Early on Saturday morning people of all shapes and sizes tumbled off buses and on to the start of the Tongariro Crossing track. At 19.4km it’s no stroll, with many steep inclines along the way to thin out the crowd. It’s reputation as one of New Zealand’s best day walks is well deserved, although perhaps too well known as the masses have arrived and I was one of them – finally!
The changing nature of the track, certainly gives bang for buck. Valley strolls, volcanos, craters, old lava flows and sparkling lakes, to see all this requires some effort and at times a lot of up.
The track starts innocently along the valley. I started walking along listening to the babble of so many different groups, as we each found our pace and space. The first test came about an hour in on the ascent to South Crater. The track climbs almost 340m quite quickly, but with the increasing elevation comes new views and you get a sense of what’s ahead. From here I crossed some old lava flows Mt Ngauruhoe (or Mt Doom from LOTR) This was shrouded in cloud for much of the day.
Then its onto Red Crater after another burst of uphill. Here the path is less well formed and at times scree like so lots of trips and slides which made the descent on the other side interesting! My advice for those less certain on their feet (like me) is to bring a pole, alternatively trot down as the majority chose to, unlike this granny here (me) overthinking every step!
The summit of Red Crater is the highest point of the track (1886m) There was some cloud on Saturday so I couldn’t see all of what’s possible but enough to still be impressed. Looking immediately down below you can see the vibrant colours of the Emerald Lakes. Their colour comes from minerals leaching from the nearby thermal area. A very impressive part of the track and it was only half way!
This track has been on my list for some time and it was well worth the wait. Now I need to create my 2018 list, any suggestions?