Tongariro Crossing

Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
Trip End Feb 27, 2006

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Monday, March 21, 2005

The Tongariro Crossing is widely regarded as the best one day walk in New Zealand, and Richard from Wellington had also recommended it to me, and so I decided to give it a shot. Coincidentally, when I went to pay for the bus ticket at Reception the previous evening, the woman in front of me was also buying a ticket too. She remarked that it was a very early start...she wasn't wrong, the bus was going to pick us up at 5.40am!

Thankfully, the clocks went back an hour that night and so I managed to get about 6 hours sleep. But as is often the case when you know you have to be up early, you keep waking up and checking your watch! When I checked and it was 4.50am, I decided to get ready (in the dark) and go and make some breakfast. As I was making my peanut butter on toast, in walked the lady from yesterday (Mandy) and it turned out that we were the only two from our hostel doing it that day. So we ended up being walking buddies and did the entire track together!

The bus stopped at various other hostels along the way, but within about 90 minutes we were at the start of the Crossing. The driver had given us instructions and maps, and warned us about the Devil's Staircase! He said you'd know why it was called that when you were half way up it! I was in two minds as to whether I should hire some hiking boots, but I decided against it and instead relied upon my trusty Vans!

The first section of the track was fairly easy and flat, and it took us just one hour to complete (exactly on schedule!). The scenery was fantastic, although it was a little cloudy to begin with. However, our spirits were dampened a little when we reached the infamous Devil's Staircase that the driver had warned us about! It certainly was tough on the old legs, and it did seem to be a neverending climb, but I expected it to be more difficult. I kept having small breathers while I waited for Mandy to catch up as there was no rush and I wanted us to stay together.

After 45 minutes of fairly steep climbing, we reached the top and I treated myself to a Mars Bar...a well deserved reward! We had completed the hardest section of the track! There was the option of doing a 3 hour side trip up one of the Mountains, but apparently that was extremely difficult and only one man seemed interested in this.

The next 2 hours involved walking through the Red Crater and along a narrow ridge. At times I looked around me and it was just like being on the Moon (not that I've been on it recently). Really eerie! Some of the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed here, and you could definitely tell. The clouds were literally only a few metres above our head which obscured our views somewhat, but it made us realise how high we had climbed!

We passed the Emerald Lakes which were a stunning green colour (or Emerald even) and it was really tempting to just jump right in...but we resisted and cracked on with the walk! We were making really good time at this point and it was just a couple of hours until we reached the hut, our lunch point.

It was nice having Mandy to chat to on the way round! It made the time pass quickly and made me forget about my aching bones! Actually they weren't that bad, but Mandy did get a nasty blister on her heal which wasn't a pretty sight!

After stopping at the hut for about 15 minutes, we set off on the last leg of the walk which was all down hill! I found this section the most difficult though, although the skies had cleared a little bit and so the views of the Blue Lake were great. The last hour was in a forest and we saw some really nice waterfalls, and it was good to hear the wildlife all around us after the complete silence in the craters!

At about 1.30pm we suddenly walked into the carpark...2 hours ahead of schedule! The sun had come out though so we just chilled out on the grass until the bus came and picked us up. I helped Mandy plan the rest of her trip by advising on which hostels to stay at, and she borrowed my BBH book to read the descriptions. We exchanged email addresses and she said I am more than welcome to stay with her in Cornwall for a few days! Mandy, if you are reading this the same offer applies to you in Doncaster!

The day had been a really good one so far, and it wasn't over yet.

When I got back to the hostel, I was pleased to discover that Helen had survived her skydive! And she'd gone from 15000 feet which is pretty high! In a moment of extravagance, she had forked out an extra $200 for the movie and set of pictures! I think that it was a good idea though because the set of 24 photos were great, so clear. I think I'll get the photos when I do it!

So we decided to go out for some beers as it was our last night in Taupo, and we arranged to meet Craig (a new guy in my room) in town as he was meeting a couple of Danish girls he had met earlier in the day. Except they stood him up! So he came along with us and it was a really enjoyable night as we sank a number of drinks in a couple of the Irish bars, and talked about all kinds of things (some not suitable for family reading!). The time seemed to fly by and before we knew it, it was 1am in the morning! Craig had to get up at 6am as he was doing a 3 day hike in the Tongariro National Park!

So that was the end of a long, but really enjoyable day. I still haven't got used to this whole thing of making friends for a short time and then going your separate ways. I find it tough but I got Helen's email address and she promised to email me my bungy photos and a couple from the pub! I got Craig's number and so I think I'll see him again at some point, maybe in Mount Maunganui as he also seemed interested in doing some kiwifruit work in the near future.

So it's onto The Mount next, and I'm looking forward to settling down for a good few weeks and hopefully meeting some more cool people...

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