When we’re in the north island of New Zealand, we didn’t do as much hiking like in the south. But one thing we knew for sure was that we had to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of the greatest day walk in New Zealand. The total distance of the walk in 19.4 km long, makes it the longest walk that we did in New Zealand. It features a distinctive combination of volcano, crater, and lake, so we’re definitely looking forward to complete the walk.
Beginning the Climb
The campground that we’re staying at is called Discovery Campground. They provide shuttle bus to the starting point and will pick us up back. Mind that the crossing is not a loop, means that it starts from one point and ends up on the other point, unless you wanna go back for another 19 kms back to the starting point, or maybe do only half circuit. That is why we chose to take shuttle bus instead. It will take us to Mangatepopo Carpark and pick us at Ketetehi Carpark once we’re done.
We booked the first shuttle bus, leaving at 5.30 a.m. The driver checked all our equipment, it is essential to bring rain coat or waterproof jacket for safety reason. The weather can unpredictably change. It didn’t take too long until we reached Mangatepopo Shelter. We stuffed ourselves before starting the walk by having simple breakfast while watching the sun started to rise.
At the beginning, the walk is relatively easy. The main track climbs alongside a stream and around the edges of old lava flows. The land is so dry that not plants can grow. There’s a side track to the Soda Springs but we’re skipped that and continued the South Crater.
Up to the Red Crater and Down to the Emerald Lake
Steadily climbing up in a normal phase, we reached the turn off with a sign pointing to the other side track, to the top of Mt. Ngauruhoe. We discussed whether we wanted to add extra three hours more to complete the summit track. Looks challenging, very steep with all these loose volcanic rocks. But nah, we ain’t gonna do that. Staring up to the summit sent chills down my spine.
We followed the pole to the ridge leading up to the Red Crater. I started to breath heavily, the track’s getting steeper. I felt excited though, it reminded me to the volcanoes in Indonesia. Red Crater (1886 m) is the highest point of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. There’s another path leading to Mt. Tongariro Summit which is another two-hour detour from the Red Crater.
Here comes the most difficult part (for me). I hate going down, I’m not saying that I have sort phobia to heights, I’m literally just scared to steep descent especially on the loose rocky terrain like this. But believe me, the view was absolutely marvelous from up here. I could see the Emerald Lake from up, sparkling like a jewel as it’s reflecting the sun rays. We’re so lucky to have such a nice weather. Carefully, I slid down to the lake and time to capture some pictures!
You can see thermal steaming around this area and smell the sulphur. The colour of the lake is caused by the minerals leaching from the adjoiing thermal area. Done with all the photo session, we continued ascending up again to the Blue Lake. This is actually my favorite part. I felt transported to a different dimension when I stood on looking at the lake. It doesn’t stop here. The picture-perfect landscape of the mountains hit on me. The mountains seem like standing next to each other. There is Mt. Ruapehu with its glacier on top and next to it, Mt. Ngauruhoe, an ideal look of a volcano, and then the red crater. Don’t you think it’s unique, a snowy mountain and a volcano stand side by side? You know what I mean?
Heading Back Down to Ketetahi Car Park
That day was super hot and we’re walking without any shades. From the Blue Lake the track goes easy spiralling down to Ketetehi Carpark. There’s nothing much else to see except tussocks, a few steams, oh, and the view to Lake Taupo can be seen up here. Until the last part where it’s a bit forest, we finally got shades. Reaching the carpark, we waited for the shuttle to pick us up and that’s it, the journey ended. We did in total 7 hours to finish the crossing.
Read also my other journey in the North Island: Road Trip New Zealand (Part 4)
Traveled in 27 Desember 2016 – 26 January 2017
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