Round the world without odour eaters
Easter Island (7)
French Polynesia (11)
Hong Kong (8)
New Zealand/Aotearoa (50)
* The End
* Day 189: London baby!
* Day 188: Museums
* Day 187: MTR
* Day 186: Kowloon Park
* Day 185: Peak tram
* Day 184: Central and Admiralty
* Day 183: Fly away
* Day 182: last day in Kiwiland
* Day 181: Auckland
* Day 180: Bouncy pillow
* Day 179: Christchurch
* Day 178: Christchurch
* Day 177: Fairlie
* Day 176: Hooker valley
* Day 175: Mt Cook/Aoraki NP
* Day 174: Oamaru
* Day 173: Dunedin cafe culture
* Day 172: Taieri Gorge Railway
* Day 171: Otago Peninsula
March 13, 2005
Day 150: Tongariro Crossing
Today we were going to walk the 'best walk in New Zealand', which meant we had to get up at 6.15, which felt like the middle of the night. We had breakfast, made sandwiches and observed a few drops of rain. But we weren't worried.
We walked out and were driven to the start of the track by the shuttle bus which we'd booked the day before. The track starts at the end of Mangatepopo road and climbs from 1100 metres to 1886 before dropping down again. When we got there, it was raining a bit harder, so we put on our raincoats, took a 'before' photo (happy, smiling, not tired) and started walking.
Still not worried.
The first hour or so was fine, with uphill bits on volcanic rock, past a stream, but nothing too bad. Some bits were even wooden walkways. There wasn't much to see, just the white of the rainclouds all around us.
The second bit was a steep bit from Soda Springs (which we couldn't see) to the South Crater (which we couldn't see either). Supposedly Mt Ngauruhoe (better known as Mt Doom from Lord of the Rings) was on the right, but all we saw was cloud. It was raining harder, the clouds were closing in and I was getting soaking wet, not to mention slightly worried that this would continue for the next six or seven hours. However, we made it to the top in the end.
There was a flat bit (thankfully) and then the climb up to the red crater. We finally put on our rainproof trousers (aka my 'nappy pants', a bright green pair which I'd bought in Chile and had never worn due to their complete ridiculousness). We wore them not so much because of the rain, as we were soaked anyway, but because of the wind, which on the way up nearly blew us away. The climb was on loose sand, with barely any stable ground. My poor legs were suffering greatly by that time and I was, frankly, shit scared.
At the top of the red crater, we saw a glimpse of red rock, but more in evidence was the sulphurous smell we had grown to recognise and hate. Mt Tongariro, which we were on, is still active, but luckily decided the weather was so bad he was going to stay asleep that day.
The clouds blew away for a second, giving us a tantalising view of the Emerald Lakes, but then it was all wet, windy and cloudy again. The red crater was the highest point at 1886, after that we walked down to the Emerald Lakes (which by then we couldn't see), sliding down the loose volcanic ground. Not nice when you know left and right of you are steep dormant volcano cones... My boots were soon caked in mud (where's the Peruvian shoeshine boys when you need 'em).
Supposedly, there was a blue lake somewhere, but I couldn't tell you for sure if my life depended on it. The walk down to the Ketetahi Hut was steadily downhill, on a path which had been quite damaged and wooden slabs had been put in. At one point, a rock had come down and split one of the slabs in two...
At the hut, we had lunch. Luckily we had put our sandwiches in plastic bags or they may have been a bit soggy... It had stopped raining for a bit as well. We agreed with the other people from the shuttle bus that the van could come pick us up a bit early and they called them on their mobile.
We raced down, me limping behind Keiron. As we hit the heather and grass, it started to clear and I took a few photos, finally. There were lots of steps, painful on already sore knees. Incidentally, Keiron hit his knee on a rock, effing and blinding at it as if it had jumped out to hit him.
We walked through lush forest, with a waterfall and sun-dappled trees, but by that time we could care less. We made it to the carpark after seven hours of whiteout, rain and wind, only to find it was sunny and warm back there! I'm not surprised the Maori called New Zealand Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud!
Back at the campsite, we hung up everything (and I do mean everything) to dry, had a well-deserved and much-needed shower and tea and biscuits. In the evening we decided to celebrate and had a pizza, chips and wine/beer at O'bar. We went to bed early, as you can expect, only to be rudely awoken by the howling wind, which had some down the mountain especially to pester us and threaten to blow the tent away. And to add insult to injury, it started to rain...
Best walk in New Zealand. Allegedly.
Posted by Nathalie on March 13, 2005 04:12 AM
Category: New Zealand/Aotearoa
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