A great walk – Tongariro Crossing

New Zealand 2007

20. December 2012: For updates on this post please visit: http://www.circumnavigator.dk/2012/11/18/tongariro-crossing/

These days I’m not walking a lot – not that I don’t want to, but unfortunately I can’t. Last weekend I sprained my ankle because I fell from high heels and it is still very blue, swollen and hurts like h***!!! And me who loves walking, running and moving around seeing and experiencing things around me – now I have to stay inside with my foot up as much possible. Sorry for being a bit negative, but not at all amused with this situation!!!

So the past week apart from following an online course in Photoshop – I’m looking forward to present some of my material here on Circumnavigator Blog very soon, I have watched television and read news on the internet. The other day I found out that the movie premiere of “The Hobbit – an unexpected journey” is coming up very soon – actually here in Denmark a couple of days earlier than in UK or the USA.

All this got me to think about one of the most rememberable walks I ever did. It was in New Zealand back in 2007 that I did the one day trek Tongariro Crossing.

The Tongariro Crossing

The trek is total 19,4 km and is set to take 7-9 hours. The distance itself is not extreme for a one day walk, but this trek is situated in a volcanic national park with mountains, rocks, lava and steep up and down climbing. Some parts of the trek are with paths to follow, but most of the tracks are set in rugged nature, so along many parts of it, it is adviseable to find the inner climber in you.

I did the trek together with my ex-boyfriend and it was good to have somebody to walk with to give a helping hand at the very steep parts or boost the moral when it got low at the end where it seems there is no end to the path that swirls though a dense forrest.

Because of the many difficult parts of the trek, I recommend to wear good sturdy hiking boots. It is also very advisable no matter which season you are doing the walk to wear multilayer clothes. Even in the summer it can be very cold and misty or rainy in the morning and later when the sun burns through the clouds it also gets fairly warm on the top of the mountains. You do start early in the morning in order to be at the end before the dark sets in. A bus picked us up at 5:30 o’clock from our hostel in Taupo and at 7:15 we commenced the walk from Mangatepopo Car Park.

A small stream in the alpine landscape A small flower growing from the lava Climbing the Devils Staircase

The first part of the trek through an alpine landscape at 1150 m. above sea level is fairly flat and easy but this morning was misty and a bit cold so it took a little while before the legs were warm and the walking pace up. But what a beautiful magical mood the mist brought to the scenery. Instead of nominated 1 hour we used 1 1/2 hour before we stood at Soda Springs below The Devils Staircase – a steep climb up 400 meters. Full concentration was needed but though it was hard, we made it in the nominated 45 minutes. We climbed from grey mist into clear sunshine and the perfect cone-shaped volcano Mount Ngauruhoe stood above us in sharp contrast to the blue sunlit sky.

Mount Ngauruhoe in the sunshine View over the South Crater and Mt. Ngauruhoe - notice the small people hiking

A happy hiker in Tongariro National Park Creative rock art with Mount Ngauruhoe in the background

After a flat hike through South Crater another climb was ahead of us – not as long and steep as the previous but still full concentration was needed, since this was full of loose stones with the risk of rolling backwards and possibly injure yourself every time you took one step up. At 11 o’clock we reached the summit of Red Crater – altitude 1886 meters. From here there was a perfect view into the Red Crater and on the other side the turquoise and blue volcanic lakes.

Red Crater at Tongariro Crossing View to the Blue Lake and lava flow from Red Crater

To get down on the other side another technique was used. This piece of the trek was with only small loose stones and therefore we went down in slalom curves in order not to go too fast and fall and land in one of the Emerald Lakes. After this part is was time for lunch with a beautiful view over the lakes, but unfortunately also with the smell of rotten eggs in the nostrils due to the volcanic activity.

The Emerald Lakes at Tongariro Crossing Flowers growing between the rocks

View to Red Crater over the Central Crater with lava flow View to the Ketetahi Hut in the alpine landscape

The next part of the trek is through the Central Crater to the Blue Lake. Even though the clouds started rolling in, from here there was a fantastic view over to the Red Crater and down the Central Crater where it was very visible to see the lava flow from the last eruption from Mt. Tongariro. At the other side of the Blue Lake there are views over Lake Rotoaira and in the background Lake Taupo. The trek is descending zig-zag to Ketetahi Hut in an alpine landscape. After the hut there is another 2 hours walk to the finishing pick-up point, and indeed just as our bus driver had informed us earlier in the bus to the National Park, it was some very long 2 hours with burning feet in my boots.

A small stream and volcanic activity from the ground Dense forest at the last part of the Tongariro Crossing

At 15.45 o’clock after 8 1/2 fantastic hours in Tongariro National Park, we reached the parking lot. After a while waiting for some other hikers to come down, the bus drove us back to Taupo where a shower, take away pizza and massage of the legs was much needed.

What to bring for the trek?

Do pack a backpack with all the necessities for the entire day. There is no kiosk where to buy water or a snack and most of the trek no toilet facilities are available. Do also remember that the walk is strenuous so you have to be able to fill your depots with energy along the way. This is what we brought in our back packs for the two of us:

  • Breakfast: 6 small yoghurt (remember a spoon), 1 roll with Nutella and 1 with brie
  • Lunch: 4 sandwiches (make them from home and remember do not leave any wrapping in the nature)
  • Snacks: 2 apples, 4 carrots, müsli bars, chocolate bars (for the sugar level), 1 bag of crisps (for salt)
  • Drinks: 1 1/2 liter of fruit juice, 2 x 750 ml bottles of water, Camelback with 3 liters of water
  • Extras: sun screen, toilet paper, napkins, sarong (to cover up when peeing), first aid kit, hats + fly net, sun glasses, swiss knife, camera

LOTR and the Tongariro Crossing

I guess most people know that the “Lord Of The Rings” movies and also “The Hobbit” have been filmed in New Zealand. I totally understand that this country was chosen as scenery for the adventure of the precious ring and the hobbits.

To be honest, I haven’t read Tolkien’s books and before I actually was in New Zealand, I think I had only seen one of the first movies. But because I got so much in love with the wild nature of the country, before I left, I had seen them all. In many of the hostels the LOTR DVD’s were just as much part of the amenities in the TV room as pots and pans in the kitchen.

Much of the journey of the hobbits Sam and Frodo is filmed in the Tongariro National Park. The jagged volcanic landscape is perfect for picturing Mordor and actually a digitialised version of Mount Ngauruhoe is the famous Mount Doom in LOTR.

Mount Ngauruhoe / Mount Doom in the misty morning light

More information about New Zealand

I travelled New Zealand from north to south for 7 weeks in February and March 2007. I hope to write more on Circumnavigator Blog another time, but in the meantime if you have any questions to travelling around this beautiful country, please feel free to ask me. I will gladly help with more information.

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Categories: New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “A great walk – Tongariro Crossing

  1. Oh the burning feet in the walking boots and still 2 hours to go … sums up many day’s walking in my boots! Thank you for sharing this walk – I have been a hobbit and LOTR fan since I was small (bed time reading with Daddy) and it is lovely to see the landscapes used for the movies in your blog.

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