I had been keeping an eye on the weatherforecast for quite a while and this weekend it finally looked like it was going to be sunny. So on Friday, I hired a car and headed south towards the Tongariro National Park. As expected I ended up in the middle of the rush hour traffic jam. The first 30km took me more than an hour. After that it got a little better and I finally arrived at my hostel in Turangi at around 22:30. By this time the reception was already closed but no problem in NZ - a key had been left under the door mat so I could let myself in.
After a quick chat with my room mates which all were from - surprise - Germany I tried to get some sleep because I new the next day was going to be an early start.
This is probably a good point to give some background information on the Tongariro Crossing. Located in the heart of New Zealand's north island it is constantly rated amongst the 10 most beautiful one-day tracks in the world and usually considered the best you can find in NZ.
The 17km long hike leads through a rough volcanic landscape with some demanding climbs. However, visitors are rewarded for their efforts with emerald coloured lakes, smoking cravices and some fantastic views on clear days.
Starting from a carpark at 1100m above sea level the first part of the track is dominated by a steep 600m climb up a rock formation called "Devil's Rocks". During all the way up, there is a clear view of Mt Ngauruhoe to the right. This mountain was used as Mt Doom in Lord of the Rings and looks just spectacular with its almost perfectly cone-like shape.
Once Devil's Rocks have been mastered the worst is over. Unless you decide to actually climb up Mt Ngauruhoe. This walk is supposed to take 3hrs return and requires a very early start if you want to include it into the Crossing.
I started the walk at 9:15 so I decided to skip this detour. Especially, because it has been some time since I last walked 17km in one day and I did not know how demanding the rest of the track would be.
After Devil's Rocks the track leads through the vast lava and sand plain of the South Crater followed by a smaller climb up to the Red Crater. In the photos it should become obvious where Red Crater got its name from. With 1900m it is the highest point of the track. And also the col8:22 PM 2/21/2007dest. Just before leaving the protection of the South Crater I had started eating an apple. On the way up I regretted this decision because it kept me from protecting my hand from the cold wind by putting it into the pocket of my shorts.
This was also the first point where the smell of sulfur was clearly noticable:) Below Red Crater are the Emerald Lakes where I had a lunch break with my companions for the day - Hendrik and Tim.
The rest of the walk was still beautiful but not that spectacular anymore. The comments on the photos contain some additional information on this last part of the track.
After almost 7 hours of walking we finally reached the carpark at the other end of the crossing and waited for the bus to take us to our well deserved shower.