The main, possibly only, reason people come to National Park Village in summer is to do the Tongariro Crossing: “the finest one-day walk in New Zealand”. I’ve been here for six weeks, and finally, it’s my turn!
Amazingly I was up and out of bed by 7am, with enough time for breakfast and coffee before the shuttle. The walk starts and ends in different locations, and the start is 7km off the road, so there are loads of shuttle buses available. Ours leaves at 7.45am, getting to the start of the track at 8.15am.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day for the walk. Barely a cloud in the sky, which meant it was freezing cold at times. The walk takes 6-8 hours, and there are two additional summit side trips you can take, from 1 1/2 hours to 3 hours. I walked the first stretch quickly, to ensure I would have enough time to go up Ngaruhoe should I want to. However, after the first uphill stretch, I decided it was best to conserve my energy for the rest of the walk proper (another 4 hours!), and not kill myself trying to get up one of the volcanoes!
On the way up, I could see all the way to Mt Taranaki on the west coast. I got great photos of Ngaruhoe, with its black and red soil, and steam coming off it. Then across the central crater, and to great views across to Desert Road on the east side of the crossing. The walk then turns north-easterly, and up again to Red Crater. The whole central crater onwards had a proper LOTR Mordor feel to it, except it was sunny! Red Crater was steaming too – half the people who made it into my photos are lost in all the steam!
After Red Crater is the highest point of the walk (1886m), followed by the really fun scree slope to slide down to the Emerald Lakes. I was surprised how few people knew the trick was to walk on your heels and go fast – loads of people were taking tiny steps are struggling really slowly (and I passed them all!).
So Emerald Lakes. Three incredibly green lakes, thanks to high mineral content and geothermal activity. Really beautiful colour, but kinda smelly! Then through another crater, to Blue Lake, where I stopped for lunch. Blue Lake is also self-explanatory, and also gets its colour thanks to the mineral content.
After Blue Lake is the long, quite boring walk down to Ketetahi Hut and then on to Ketetahi Roadend and the end of the walk. The views over to Lake Rotoaira, Lake Taupo and the surrounding countryside were fantastic though.
So I finished the walk at 2pm, and Cy wouldn’t arrive until 4pm. It was at this point that I wished I’d brought a book! I managed to sleep for an hour, then woke up with pins and needles in one arm. Then I looked through all my (250) photos on my camera (not all from the walk! Since Cairns). Then I sat and waited. I kinda wished I’d taken the side trip at this point! Or at least slowed it down a little! I was actually about the tenth person to finish. If you don’t count food breaks, I walked it in five hours. Very proud of myself!
After getting back to the lodge, showering and telling Freddy all about it, we got Cy to put his Lock, Stock DVD on for us. And after that, I slept very soundly!