The Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Almost nine and a half hours -that’s how long it took us to do the 19km long Tongariro Alpine Crossing – with a sidetrack up to the mighty 2291m high volcano Mount Nguaruhoe (or Mount Doom as it was called in Lord of the Rings). We arrive at the car park a bare ten minutes before the last shuttle will take us back to National park village, muscles sore and feet hurting.
The Tongariro Alpine crossing, on New Zealand’s north island, is claimed to be the most beautiful – and is definitely the most popular – one day hike in New Zealand and it’s not hard to understand why. The track takes you through barren landscapes, up volcanoes (if you want to do any sidetracks) and ridges with stunning views, past a flamingly red crater and the three beautiful emerald lakes, and in the end you get a fantastic view of lake Taupo.
We (Sarah, Andy and me) start early in the morning, the shuttle picks us up from the hostel at 7am, and by 7.30 we’re on the move. It’s an overcast day, but we can glimpse some openings in the clouds above us, and as long as it’s not raining we’re happy – we heard from some others that they couldn’t do the crossing at all, because they closed it due to heavy rain the week before. The chilly morning is actually quite refreshing, and even though the mountains are completely different, the setting reminds me of morning hikes back home in Norway – and a part of me really wishes that the sun won’t come out today.
The track is nothing like what I’m used to from Norway though. The landscape is wild, but the track is extremely “groomed”, with wooden paths over wetlands, and even stairs in some of the steeper parts.
Climbing up Mount Doom
The ground under us is loose gravel and sand. There is no track, and for every two steps we take forward we slide one step backwards, and sometimes, when the stones really loosen under your feet, you are back where you were five steps ago. The fog is eating the landscape around us and we can barely see a few meters ahead, but it doesn’t really matter, we know which way we are going anyway; up, like we’ve been doing for the last two hours.
1 hour and 15 minutes, that’s how long the Canadian couple we met at the hostel the night before said they used to get to the top of the 2291m high, active volcano Mount Nguaruhoet.They must have been superheroes, because it takes us two and a half struggling hours to reach the same spot (starting a few small rock slides, and dislocating a few not so small stones, rocketing down into the fog in a terrifying tempo on the way). The fog is still thick but we can glimpse the edge of the crater when we reach the top. The wind is cold and carries small raindrops, but we eat our lunch and wait for the clouds to clear off, wishing for a miracle. For a minute or two we can almost see the whole crater. On a clear day you can take a walk around it and enjoy the views, but this isn’t a clear day, and as soon as the crazy German we met at the foot of the volcano has changed into his Bermuda shorts and filmed his little dance, we head back down to the main track again.
Going down is a lot easier than going up. In the really sandy parts it’s just to walk down normally, and it feels a bit like walking down a moving escalator, as every step brings us far down the hill. And in about 40 minutes we’re back on the track. We empty our shoes of a ton of sand, and keep on moving to the end.