The Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Trip Start Mar 12, 2012
Trip End Jul 10, 2012

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Sunday, April 8, 2012

The next morning (6.30am to be precise!) we left the beautiful Blue Duck Station, and jumped on the bus. Everyone was very sleepy, but we tried to psyche ourselves up, as we had a big day ahead of us! Finally, it was time to do the Tongariro Crossing. I'd heard so much about it, and had been looking forward to it and dreading it in equal measures! Thankfully, we had perfect weather. Blue skies, not a cloud in sight, and warm too. It was one of the first days the Crossing had been open, as the past week it had been closed due to bad weather, so we were very lucky that we were able to do it!

Before being allowed to do the Crossing, we were given a stern talking to about all the dangers of the walk. Then all our gear and clothing was checked to see if it was up to standard. Then it was on the bus again to be dropped at the start. Time for a last toilet stop before setting off for our 19.4km walk. Some of our group raced ahead, as they wanted to climb Mount Ngāuruhoe (or Mount Doom!) so had to move really quickly, if they wanted to catch the last bus home! The rest of us went at a slower pace, so we didn't kill ourselves on the way.

The start of the Crossing was pretty easy. Nice and flat, with some good views of Ngāuruhoe, and through some beautiful scenery. Then we got to 'the stairs', as they're known. This is where the real Crossing begins. There's even a sign which asks you if you're prepared for it, and if you're not, turn back! A little bit daunting, but of course, we carried on. We then climbed the steep stairs for an hour or something.The landscape around was rocky, barren, and very dry. It was straight of Lord of the Rings. It's where they filmed some of Frodo and Sam's journey through Mordor, so imagine those scenes, and you can pretty much picture the landscape. 

Anyway, it was a touch climb up the stairs, we had to have a lot of breaks! We got some great views on the way up though. Then it into the South Crater, which was amazing! It was so big, with all the mountains and the craters edge surrounding us. It felt like we were walking on another planet. Very surreal. We also passed the point where you turn off to climb up Mount Ngāuruhoe. I wanted to climb it so badly, it looked amazing. But I know my limits, and it was just too much for me. I'm not that fit yet! But seeing it up close was so exciting. It's the most perfect composite volcano. I was actually jumping up and down because I was so excited at seeing it. Luckily it hasn't been active for a while, and last erupted in 1977, so we weren't in any danger. It was such an amazing thing to see. As we were walking past, we could hear shouts of "WATCH OUT! ROCK! BOULDER! LOOK OUT!", which was quite scary. Basically, as people climb up and down the volcano, they dislodge lots of rocks, so of which are pretty big. They then tumble down the mountain side, and are very dangerous for everyone below. My friends told me that they had to dodge a number of boulders as they climbed up, and some people were very close to being hit. 

We then climbed up and out of crater, and stopped for lunch and well earned rest. I had lots of 'energy food', including some Mars and Snickers bars - a trick I'd learnt my Dad's walking expeditions. Well, that was my excuse for buying chocolate anyway! After lunch, we continued down to the amazing blue/green lakes. The track down was horrible. It was really steep, and made of loose gravel, so you had to slide down it. I constantly felt like I was going to slip and tumble down the mountain side. So I was very happy when we reached the bottom. After a quick look at the lakes, we had to press on, through another crater, then on to the past part of the track.

 The track then slowly climbed back down. But it felt like we were walking down hill forever. It took us so long to reach the bottom. We ended up running it, because it took less effort that way, and we just wanted to get to the end! Finally, after 6 hours we reached the car park. Yes! The first thing we did was collapse on the ground and eat! I was so proud of myself for completing the Crossing. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to do it, but I did, and it was a great personal achievement. I don't think I've ever walked so far in my life! 

I was glad to get to our hostel and relax in the hot tub for a couple of hours though!  A lot of effort, but totally worth it!

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