Day 45 – Traversing the Crossing

Today was one we’ve been looking forward to for awhile. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is pretty famous world over as one of the top day hikes around. I’d completed it on my first visit to New Zealand 8 years ago but would be doing it, North to South, this time around. North to South is the opposite to how 99% of people do it so we were going against the tide for most of the way. We started with a 7.5km road walk from the holiday park. This wasn’t great (obviously, being road..) as we had a lot of tour buses passing us shuttling the day hikers around. We did have some good views of the mountains popping out of the clouds however. The track itself starts in a sort of rain forest and you ascend steeply through this for about 3km breaking out dramatically high up. From there it was another 3km to the first hut. You used to be able to stay in this hut but it was damaged (giant lava rocks came flying through the roof) in the 2012 eruption. Now it’s just a spot to rest on the way. By now, about 10am, we were starting to see a steady stream of people already on the way down. We continued to climb after the hut and up through the pass to take us to the first lake. Once we got here this was the majority of our climbing and we quickly passed Blue Lake and on to the Emerald Lakes and the desert like terrain of the volcanoes. We were pretty worried coming up over the pass that it would be cloudy the whole day but right over the top, it completely cleared up and we had a warm and sunny view. We scrambled up alongside the Emerald Lakes before lunch up a very steep and gravely slope that most people were falling down. The views did get better but as you can tell in the pictures there were a lot of people here. They started to thin out after the lakes but we must’ve seen at least a couple hundred throughout the day. We continued on after lunch towards Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom in the LoTR movies) and descended another gravely slope to hike past on another desert like plain. We’d started to hear thunder by this point and knew we’d been in a heavy rainstorm shortly. We put on our rain gear right as it started chucking it down and started to descend what they call the devil’s staircase. I guess only really bad if you’re going up. One of the things they’ve added is a ton of toilets to the route. They don’t want anyone using the bathroom willy nilly so they’ve installed well camouflaged toilets about every 2.5km. At this point, we were on nice boardwalk and on our way to Mangatepopo Hut. You could stay at this hut but unfortunately it was completely booked for when we were coming through. Our track now diverged off the main track and we continued on another 9km to Whakapapa. It was really obvious that this was no longer “Great Walk” track as we were quickly in mud and water. It was still a really nice and enjoyable hike and as the storm started to clear we got some great views back to Mt. Doom and some of the other peaks. We made it to another holiday park for the night and picked up some well earned snacks after a long but amazing day.

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