Day 5 - February 25February 25, 2016 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C
This was the big day of the Tongairo Alpine Crossing. I was up at 5 to make sure I was packed and ready for the shuttle. One of the challenges with spending the night in a different place each time is that you are constantly packing and unpacking. I misplaced my contacts for my right eye (still haven't found them), so I had to use two left eye contact lenses instead. They worked fine, and will have to work fine the rest of the trip. The searching caused me to not have time for a cup of coffee, and I went the whole day without caffeine for the first time in a few years.
We made our way to the entrance for the 19.4 km hike (over 12 miles) before 7, and then I hit the trail with a few others. Many people were there at the start, but eventually things started thinning out. The scenery was breathtaking, and I took more photos than any day so far. I had the Lord of the Rings theme running through my head many time throughout the hike, as this was the setting for places like Mordor and Mt. Doom, which was great to hike around.
Th trail had a lot of up and down activity, and a lot of climbing at the beginning. There were really strong winds at the highest points, probably 60-70 mph. I usually like to stand at the edge of a drop to take a nice photo when I hike, but didn't do so today. The wind was as incredible as the scenery. The steepest climb was my favorite part, as my low center of gravity form allowed me to pass a lot of people going up. I also passed a lot of people going down the volcanic ash on the other side. I wasn't necessarily faster, but proper form is everything on those steep climbs and descents. Once the descent was over, I was greeted with the view of two blue lakes that were gorgeous.
We had packed sandwiches with us, so I took a well-earned break. Shortly thereafter, I got in view of a hut in which a helicopter was making runs every 5 minutes. Apparently, they were repairing the septic system. At this point, most of the climb was a descent, which was harder on the knees. Ascents can take a lot out of you cardiovascularly, but descents are the ones that can take more of a toll on the body. I made pretty good time on the trail, even though I wasn't trying to be competitive. I finished in a little over 5 hours, and was the first one back from the tour group. I had to wait a few hours for everyone to get back, but it was fun sitting and hanging out with folks from the group as they gradually came in.
We then embarked on a long bus ride to our spot for the night, but we made a few stops, and I got some ice cream to reward myself for the long hike. We had fish and chips at the beach for dinner just after sunset, and then made our way to the lodge for the night.Read more