TONGARIRO ALPINE CROSSING
Today we do only one thing. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing. A 19.4 kilometre hike.
Thank goodness for the early night on day 9 because we had to be ready and waiting the shuttle, that would bring us to the start of the crossing, by 6 am. Shuttles to and from the car parks are provided by most of the areas’ hotels and campsites as parking is limited to 4 hours at the alpine crossing. The crossing doesn’t loop so unless you’re a super athlete, there’s no way you make the 19.4 kms AND back in that time. I think it took us 7 hours to complete it. One way. So book a shuttle in advance.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing starts at the Mangatepopo carpark and ends at the Ketetaki carpark. It is well managed and accessible to everyone. The young and the old as long as you’re in good physical shape. I saw an 8 to 10 year old kid and a lady, at least, in her sixties on the hike.
The terrain changes constantly along the way. Starting with low lying brushes, streams, a moist environment to a very rocky and dry earth. Then desert-like as you reach the craters. Made me think of Mars, I don’t know why. It must be the movies. Very loose, rocky earth after that as you climb the steep hill before arriving at the summit. This is where my iPhone gave out on me. It wouldn’t stay on for more than a couple of seconds before shutting off completely. I’m pretty sure it was the drop in temperature. Hence no video of the most crucial time. It was the beginning signs that my battery needed replacing. Anyways, once you hit the summit, all your efforts are compensated by the beautiful Emerald Lakes. Three lakes, three different colours. Magnificent! And, of course, the 360° views of the valley, the snow capped Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe, the craters, steam coming out of the earth... just spectacular! You really feel like on another planet. The descent to the lakes is probably the most dangerous... maybe not dangerous but the probability of injury is most likely to occur here if caution is not adhered to. Take your time and you’ll be fine. After another crater crossing, you arrive to a fourth, much larger lake, the Blue Lake. You see this one before the others from afar and is more impressive then than up close. In my opinion anyway.
I forgot to mention that there are toilets available every 6 kilometres or so. Very handy. We stopped near one of these for lunch with a view. Not of the toilets. It’s where we got a spectacle of a helicopter bringing in materials and men to empty the toilets. Amazing the speed at which they conducted their work.
From here on end it was pretty much all down hill. Dry, low lying brush to the Ketetahi Shelter where almost everyone stopped for a break and a chat. After that you enter the forest until you reach the second car park. Quite welcoming this forest for it’s shade.
Oh and talk about shade (apart from the forest at the very end), there isn’t any, anywhere, on the alpine crossing. So come prepared with the necessary. Sunscreen, hat, windbreaker (lots of wind and the temperature drops as you arrive towards the summit, even in summer) and most important of all, water. Lots of it. Minimum a litre, more if you can. 19.4 kms up and over mountains is nothing to sniff at so be prepared, take your time and you’ll enjoy every moment of it.
We got back to the lodge around 2 pm. Had a shower, relaxed a little and decided to hit the road. From here on end we were heading north back towards Auckland. We stopped at Taumarunui Holiday Park in the town of Mananui for the night. We arrived a few hours before sunset and took the opportunity for a snooze, tidying up, relaxing, aperitif, dinner and bed. I think we were all in bed by 7:30-8 o’clock. The hike took it’s toll.
That’s it my friends. Tomorrow we head to Waitomo Caves. Goodnight.
p.s. just a self reminder to thank my friend, Alain, for the use of his photos and videos.