A few days ago I told you about the south island and the journey we took there, what we saw and did. The south island has the reputation to be the most beautiful and wildest island of the country, it’s the reason why every tourist tour starts with the north to finish with the south. After three months in the south it’s time to see if the reputation is true.
Where is the Tongariro?
Tongariro national park is located south of lake Taupo and north of Wellington. The road which link the capital to Tongariro is by the way the most boring and longest road we ever did and saw in the country.
The mount Tongariro, the attraction of the park with the same name is a volcano of 1978m with a dozen cones, craters interlocked, a few lakes with incredible colours and a field of fumaroles we saw really often actually during the hike.
Why hiking here?
Why hiking the Tongariro Crossing ?
To be honest when I was finding the hike too hard I often asked myself why but shortly after realised how incredible the scenery is and I said something like “wooooh” or “f**k it’s amazing” and now I understand why we came.
The Tongariro hike is called the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, it’s 19,4 km long. Athletes could do it in as short as 5h but for the normal people taking a day to complete it is a good estimation.
You have more than one way to reach the track. It’s not a loop, the start and the end are on the opposite sides of the mountains, so you have to be a bit organized.
•The car park at the beggining of the track, Pukeonake side : Be aware it’s free for 4h only, that means just making the return trip to the top and skipping some parts of the track, probably doable but surely too short for my hiking skills.
•The car park and shuttle option. The option we picked to be relaxed and to hike the full track. The price of the shuttle is 35$ per person, it’s a bit expensive when you realise it takes only a short 30 minutes drive to reach the track (over 1$ a minute outch!!!). We advise you to wake up early, really early to take the first shuttle and avoid the crowd.
You also have a shuttle return trip, which drops you at the beginning of the track and picks you when you finish the hike to drop you to the car parks in town. It’s a bit more expensive and I think you also have a shuttle from some of the camping around.
For the hike we advise you to be prepared. The weather can be very changeable and that can arrive really quickly. We wore t-shirts but added on hats and jackets some times. Even though we were quickly warmed up, when we did some break to admire the view we put our jacket back because of the wind.
Take your best shoes also, especially if you’re not use to walking on a rocky track and of course take some water, a lot of water and food.
We can almost cut the hike in 4 parts, the landscape and the difficulties are so changing. For the first part from Pukeonake, the green, plants and flowers are still here and you have like a fluffy landscape start which disapears as you get close to Soda spring in favor of a rocky landscape. This part is really easy.
The second part we all have to hike is maybe the most tiring, it’s not really hard but why creating stairs to climb?
On this part you will have most of the time stairs to climb up, so for the security side of things it’s surely better than slipper volcanic rocks but the path isn’t really large and when it’s crowdy, like we it was for us, the difficulty is to find your pace and to keep it till the end in the same time as trying to find your way to overtake other slower hikers (welcome in crowdy attraction)
At the end of this part, we took the time to admire the view on the side of the volcano. The huge space where green was change by grey rocks. A post apocaliptic landscape but poetic at the same time, but time flies and we can’t to stay there, we are still far from the top.
Until we reach the red crater the hike is easy. Only flat like a moon landscape, the track becomes large and it’s easy to walk in group. Unfortunately at the end of the part there is this last hill to climb, 300 m and the track is not so easy with a lot of volcanic rocks. You can add to that the wind and the hike start to be mentally difficult. If you planned the hike correctly and have a good coat or jacket everything should be fine, take your time to climb up and make sure you secure where put your feet.
The show waiting for you at the top is incredible, on one side you will have the view on the track you just hiked and on the other side the red crater. Beautiful, huge, its colors come from the oxidized iron in the rock. Don’t come to close to the edge, the ground can be very slippery. When you follow the path you will arrive to the apogee of the hike, the view on the red crater and the emerald lakes. These bright colors in the middle of the rocky desert are completely surrealistic. By the way, fans of “Lord of the ring” the place is for you, the Mordor is just down.
It’s time to slowly go down and come closer of the lakes. I confess I really hated this part. The small volcanic rocks tend to hide under our feet and I almost fell two or three times. Nothing major of course, the instability is just annoying, especially during the high season when everyone or almost are in the same situation. Nice fact, during all the time you go down you will have the view on the lakes. The particular tint is related to acidic mineral, once you will be there, you will have all the space you want to seat and take a break and enjoy the view at the same time. Don’t be surprised by the smell, the sulfur smells bad as an old egg, you just have to try to be not so close from the fumaroles. Little advice, the water is obviously not drinkable and I will not put my finger in the lake if I were you.
We didn’t stop here for lunch break, the view is nice but not the smell and the crowd was still coming. We continue our way to find the last lake. Much bigger than the previous ones is the starting point for the descent. From here you follow the cliff and we discover the view on the Rotorua lake and the Pihanga mount. You continue to go down zigzaging on a really nice track and the green will come back slowly till become a tropical forest. The shade and the fresh air will come back in the same time and the landscape is wonderful.
End of the track, we finally arrived on the shuttle parking. For all the people who took the return ticket it’s time to go back to the car with a lot of memories in mind. For the ones like us, who thought “19k we can do it so why not for the last 700m” it’s time to be brave especially because of the shuttle on our side which move the dust.
I talk to you only about the hike and the difficulties you can find on the way, but you have to know the Tongariro is also a Maori land with sacred areas, as all Maori land, if you can find those legendary sites it will give to the place a more alive aspect.
End of the hikking day for us and rest. A lot of images in our mind we leave the place for the lake Taupo where we will enjoy a beer and stay for the night.
We thought the Tongariro crossing will be so difficult but finally the Roy’s peak hike was the ONE.