Day 13 – Tongariro crossing
Really early start today, 5:50am pick up by my transport to the start of the Tongariro crossing. Another one of the things I had to do on my road trip. Described as New Zealand’s best one day alpine hike. I got picked up by the crew of Adventure HQ in their mini bus and headed out to the start, picking up a few more people along the way. We get to the Mangatepopo carpark, our start of the hike, get a briefing and then set off around 8am. Theres buses and people everywhere, the weather was great and the sun was trying to pop its head over the top of the hills, cant wait to see this place.
We head out along the gravel path up the slight incline, through all the tussock bushes, along a little stream and onto a boardwalk. With hundreds of people using it nearly everyday during summer, the track is kept in very good condition. Not far up the track, the sun is shining onto Mt Ngauruhoe also known as Mount Doom to the right, Soda springs infront but I take the path to the left and head over to take a look at a little water fall and get a few pics. Back on the main track we head up some stairs for a while then turn around to get an amazing view back down the valley toward where we had just came from. I carry on up, felling my calves burning as we climb the stairs around on to the track and down to the Southern crater. I have heard people say it’s a bit like what they think it like been on the moon and it was. Not much lives up at here, its pretty barren landscape with just the volcanic rocks scattered around the inner crater and the steep rugged sides of the outer rim, Mt Ngauruhoe on one side and Mt Tongariro on the other. The cloud had started to set in but still could see a few crazy people heading up the steep loose rock slopes to the top of Mount Doom.
By the time I had climbing out of the south crater and up to the Red Crater it was time to top up the energy levels and rehydrate, this is also where you can choose to take the extra track up to the summit of Mt Tangariro (an extra 1.5 hours). After a bit of a rest I decide to climb to the summit. I think the extra walk was worth it, standing up on the peak looking out was awesome, bit of cloud around still but you could still see for miles in a few directions. I found it crazy how the scenery and the environment changes so dramatically. The further you go from the tussock bushes and a few other plants to water falls, climb a bit higher to where there seem to be nothing growing and just black volcanic rock, up to the red colours of the Red Crater and then looking out to see the Blue lake.
The next part has to be one of the high lights of the whole day. We head down the from the Red Crater and get a glimpse of the Emerald Lakes in front and looking out over the Center Crater. Carefully making our way down the loose scoria, I managed to end up on my but a few times, we got to the Lakes. The Emerald lakes are an incredible site, with minerals coming out of the ground giving them there bright green/ blue colours with yellow edges. With three lakes and the view out over them down on to the plains below, we spent a bit of time here and took lots of photos.
Heading over the central crater and up a short climb we came to the blue lake, unfortunately the sun had gone behind the clouds and wasn’t as brighter blue as we had seen it from the top of the red crater but still great to see. The last part of the trek is winding you way down the other side, through some more tussock and other hardy small plants, past a few vent with steam pouring out of them and down to the Ketetahi hut and first toilets since Soda springs back near the start.
From here it’s another 1.5 hours down through native bush and we final pop out at the Ketetahi Carpark to our waiting Adventure HQ 3:30 transport home, I was now stuffed and by the time the bus left there were already a few people asleep, was such a hot day after they forecasted a shower or two and only mid-teens temp, think it had taken all the energy out of everyone including myself. Time for an early dinner then bed and ready for another departure tomorrow.