When Laurel first read aloud about the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, I instantly became discouraged. Honestly, it just sounded too hard, and I really didn’t think I was up for it. However, trying to be a team player (and maybe, just maybe, prove to myself that I could actually do it), I decided to go along with the plan.
The night before our “big hike,” we stayed just outside of Taupo at a free campervan park – Reid’s Farm Recreational Reserve. The next morning, setting forth with our plan, we stopped at the Taranaki I-Site to arrange our hike. Apparently, the car park at the two ends of the crossing are often vandalised, and the woman at the I-Site said if we wanted to be safe, we had to park our car at a dude’s shuttle business and then take the shuttle. The only problem was, the last shuttle that morning had already left. So, we had to come up with a new plan: go to the dude’s business, take everything out of our car and put it in his office, park our car at the entrance (and pray it didn’t get vandalised), hike the trail, meet the shuttle at the end, go back to our car, drive our car back to the dude’s place and then reload everything. Yep, all this and we had to hike 19.4 km around a few volcanoes, craters and toxic lakes.
We went from the I-Site on to the shuttle business (which I suppose I should call by its proper name, Adventure HQ). We talked to the owner and started unloading our belongings in his office. Then, upon realising that we actually had far too many belongings for his office, we had to move all of our stuff in the back room. Then we set off to the car park, leaving all the possible crevices open to show creeping crooks we had nothing to offer.
Next came the actual hiking, which I had barely even (mentally) prepared for with all the running around. We had exactly 6 hours to go from one end to the other, or we were going to miss our shuttle. We started our hike toward Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom for you LOTR fans), and after an hour of huffing and puffing around and up the side of a stream, we made it to the bottom of a trillion stairs going from the base of Mt. Doom to part way up. Originally, we had every intention of climbing to the top of Mt. Doom but unfortunately (thank god), we didn’t have enough time. After multiple breaks climbing up those atrocious stairs, we made it to what seemed like the top of the world (although I suppose it looked pretty bleak).
Looking back the way we came
I’m going to let Laurel take it from here, so she can recount the second half of our journey… and show you the rest of them pretty pictures. – Jennifer
We took a wee rest, and on we went (THE SHUTTLE WAITS FOR NO ONE), thinking we had potentially reached the high point. We walked along the dusty south crater, a welcome flat point, before literally scrambling uphill to the red crater. Everything looks so volatile, with evidence all around you of the not long dormant volcanoes– black rock, huge craters, pocket lakes. It was surreal to me to be standing on what was literally hollowed out by an eruption.
We were high enough that for the middle 1/3 of the trip, it was cold. We started out sweating, and spent the whole trip in the sun, but the wind and altitude were chilling. Then we went downhill. Lucky us, right? Actually, it was the scariest part of the trip, since by downhill I mean we had to dig our feet into the gravely rock (scoria) and slide. It was either that, or slide the whole of it on your ass. I tried that out for a second, it wasn’t as cool as it sounds. However, once you finally reach the bottom, your payoff is the bizarrely milky and turquoise emerald lakes.
notice the trail on the left side going up
There were more ups and downs to come, but the most intense pieces were over. We walked along red-brown dusty trails around and over pieces of rocky mountains, before reaching a hut, marking the last two hours of the hike. After taking a rest, we tramped on the sides of bush-heavy hills before making the long descent down, taking in some beautiful lookouts along the way. We were beat, and ready to be finished, but seeing the vegetation change from hairy and hearty to lush, green forest was really beautiful. The temperature slowly rose as we slowly descended. We walked over several streams and wiped past crowds of ferns before hitting the car park, and with half an hour to spare. We shared a weak high five and relaxed before catching the shuttle back to our car and loading up our belongings.
It was tough going, and we were totally exhausted, but we saw landscapes like I’ve never seen before, and the sense of accomplishment was a real high. If you’re inclined to hiking/tramping, don’t dare pass it up. -Laurel