am so glad that I’m not an Inuit, just for that reason alone, but the beautiful snow laden scenery made up for it and for a tramp classed as ‘challenging’ we didn’t find it too bad – and we aren’t avid walkers by any stretch of the imagination.  I passed out in the van leaving the laundry to Andrew, I’d tried to do it earlier but everyone who had done the trek seemed to be washing their clothes.  The last thing that I thought I heard was that Andrew thought some French girls had stolen his Tesco value underpants – that surely was a crazy dream? (Andrew Edit - Come on now dear, you know and I know that a lot of people are finding the fat bearded man attractive again as they did in China).
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