After arriving from Auckland shortly after dusk it had been hard to view the surrounding area in which we spent the night in the National Park. However, having done some great one day hikes I looked forward to the challenge and rewards of this world-renowned trek.
We were up early and after some breakfast it finally sunk in that I had a major task ahead of me. It is often written that The Tongariro alpine crossing is one of the worlds best one day hikes, so I left the accommodation and boarded the pre-arranged transport with excitement. A short 15 min drive later we pulled up and were presented with a glimpse of the landscape as the sun appeared clearly over the top of mount Tongirio and created a silhouette of the drastic volcanic landscape.
The time was at 7.20am as we took a traditional picture in front of the crossing signpost at Mangatepopo Car park, where we would start the 19 km or so walk. This part, through Mangatepopo Valley moorlands, there was evidence of old lava flows as we passed gentle streams heading towards the landmark known as Soda Springs.
One hour in we reached what is known as the Devil's Staircase, possibly the steepest of climbs of the Tongirio Crossing. After taking a few brief stops we reached the saddle at south crater and the base of Mount Ngauruhoe. At 2,287m it stood proud in front of us and had the air of its name from the the Lord of the Rings movies - Mt Doom.
At the ridge we agreed to take the side track to Mt Tongariro andan additional 1 and 20 minutes on the journey. This route was a little more exposed to the elements, however provided unbelievable views of Mount Ngauruhoe, our first views of Te-Whakaata-o-te Rangihiro (blue lake) and (as it was so clear) Mount Taranaki on the coast too. On the return to the ridge, after a few rock scrambles, we inspected the red crater and what would be its stark contrast in colour to the pool of waters that would appear to us as we continued to highest point of the alpine crossing at 1886 meters.
As we reach the summit, with desolate landscape as far as the eye could see and dot picturesque colour of pools below, I was left breathless not only by the demands of the climb but the view of the emerald lakes below also. One last look behind from this vantage point before our decent saw a cloudless sky and a stunning view of mount Nagroaugh. One to saver and to be treasured for a life. Being careful not to hurtle down the slope I started to dig my heels descending at a fast past to the Emerald Lakes. The ground seemed to slip away every time you put your foot down! So a gingerly 30 minutes later, after a fun and scary slide down 600m of scoria with a few little photo stops I was ready for some lunch and to enjoy the mid-day sunshine. There was smell of sulphur tinting the air as we rested and refuelled.
After lunch we inspected the lakes, green in colour due to the thermal minerals of the area, before striding out across a flat region and a took on the small ascent to reach the vast blue lake, such a contrast to the moon like surface and rocky terrain that we had past to get here.
We then rounded the lake and started the first part of descent to Ketatahi Hut. A thick low cloud had formed in the distance however only partially eclipsed the views of the great lakes region of Taupo. With the transport arrange to pick our group up at 3pm we walked around vegetation like obstacles as steam rose from the nearby spring. After passing the large queue for the only toilet on this side of Mount Tongiriro, we continued our long and winding decent towards the native forest. We completed the last leg in less than 3 hours, all downhill through grass, then bush and lastly forest, arriving at the car park a little sore from this incredible experience. We sat on the grass with a slight smile on our faces, having completed the 21km in around seven and a half hours.
This is a truly amazing experience. A must do. I hope I’ve inspired you to give it a go.
Martyn Roberts - Seasonz Accountant.
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