I’m good at deciding that I want to do something and then just doing it, organising it, and telling my family after 🙂 This was one of those times 🙂
I have been wanting to do the Tongariro Crossing for a couple of years, ever since I saw a package deal on Grab One or Treat Me but something always stopped me from doing it.
Money. Time of year. Fitness level. Fear.
The Tongariro Crossing is a 21km hike over active volcano’s. It has minimal cell coverage and can be a bit dodgy as far as the weather is concerned even in the middle of summer BUT wow what a view if its a good day and I wanted to see it for myself.
So one morning in late January I got to work and decided that I am going to do it in the next few weeks. I scrolled the sales sites but no packages came up so posted on Facebook to see if anyone knew of any. That was a bust so I just booked a Book a Bach home. Kayla was super keen and excited as she had always wanted to do it and my darling Ralph said he would do it but was super worried about his fitness level. I talked to a few people and they all agreed that he would be able to do it but would be sore for a day or 2 after so he decided he would do it too.
So the morning arrived and we struck our one and only problem. We got lost on our way to the shuttle pick up. We ended up ringing the shuttle people and changed our pick up venue. This meant that after the crossing we would need to catch a bus to get to our car before heading home. Mental note: next time just get a front gate pick up. By the time we got to our bus stop I was contemplating killing Kayla. This was rather obvious as the bus driver kept making cracks about K not being on the trip home as I would have chucked her in a crater. This did indeed lighten the mood right back up so all was well.
Arrival at the car park lead to the discovery that we would be 3 of approximately 2,500 people to make the crossing that day. The car park was chocker and buses were queued up for miles to drop people off. This actually helped to alleviate the level of fear that I had been feeling. If that many people could do it, so could we. Also that many people meant that the chances of us getting off track and lost were rather minimal. This was in fact one of my biggest concerns so I was super happy to get started 🙂
You start at the Mangatepopo Hut and off you go 🙂 A small piece of advise if you ever do this crossing. There are quite large gaps between toilet huts so if you see one, take the opportunity and use it. Most of this crossing is volcanic land and there are not very many shrubs to hide behind for emergency wee wee breaks.
The first stop it Soda Springs. This is the easiest section of the walk. The photo above is the type of path than runs a lot of this section. We headed off about 7.30am so the sun was still coming up over the hills making a beautiful sun rise.
Soda Springs gives a spectacular view of Mount Ngauruhoe and you can see people climbing up the side of it. This is an extremely difficult climb and we did not attempt it 🙂
The next part of the journey is tough. You climb the Devil’s Staircase. Trust me, that title is no joke. For the first 10 minutes you look up and think ‘What’s the big deal’ then you go round the corner and realise there is a heck of a lot more up to go. You will literally be climbing stairs for at least 40 minutes. After half an hour Ralph and I started to have to take a couple of little resty stops. K, who is extremely fit and half our age, bolted off ahead. This became the on going theme for the day. Meet at the stop points then K would head off ahead of us 🙂 It was tough but it was worth it 🙂
You are back on flat land again for a bit travelling from the South Crater to Red Crater. Looking down on the South Crater we find that loads of people have gone down and make rock drawings and signatures. Of course there is also the random penis that appears at any area where people have created anything. Did cause loads of laughter.
From here you head up a really steep bit that nearly killed my little leggies as they still hadn’t forgiven me over the Devils Staircase yet. When you get to the top you have to stop and gasp. This is why, if you ever get the chance, you should take the challenge and do the hike.
A photo just does not to justice to the brilliant Emerald that these 3 lakes are. Stunning is a very mild word to describe them.
You then get to slide down about 100m of loose scoria which is both utterly terrifying and extremely fun. Its a total slide the whole way down. We, and everybody else, sat at the edge of the lakes and had lunch. This was about 11.30 but we were all starving and it is the halfway point technically.
While we were there a helicopter was flying in and out with scientists on board. Apparently the level of activity recently had increased and they were doing tests. It was rather fascinating to watch. Since then the area has been on extreme watch as they feel that there is the possibility of eruption soon. Nothing to worry about unless you are up there as it happens about every 10-15 years. If it gets dodgy they shut the track down so all good if you are keen to give this a go, they won’t let you go if its dangerous.
From here you travel up again for the last bit of upping in your journey to the blue lake. Apparently it is pretty but sadly we couldn’t tell as there was mostly fog, fog and more fog. At this point you are around 1725m above sea level (highest point in our journey was at the red crater 1886m) so the clouds covering you occasionally is not really a surprise.
Its all down hill from here and you zig zag your way down a wee path for about 3 hours. Sadly this part of the journey is rather dull and really did feel like it took forever, but heck you have just been to the top of the world and seen some beautiful sights. This is a price we pay to see that beauty 🙂 It didn’t help that the weather had changed and it was fog city. Apparently the view is stunning on a clear day. Halfway down Ralph and I had a wee conversation regarding the day. He said to me ‘Honey, I’m all for this nature and getting out there and s%#t but next time you decide we are going to take up hiking can we not start with a 21km trek over a f@%king volcano!’ He was smiling at the time so my death was not immanent.
We made it to the car park around 2.45 very weary and with really sore feet. When we went to the supermarket I had developed a waddle and one of the staff looked at me and smiled and said ‘Tongariro Crossing?’ and laughed 🙂 She said that my ‘don’t let the balls of my feet touch the ground’ waddle was a classic sign of this hahaha. The supermarket visit was to grab a much needed bottle of wine and snacks. We headed back to our house and spent the rest of the evening with feet up sipping said wine.
Would we do this again? My husband says no but then he couldn’t walk for a week as his calf muscles went on strike. He did, however, say that he was really pleased that he had done it and enjoyed everything except the zig zag down. My daughter and I would definitely do this again! I loved it and can’t wait to come up with our next big adventure.
These final 2 photo’s were taken as we sat waiting for the bus to take us back to our car. What a day! What an adventure!