Tongariro Alpine Pass


The Tongariro alpine crossing is New Zealand’s most famous one day tramp and is one of the most famous in the world. And aside from the multitudes of people, it did not disappoint. We hiked the 18 kilometre stretch the opposite direction than was recommended (adding an extra 350 meter climb), not because we wanted more of a challenge, but because that was the way our Te Araroa trail guide directed us (I’ve come to believe that the TA designers have a wee bit of Satan in them). But as such, we crossed paths with literally all of the hundreds and hundreds of people hiking it that day, leaving little charming volcanic quietude.

It was a long slog up the volcano but the occasional whiff of sulphurous gas, and small blasts of steam here and there created a heady mix. From Tongariro’s flat Central Crater at 1700 meters, the landscape below was spread out wide and clean, the ravages of great age apparent, and the jewelled colours of the Blue and Emerald Lakes shimmering and glassy. With the wind gusting at over 100 km an hour, we were literally knocked off our feet a couple of times. The last kilometre was a 45° grind up loose scree to reach 1868 meters. The top was breathtaking and windy, with hordes of day hikers trying valiantly to hang on to their packed lunches. Our daily diet has been porridge for breakfast, a Cliff bar for lunch and a shared pasta sidekick for dinner. I nibbled my uninspired Cliff bar while watching a woman eating a ham and cheese sandwich. I think I actually drooled a little bit and almost offered her 10 bucks for her last few bites.

We finished the trail at the Mangatapopo Hut, laid down our poles, pitched our tent, and collapsed for the night. The next morning we caught a ride with a Belgian couple to Oahune, the town where Kael is working as an au pair. We spent a couple of enjoyable days visiting with her and the family, and touring their enormous farm.

We are missing the next few sections of the trail in favour of heading to the South Island. We have enjoyed the farmland and forests but are anxious for the more remote and unique scenery further on. Also, we want to see the coast.

Hopefully the record breaking rainfall in the South Island will have sorted itself out by the time we get there. At the moment the Milford Sound is getting 35 to 45 cm of rain a day, with 45 cm more coming tomorrow. They are in a State or Emergency and while our trail doesn’t go through the Milford Sound, still…fingers crossed…!

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