1. Have your husband pull his hamstring at rugby the week before. Nothing but pain can come from that.
2. Get lost driving to the shuttle pick up point and just about miss our ride. Bloody Aucklanders.
3. Fail to plan out a good lunch stop beforehand. Result: a teeth-chattering summit stop in freezing temperatures.
4. Forget that you have a terrible head for heights and that the ‘alpine’ part of the crossing does actually involve a mountain ascent. (Seriously, I always do this!)
Despite the mishaps, this was an epic experience from start to finish.
Hiking the Tongariro Crossing, April 2015
It all starts with a few kilometres of easy jaunts through fairly flat terrain in the Mangatepopo Valley. The sun is a scorcher, although as we wander in and out of sheltered valleys, the wind amps up to a pretty ferocious bite at times.
Why hello there, Mt Doom! (Mt Ngauruhoe, actually.) Those colours are REAL.
Only a panorama could do this part justice. It was like an alien moonscape, down in a wide, barren flat.
Clouds rolling in past the mountain peak. (No, we didn’t climb this one. It adds 3 hours to the trek and most definitely was beyond the ability of at least some of our group.)
Scrambling up the slippery earth and scoria slope toward the Red Crater summit did get slightly hairy; this is about the point when I remembered HEY I get dizzy at heights, and wind + fog only exacerbate that by infinity! It’s safe to say I didn’t really enjoy myself along this stretch.
This is also when it started to get seriously, seriously cold. We spotted a few slivers of ice along the ground up here.
The Red Crater reveals itself at the summit. The colours, again, are out of this world.
The sheer scale of it blew my mind. The enormity is humbling.
Then it was time to descend. Surprise #1: the big volcanic rock ridges were warm to the touch! Surprise #2: there was a whiff of that (un)lovely geothermal smell in the air. Surprise #3: those lakes!
The three Emerald Lakes are all slightly different colours, as you can see here: a deeper green, light green and a blue.
You can see the wind rippling across the surface of the lakes.
Fog was a near constant companion through the second half of the hike.
T found it boring, but I was in my happy place. I love these muted reds, yellows, purples – volcanic, desert type landscapes are my absolute favourite in the world.
The very last stretch (not pictured) turns into what looks exactly like West Auckland bush. Every single one of us felt this part was neverending – it just seemed to go on and on forever! It felt like someone should be at the end to greet us with medals once we emerged into the carpark (or at least hand out Milo and cookies).
We lucked out with great visibility and no rain. I can absolutely see why this hike gained its reputation as the best one-day hike in NZ.