One of the best walks in the world - sweet!

Trip Start Jun 17, 2010
Trip End Jun 12, 2011

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Well, I head off again to Taupo with the main aim of doing the Tongariro crossing, one of the top 10 day walks in the world.  I arrive in the afternoon after a pretty long drive and stay where I stayed last time, ooo one thing I forgot to mention earlier was that I lost my duck (a pressie that mum had given me before I went away) and I had left it in a backpackers in Auckland, the girl there was sending it up to this hostel, so I was very very happy to see my duckie again!!! I am now not taking the thing out of my bag, in case he walks again!

Luckily this time around the weather report is fab, so all is set to do the walk in the morning, they now tell me that its the summer period, so there are no guided walks any more, apparently all the snow is gone, so everything is clearly marked.  Well that's good I didn't have to pay an extra $100 to do the walk.  I finish the day walking around a place called craters of the moon, yet another geothermal activity area, and to be fair, it wasn't as spectacular as others I have seen, but still pretty sweet.  I also went back to Huka falls, as the sun was beating down on me this time, so I took a few more pics.

Bright and early for the 5.40 pick up to be taken to the start of the track - rumor has it that this day was supposed to be the best of the week... the day starts a bit foggy, but to me a foggy start usually means a lovely sunny clear day... hmmm.

I have all the professional gear on, got my rucksack full of water and chocolate (the brochure told me I had to take choc!!!) I even had my leggings on underneath my nice warm comfy trousers, in case I got too hot puffing my way up the side of the volcano! - I took my hat and gloves as again the brochure told me too, but I thought these would stay firmly in the bottom of my bag  The nerves and excitement start as I start the track all 19.4kms of it.  The first part was very easy, well marked out and a gentle walk to the harder bit, one called the devils staircase - sounds like fun that one! I hate stairs! especially deviled ones.

fog hasn't really lifted yet, cant see anything! actually as I continue on, it seems to be getting worse! - and whoever told me the snow had gone, was lying! and clearly wrong! - we had ankle deep snow to plough through - I know there were some nice mountains either side of me, but I couldn't see them - actually I could barely see the markers marking the track, - the wind picked up, and I then was very pleased to have my hat and gloves in my bag, I also had to put my rain jacket hood up too as the wind was bitter and it was starting to get very cold - I had a shit feeling that it was going to be like this all day....

OK so the devils staircase, yes it was shit, and bloody hard work, I don't know how many steps there were, but there were alot, and bearing in mind I was still a bit under the weather with this chest I had been carrying around for a few weeks now, I felt a bit shit! and noticed a little wheeze I hadn't had at the start!  I took regular breaks, and people that I had passed earlier on were overtaking me now, not that it was a race or anything, but I had one thing in my mind - I didn't want to be the last one.  I don't really remember how long the staircase took - I read now around an hour, I think I was lost in a time warp!  The volcanic landscape is pretty cool to be walking on, or at least what you can see of it! About halfway up the steps I spot a sign telling you about how dangerous the area can be that we were standing on (the walk crosses 3 volcanoes!!) and what to do if i see flying rocks and lava flow! Well I should imagine I would shit myself...

Every so often I would see the markers telling you how far you had walked, so naturally I posed in front of these with a cheesy grin and a thumbs up! Eventually I reach the top of the Devils staircase which is right where Mt Ngauruhoe or Mt Doom in LOTR starts.  Still the weather is really bad and I cant see the volcano in front of my eyes!  I have a well earned sit down on a volcanic rock! and eat a milo bar for a bit of energy! 

I start off again on the next section, the red crater ridge - the weather now is very bad - and this part of the climb was the most scary part, it was very steep, I could not see hardly anything I was well aware of the steep drops either side of me.  The wind really picked up, it was bitterly cold, and also then we had ice as well pounding down, the route was difficult to follow as the markers had been blown down, all I knew was that I was going up! - I noticed that a few people congregated together for this bit, if someone stopped, 1 or 2 people would also stop and wait - I think secretly everybody was a bit worried about being left in this ice storm alone, not quite knowing where to go, or if actually it would get worse! I remember sheltering behind a rock at one point, trying to get out of the wind, bit it wasn't any good! I was soooo glad I had my hat and gloves - I would have froze, I was also grateful for my leggings for the extra warmth! This was a horrible part of the walk, eventually we reached the summit, and see nothing! I didn't hang around, it was so cold, so I start the descent on the other side, which was a lot less windy, but because of the loose volcanic rock everyone kept sliding down, again there were steep drops! I took quite a while to get down as I didn't want to go head over! Again we meet more snow on the side of the mountain, at the bottom is a big flat area where the Emerald lakes and blue lake are.  The Emerald lake was mostly covered by ice and snow, the whole place was covered in snow!  Every now and then the cloud would move and you could see the mountain you had just climbed and some of the scenery, sometimes I was lucky and got a photo! I sat here for lunch and had a wonder around, I didn't linger too long, and carried on.

Now the hard climbs were over! (thank god) it was pretty much downhill from then onwards.  The next part was all about going thigh high deep in snow at points!  We were to be walking back down on the side of a mountain, the path was not visible at all, all you had to go from were other peoples footprints, often I would get off the "path" to try and avoid deep parts of the snow and I realize then I was just rambling how every many thousand feet I was up on the side of a bloody mountain! This part was pretty easy though, even though often I thought I would fall in a big snow hole! and often I was falling over as I sank into the snow!  Once off the mountain, it was a leisurely stroll down other hills and landscapes.  Typically at the bottom, the sun was shining! and the views of lake Taupo were good! I reach the car park after 6hrs 10 mins from starting out - and I was really pleased, the normal time to complete the track is 7-8 hours, and I certainly was not the last one! I was disappointed however that after all of the photos I took with me and the progression signs, there was not one at the end to have my photo with! ha ha  

The walk was a fantastic achievement for me, and it was great doing it, I've heard alot of people say they wouldn't do it again  - but I will be, I didn't get to see the amazing scenery, like in the pictures I have seen, I have to do it again at some point! I brought a couple of postcards however, so they will have to do for the moment!

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