Some of you may recall that Guillaume and I celebrated 15 years of marriage last month. It’s pretty huge, so we thought we should do something a little monumental to mark the occasion. My parents were visiting from Sydney and we took advantage of them here to look after the kids so that we could have a few days away. We both enjoy hiking (known as tramping here). We had heard so much about the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and decided that was what we were to do.
Steaming craters, old lava flows and thermal lakes. It looks like something out of science fiction or fantasy movie, making perfect sense for Peter Jackson to set the scenery for Lord of the Ring’s Mount Doom in the area.
The walk is really something so incredibly unique and you cross so many different terrains covering 19.4kms and up to 1900 metres high. We started early and walked some time in the mist before the steep climb up to the South Crater. This part was the most difficult, fitness wise. You’re walking a lot of stairs here and my legs did suffer the next day! We did see someone turn back, but most people manage it okay. You get rewarded of course. When you reach the South Crater, the spectacular, out of the world scenery begins. You could almost be on the moon! While the sun was shining, it really started to get alpine cold.
You climb some more to towards red crater, which is still active and steaming. It was around here that we hit gale-forced icy winds. I was a little nervous being close to the edge at this point and was grateful to find some chains to hold on to as we climbed to the top or to what feels like another planet. A little further along to Emerald lakes, each so different in their colours and volcanic minerals. We stopped off by Blue Lake for lunch and then the long descent with beautiful views over Taupo and through native forest. You could never get bored on this walk and makes for one unforgettable experience. I hope you enjoy a few of our photos from the day.
If you intend to do the trek, see the very end for some practical tips.
Tips if you’re going to do the trek
- The 7-9 hour walk starts at one end and finishes at another, so you need to book transport. There is the option to park at the end for when you finish and have transport pick you up and drop you off at the beginning of the track. We were collected and dropped off at our hotel (bright and early) and honestly I’m glad that we opted for that. I was happy to zone out on the 90-minute drive back to the hotel rather than drive myself exhausted.
- Go with a small shuttle, rather than a big bus. You’ve got more of a chance to walk with fewer people around which is always nice. It’s also a more personal experience. Our driver gave us so much valuable information and told us stories about the area. She was great value and so interesting to talk to.
- Be prepared and check this website for up to date information and what equipment you should bring. In the beginning of December, which is summer in New Zealand, I layered with a short sleeve and long sleeve merino, a fleece and a gortex wind/rain jacket. I also had shorts over long thermal pants and hiking shoes. I used everything! Throughout the walk I was taking things on and off. The peek was freezing and we experienced gale forced winds, which is common. I was very grateful for my jacket! You can hire gear in the area and some shuttle services had some things for hire also, so check with them.
- Guillaume and I drank 3 x 750ml water bottles between us and it wasn’t a hot day. Pack a lunch and some energy bars/nuts.
- Pack sunscreen. I put it on my face and forgot to put it on my legs once I took the thermals off. It was the first time I’ve been red like that since a teenager. I even peeled around my knees! Lather everywhere that is exposed. It’s up high and the sun is incredibly harsh in NZ.
- Start early. We began the walk at 7:30am (got picked up at the hotel in Taupo at 6am), which gave us the afternoon to recover and we didn’t feel so rushed. There were also less people walking at this time.