Tongariro National Park

Trip Start Jan 06, 2007
Trip End Mar 03, 2007

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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The usual early start was followed by another 25+ day. Most of the day was spent driving first through Palmy North, then Wanganui, where we stopped for lunch and finally onto the Tonagriro National Park, home to three Volcanoes. At one stage the car who's petrol gage has long given up started to splutter without a petrol station in sight. I even had used all of my emergency supply when the car started to splutter again in the intense storm that had blown over. I managed to coast into a small town that had a gas station and as soon as I was full of gas the weather turned back to being sunny.
We camped at a place called Whakapapa and soon enough I had booked my hut passes for the 3 day 46km hike around the northern route including the awesome Tongariro crossing. This hike is one of the NZ Great Walks which are usually stunning if not a little costly.

The next morning I was up early so I was ready by 9am to leave as agreed with my Austrian mate, at 10.30 am he'd actually woken up and we were off. We both had pretty intense first day walks heading to the same hut where I would continue onto the next hut on the northern Circuit and Lawrence away towards Ruepheue on the round the mountain track.

I had decided to do the Northern Circuit Walk over 3 days working my way round in anticlockwise formation, whilst Austrian mate was on the first stretch of the hike with me before venturing round to do the round the mountain walk that takes in Ruepehu. We set of first in tussocky scrub and then into a small band of native bush before we came to the Taranaki Falls. After this the going was pretty barren except for passing by the Lower Tama Lake. We seen pretty much no one on our first leg of the hike. It was all pretty hard going but the views of The Volcanoes were an inspiring site. After 16km or so we reached the first hut at Waihohonu where we had some late lunch. From Here we both separated to go our separate ways and I continued onto The Oturere Hut where I would be spending the night.
From here the terrain changed a lot from another really steep ridge of bush to and equally step climb up to massive open gravel fields, that were very sparse and rough due to the volcanic activity. I really started to feel the hike during this stage and the weather was closing in pretty rapidly. There was a final scramble over some rocks ridges before the hidden hut came into appearance. There were only 3 other people in the hut that night and I ended up having a whole room to myself, pretty swish. That night there was a pretty awesome sunset with Ngauruhoe silhouetted in the background.

Next day the hike was first a moon like hike amongst really weird lava rock formations that stretched for miles. Then there was a really step scramble up a couple of step sections but the rewards were well worth it as I reached the Tongariro crossing, the highlight of the trip.
The first sites were the Emerald Lakes, 3 very intensely emerald colored lakes sitting at different altitudes as you climb up a loose spree covered mountain section. The amount of people on this section of the crossing compared to the last day was amazing. Hundreds and hundreds of people were passing me by and I was pretty much the only person going the opposite way. The crossing is regarded as NZs best one day walk. After the lakes and at the end of the step section I reached the smoking Red Crater with the very rich colors. After this I had to start traversing back down the other side passing many tired tourists. From here I could see the massive south crater with people looking like ants as the hiked over the bizarrely flat surface which is actually a drainage basin. After navigating the basin I had another huge downward climb until I reached the Mangatepopo valley and followed the stream to the Hut I would be staying in to complete a really inspiring day.
The hut had a lot more people in it including a crazy Kiwi hut warden, who at first irritated me by talking to everyone like school children, but then she actually become really entertaining. The night was whittled away with dinner and then a game of 'Farkled' a strange dice game that I came to dominate. After retiring at the top of my game due to bad light it was time for bed again.

The next day I completed the rest of the hike and returned back to Whakapapa about midday after having completely encircled Ngauruhoe. I shower up after sneaking back into the campsite I had stayed in and before long was on the road again off to Taupo.
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