This hike was one of the most special times in New Zealand, therefore it deserves its own post 🙂 I love this trail because it has everything you need: distance, hard and easy parts, great views and if you start early, not many people. Moreover, most of the walk is through a raw volcanic terrain! 🙂 No wonder, that this is one of the most popular hike in New Zealand as well as it is among for hikers from all around the world.
The Tongariro National Park is rich in both cultural identity and dramatic, awe-inspiring natural scenery. Unique landforms, including the volcanic peaks of Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu ensure the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered a world-renowned trek. Solidified lava flows, loose tephra, and solidified volcanic lava bombs abound. Large amounts of minerals are brought to the surface and are highly visible in the colours of rocks and ridges. Active fumarolesabound on several sections of the walk, constantly emitting steam and sulphur dioxide gas into the air and depositing yellow sulphur specks around their edges. The lakes and pools on the walk are deeply coloured by the volcanic minerals dissolved in them. Some areas feature large springs emitting near-boiling water and torrents of steam. The terrain underfoot for most of the walk is either sharp edged new volcanic rock or loose and shifting tephra, mainly ash and lapilli. In some crater areas it is finer ash that has become moist and compacted.
Preparing well for this hike is essential. First of all, you should find a camping site or hotel that has a morning shuttle. You cannot park anywhere close with your park. The shuttles will also pick you up at the end of the hike, they usually run every 30 minutes.
Must have for the hike:
- Waterproof boots, comfortable ones
- Warm rainproof jacket
- Lighter rainproof jacket
- Enough water and food for the whole day
- Headlight (if you start early like us)
- Heat, depending on whether if its a baseball hat or warmer one
- Sunglasses, suncream
- Comfortable pants preferably with many pockets
- Walking sticks are great but not a must
- Gloves: even it feels warm at the start, on the peak it can get very windy and chilly
- First aid package, tissues
Luckily, the signs are very easy to follow, not easy to get lost 🙂 The lowest point is the car park at 760 meters height and the tallest peak is the Red Crater at 1,886 meters.
We started the hike with the first shuttle bus, leaving the camping site at 5 am. The first bad news arrived on the bus, they said that rain and thunderstorm can happen and the conditions are not ideal. We were six people on the bus, two of them turned back. We decided to go for it anyways, because we did not have another day to do it, we were on a tight schedule.
The first 3-4 kilometers in the dark were easy, walking on a clear path with the headlights.
After that, a few kilometers up hill. It was not easy because of the wind. The highest point of the hike is at 1,866 meters, called the Red Crater. The hike up to this section became extremely challenging due to the sudden and heavy rain, strong wind and low visibility because of the fog. I felt that the wind is literally blowing me away, I was holding onto those walking sticks, they were a great help. Those few hundred meters took me an hour.
I felt like I can’t move, the wind is blowing me away and I was freezing in the wet clothing. Even if I had two layers of waterproof clothing, after few hours of rain it was wet.
When finally reaching the peak, we saw other people resting there too. Due to the fog and bad weather, it was quite foggy, we didn’t see the postcard view we imagined, but the colorful little lakes were still amazing.
Walking down was easier, we had a few more uphill and the last 7 kilometers were really easy, descending in the beautiful nature. My hands were swollen double their size, but it wasn’t painful so who cares?! 🙂 During the whole hike there I saw two toilets, in any case, be mindful and do not litter anywhere, take the garbage back home.
At the end we arrived through a little forest to the parking lot. The first shuttle bus back left at 11 am, we just missed it, the next one came at 11.30 and by 11.40 we arrived back to the camp. On the shuttle bus, the driver told us that at 10 am they already closed down the trail and no more shuttle buses were running to the start point and all hikers are to be down from the Red Crater as soon as possible due to the possibility of lightening and thunderstorm.
By the afternoon, the weather became dangerous and the trail remained closed down for the day after too. We felt extremely lucky that even that it was foggy we had the chance to complete this challenging hike. After being cold for five hours, a warm shower just felt like the best thing ever! Appreciating the small things that we take for granted, like warm water, can mean so much when you do not have it for a while.
So let’s appreciate more those small things in life 🙂