T.The Tongariro Alpine Crossing in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand is a World Heritage Site and is arguably the best hiking trail in the country. It stretches for 19.4 km. Traverse Tongariro National Park with three active volcanoes, one of which (Mt. Ngauruhoe) became famous as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Depending on how fit you are, it will take 6-8 hours from end to end.
Mount Ngauruhoe seen from our hotel balcony. This is Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings glory The drop-off point at the Mangatepopo car park, which is also the entrance to the trail.At the beginning of almost 20 km. Go where we hoped the weather would get better.
We tried it right on Christmas Day and left the entry point in Mangatepopo at 8:00 a.m. on a cool and cloudy morning. You will need to arrange a shuttle service from your hotel to get you there and pick you up at the other end. The trail started on level ground with volcanic rock and scrub, surrounded by rocky, low-lying hills in the distance. After about 45 minutes the trail became steeper and the vegetation began to change as the ground darkened and large boulders covered the landscape. At this point, the wooden platform ended on the way and was replaced by a rugged earthen footpath, sometimes with a pool of water. At the first rest area called Soda Springs there were two toilets and a small bridge that led into the devil's stairs. This was the section where the hard, winding climb started from 1,200 to 1,400 meters high, and there were signs asking you if you wanted to return!
Stunted vegetation surrounds the marked path that leads to a rocky landscape.Part of the devil's stairs rise with stairs built on them.This bridge at the toilet stop in Soda Springs led to the first hard climb. The view of the green plain that we have just left is partially obscured by these heavy clouds that are moving in.
Although the climb through the stony volcanic ground was steep, there were a number of stairs that made navigation quick, but you sometimes have to stop to catch your breath. The view got better as we climbed higher and we decided to rest and drink the water we brought with us while chewing dark chocolate. The view from below was fantastic when you looked back where you came from. The green plains stretched as far as the eye can see. Unfortunately, the thin clouds on the horizon grew thicker and thicker until they completely extinguished the sun and enveloped the mountain. Set until it disappeared from view as we approached its base. It is still an active volcano with seismic activity from time to time. A sign depicting its eruption in 1975 tells the story of how the pyroclastic currents almost trapped a group of students with the Park Ranger so that hikers should be aware that they were walking on dangerous ground.
Should I turn back or continue?There are only 3 toilets on the way. Avoid them unless absolutely necessary because there is no running water.Walk on the flat plain of the north crater.
The strenuous route suddenly gave way to a flat piece of land, the south crater. We were now walking on an old volcanic crater with hardened lava flow and a brownish lake to the side. Another hard push through a steep section of loose rock brought us to the crest of the Red Crater, which was literally and spectacularly deep red in color due to the iron deposits left behind when it last erupted in 1850. From this highest point of the intersection At 1,880 meters we have a breathtaking view of the emerald and blue lakes, below which there are actually sulfur springs. Heated water bubbles through the ventilation slots underneath and lets steam rise all around.
Climbing the second steep climb through rocky ground will definitely take your breath away, but the view is breathtaking. Unfortunately, clouds cover the mountain. Sinking behind this small lake.Surveying the landscape from a ledge, where we rested and drank some water.Another great view.The red crater, the last eruption of which brought iron oxide out of the earth and gave it its breathtaking color.
Getting down to the lakes was pretty crazy because the loose surface of the rocky bottom made you slide and slide to the bottom. We were now halfway after 5 hours since we started and decided to rest like the rest of our trekking colleagues – we welcomed each other for Christmas! After taking a lot of pictures of the place and its surroundings, we continued because the smell of sulfur was not too pleasant. It was a short climb to the north crater, which was once filled with molten lava that cooled and solidified, leaving a flat surface about a kilometer long. We passed the blue lake, the cold water of which was acidic and considered sacred by the locals, so it was disrespectful to eat or drink around it, let alone touch its water.
The Emerald Lakes are the iconic view of the intersection.Steam gushes out of the ventilation slots under the ground and gives the environment a sulphurous smell that resembles rotten eggs!Rest at the emerald lake.
The path meandered through the grassy vegetation that now appeared on the way, and then, as if on cue, the sky opened and turned the light drizzle into pouring rain that drenched us thoroughly! It was all I could do to keep the camera dry as I hugged the backpack in my jacket tightly, trying to keep my balance on the muddy, narrow path that edged the mountainside.
This black color in the landscape is remnants of lava that flow over the flat land that used to be the mouth of the South Crater.The blue lake at the north crater offers a scene beyond.The start of the climb down the path with the forest and Lake Rotoaair in the distance.
The wide view opened again when the rain subsided and we could see the entire spread of the beautiful green landscape below us including Lake Rotoaira in the distance. Sections of the dirt road had a wooden promenade, on which we meandered and serrated through numerous hairpin bends with tall grass swaying in the cool breeze. After a while it got boring and I kept asking myself if we were getting closer to our goal, because the path was endless and on and on and on …..
We passed many such streams that came from springs in the mountain.When I saw this sign, I was relieved that we were almost there!Enter the Ketetahi forest.A fast stream ran parallel to many parts of the path and offered a welcome sound for the silence in the forest.
Below was the Ketetahi Forest, which we soon reached after more than an hour of hard trudging. It was quite dark under the thick tree cover because the heavy dark clouds hung above us as we drove several kilometers through a winding, muddy path parallel to a fast moving stream. I was overjoyed when we finally passed the 19 km. Signpost and made it out of the trees, exhausted, into the parking lot, where we waited for the shuttle that would take us back to the hotel.
Check the map of our route when we have reached the end after 19.4 km.Waiting for our bus shuttle in the parking lot
We had spent almost 9 hours crossing the intersection, and although I was dead tired – my legs felt like lead and my toes ached like hell – it was an exciting experience like no other with remarkable prospects coming to an end! Sure, I would do it all over again, but this time I'll fly a drone on the way …
Some practical tips:
- There are many hotels in the city of Turangi, but it is better to book one near Tongariro National Park, not only because you can see the volcanic peaks up close, but also because the travel time to the park entrance is faster.
- You must arrange transportation by shuttle bus from the hotel or one of the companies that offer the same service at the start of the crossing. They will drop you off in the parking lot at the start and pick you up at the end of the 19.4 km. Hike. The delivery and collection times are sometimes hourly from early morning to evening.
- Ideally, it is good to start at dawn early in the morning before other trekkers arrive. This way, you'll have the trail to yourself early on, as it can get quite crowded at times, especially at the two main climbing points in Devil & # 39; s Staircase and Red Crater.
- You need to dress well to keep warm as the weather can suddenly change due to bright solar wind or pouring rain. We recommend a waterproof jacket with a hood and a hat to keep the sun away. Although you can comfortably wear training shoes, sturdy hiking shoes are more suitable to protect your ankles and to better manage the rocky terrain and loose volcanic soil. Sunscreen and sunglasses are also very important.
- Take at least 1.5 liters of bottled water with you as it can get quite thirsty after a long, hard climb and sandwiches or cookies would satisfy your hunger. Chocolates are also good for nibbling and give you additional energy.
- Bring your phone (for emergencies) and a camera, of course, although GoPro and binoculars would make your trekking extra fun.
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