Tongariro Crossing

Trip Start Aug 01, 2003
Trip End Sep 20, 2004

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Monday, October 20, 2003

Monday 20th October

Got to hostel, near Whakapapa, the night before our trek, the tongariro crossing. The bus would be leaving at 6.30 in the morning, so we could be the first there, yeh, how lucky is that?! We were also warned to wear warm, winter, mountaineering-type clothing as there was still snow and ice across most of the route.
We rumaged through our bags and found 3 pairs of thick socks (to be warn as gloves)two travel towels (scarves) and a pair of trousers each and a wind cheater.

On reaching the bus in the morning we met up with an Ozzy couple in shorts and t-shirts, so felt reassured that we wouldn't be the only ones in need of mountain rescue.
The driver told us it would take about 8 hours to complete the crossing. The fist part of the walk took us through lots of dark volcanic rock and lichen, it was very cloudy and visibility was low but as we gained height we managed to climb above the cloud level to get an awesome views of a snow-capped volcano and the valley we had ascended.
At the bas of the volcano was a snow covered crater which we trudged across before ascending again on another steep scramble up a gravelly slope. A gusting, icy wind threatened to blow us off the ridge we had to climb and it was tough going. Each foot step forward was accompanied by a slide back down the shale. Halfway up the ridge we were ready to throw our travel towels in and sheltered in the lee of a large rock.
Jane pulled out our secret weapon, New Zealand 'scroggin' a mix of nuts, youghurt, chocholate and raisins. Each handful contained enough energy to light Manhattan for three days. After finishing the bag we bounded up the rest of the slope surrounded by a pulsating, red glow.
At the summit of the crossing were fantastic views across red crater and North Island. The descent was slippery akin to skiing (on our bottoms part of way).The Emerald pools and the frozen blue lake were beautiful: the most impressive part of the walk. A signpost informed us that we were 4 hours from the start (we made 3h40mins with snack stops) and another 4 hours until the end. Not a time for the weather to change! Luckily, the weather was sunny and much of the rest of the hike was downhill so we managed the next part in about 3 hours. The onward route takes you gently down the Tongariro volcano with great panoramic views of the surrounding area including lake Taupo in the distance. We had a lengthy rest at Ketahi hut halfway down where we ate lunch and sunbathed (and experienced New Zealand's smelliest latrine) then another stop at a thermally heated stream where we bathed our tired feet. Down through some scenic forest and out into the car park from where our pickup was arranged. All in all a fantastic hike. Finished day with a chilled beer on the verandah looking out on the mountain scenery.
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