The Tongariro Crossing

The Tongariro Crossing is often described as the ‘best one day walk in New Zealand’. I think I have to disagree, so far for me its the best in the world and its easy to see why part’s of Lord of the Rings were filmed here.

The day started at about 6am when I was picked up by shuttle bus from my hostel in Taupo. This takes you to the start of the walk, drops you off and promises to meet you 17km further on at the end of the walk. From there the first half an hour is flat over alpine terrain before climbing what is known as the devils staircase which takes you to the South Crater and the base of Mount Ngauruhoe. Some Staircase, its basically a 30-45 minute rock climb. A lot of fun to do.

Mount Ngauruhoe was used as the basis for Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings, and its easy to see why. Climbing the Staircase you could imagine being Sam or Frodo Climbing the mountain to destroy the Ring. There is the option to climb to the summit of Mount Ngauruhoe but there was a little too much snow on there to try so it was off to walk through the South Crater.

There was some mist coming in at this point, so for about 30 minutes there is the barren landscape of the crater with the cloud drifting across the ground. A very strange feeling. It was actually hard to leave the crater, as despite the number of people walking the track it was so peaceful and detached from everything. Freedom?

From the crater there is another climb. Shorter than the last but with ice on the track so a little more treacherous. This takes you along the ridge of the Red Crater and to the start of a side track to the summit of Mt. Tongariro. The guide leaflet we were given warns not to leave the ridge. Those that do go down into the Red Crater don’t come back! Not something you really want to know when balancing on an icy ledge!

Mt. Tongariro’s peak was also covered in snow but the path is reasonably straight forward and I had a couple of hours spare so I took this side track. Thick cloud came in while doing that and it got incredibly cold, but it was well worth the effort and I got to play in the snow! Once at the summit a few minutes wait saw the cloud clear and there were some amazing view over the area.

After retuning to the main track it was time to head down towards the Emerald and Blue Lakes, named for their colours. Lunch was taken by the Emerald Lake before heading onwards through some more snow and past the Blue Lake. This is where the most interesting parts of the walk end, but there’s still about two hours of the track to go through alpine scrub land. Thankfully it’s all down hill, though I still had my bruised ankle from Rotorua, which was fine when climbing but made the descent a bit of a problem but well worth the pain.

Thanks to Heidi who I met on the walk for the company, and there are just too many photos to feature on this posting so go check out The Tongariro Crossing gallery! Tonight is my last night in Taupo, tomorrow it’s back to Auckland before heading to Australia in a few weeks.