Tongariro Alpine Crossing« Previous post in category · Next post in category »
Up early today to do one of the best day walks in the world: The Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Unfortunately not up early enough, as arriving at 8.30am I find that I am on one of the later buses. I get dropped off alongside 4 bus loads of walkers, and set off at speed, hoping to put some distance between me and the crowds about to start. I suceed in finding a stretch of path where I can almost believe that I am alone, except from the occasional jogger or super fit guy who pass me. It doesn’t last though as I turn the corner to Soda Spring and find a huge crowd of people waiting for me (or at least stopping for a rest next to the toilet). Soda Spring is a short walk away from the main path, and I wonder down it to snap a photo of the waterfall, but hurry back to the main path, keen to try and avoid the crowds.
It doesn’t work and I find myself in a queue of people tackling the first long climb. Fortunately people kept dropping to the side exhausted and I found that as I got nearer the top the crowds thinned. The view behind opened out as we gained height, giving a spectacular view right across the island to Mount Taranaki visible in the distance. I could see lots of low lying cloud in the valleys far below, but above me was nothing but blue sky. I certainly picked a really good day for this walk.
On reaching the top, I decide not to do a side trip to the top of mount ngauruhoe (a.k.a Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings), mainly because it didn’t look like a particulaly pleasant walk. There is no path, a steep gradient and unpleasant terrain, not to mention that this is a 3hr side trip on what is already a 7-8hr day. Turns out I would have had time to do it though I didn’t think so at the time.
I continue on across a vast flat area, before climbing again up the side of Mount Tongariro. At the top is the halfway point, and finding that I have made extremely good time, I opt to do the side trip to the top. An easy traverse more than climb, I soon find myself on the rocky peak of Mount Tongariro with breathtaking views in all directions. You can see Mount Ruapehu from here, the largest of the volcanoes in this area, which is not visible from the rest of the walk.
After lunch on the peak, I make a quick descent to the main path and I climb up Red Crater, down to the emerald lakes, and back up to Blue Lake, 3 features of the landscape with striking colours. After Blue lake the track is almost all downhill, through lovely bush, and then lush forest. Unfortunately, although beautiful, it is nothing compared to the volcanic landscape of the crossing. The downhill goes on for about 3hours, and feels almost never-ending.
At the bottom I find myself early for the first return bus of the day, having done the whole thing in only 6.5 hours!