Stroll in the Park

Trip Start Mar 11, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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What I did
Tongariro Crossing North Island
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wow! Beautiful! Gorgeous! It's hard to find the words that do justice to the experience that is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. You simply have to do it yourself... then you'll know. Having travelled through most of NZ it's easy to become blase about the stunning scenery that you happen upon all the time. But this was very different...

We waited two days for the perfect weather although it's still notoriously unpredictable when you get up there. It takes approximately 8 hours one way so Sophie & Paul swopped car keys with some Swiss folks so we could all get back. So after the back and forth driving we started the crossing at 9:50am that chilly morning. We hiked mostly uphill, on often steep, other-worldly terrain. It's scary to think that once upon a time it was all covered in molten lava. I guess it's the closest we'll get to walking on another planet.

You may have heard it described as walking through the set of Lord of the Rings. Well, actually that's partially true. Specifically the Mordor scenes were shot in the Tongariro Park (see pics at Whakapapa Village) and Mount Doom was apparently shot on the slopes of both Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe, two of the three volcanic mountains in this national park. Apparently Mount Doom's peak was based on the shape of Mt Ngauruhoe but they weren't allowed to film up there as it's Maori sacred ground.

Not long after we started we were already exhausted, huffing and puffing up a lung each. This caused us great concern for the rest of the 18.5km! Sophie and Paul put us to shame by dashing ahead at record speeds. These old bones just can't cope, yet we did it within the average times indicated on the progress boards. Does that make us average?

We finally worked our way from the Mangetopopo (haha!) carpark, up the steep and rocky inclines past the Soda Springs, across the very welcome flat stretch that is the South Crater. We continued up the really steep final stretch before summiting at the edge of windy Red Crater overlooking the Blue and Emerald Lakes and Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe. That awesome view reminded us why we had just put ourselves through all that pain. Mario wanted to mark the occasional in a special way (see pics at your own risk ;-) Please note: no photo-editing software was used in the making of that pic!

After taking 110 pics we remembered that we still had 3+ hours to go to the end. But first we had to carefully negotiate our way down the Devil's staircase... it was steep as hell and felt like we walking on marbles! We walked past the amazingly bright lakes and onto totally different terrain - there were proper plants, more geothermal hot and boggy spots, onto pumice rock, past a hut and ending with a bush walk. Fortunately it was clear enough to see out over Mt Pihanga and Lake Rotoaira to Lake Taupo, we'd just missed the sunset so the sky was lovely shades of pink and blue. Ah, what a day!

It was very challenging but equally rewarding. We highly recommend it, especially followed by a soak in a hot spa.
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