The Tongariro crossingJanuary 7, 2020 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 9 °C
The weather was still a bit questionable in the morning, so the operators decided that instead of the usual schedule of shuttle buses, there would only leave one, at 9:30. With the latest shuttle back leaving at 18:00 that also immediately decided for us that a side trip to the top of Mount Doom would not be possible. Our shuttle dropped us off at the trail at 10:10, so we knew we had to cover the 19km in less than 8 hours. In the meantime, we'd face 1100 meters of elevation. Tough trail on paper, and we also planned to enjoy the sights now and then instead of just marching on. The trail started easy, mostly flat and an easy to walk surface, some parts even had wooden walkways. With 1500 people walking this on an average day, it's clear that they invested a lot in preserving the nature. Today it didn't feel too crowded though. The first quarter was therefore covered quite quickly and arriving on the top of the devil's staircase, it was time for our first lunch break. The wind was climbing up the mountain with us, and we had to find some shelter behind boulders to not get too cold. The top of Mount Doom was shy at first, but was showing itself more and more. It stayed mostly cloudy most of the hike, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. We continued walking through a flat valley before hiking up to the Red Crater. This and the way down on the other side were probably the hardest parts of the hike with lose rocks and sand, so easy to slip and fall. It was here were we encountered the two least prepared people, hiking down wearing sneakers and a sweater having not more than a shopping bag over one shoulder that looked like it didn't contain more than a water bottle. It just didn't look right at all, but who knows, maybe they made it.
The sights from the Red Crater area were beautiful. We had Mount Doom with its red glow, as well as the Red Crater itself, plus the cyan Emerald lakes down the hill on the other sight. We also started smelling sulfur, so the whole package was very Iceland-esque. Logically we tried to spend as much time as possible here, having a second lunch break right after the top of Red Crater. This was especially nice since Susanne didn't have much time here last time as she climbed Mount Doom back then and the weather got foggy once she reached the emerald lakes. To not miss the bus, we had to move eventually. The path was leading up a little to the blue lake. While not being spectacular itself, we had nice views of the area we had left behind us. Once that was no longer in sight, we still had 10km to go, all downhill. Ironically we could see the busstop already down the hill, but it took forever to get any closer. There was a decent view over some lakes and hills, but the repetitive hike down, mostly on some sort of rubber mats they had laid down, was certainly our least favourite part of the hike. With a few kilometers to go we thankfully reached a forest, so we had something else to look at. And forests in New Zealand are always very nice to look at because of their diverse plants.
We reached the bus stop a few minutes before 18:00 and the shuttle arrived with us. Perfect timing. We still waited for some more people to arrive before heading back to our lodge. While our bodies didn't feel like they did nothing, they didn't feel as bad as we'd expect after a 19km hike either. So while being a long hike with lots of elevation, the relative ease of walking it makes it pretty doable.
Back in the lodge we enjoyed a short stay in the free hot tubs and then ordered some food from the in-house bar which was pretty good and a lot.Read more