Day 42/72: Tongariro CrossingDecember 8, 2018 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C
We woke up early to get the shuttle bus to the start of the Tongariro Crossing! It was a cold morning and we were walking up to over 1800m so we wrapped up warm. We wolfed down big bowls of cereal, made some ham and cheese cobs and set off for the bus.
The bus was full and we arrived at the crossing with about 40 other people. There were already lots of people there, it was a beautiful Saturday after all and the weather promised to stay clear and dry. We began the walk pretty much as soon as we got off the bus, interestingly the driver who took us there becomes responsible for anyone who they bring to the crossing, and has to ensure that they are finished by the end of the day and if not the driver has to go and find them.
The scenery was fantastic, mountains right in front of us and snow capped peaks looming up from the lava rock that we were walking across. The crowds had come in droves though and at the start it felt a lot like quick queueing instead of hiking. But as Izzi marched on ahead, overtaking people as if she had somewhere to be, the crowds thinned out and walking became much more pleasant. The first section was all uphill and before long we'd stopped to take off all our layers, change into shorts and layered on the suncream. The scenery was brilliant all the way: you'll see in the pictures.
The path was decent too, gravel and staired, and then we came over a ridge and for about a mile it was completely flat with mountains to our left and right. It felt like a huge crater on the moon (or what you'd imagine that to look like if you walked across it). We then had to scramble out of the crater on the other side, and at the top stopped to have a waffle and an apple, and sit looking over the rolling hills and mountains around us, truly spectacular! We carried on up the hill and below the top of the peak we saw 3 lakes steeply below us, with steam rising from random points in the ground. The walk down there was tricky, patches of loose dry mud that sank under your feet, and gravel on top of very hard dry rock which made you skid. At this point we felt sorry for the people struggling in trainers and plimsoles, and we slightly wondered at the end if they had fallen or not. It was tough going and the steam began to drift across the path, filling out heads with the smell of badly rotten eggs (this won't quite translate in the pictures). We walked around the lakes, taking lots of photos and then left quickly as the stench was getting to us.
The hike from that point was all downhill, and the landscape below us began to reveal itself. It was stunning, and we were walking towards it and could see for miles. What a great hike! The further we got down, the more the landscape changed. The greener the plants got and the higher they grew. After a few hours, we'd gone from walking through barran desert to walking through a lush green forest. It'd taken us 5 and a half hours of walking, and we sat at the end waiting for the bus to take us back to the campsite, feeling very fulfilled and thinking about the views we'd just seen. Unfortunately, we had done it a bit quicker than expected, and the first bus back wasn't expected for at least another hour, so we sat in the sun and baked for a bit.
The entire walk was dotted with signs of what to do if the volcano erupts, and "Caution- you are now entering a lahar flow zone- move quickly and don't stop. If you hear noise from upstream, run." which made it interesting.
After a good half an hour on a bus, we realised just how tired we were and read for the rest of the afternoon and evening in the dappled sunlight split by trees over our campervan. It was a fab day!Read more