As soon as we had made the decision to travel to New Zealand, I knew straight away that I absolutely had to complete the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
When we arrived in Taupo the weather was bleak and the visibility was limited. We decided to wait a couple of days for the conditions to improve – we knew the weather could change quickly and unexpectedly along the alpine crossing, and we wanted to ensure we had the best visibility!
After passing the days by exploring Lake Taupo and completing a Skydive (eek) the weather cleared and it was time to trek the Tongrariro Alpine Crossing!
Mangatepopo Road End to Soda Springs
Waking up at 5am and driving to our end point (Ketetahi Car Park), I was feeling slightly nervous, but also extremely excited for the day ahead! We then got picked up by a shuttle bus which took us to our starting point.
We started our walk just before sunrise, surrounded by the silhouettes of the surrounding mountains. It was beautiful, and it felt like we were on a completely different planet.
The walk started off relatively flat, with an obvious foot path laid out ahead of us. We chatted sleepily about what we would do if the volcano suddenly erupted (classic volcano chat) and made our way to Soda Springs – an extra 10 minute walk off the main path to a small waterfall.
Soda Springs to South Crater
Suddenly the walk got very difficult, as the incline significantly increased! We took on the Devils Staircase – a 200m climb. Staring up from the bottom it looked absolutely brutal. I would like to say that it looked a lot worse than it was – but unfortunately it didn’t! Within five minutes my calves were on fire and my quads were shaking. I was using any excuse to stop and take photographs – from every possible angle, just so that I could stop and catch my breath.
The climb took around 45 minutes, over which time the sun had risen and we had incredible views across the valley and surrounding countryside. It honestly took my breath away. We could clearly see Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom for the LOTR fans!) – which was the most volcano looking volcano I have ever seen, before reaching the South Crater.
South Crater to Red Crater
Walking through the huge crater completely blew my mind. We are walking on an active volcano for fun – what on earth are we doing!? Coming back to my senses and taking in my surroundings – we had some fantastic views of the snow capped Mount Ruapehu. Mountains make me happy!
It was now just after 9am – and we decided to add a little diversion on to our 19.4km trek … we decided to summit Mount Tongariro. The route was very rocky and the path not all that clear, we carefully manoeuvred along the ridge, not daring to look down – we managed to follow the poled route to the summit at 1967m. It was hard work – but Jonny motivated me to the top, with his numerous Lord of the Rings quotes (If I hear ‘You shall not pass!”, one more time …). However the views of Mount Doom really were incredible and totally worth it! We had the clearest skies and Jonny was honestly like a kid in a candy store, feeling like he was actually in middle earth.
We continued back down to the main path, with shaking legs (and a few slips along the way!) and continued on to the red crater, pictured below.
Red Crater to Blue Lake
And so we began the down hill section of the hike and I am not entirely sure which section I preferred! It was SO steep, with loose scoria constantly moving underfoot. It was a nightmare – everyone was slipping down the steep slope, my ankles kept rolling over and there was dust everywhere. Thirty minutes later, and a lot of positive self talk (Jonny had gone on without me as he physically couldn’t stop!), we made it to the Emerald Lakes, surrounded by the lovely smell of eggs – as the surrounding steam vents let off the sulphurous smell. Deciding we couldn’t enjoy our lunch here, we plodded on, slightly uphill to the Blue Lake to enjoy a well deserved packed lunch!
Blue Lake to Ketetahi Hut
This section of the walk took around one hour – and was relatively easy, which meant we had chance to chat and sing – and generally put the world to right (whilst still quoting LOTR’s!). Walking is my passion – and it made me so happy to see Jonny enjoying trekking in New Zealand with me. What a day! We continued to zig-zag downhill, with incredible views of Lake Rotoaira and Lake Taupo (the photos just don’t do it justice), until we finally reached the Ketetahi Hut.
Ketetahi Hut to Ketetahi Car Park
This section of the Alpine Crossing seemed to last FOREVER. Knowing we were so close to our destination, but not quite there was horrific. My body was aching all over and my long thick leggings were starting to feel like a stupid idea, as the temperature rose to 30’C. We were tired, achey and smelly. After what seemed like a lifetime, we made our way through forests and across streams to the Ketetahi Car Park. YEY!
We had done it!! We had completed the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, with the addition of sumitting Mount Tongariro! A total of 23km and 10 hours – what a day. A day I will most definitely remember forever.